Two students interviewing one another

Effective Communicative Language Teaching Lesson Plan Ideas (Plus Activities) for Any Classroom

Keeping a class engaged and interested is always a challenge.

This was especially true when it came time for speaking practice and classroom conversations—the students were nervous, shy and reluctant to utter sentences. It was a struggle to even get words out.

That was until I read about Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), which prioritizes competent communication in the target language over rule-based grammar or translation to the native language.

Want to learn more about how CLT works to liven up your classroom?

Then keep on reading. I’ve got activities and a great CLT lesson plan just waiting for you to use in your next class.


What Is Communicative Language Teaching?

CLT developed in the late 1960s, due in part to frustration with existing teaching approaches, which some felt were too focused on the structures and rules of language. They felt that language education should focus instead on the function of language: namely communication.

Many scholars across the U.K. and the U.S. started to study and propose new methods for teaching “communicative competence.”  One significant development was the Council of Europe’s support of this new approach to language teaching.

Today, different educators may view or use CLT differently, but in essence, CLT puts the highest priority on students’ ability to effectively communicate in the target language. So, as with the substitute teacher above, the idea is to get students talking, sharing ideas and engaging authentically with the target language, not just mastering grammar rules.

Before we explore our sample lesson plan, we will take a look at some of the different types of activities you can incorporate into your own CLT lessons.

Effective Communicative Language Teaching Activities

Information Gap Activities

The substitute teacher mentioned above used an information gap activity to get the students talking. The person with the problem had to gather information to find out why people could not help them. This is a common type of activity to get students talking, because that is the point of communication—to exchange information.

The task does not have to be free form, nor does it have to be structured exactly like the substitute teacher’s activity above. Essentially, to create one of these activities, you just need to give students an objective that can only be completed by communicating with one another.

Classic versions of this activity involve giving pairs of students texts or pictures that are each missing different details, so they can work together to fill in all the—you guessed it—information gaps.

“Spot the difference” activities with pictures are also a common information gap activity, particularly with beginner students. For more advanced students, you can create an information scavenger hunt, with a list of questions that Group A needs to solve by talking with Group B. Here are some example scavenger hunt questions to get you started:

  • “What are some locations that Group B students have traveled to?”
  • “How many Group B students have pets?”
  • “What are some things that Group B students have in common?


Games are another activity that are fantastic for getting students talking. As you likely already realize, there are tons of games out there either designed specifically for the classroom or that can be adapted to your curriculum. Here are some factors to keep in mind when choosing a game that will promote communication in your classroom:

  • Required input: Does this game require input from multiple people (think team word games like Taboo), or just one person at a time? Typically the former works best for traditional classrooms, but there are some cases where the latter might be helpful, like if you are working with a small class of adult students.
  • Communication prompts: This one is actually pretty common sense. You want games that prompt open-ended communication, not yes or no answers. If there is a game that involves both (such as 20 Questions) just make sure you are the one doing the yes/no-ing.
  • Adaptability: Especially if you are working with younger students, it is important to choose games that are adaptable to a wide range of experiences and learning styles. For example, trivia games (unless they are very basic) typically will not work well because students can only participate if they have the right base of knowledge to draw from.

Nonsense Paragraphs

One of the difficulties of communicative language teaching is that, by de-prioritizing grammar rules, it can be difficult to teach the nuances of grammar. This can be especially problematic for students who will eventually need to be able to write correctly in the target language. Nonsense paragraphs can help overcome this roadblock.

Whereas the above activities encourage target language communication, this activity reverse engineers communication, so to speak. Students are given a paragraph made up largely of nonsense words—their task is to identify what parts of speech those nonsense words represent.

This type of activity is flexible but works better for early-intermediate students and up, who already have a base knowledge in target language vocabulary and grammar. I’ve even seen it used in English classes for native English speaking students. You may find it useful to highlight the nonsense words so your students can concentrate on the task at hand.

You can certainly make up your own nonsense text, but a popular one among educators that is already written for you is Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky.” Here is the famous poem in English, and there are delightful translations into dozens of languages available here.

Here’s how you could structure this activity:

  • Provide students with the nonsense paragraphs and then split them into pairs or groups.
  • Ask them to identify all the words that represent objects, all the verbs that represent some kind of action and all the descriptor words. 
  • After they have done this, you can ask them to re-write the nonsense paragraph, replacing the nonsense words with real target language words, and see how often they are able to use the right parts of speech.

Ultimately, the idea is to use communication as a vehicle for teaching grammar constructions, rather than teaching grammar rules in isolation.

Handy Sample Communicative Language Teaching Lesson Plan

Interviews are versatile and effective for getting ESL students to communicate with one another. This lesson culminates in English interviews that students will conduct in pairs.

The lesson plan below is designed for a beginner classroom that is learning how to form questions in the target language. However, this lesson can be adapted to serve as a vehicle for a wide range of other topics and objectives.

For example:

  • Working with adult students new to the country? Focus specifically on job interview questions.
  • Working with advanced French literature students? Have them formulate/answer questions that demonstrate their knowledge of a book your class just finished.
  • Working with intermediate students? Require that they the use, say, the subjunctive a certain number of times in their interviews.


Asking/answering questions


  • Students can formulate questions in the target language.
  • Students can understand basic question constructions in the target language and respond appropriately.


1. Lesson Introduction

Write a basic question on the board, and then pose the question to two or more students. When a student answers with correct grammar, indicate as such and write the response on the board. Repeat with a range of question-answer constructions. Here are some sample questions/answers to get you started:

  • “What time is it?” “It is 8 a.m.”
  • “How old are you?” “I am 14.”
  • “What is the weather like today?” “It is sunny.”

Next, say that you can tell the class your birthday if someone will ask it. When a student is able to correctly formulate the question “When is your birthday?” write it on the board. Continue prompting questions about yourself (“What is your middle name?” “Where were you born?” etc.) from students like this a few more times.

Now it is time to present the interview task to students. Explain that they just had a successful interview with you, and next they are going to interview one another. Ask students to take out a piece of paper and divide them into pairs.

2. Activity: Interviews

  • Student pairs will now take turns asking each other interview questions about their lives. They can borrow some questions from the lesson introduction, but they should also come up with several of their own. Depending on your class size and the time you have available, you can rotate students to new interview partners at regular intervals.
  • While conducting their interviews, students should write down the answers that they learn from their interviewees. They do not necessarily have to write down their own questions at this stage, since they will be coming up with those largely on the fly.
  • Throughout the interview activity, walk around your classroom and listen to how your students are doing. If you hear a question or response delivered incorrectly, step in and ask the student if they would like to try rephrasing or if the other student can identify the mistake.

3. Interview Notes

After the interview activity, leave some time for students to complete their notes on the interviews.

They should take out a new piece of paper and use their notes to reconstruct the questions that they had asked, and the responses they received. (They should write all answers correctly to the best of their ability, rather than transcribing exactly what their interviewee said.)

These completed notes should then be handed in for assessment.


You want to make sure your students know good grammar, but it is also important to realize that they need to use what they learn in context if they are going to speak outside of the classroom. Give this ability to your students and you will have smooth sailing throughout the duration of the course.

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