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1. Show the PowerPoint of Mark and Kate. (You can download the PPT or access it directly by clicking on the "view full size presentation" icon in the bottom right hand corner).


Ask the students what they think Mark and Kate are talking about. Click the mouse to show Mark’s question. Ask the students to predict what Kate is thinking. Click the mouse to show Kate’s thought bubble. Ask the students what they think she will say. Click the mouse again to show Kate’s real answer. Ask the students why Kate does not say what she is thinking. (Because she is being polite).


















2. Ask the students to look at the table in number 1. It shows Mark’s requests, Kate’s real thoughts and her polite refusals. Choose students to read out each square. As they read ask, What does Mark ask? What does Kate think? What does Kate say? Explain that the students should work with a partner to complete the table.




















3. Ask the students to read the conversation with a partner. They should take turns playing Mark and Kate.





4. Ask the students to underline the expressions from the table that can be used to make a polite refusal.


5. Ask the class brainstorm other expressions that could be used to make polite refusals. Write them on the board.






6. Tell the students that another student is going to ask them to go to the cinema, but they must imagine that they really, really do not want to go.  Using the language from the previous task, the students should prepare a polite refusal. But they should also write down their real thoughts in the thought bubble. Show the students the thought bubble as you explain this.








Tell the students that it is just imaginary, so their real thoughts can be as mean or funny as they like. When I taught this lesson, my students really had fun with their thought bubbles which caused a lot of laughter during the role play.


7. Once all the students have prepared their thought bubbles and polite refusals, you can start the role play. On the board write, Hi_________ (name). Would you like to go to the cinema with me tonight? Choose a student to come to the front of the class. Ask the student the question. The student should hold their thought bubble above their head so the class can read it, but answer with their polite refusal. Ask that student to choose a new student to ask the question to. Continue until all the students have asked and answered the question.





8. Tell the students that next they are going to explore polite requests. Explain to them that they will hear two different ways of making the same request. They should decide which one sounds more polite and circle either a or b on their worksheets.
















FEEDBACK: Give each student a copy of the answer sheet hand out (page 8). Ask them to check their answers.


9. Ask the students to look at their answer sheet hand out. A verb has been underlined in the polite request. Ask them what kind of verb it is (a model verb). Ask them to underline other examples of this kind of verb in the polite requests and think about why this kind of verb sounds more polite. (Modal verbs are less direct).


10. Ask the students to look for other expressions from the requests on the answer sheet that can be used in polite requests.





11. Explain that the students should write a polite request to ask the other students in the class, using the language from the previous task.


12. Explain that the students should make their polite requests to each other. However nobody is allowed to say yes to any request. Instead they should all refuse politely using the language from the first part of the lesson. Choose two students to demonstrate the activity. Then ask the rest of the class to mingle and make their polite requests to each other.


FEEDBACK: When you stop the activity, ask the students to remain with their partner. Ask one student in each pair to make their request and the other student should politely refuse it.





13. It can be quite interesting for students to compare conventions of politeness in English to their own language. This is particularly useful to raise their awareness about this issue as there are sometime significant cultural or linguistic differences relating to politeness. I think this is a good option for an extension activity. I have prepared a list of question in different languages. You could either use the questions for a group discussion or you could ask the students to write answers to the questions for their homework.

thought bubble


Student Worksheet

& Teacher Guide

Being Polite

Lesson Overview

This start of this lesson is based on a great presentation that Mark Hancock gave at IATEFL 2011, so thank you Mark for the idea. It explores conventions of politeness in English, in particular focusing on making and refusing requests. In the first part of the lesson, the students analyse and practise making polite refusals. In the second part of the lesson, they explore polite requests, noticing the use of modal verbs and other expressions that can be used in polite requests. To finish the class, there is a mingle activity for the students to practise making polite requests and refusals.

For detailed teacher notes, download the lesson.

Warm up Language Focus being polite Being Polite objectives table2 Practise requests Being polite transcript Practise Extension

CC photo: Shaver Ross

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