How Many English Teachers Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb?

by | Nov 2, 2020

Updated on May 12, 2021.

Ah, yes, the “How many blanks does it take to change a light bulb?” joke. A classic. But an English lesson?

I like the lightbulb joke because it’s simple. Unless it’s based on pop-culture or country-specific trivia, even beginner learners can usually get the joke. Personally, I love using comedy and jokes in my lessons and I often look for stand-up or funny videos to pepper into my lessons. However, it’s not so easy with less advanced learners.

But don’t worry, this lesson isn’t just for laughs. We are focused on two things – how to give directions in English and vocabulary for small home projects.



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1) Which type lightbulb is your favorite? Look, I know this sounds like a crazy question… But trust me! You’ll actually get some interesting answers. Also, remember, this type of vocabulary is actually very useful for learners, and not something they will find in an ordinary textbook.

2) You got jokes. For offline classes, you can cut out the questions and answers and put them on the table and have your students try to put them together in pairs or small groups. If you are working online, the PDF has text boxes you can fill in along the way. Have students look over the questions and answers and see which they can figure out on their own. Once all the jokes have been assembled, you can open a quick discussion about them. Which jokes were funny? Which jokes weren’t funny? Why? Why not? Discuss these questions as a class. Do your students have a similar type of joke in their own language?

2) Alien roommate. Put your students into pairs. Explain to them the situation. Their alien roommate needs to change the light bulb on the ceiling of their room. He already has a new light bulb but they must be explained in detail how to change it. Remember, he’s an alien, so he has never done this before! Be detailed, be clear! Give the pairs a few minutes to write their instructions. Then, once everyone is done, each pair will present their instructions to the class. You can vote on who has the best instructions.

3) How to change a light bulb. On page 3 of the PDF  you will find the proper steps for how to change a lightbulb. For offline classes, again, you can cut these cards out and put them on the table for pairs or groups to complete the activity, or you can use the PDF text boxes online. Groups will race to put everything in order and then match the steps with the instructions. The first group to complete the activity correctly wins. Give every group a chance to finish, though! Groups can then check their answers together.

4) Grammar tools. Most of the boxes have some grammatical structure which we use to explain how to do something. You can take this time to ask your students to find them. You can do this by simply asking “How do I…” and then add the name of the step. Students can then offer up their responses. You are looking for answers like, “by…,” “the best way is to…,” or “to do so,…” or simply by using the imperative form of the verb. Optionally, you could go step by step with your students and point out the relevant structures and expressions. Have your students compare their own instructions to these. Were they missing any steps? Were they clear enough? What new words did they discover in the instructions?

5) Home improvement. On page 4, students will match the image of the tool to its name. Next, ask your students what other small projects they can do in their homes. For example, hang up a picture. Make a list on the board and talk about the necessary tools and hardware needed. Then, have the groups choose:

  1. one project from the list for all the groups to write instructions for;
  2. a different project for each group;

Then, give the groups 7-12 minutes to write the instructions for their project. Once everyone is done, have the groups present their instructions to the class. Other students can comment or add to the instructions after each presentation.

Ian Kime

Ian Kime

I have been teaching English abroad since receiving my CELTA certificate in Poland in 2018. I enjoy tracking my individual students’ development but love having lessons with big groups! Now that I teach online, I am accompanied by my sidekicks Olaf, Mała, Pirate and Bandit on a regular basis.


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