Posted 17/3/11

“I don’t know cooking” or “I don’t know to cook”: Two common learner errors that are dealt with in this lesson plan. The activity makes use of 14 images of book covers, each with ‘how to’ in its title. The images are provided in the accompanying slideshow which can be downloaded below.
  • Language level: Elementary – Intermediate (A1 – B1)
  • Learner type: Teens; Adults
  • Time: 25 minutes
  • Activity: Dictation; Reconstructing titles from memory
  • Topic: Self-help books
  • Language: How to + verb; (Know how to do something)
  • Materials: Slideshow
How to books: Lesson plan pdf [downloaded 3348 times] How to books: Slideshow pdf [downloaded 3424 times]

Lesson plan outline

  1. Tell your students that you have 14 book images to show them. Tell them that the title of each book begins with the words, “How to”. Reinforce this with a diagram on the board.
  2. Ask students to suggest possible titles of such books. If possible, elicit a few and write them on the board.
  3. After pre-teaching any necessary word (champ, outstanding, deal with, etc) dictate the 14 book titles to your students.
  4. * How to learn any language
    * How to be an outstanding primary school teacher
    * How to spell like a champ
    * How to see yourself as you really are
    * How to get rich
    * How to marry a fabulous man
    * How to survive the end of the world
    * How not to look old
    * How to think like a horse
    * How to make anyone fall in love with you
    * How to change the world
    * How not to write a novel
    * How to deal with jealousy
    * How to improve your memory
  5. Show students the 14 book images and allow them to check what they have written (you can download the slideshow on PDF above)
  6. Show the slideshow a second time. Ask students to work in pairs and think of a single piece of advice that each book might offer. This can be serious or silly. For example, How to get rich: Start a successful business; How not to look old: Put on a lot of makeup; How do deal with jealousy: Take up boxing.
  7. Do feedback and find out who had the best ideas.
  8. After discussing the last book title on the list (“How to improve your memory”) ask your students how good their own memories are. Tell them you are going to play a memory game. Ask everyone to put away their dictated book titles so that they are out of sight. Make sure that the slideshow is no longer running and ask students to recall and write down as many titles as possible (they can do this in pairs if they like). By recalling and writing down the titles, students have to reconstruct the target language (how to + verb).

Follow up

Point out that the how to + verb structure is very common in do you know? questions. Ask students to write a paragraph in which they write 2 things that they know how to do and 2 things that they don’t know how to do. For example,  I know how to upload a video onto YouTube and sew on a button but I don’t know how to use Adobe photoshop or think like a horse.


The images were obtained using, a fantastic resource for any English teacher (click here for a video that explains all). There are a lot of other how to books that can be used for a range of learners. For example:

Posted 17/3/11

12 Responses to How to books

  1. This is great! I think it work well for my deaf and hard of hearing students who are teenagers on one hand but many need work on basic stuff (how to) on the other hand. It’s a viula activity but not childish!
    I’m eager to try it – thanks!

  2. oops – typo! That was supposed to read “visual activity!”

  3. Jamie Keddie says:

    Ha ha – I thought perhaps it was a “viola activity”
    Thank you Naomi. Would be very interested to hear how the activity works and how you adapt it.
    Good luck
    Jamie :-)

  4. Pınar Manici says:

    Hi Jamie,

    This activity is one of a kind! The students were really into it. I enjoyed it myself, too. Yet I did the follow-up activity in a different way:

    I divided them into two groups and one student from each group told about the possible sentences from the book that I secretly showed her/him. S/he had to utter 10 sentences at least and the team had to guess it in 3 min. They took turns to do it. The team who guessed more books correctly won the game.

    Thanks for posting these activities. They are really helpful. Looking forward to seeing more of them!


  5. Pınar Manici says:

    I had previously seen an exercise where Ss were to match possible meanings, or something like that. It was for “How to..” but I couldnt find it this time. Where could I find it?

  6. Jamie Keddie says:

    Hello Pinar
    Thank you – great variation/idea.
    Re. the activity you are looking for, could it be this one:
    Jamie :-)

  7. I was finally (after many tech problems) able to use this nice lesson of yours and the students liked it a lot!
    Thank you!
    Here’s the description of how I adapted it:
    There is a link to your blog.
    Thanks again!

  8. Jamie Keddie says:

    Hello Naomi
    Thank you very much for linking to the worksheets. They are a really valuable additional asset for this activity and I love how you talk us through the first and second attempts. That is how good activities come to be – they evolve!
    Jamie :)

  9. Sinead Laffan says:

    I love this lesson and have reused the template more than once and it works so well! Here are my “I wish” book titles:

    I wish I could roar (children’s book with a picture of a teeny weeny lion)
    I wish I could work there: A look inside the most creative space in business
    I wish I hadn’t eaten that: Simple dietary solutions for the 20 most common health problems
    I wish I knew that: Cool stuff you need to know
    Thinks I wish my mother had told me: Lessons in Grace and Elegance
    101 things you wish you had invented and some you wish you hadn’t.

    Some nice ways to extend the structure here. Thanks for the idea, Jamie!

  10. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thanks Sinead
    It is a format that I use a lot myself. In fact, you can see me using a few book images to teach vocabulary in the classroom video that I made last week (Elf Story).
    Nice idea to find ‘wish’ titles. By the way, here is another resource of wishes that I came across a couple of weeks ago. A bit morbid but interesting:
    Thanks again
    Jamie :)

  11. Lu says:

    I don’t know what to tell you. It’s simply amazing the way you teach English! I’ve been learning a lot with all your creative ideas and fun way of learning a new language. Thanks for sharing all your hard work, thanks for your patience and definitely I’ll buy your book so I can contribute a bit with you. It’s the least that I can do. Thanks again! ;D

  12. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Lu
    Lovely to hear from you. It makes it worth it when I get nice messages like this one. Must get around to uploading another activity soon one of these days!
    Jamie :)