When English learners have an engaging task, they become quite comfortable using whatever English conversations skills to complete that task. "The Billionaires" is one such engaging task to build confidence in their conversation.


The setting for "The Billionaires" is a power play for control for World Corp., which is the invisible global corporation that ultimately and surreptitiously controls each of our lives. Eight billionaires want this job and have been busy buying up stock in 12 publicly traded corporations that own a small part of World Corp. By gaining control of these companies, they then can vie for the position of the chair of World Corp.

  Learners first go to the online activity called "The Billionaires Online." This activity has 23 short stories that describe the 12 corporations and eight billionaires. The learners read the stories while listening to the audio. The stories have a 234-word vocabulary quiz for those learners who feel they need to go through these words. While listening and reading, some learners will develop some preferences for a certain billionaire—and can later cheer that billionaire on in the classroom activity.


  Next, the learners go through a second online activity called "The Billionaire Elections." This activity is basically a set of instructions that tell the learners "to put this number in that place." Not only does this activity work on listening skills, it introduces the learners to the classroom process, thus reducing the frustration of the learning curve.


Finally, there is the classroom activity. By going through the two online activities first, the learners should have a reasonable idea of what is going to happen in class. The learners are broken into groups of two to four learners, with each group becoming a vote teller in a series of corporate elections. The groups will now be given the exact instructions of how the corporate elections are to be conducted. These instructions are short but somewhat complicated. As the learners are first reading through these instructions, the instructor should allow them to use their first language to translate. The learners will go through the instructions, step-by-step, to determine the winner of the first corporate election.

  The winner of the first election has an impact on the results of the subsequent elections (the corporations are cross-holdings of each other), so that previous results must be properly considered in applying the instructions.
  By about the fifth election, the learners should be comfortable with the instructions, and the instructor should start enforcing an "English only" classroom rule. The groups also start seeing the rise of some billionaires to the top position, which generates the excitement of who is actually going to win. The groups continue with each corporate election until they reach the election of World Corp. It is this election that determines who controls the world.
"The Billionaires" has two interesting design features to enhance classroom dynamics. First, each group starts with a different schedule of corporate elections. This means that each group will get a different chair of World Corp. If the instructor makes this point clear at the start, the learners should not be preoccupied with comparing their answer with other groups to see if they are “right.” Second, some groups are apt to finish sooner than other groups. Instead of waiting for the slower groups to finish, the faster groups can go through their election schedule again, but now with the billionaires controlling the 12 companies. The faster groups will actually see a power shift in the second round, which eventually results in a different head of World Corp. They will still remain engaged with going through the activity twice. By not having only one "right answer" and designing for fast and slow groups, "The Billionaires" keeps the learners focused on their business English conversation throughout the duration of the class.
The suspense and excitement of which billionaire gets global control of our lives creates the engagement to keep learners in this hour-long business English activity. And the translation and application of those complicated instructions improves English abilities and confidence. "The Billionaires" is a great English teaching tool for regular, business, and technical learners at the intermediate or higher levels..
The Billionaires Instructor
The Billionaires Resource
The Billionaires Student
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