Infographics: How to talk about stats

Describing trends part 2


Last week I covered a lesson idea on how to teach practical language that can be very useful for students, whether professional adults or young adults in high school.  Both groups need this type of language for their work or exams respectively, and can also be beneficial for general English lessons because students might be reading authentic reading materials that are accompanied by statistics or graphs.

As I mentioned last time the lesson can be divided into two parts, with the first part focusing on upward and downward trends on graphs, mainly line graphs.  In this second part I want to focus on what you can follow that first lesson up with.


Quantifying expressions are just as useful for ESL students.  It’s language that can be applied with statistics in general, infographics, pie charts etc. Here are some examples:

  • A great deal of + uncountable noun (money, interest, influence, time, effort etc.)
  • A large/great amount of + uncountable noun ( people, clothes, food, waste, etc.)
  • A large number of + plural noun (articles, books, words etc.)

These expressions can combine with these words:

Significant, considerable, enormous, total, surprising, excessive, substantial, reasonable [acceptable], fair [quite a lot]

 This is all language I got from the Academic vocabulary in-use book.  You can use these combinations here or add others that I’m sure you feel are also useful.  This is particularly true with regards to the uncountable nouns and plural nouns that follow the end of the expressions. You could also create a matching exercise in which students have to match the nouns with the correct expressions and make some sentences, in pairs, individually or as a group activity.  Set this up on the board, no paper required, easy.  The chapter in the book also covers the expressions: more and more, less and less, fewer and fewer, which are also beneficial expressions.  You can also incorporate fractions (1/3, ¼ etc.) You can supplement this lesson topic with another original lesson idea on Employment trends or my lesson idea on finance and investing


Once that is covered you can move to the practice round peeps.  Here I’ve created my own materials and I advise you to adapt and adjust this to your liking.  This can also be linked to presentation techniques and language that you might have practiced in a previous lesson.  These techniques generally focus on introduction statements and how to conclude your presentation, as well as how to emphasize certain elements in your presentations.  Anyways, here is what I do:

Compare costs of services or products 15 years ago and today, think about:

  • Appliances, Internet, Phone services, Mechanic services etc.
  • Food, Restaurants, Clothes/Shoes, Repair services
  • Hobbies (Music, sport, art etc.) – get them thinking about new hobbies
  • Weddings (they are a big deal in Poland so it makes sense to include)

This is just a taste, but I’m sure you can think of more.  Ask students to prepare a 4min talk on one of these areas and to use the language we discussed above or last week in describing trends.

For comparing trends you can use these ideas and put them up on the board at the same time as the above. If you want to do a lesson on quality related to products and services mentioned in this lesson here’a a great speaking about quality lesson I made for this.

Compare trends:

-Fashion                      – Eating habits                                 -Types of Vacation

– Cars                            – Free-time activities                      – Recycling                           – Being wasteful

And boom, you got a ton of language covered.  If time permits get them to give their speech multiple times to different partners, and encourage partners to ask questions for additional information, that way, you simulate what can happen in a presentation situation when you take questions from your audience. BOOOOOM!  Lots of action here. You can incorporate reported speech in your feedback and here’s a great lesson on this I’ve put together if you need ideas.

Remember that these are just ideas, you can roll with it in many other ways.  You can find a video that talks about a trend or data and statistics on a topic and then encourage your students to prepare something similar (project,webquest).  The video can function as a listening activity where you ask specific questions on the language you’ve practiced.

Follow-up ideas

Another idea is to bring in print outs or clippings from newspapers with statistics, infographics, pie charts etc.  Time, Newsweek, The Economist and other magazines have these all the time.  These graphs are usually related to some current events so very pertinent to students.  You can save these for future practice as revision if you prefer.  So as you can clearly see, the topic is GOLD! With plenty of opportunities to practice and reinforce the language by combining it with other aspects, like presentations for instance, or listening exercises, not to mention writing which is required for some exams.  Of course all these can easily go in a Padlet lesson.  You can add fill-in sentences for practice, matching exercises too, before giving them the speaking practice.  Remember that this language will probably continue to come up, time and time again in future lessons.

Good luck and happy teaching peeps!

Enjoyed this lesson idea? Want more? You can click on the subheading or footer link titled lesson ideas for more or check out my YouTube channel with videos on language, teaching and more ESL ideas. Happy hunting!

Tags: Padlet lesson, presentations, quantifying expressions, describing trends, graphs in ESL, ESL teaching, vocabulary building in ESL, flexible ESL lesson, statistics lesson, combining different lessons in one, essential vocabulary for ESL learners

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