messy desks decentralised teaching and learning

Do you have a messy or a tidy desk? What does this say about you as a person?

This lesson is aimed at Business English Learners and develops all four skills.


1) Bring in a photograph of your desk. Describe it in detail to your learners:

  • when is it messy or cluttered
  • when is it tidy
  • what you like about your desk
  • whether you have any personal effects
  • is your desk at home or in an office

2) Ask learners ‘What does a messy or tidy desk say about someone?’

(feed in vocab here if necessary)

3) Ask them to describe their desk to their partner.

4) Open class feedback. Each learners describes their partner’s desk and offers an opinion on what this says about this person.

5) Jigsaw Reading – learners read the following articles:


Group A ‘Messy desks in the office can actually lead employees to think more clearly, say researchers‘ by Rob Waugh

Group B ‘Clean or messy: What your desk says about you‘ by Tavia Grant


6) One A person is paired with a B person and they tell their partner about their article.

7) Together they summarise the most important and/ or interesting information from their articles and write this down.

8) Each group then feeds back one (or more) interesting piece of information from what they read

9) Tell the learners to take a picture of their desks for homework

10) Talk about the ‘Messy Desk’ photos in the next lesson!


Follow-up/ Variation


Learners upload pictures of their desks (home or work) to a Google doc. Ask them to write a little description of their desk, what they like or don’t like about it – and leave comments about their colleagues’ desks too!


I hope that you like this lesson – don’t forget you can sign up for email updates on the right-hand side.


Let me know how this lesson goes with your learners.






‘Defeat’ by katiew, from flickr. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

2 thoughts on “Messy Desk!

  1. Hey Paul,

    Thanks for sharing this great lesson plan and the texts! They are fun and easy to read… I guess I’ll be using your idea with my ss today because they keep complaining of their b o r i n g textbooks.

    1. Cao Marina,

      Hvala puno! Glad that you like the lessons – I’ve had my fair share of “students+boring textbooks”.

      My favourite activities are those with no materials – like ‘What mood are you in today?’.


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