British people have a reputation for being polite and appreciating good manners. You can have fun with your children in many different role play scenarios, getting them to practise what to do and what not to do in England. I have split the good manners up and given general rules and an activity per section.

Jo Bertrand


  • Role-play prompt cards
  • Laminated pictures of people (the Queen, you, a child, a police officer…)
  • Blu tack
  • Classical music
  • A ‘pass the parcel’ gift wrapped up several times (enough parcels for two or three groups depending on the size of your class)
  • Worksheets for sentence completion
  • Objects for the picking up game (these could be classroom objects)

5+ (the activities about personal hygiene and eating habits are designed for upper primary)

How to greet people
General rules

  • Stand up to say hello if someone walks into the room to be polite
  • Don’t kiss people on their cheeks
  • In general say hello without hugging or shaking hands unless they are very close friends you haven’t seen for a long time (hug) or someone very important (shake hands).

Activity: Greet your neighbour

  • Have the class walk around the room listening to classical music.
  • When the music stops they must greet the person standing next to them.
  • Give them different people to greet each time the music stops e.g. their English teacher, their English friend, the Queen or a police officer. Each time the music stops hold up a different photo so that everyone can see who they are greeting.
  • You can work facial expressions and gestures into their greetings.

This should be prepared as a class first.

  • Have laminated photos of the characters they have to greet.
  • Stick them on the board with the photos turned towards the board.
  • Turn over the first one, a police officer, and say ‘Hello’ or ‘Good morning’ to them with a slightly nervous smile. Show the photo to individuals in the class and gesture for them to say hello in the same way. Then get the whole class together to say hello to the police officer. The photo of the police officer should ‘respond’ with a serious but friendly ‘Good morning’. Stick the photo back on the board.
  • Next turn over the Queen. You can give a little curtsey and say ‘Good morning Your Majesty’. Get the class to repeat in the same way. She can respond with a regal smile.
  • Then follow with a picture of you. Throw it straight open to volunteers in the class to say hello to your photo. See what greetings they come up with. Offer ‘Hello’ or ‘Good morning’ as possibilities. Use your own response here.
  • Finally show them a picture of a child their own age and say this is their English friend. ‘You like him/her’. You could suggest ‘Hi!’ and a hug, (if hugging is appropriate in the country you are teaching in), otherwise a small wave. He/she can respond in the same way as the greeting.
  • Practise by pointing to the different photos in random order and the class has to quickly respond with the correct greeting. Each time you answer with the appropriate response by putting the photo up like a mask, but not so close that they can’t hear your response.

Saying please and thank you
General rules

  • You can never say thank you too many times.
  • Always say please if you ask for something.

Activity: Pass the parcel
The way you say thank you is important as the intonation can completely change the meaning of these two words. You can have fun with a birthday party scenario and how to receive your presents.

You could play a pass the parcel game whereby with each layer of wrapping they take off there is a piece of paper saying how they should react. They can only say ‘Thank you’ so the meaning should be in their intonation. Write all the possibilities onto the board and the class can guess what the preset is each time from the way they say ‘Thank you’. Here are some examples of different presents they could receive:

  • You hate the present.
  • It’s your favourite toy.
  • It’s blue and you like pink.
  • It’s a computer.
  • It’s a Barbie doll.
  • It’s a baby’s rattle.

Opening the door
General rules

  • Don’t barge past someone.
  • Say ‘Excuse me’ if you want to get past someone.
  • Say ‘Sorry’ if you bump into someone, even if it’s their fault.
  • Do not jump the queue.

Activity: Shop queues
Get the class into three or four groups. They should stand in four different lines as if waiting to be served in the sweet shop. This can be like a relay race. One person (#1) from each team stands facing the next person (#2) in their team’s queue. There should be an imaginary door between the two. When you say ‘Go’ #1 and #2 both try to get through the imaginary shop door at the same time. They should say ‘excuse me’ and ‘sorry’ and #1 goes to the back of the queue while #2 goes into the imaginary shop. What you do here depends on their age and level. It could be a simple pick up and collect an object and be the fastest team to win the game, or, there could be a short exchange between #2 and a shopkeeper.

Personal hygiene
General rules

  • Don’t pick your nose.
  • Don’t spit.
  • Don’t burp.
  • Cover your mouth when you sneeze and cough.

This is a good subject mater for practising modals such as ‘should’ and rules of what you should and shouldn’t do in public in England. Remember this doesn’t need to be presented as a grammar point but rather as expressions.

You can distribute worksheets with the above general rules written on them and a space next to each rule. You can mime the unacceptable public acts described above and they can draw what they think you are doing next to the sentence. Be aware that the mimes you do should be implicit! This could be a little rude so check how appropriate this is first. A couple of these expressions could be offensive where you are teaching.

Then say the expressions to them before showing them the words. Once they have their drawings they could do a sentence completion exercise. On the board you start a sentence with ‘In public you shouldn’t ….’ or ‘In public you should…’ They can fill in the gaps with appropriate endings. They could then go onto create their own rules for things they should or shouldn’t do in the classroom.

General rules

  • Don’t speak with your mouth full.
  • Put your knife and fork together on your plate when you have finished. The fork should be facing down.
  • Do not eat with your knife.
  • Do not spit your food out onto your plate.
  • Put your bread on a side-plate.

Activity: role-play
This could be fun as a role-play eating at a restaurant or at your English friend’s house for the first time. On the role-play prompt cards you can write:

  • ‘You are Chinese and are used to eating your food with chopsticks. You are having a meal of spaghetti bolognaise with your English friend for the first time. Ask him/her to show you how an English person eats this dish.’
  • ‘You are English and your Chinese friend is eating at your house for the first time. You don’t have any chopsticks and your friend asks you for some help. Show and tell him/her how you eat your meal of spaghetti bolognaise.’

Follow-up suggestions
Cultural lessons such as these become more relevant to the children if they can relate it to their own lives. You could ask them for each category of rules to tell you what they must or mustn’t do in their culture. They could make small group posters and have a picture to represent each category; two people greeting each other or someone eating at a restaurant for example. Each group could be responsible for one category.

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