When to tip and when to skip

Lesson plan overview

This FREE intermediate ESL lesson plan is dedicated to the topic of tipping, with a focus on “tipflation” (a term used to describe the United States’ recent widespread expansion of gratuity to more industries, not just restaurants and hotels). Students will learn useful vocabulary and will discuss topics like guilt-tipping, fair compensation in the hospitality industry, and tipping etiquette around the world. You can combine it with “Phrasal verbs: money”. You can also use this lesson in a Business English class if your students are employed in the hospitality industry.

Speaking: The lesson starts with 5 discussion questions related to tipping. Then, students look at 9 situations and decide whether to leave a tip, and how much would they tip in each one.
Vocabulary: First, students learn expressions related to tipping (customary, a generous tipper, to round up, service charge, minimum wage). To practice the vocabulary, students complete 5 statements with the correct expression, and then discuss the statements. Next, students expand their vocabulary about tipping by completing 5 expressions with the correct word (tipping upfront, tipping etiquette, tip jar, a guilt tip). Then students answer 5 questions related to tipping.
Listening: Students watch a video called “Has tipping reached a tipping point? Whom to tip and whom to skip” and answer 7 questions. After that, they engage in a post-listening discussion about tipping culture in the US.
Speaking: Finally, students are given 4 debate topics to discuss in pairs or small groups.
To review the target vocabulary from this lesson, you can use the conversation cards.

Teacher’s lesson plan

Student’s worksheet

Student’s interactive PDF

Conversation cards PDF

Pre-class activities

To send the pre-class activities to your students, copy the link below.


Vocabulary matching


The first time you watch the video, pay special attention to the correct pronunciation of the following words:

Carter Evans shows us how one business is trying to solve the gratuity guilt.
Like electricians or plumbers that might be embarrassed to ask for a tip in person, but when they send you an electronic bill, they can include a tip request.
To pay for it all, she did raise prices, but she says it evens out.
That way there’s no anxiety.

Comprehension questions

In-class activities

Teacher’s lesson plan
Student’s worksheet

Conversation cards PDF

Student’s interactive PDF

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