Heatwave-themed – B2 Speaking

Summer classes and intensive courses can be improved by switching up the coursebook content and presenting students with some themed speaking tasks. As we are pushing through another week of unbearably high temperatures, I can’t think of anything more topical than the heatwave and climate change.

Intensive courses and exam preparation classes tend to be a bit tedious and repetitive. That’s why every now and then, I prepare themed lessons centred around a hot topic. Cambridge exam preparation coursebooks always contain one specific unit – the environment and extreme weather conditions. Why not spice your usual class and prepare your students to talk about the heatwave and their feelings about climate change?

This no-prep lesson idea is made of the examiner’s speaking notes, based on an official examiner’s guide which can be found in the FCE Sample Paper and a set of pictures available to download and print. You can also find a presentation for all the online lessons, or if you don’t want to print anything out! Scroll until the end of the post to download the files.

Start the class with a bit changed version of Speaking Part 1. Go in a circle and give each student one word to spell out. It’s a great way to introduce any new vocabulary, but also pre-teach some words that may be used during the exam practice. Additionally, it’s always good to refresh the alphabet and make sure that students are comfortable spelling things out – a skill that can be checked in Listening Part 2. The words included in the speaking are heatwave, scorching or drought.

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Proceed by asking students one or two questions about themselves. All the questions are related to weather and heatwave, for example, Which do you prefer, hot or cold weather and why? Remind them that this part of the exam is an ice-breaker, and students will be asked to talk about their personal lives.

Elicit the rules of Speaking Part 2, in which students talk individually for about a minute about two pictures. After that, another candidate answers briefly a question related to Candidate A’s pictures. There are two sets of pictures, in the first one students analyse two contrasting behaviours of people during the hot weather. In the first picture, the people are spending time in the swimming pool, and in the second, a man is relaxing on the sofa with a visible A/C unit. Give one minute to describe the pictures and answer the question posed above – Why have the people decided to do these activities?

In the second set of pictures, another candidate compares and contrasts a picture of a farmer in a field, and a woman in a hot office. Students talk about both pictures and think about different feelings they might be feeling in these situations.

Speaking Part 3 deals with a pair discussion. Read the hypothetical situation in which students imagine going on holiday to a hot country. They have 15 seconds to look at the question and five ideas of staying safe during heatwaves, for example, spending time by the water or staying hydrated. Students have two minutes to discuss the prompts and then one more minute to discuss which idea is the most feasible on holidays and why.

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The last part of the exam deals with opinion-based questions on hot weather and climate change. Allow students to develop their answers and support their reasons by giving personal examples. I always mention one of my favourite strategies in this part of the exam – give a general idea (what everyone believes), give your own opinion on the matter, and support it by giving personal examples.

Finish the class by giving everyone feedback. You can also ask the students to take notes throughout the whole class. Elicit all the positive things the others did and some areas which they should work on. If you have a bit more time and expertise, you can also give a predicted score with a short explanation.

Who said that the exam preparation classes must be boring and repetitive? If you like this type of no-preparation lesson, check out my other themed speaking for B1-C1 levels:

Click the links below to get your copy!

Cambridge PET – Writing Part 2 (article)

Telling jokes is a thing of the past. Nowadays, people find amusement in comedies, pranks and endless cat videos on YouTube. Present students with a writing exam task and ask them to write an article explaining what makes them laugh and who they like to laugh with. All that while explaining the main points of the Cambridge Preliminary Writing Part 2.

Things that make us laugh are subjective – we all find humour in different things. For me, one of the funniest things must be either certain people, cat videos or good old dad jokes. I also find plenty of laughter inside my classroom. If you want to read and compare some of the best moments from my lessons, you should read my post Laugh it off! in which you can find some relatable ESL moments.

In Cambridge PET writing, students are asked to complete two tasks. Writing Part 1 is a compulsory task, in which students need to reply to a letter or an e-mail. You can find a lesson task and a step-by-step explanation in Cambridge PET – Writing Part 1. In this post, we will focus on Writing Part 2. In this part of the exam, students are asked to choose between an article or a story. This post is dedicated to an article, which can be found in the B1 Preliminary for Schools Handbook.

At the end of the post, you can find the lesson plan, worksheet and answers.

Start the class by giving your students one or two jokes each, depending on the group size. Students read them aloud and, if necessary, explain them (because all good jokes need to be explained!). The intention is to introduce students to dad jokes. All the jokes and so many more you can find on 175 Bad Jokes That You Can’t Help but Laugh At by Reader’s Digest. Here are some of the best ones which can be found on the worksheet.

What do you call a can opener that doesn’t work? A can’t opener!

I sold my vacuum the other day. All it was doing was collecting dust.

Two windmills are standing on a wind farm. One asks, “What’s your favourite type of music?” The other says, “I’m a big metal fan.”

Put students into pairs and tell them to order the jokes from the most to the least funny. Reveal their rankings and check the differences between their sense of humour. Proceed by writing a well-known English saying Laughter is the best medicine. Discuss what this saying means to students and whether they agree with it. Do they have a similar saying in their L1?

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I love including the Speaking Part 3 discussion in almost most of my Cambridge exam preparation lesson plans. It is a great way of creating your task and generating meaningful and engaging discussions. In this case, propose a question that you can find in the exam task What makes you laugh? As a group, think of six different things that make you laugh and write them down. Divide students into pairs and ask them to discuss each prompt and choose the one that makes them laugh the most. Elicit some answers and discuss why these particular things make them laugh. Below you can find what the task should look like and some sample prompts.

Follow this part by introducing the rules of Writing Part 2. Read the exam task and underline the keywords. Proceed by reading two sample answers which can be found in the B1 Preliminary for Schools Handbook. Give them some time to think about the answers and discuss which one is better and why. Introduce students to the writing assessment criteria and point out that it is divided into four different subscales: content, communicative achievement, language and organisation. Briefly go over each one and explain them. You may also print it out and ask students to keep the assessment criteria for future reference.

If this is the first time going over the assessment criteria, analyse and assess one of the sample answers together. Underline any good and bad points and categorise them into different subscales. Together give and explain the score. Students work individually and analyse the second sample answer. Check the scores and compare them with the official examiner’s mark. Discuss how far off their scores are and if they are surprised by the official result.

It’s your students’ turn to write their articles! Whether you choose to do it as a part of the lesson or not, I always like to do the planning part in class, just to make sure that it becomes a habit and that in the official exam, students will spend 5 minutes organising their answers. Using the perfect sample answer (20/20 points!), students plan their answers and share them with the rest of the group.

At this point, you can either finish with general feedback or if you have more time available, you can give them 30 minutes to write their articles and finish with peer assessment. You need to add about 45 minutes more to the original lesson, but if this is the introduction to writing articles, it may be worth it to devote some class time to writing.

Click the link below to get the worksheet with the lesson plan and suggested answers. If you want to edit this worksheet and the lesson plan, you can also access it by going to my Canva file.

What and who makes you laugh the most? Do you think that sense of humour is universal? Do you think it is a good topic for an article?

Preply – So…when does it get good?

I have been a Preply tutor for almost five months, and as I’ve said before, it was an instant success. As with anything in life, some people may have an experience completely different from mine. The other day I was asked if the platform gets any better. Here is a post tackling this question.

I guess all ESL teachers tried their best at online teaching. The initial thrill of creating a profile, quickly changes into agony and waiting for the first notification about students being interested in our services. Preply facilitated this process, as I was instantly bombarded with messages and trial lessons. I raised my prices on the second day and even hid my profile to avoid being overwhelmed. However, I understand the feeling of the website not being worth it. I had the same feeling about Superprof and Tusclasesparticulares (to a degree). I was on Superprof for months and received five messages in total, three of which were spam.

How do you make Preply worthwhile?

I don’t think that there is a golden rule that would help you become a success story. In my case, my Preply profile got picked up by the gods of algorithm and stayed on top. Additionally, I managed to turn all my trials into regular lessons, which definitely helped. Once I got into the rhythm of teaching my new students and developed a routine, I reopened my profile and waited for more trials, this time with one, maybe two students per month.

I analysed my statistics and realized that during my first month on Preply, I worked the most (44 hours) and earned the least! Now, I work about 10 hours less and make about 100 euros more than before. I use these 10 hours extra doing other things, for example, teaching or relaxing.

As you can see, in March 2022 I worked 44 hours, which includes 9 hours of trial lessons! If you aren’t familiar with the Preply policy, all trial lessons are free. In April there was a dip in hours and earnings, as I took a week off. I came back in May and taught 35 hours, including 2 hours of trial lessons. In June I taught 33 hours and two hours of trial lessons. Additionally, in May I started making 75-100 euros more a week by teaching group lessons. This is not reflected in the earnings shown on the graph above.

I must admit that I’m happy with this trend. When I scrolled through my calendar (March and April) and saw the number of hours I used to work, I felt a sense of relief that I finally see an improvement in my earnings to hours ratio.

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Reduce the number of trial lessons

The first thing that discourages people from teaching on Preply are free trial lessons. They are exciting, but realistically – how many new students a month should you aim for? I am up for one, maybe two new students a month. If all of your students are new, you will make peanuts. That’s why setting your prices high is essential to feel like what you do, makes sense. Of course, the higher the prices, the fewer new students you will get. However, this will allow you to put more energy into the current students. Also, they should know that the more expensive the class, the higher the quality of lessons. They aren’t only paying for classes, but also for your qualifications, experience and preparation time.

So, how do you create a successful trial lesson? I have written about this before (My very first trial lesson on Preply) and have been using this lesson plan with all my new students. I only adapt the demo lesson (15-20 minutes of the whole class) depending on students’ needs and requests. This lets me reduce my preparation time to a minimum. Once you feel confident teaching your classes, it will show and students will want to be with a professional who puts some thought into the lesson. After a few months on the platform, I have heard some horror stories of tutors who do NOT prepare anything, so students will appreciate your professionalism.

Increase your rates

Once you are happy with the number of regular students, increase your prices and don’t be afraid to change the hourly rate for your regulars! I remember reading on Instagram (I think it was Ola Kowalska’s profile, but I couldn’t find the post to save my life!) a tip to raise your prices by 20% every six months, and I live by this rule now. I messaged all my students a month in advance, informing them about this change. I was a bit nervous at first, but all of my regulars took it well and agreed! Students will appreciate your honesty and the time you give them to change the tutor if necessary. Show some respect, and you will get the same respect in return.

Another interesting thing I noticed after increasing my rates was the type of students who decided to book classes with me. Now that my hourly rate is 2.5 times higher than when I started, I realized that I’m typically booked by corporate students (paid by companies), business students and students who want to prepare for their Cambridge exams. They are much more serious, book lessons a month or two in advance and tell you exactly what they want. Plus, they want to pay you more for your expertise.

Be patient

Patience is the key. Don’t expect to see crazy income in your first month of teaching. In fact, the more you teach, the more opportunities you will get. After teaching over 60 hours on the platform, I received an email saying that only 50% of all tutors stick around for longer than 60 hours! Many of them get discouraged after teaching hours of free trial lessons, or crazy commissions, and look for their luck elsewhere. I must say that I saw a huge turn after those 60 hours. I was offered to become a group teacher, which gives me the possibility to choose the time and classes depending on my availability. If you are interested in becoming a group tutor, read Group lessons on Preply and decide for yourself.

Another opportunity was an offer to participate in the very first Preply online conference and give a short 25 minutes presentation on any topic. I decided to pass this year but may give it a go in the future. It is a good way of gaining exposure and becoming a Preply partner (if they enjoy your style, that is).

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So when does it get any good?

As anticlimactic as it may sound, you can be successful on the first day or in a few months. What you need is a lot of patience and luck. Additionally, it will be much easier for you to become a top tutor if you show your expertise and treat your students with the respect that they deserve (no matter their hourly rate!) Prepare for hours of unpaid work and high commissions and once you have some regulars, ask for reviews. At the same time, don’t be afraid to quit the platform if you don’t see it as a good fit for you. There are so many other websites on which you can be successful immediately, and which follow different policies that you agree with, for example, Italki, Lingoda, iTutor…etc.

Do you teach online? Have you ever taken classes online? What platforms do you use to teach online?

Cambridge PET – Reading Part 2

B1 Reading Part 2 is one of the exam tasks that aren’t only fun to do but are also fun to teach. Students read five short descriptions of people and match them with texts, all dealing with the same topic. Even though this exercise seems quite simple, it requires a lot of attention to detail and the identification of distractors.

Anyone who has been following me from the beginning knows that I love using free official resources to give my students some tips and tricks on how to complete the Cambridge exams successfully. If you like this plan, you may want to check out my previous post on Cambridge PET – Reading Part 1.

At the end of this post, you can download the worksheet with the lesson plan and all the (suggested) answers. This class was based on Reading Part 2, which can be found in either B1 Preliminary for Schools Handbook or Sample Papers for B1 Preliminary for Schools.

The class starts with a general group discussion on attending after-school or work courses. Ask some questions and get a general idea of why people might be interested in taking such courses. Shift the conversation to the topic of the class – cycling courses. Think about the popularity of such courses as a whole and also in students’ countries.

As Reading Part 2 looks at profiles of five different people, I thought that students may benefit from writing short descriptions about themselves. Before they do this part, put them into pairs and complete a questionnaire on their cycling experience and interests. Collect the answers and provide general speaking feedback.

To give a clearer example of what you want your students to do, complete the task yourself and present a short written description of your profile. I modelled my answer on the descriptions given in Reading Part 2. Analyse your text and ensure that students can see the connection between the answer and the questionnaire. As students form their descriptions, monitor the task and correct any spelling and grammar errors, as needed.

Joanna is an experienced cyclist. She enjoys riding a bicycle in the city, but she would like to find out more about road safety. She wants to learn alongside other bikers. As she works during the week, she can only attend the course once a week at the weekend.

Once everyone has their short descriptions ready, you can ask them to exchange them with their partners. Direct their attention to eight cycling courses, presented in exercise 3. Students need to read all the descriptions quickly and pick one that best matches their expectations. For example, the best course that matches my profile is D – Pedal Power. Underline the parts that correspond to your description and see explain how this is an exact match, as seen below.

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Give some time to read all the texts and pick the ones that best fit each student. Students present the courses that best fit their needs and explain the reasons why they picked them. If this is the first time completing PET Reading Part 2, you may want to say what the task is about and how it should be handled. I think that making it personal, should make this exam task a bit more engaging and help students stay more focused during the explanation.

Obviously, in the exam students read about five random people in whom they may not be interested. Read Nancy’s profile. As a group, analyse what kind of person she is and what she wants her cycling course to look like. If students find this task a bit more challenging, you may want to go over all the courses one by one and eliminate them as needed. In the case of stronger groups, give them 3-4 minutes, and ask to find an ideal course for her. Underline all the pieces of information that match her description.

Students complete the rest of the exam task individually. Make sure that everyone underlines keywords and matches them with the phrases that best fit each description. Put students into pairs to compare and discuss the answers, and finish by confirming and justifying them by finding examples in the text.

Finish by eliciting and giving tips on how to complete this task to get the best results possible, for example, underlining keywords or checking the answers to make sure that they match the descriptions.

Click the Canva link to modify the worksheet as needed. If you are satisfied with the way it looks, click the link below to get the PDF version.

How do you use free resources in your class? What courses do you attend? What do you think about cycling courses?

What makes you nostalgic? – B2 Listening Part 3

The other day, I posted a lesson plan based on a short scientific podcast The Healing Power of Nostalgia. I felt immediate motivation when I saw short extracts of speakers talking about what makes them nostalgic. It made me think of a typical FCE Listening Part 3 exam task, in which students listen to five speakers talking about one topic.

If you missed my last post Let’s get nostalgic – B2 guided listening, click the link and give it a listen. I did this class with a pair of adult students who were excited to tell me about their nostalgia triggers and gladly discussed why even the hardest of times seem like happy memories after some time. Science Friday, the website which provided me with this podcast gem, has much more to offer! Once I saw separate extracts of real people talking about their nostalgia triggers, I started thinking about FCE exam preparation classes, particularly Listening Part 3.

You can find the worksheet with the lesson plan and all the answers at the end of this post.

I thought that the best way of introducing this topic would be by playing sounds, which should induce group nostalgia. Depending on the age and nationalities, you should choose the sounds accordingly, as some of them may not make any sense. The best way of finding out what triggers nostalgia in a particular age group is by searching Nostalgic Sounds + year on the Internet. In my worksheet, I decided to include sounds that I’m familiar with. Listen to the sounds below. Are you familiar with any of them? How do they make you feel? Are there any other sounds that make you feel nostalgic? Why?

Sound 1
Sound 2
Sound 3
Sound 4
Sound 5
Sound 6

If this is the first time doing FCE Listening Part 3, you may want to explain what this task is about and what you need to do to get a good score. You can either refer them to the Cambridge English website or remind them that this listening consists of about 30 seconds long five themed monologues. Students select five correct options from a list of eight possible answers. There is one point available for each correct answer.

This part of the lesson is based on the short extracts of people talking about things that make them nostalgic (found under the summary of the podcast The Healing Power of Nostalgia). Present a typical Listening Part 3 exam task. The students will listen to two speakers talking about things that make them nostalgic (one related to the sound and the other to collectable toys). It’s only a practice round, so students are presented with only five options instead of eight. Read the text and underline any key information. Say that underlining keywords will help them focus on the most important information and avoid any distractors.

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Proceed by listening to Speaker 1 and reading the transcript simultaneously. Identify two distractors and the correct answer. Underline phrases that give you information to justify all your choices. This part should be underlined and labelled for a better understanding of the distractors, as seen below.

Now that students know how to tackle this task, play the recording of Speaker 2. Listen to the recording twice, choose the correct answer and justify your choices. If necessary, show the transcript and underline the distractors and the correct option.

If you haven’t explained it before, remind that in this part of the exam there are five speakers and eight possible answers to choose from. Give students about 30 seconds to read the task and all the options while underlining key information. In this part of the lesson, students listen to five speakers talking about different smells and what they remind them of. Listen to each speaker twice. While checking the answers, discuss all the options and any possible distractors that your students identified in this part of the exam.

All the audios and transcripts are available on Science Friday – The Healing Power of Nostalgia.

Speaker 1
Speaker 2
Speaker 3
Speaker 4
Speaker 5

Finish this part of the class by discussing the smells that make your students feel nostalgic. Are there any smells from the listening that your students can relate to in particular?

If you want to throw another part of the exam into the mix, I always love having a final pair/group discussion based on FCE speaking part 3. Divide students into pairs and show them the question they need to discuss How do these senses make us nostalgic? Students look at the list of five senses and have two minutes to discuss any examples from their lives and the things that make them feel this way. Finish by asking students to decide which of these five senses makes people the most nostalgic and why. Monitor this activity and finish by giving general speaking feedback.

Click the file below to download the worksheet, and if you need to add any changes to the worksheet, you can head to Canva and edit the file accordingly!

B2 – Let’s get nostalgic (podcast)

The older you get, the more you realise the emotional sadness and sense of longing for the past. You start appreciating all the summers you spent in your grandparents’ countryside, running around carefree, worrying only about making it on time to watch your favourite TV show. This podcast-based class should make your B2 adult student look back at their past through rose-coloured glasses and reminisce about their childhood.

Recently I’ve noticed a pattern all over my social media pages – millennial nostalgia. The content creators hit the right spot, reflecting on our sense of style and songs we loved listening to as children. We poke fun at the use of iPods and the extensive use of photobooth on iMacs. We think about different food and drinks that we used to enjoy and which don’t exist anymore. I got so into it that I started scrolling through the #millenialnostlagia, laughing and feeling warm and fuzzy inside.

Of course, since we all come from different backgrounds, our nostalgia triggers are unique. However, no matter our past, we can all agree on the origins of nostalgia: the smell, the taste, sounds (music), films and TV shows, and certain emotions that assisted us during that time. Since it’s such a feel-good topic, I believe it may spark some interesting discussion about specific things that remind us of better times.

This lesson is based on the podcast by Science Friday titled The Healing Power of Nostalgia, which can be assigned as a pre-lesson listening task or can be listened to in class. Since the topic is quite specific, it is targeted at adult students who may have some experience with nostalgia. You can download the worksheet with the lesson plan and the answers at the end of the post.

Start the class by thinking about different things that make us nostalgic. If you have a bigger group, you can ask students to write down three things that make them feel this way on sticky notes, and put them on the whiteboard under different categories. If you have smaller groups or 1:1, you can show the categories and elicit things that make students nostalgic in each area. Ask individual students to share their stories with the rest of the group.

An example of the nostalgia categories and triggers may look like on the whiteboard.

Depending on the amount of time available, you can do this activity in two different ways. You can send the podcast (available on SoundCloud) and ask the students to listen to it before the class, or you can do it in the form of a guided listening. If you choose to do the latter, focus their attention on Exercise B and ask them to read the question and three available options. At this point, do not explain any words yet. Play the recording (-17:26 – -16:08) and check the answers to the question about what makes the host nostalgic. This should introduce some new podcast-related vocabulary (e.g. a host). Check the diagram from the lead-in and compare your nostalgia triggers with the ones mentioned before.

Continue by dividing students into pairs or small groups, and discussing the benefits of nostalgia. Ask to think of the best way to define this word. Listen to the next part of the recording (-16:08 – -14:06) and check the answers to the questions. The benefit of nostalgia mentioned in the podcast was an emotionally protective force in times of crisis. Do the students agree with this statement, or can they come up with other more appropriate or relatable advantages of nostalgia?

Proceed with some individual work. Students read two questions regarding feelings associated with nostalgia and the reason people used to associate nostalgia with negativity. Continue by listening to (-14:06 – -12:05), then check and discuss the answers.

Put students again into the same pairs or groups as before and ask them to talk about different ways in which we can induce nostalgia. Listen to the next part of the recording (-12:05 – -10:47) and compare your suggestions with the ones mentioned in the podcast, e.g. listening to music, consuming media that reconnects us to the past, journaling and scrapbooking. As a group, collect some ideas and check how students like to induce nostalgia and when they tend to do that. Discuss if anyone has ever tried or would try scrapbooking in the future.

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Continue with individual work. Students read two questions about different ways of processing nostalgia and the negative effects it may have on people who tend to be standoffish in their relationships. Students predict the correct answers and listen to the recording (-10:47 – -8:11) to check the answers. Finish this part by discussing whether they agree with what was said in the recording.

Once again, ask the students to work in pairs and think of the differences between personal and group nostalgia. Listen to the recording (-8:11 – -6:31) and check the answers (personal nostalgia is unique to each person, while group nostalgia depends on generations, people living in the same area, etc.) Discuss different examples of group nostalgia in their countries. I know that for me, a millennial from Poland, a big part of group nostalgia is listening to music channels (Viva!) and drinking the artificially sweet beverage Frugo (sadly, discontinued and then brought back to be terminated again).

The next part of the listening involves talking about different parts of the brain that are included in the process of nostalgia. The second part of the task checks their knowledge of vocabulary. Students need to find the word that best describes the feeling of nostalgia. In the podcast, this word is gratitude, which needs to be matched with its synonym (homesickness, appreciativeness or greatness). Listen to the recording (-6:31 – -4:08) and check the answers.

Since we are on the topic of brain activities, students work in small groups again and discuss the accuracy of their memories. Listen to the recording (-4:08 – -2:57) and report on what was said about the way we tend to remember things (it’s a memory of a memory). Finish this part by discussing if the students are maybe unsure of some of their memories and whether they remember some things from stories or pictures and not from living those experiences.

The podcast finishes with a short comparison of our nostalgia and memories to movie making and editing. Play the recording until the end (-2:57 – 0:00) and check the answers. Finish by writing a quote, ‘People can be very nostalgic about difficult times in their lives’ and discuss whether they agree with it or not. If the topic isn’t too sensitive, students may share their personal stories and how they look back at them through rose-coloured glasses.

Since the lesson is for older students, ask them to use their phones to search for things that induce group nostalgia in their countries, e.g. the sound of dial-up Internet, specific food and drink products, etc. Present them to the rest of the group and discuss how these things make them feel and what they make them think of. Below you can find some of the things that certainly make me feel quite nostalgic.

Click the link to access the PDF directly from Canva (+ edit it if needed!) or click the link below to access the ready-made PDF with the teacher’s notes and the answers at the end of the file!

What induces your nostalgia? Do you know some of the things from my picture above? What would you add to the nostalgia list?

Disclaimer: All the time stamps of the podcast are measured backwards. You can play this podcast directly from the website and check the time above!

B2 – Separating the art from the artist (guided reading)

Recently the whole world united, as we all witnessed twists and turns in the biggest trial of the 21st century between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. Even though there was one clear (public) winner of this case, I can’t help but feel rather disappointed that such a great actor had so many skeletons in his closet. It made me wonder – will I ever be able to truly enjoy Johnny Depp’s movies again?

As a material creator and a teacher, you often need to search for relevant and topical articles that are interesting for your students. The trial brought millions of people in front of the screens, streaming hours of court footage and becoming interested in law vocabulary. There are many different angles from which you can approach this topic. From the strict vocabulary side, perfect use of question tags (You didn’t expect Kate Moss to testify, did you?) or talking about more serious topics such as domestic violence.

Initially, I was planning on talking about the MSNBC article The Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial, America has lost, which poses a serious question – Why were we invested in the trial of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard? It also deals with the consequences and the impact it may have on domestic violence victims who may be too afraid to come forward and talk about their experiences. I started digging and thinking about it more and eventually, I landed on The New York Times article Can We Separate the Art from the Artist by Jennifer Finney Boylan.

This time, instead of a lesson plan, I prepared a short presentation that can be used as a part of guided reading and a full-class discussion. Since we are heading towards the end of the academic year, lessons get a bit lighter, so it may be a nice way of finishing with a conversation about our favourite films, songs and TV shows that include a list of problematic people. Head to the end of the post to download the presentation.

Start the discussion by listening to American Pie by Don McLean. Ask what kind of emotions the song brings and if you enjoy it. It’s an old classic, so it may not be approved by the younger generations, but they may be familiar with its cover by Madonna. Proceed by reading the first part of the article, discuss how the author of the article feels when she hears this song and compare it with Don McLean’s ex-wife’s feelings. Which feelings are closer to your students’ emotions and why? Talk about the effects music has on us. Discuss if you have any songs that make you involuntarily happy or sad.

At this point, you may want to deal with some of the law jargon such as plea agreement, to plead or criminal mischief. Proceed by talking about the guilt of Don McLean and the plea deal that he accepted. Discuss who the students believe more in this situation, Don or his ex-wife. Despite their opinions on the artist, talk if his music should be banned from the radio or if it should be celebrated.

Show a list of different movies, TV shows and songs that all feature problematic artists, such as Charlie Sheen, Roman Polanski or Michael Jackson. Discuss if students still enjoy these pieces of art, or if they sabotaged them once they found out about the crimes of the artists. Go over each person and the gravity of their offences. Make sure to go over the allegations of Gary Glitter and his song which was used recently in the infamous Joker stairs scene, as mentioned in the other part of the article.

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The next part talks about the seriousness of crimes and if they should be a deciding factor in cancelling the art of problematic artists. You can also think about the old crimes and if our perspective on them changes with time. Is it possible that some of the criminal offences can expire and shouldn’t enter the equation? Shift the conversation into removing certain pieces of art and not others and the requirements they need to meet to completely erase a song or a movie. Come back to the part about American Pie and think if this song deserves to be preserved in the National Recording Registry.

Focus on the Rolling Stones’s song Brown Sugar. Analyse the lyrics and the meaning behind them. Discuss if the students can see why the lyrics were seen as controversial and racist. Follow up by reading about the removal of the song from the tour and if it was a good decision to make. Is it possible that some art may change its meaning over time?

Finish this discussion by talking about our feelings towards the art coming from the damaged artists. Discuss the author’s feelings about it and compare them with your students’ feelings. Did this class change their mind about some of the artists? Will they reconsider listening to songs and watching movies of artists who were accused of certain offences? If you want to make it a bit more topical, you can also bring Johnny Depp into the mix and think if you will watch his movies and support his future endeavours.

Click the link to my Canva project if you are interested in the presentation, but would like to adapt it to your needs. If you like what you see, click the link below to get the PDF version of the guided reading presentation.

Group lessons on Preply

Preply is an online teaching platform that I’ve been using for the last three months. It’s mostly known for its 1:1 lessons, but recently I received a notification saying that I’d be an ideal candidate for their group lessons. After some thinking, I decided to give it a go and see if this option is as good for me as they claim.

On 28th April, Preply notified me about the possibility of teaching groups via Zoom. This email coincided with another Preply milestone – teaching over 60 hours on the platform, which isn’t quite common (only 50% of tutors reaches this far). The message initially freaked me out, but I decided to take it easy and firstly applied for their internal Teach group lessons on the Preply course.

The idea is straightforward and seems a bit too good to be true. You choose the level and the topic you want to teach. Then you decide on a day and time and you’re set. Preply provides you with lesson plans and presentations, and that’s pretty much it. You can sign up for as many or as few lessons as you want. The idea is to provide students with cheaper lessons which they can take whenever they want. It offers flexibility, exposes them to English speakers from all over the world and gives them the possibility to be surrounded by a variety of accents. Sounds too good to be true? I needed to check it for myself.

Firstly, I needed to register as a group tutor. Since all the classes are on Zoom, Preply provides teachers with the full software version. Before you give them your email, they warn you about all the lessons being recorded, which can’t be switched off, so you should create a new email that you don’t currently use on Zoom. Otherwise, you may have an issue with your private Zoom lessons and personal videocalls. I got the access to group lessons and a full version of Zoom in less than 24 hours after registering.

Immediately after receiving the confirmation, I started scrolling through possible lessons. There are a lot of options from A1 to C1 levels. You have the ability to go over the notes before you commit, so you can teach something that you enjoy and feel comfortable with. Initially, I signed up for one class and got nervous. After some thinking, I decided to fill my mornings with group lessons. In my first week of trying group lessons, I joined six group lessons. The advantage of choosing classes is that you can teach the same class over and over again, which reduces preparation time.

As I was waiting impatiently for my first lesson, something unexpected happened – it got cancelled. I realised that the majority of classes get cancelled. At the moment of writing this post, the Preply group lesson policy was that if no one signed up for the lesson 24 hours before, it got cancelled, and you got paid 50% of your hourly rate after commission. From May 2022, this has changed. Now you are informed about group lesson cancellation an hour before. Whether the class happens or not, you get paid your full hourly rate.

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When I was writing this post, I registered for 12 group lessons, and only four of them weren’t cancelled. I must admit that this Preply feature is quite beneficial for me and provides me with income that requires minimal effort. EDIT: As of June 2022, the number of group lessons available got reduced, and it is much more difficult to find a free teaching spot.

However, four out of these 12 lessons happened, so let’s focus on them instead. Once the lesson is confirmed, you can check its status on your profile under Group lessons – Your lessons. After the cancellation, the lesson disappears from there. If you’re waiting for confirmation, you can check when you have this class and what the topic is. It also shows the number of available spots for this lesson. The class size ranges from 1-to 6 students. 15 minutes before the lesson starts, you get an email with a notification reminding you about the class and information about the number of students who signed up for this class. In two of my group lessons, I had two students who registered and in both, only one of them showed up. In the other two, only one student booked the class. One of the ‘group’ students told me that in the 13 lessons that he attended, he had a partner in only one of them.

The idea of these group lessons is for students to follow a 30-hour course with 30 different tutors. Therefore, you aren’t allowed to bring any new material to class. You can personalise and modify it, depending on your teaching style. I decided to follow the material. If the students were a little bit less chatty, I managed to do more vocabulary revision before the main part of the lesson. The lessons are 55 minutes long, and Preply offers more than enough materials to fill that time. You are also expected to finish the class with error corrections and help students find their homework and pre-lesson task for the next lesson. Yes, students are expected to complete a pre-lesson task, so they should come in ready and aware of the topic. Here is an example lesson plan I followed during my first group lesson on Preply.

TimeProcedure
5 mins1. Welcome the students and introduce yourself.
2. Get to know each other:
– How long have you been on Preply?
– Do you have any questions about the pre-lesson task?
– What task was difficult/easy?
3. Topic related questions:
– When did you last travel by plane?
– Where did you go?
4. Present the lesson objectives.
5. Present the lesson structure.
5 mins1. Warm-up:
– Describe the picture (a family waiting at an airport).
– Answer the questions: Where are they? Where were they going? What are they doing? What has happened? How do they feel?
5 mins1. Pre-teach / Revise vocabulary: read an airport announcement and fill in the gaps with the missing words (reschedule, depart, cancelled, announcement, delayed).
2. Explain any new vocabulary.
3. Elicit the difference between delayed and cancelled.
4 mins1. Set the listening: A woman waiting at the gate when she hears an announcement.
2. Give some time to read and understand the questions.
3. Listen to the recording and answer the questions.
4. Check and discuss the answers.
4 mins1. Pronunciation: Elicit the difference between the word stress -teen and -ty in numbers.
2. Model and drill pronunciation.
5 mins1. Set the listening: The woman’s flight was cancelled.
2. Give some time to read and understand the questions.
3. Listen to the recording and write the answers to the questions.
4. Check and discuss the answers.
5 mins1. Teach – grammar: cause and effect.
– When do we use why?
– How is because different from because of?
because of = due to + a noun
because (conjunction) + a clause
2. Grammar practice: fill in the gaps with because / because of / due to.
7 mins1. Review the use of why / because / because of / due to.
2. Controlled practice: Ask and answer questions about flying using new grammar.
3. Model the activity: write a question starting with why and ask the student to give you the answer.
4. The student writes in the chat three questions starting with why. Discuss the answers.
7 mins1. Set the roleplay: Student A works for an airline. Student B is a passenger. A flight was cancelled. Talk on the phone and discuss the reason why the flight was cancelled, reschedule the flight and ask about any vouchers.
2. Swap roles.
8 mins1. Error correction.
2. Reflect on your class experience – ask for a rating (1-5).
– How well can you understand an airport announcement?
– How well can you use because / because of / due to?
– What vocabulary can you add to your flashcards?
3. Discuss what needs to be done next (repeat the class, sign up for the next lesson, do the post-lesson task).
An example 55 mins lesson plan for A2 level (The flight has been delayed)

This lesson plan is very different from what I offer to my 1:1 students, but I stick to the rules and follow the materials as necessary. I noticed that the material provided by Preply is more than enough to have a successful 55 minutes long lesson. In the case of finishing a bit too early, at the end of each presentation, there are 3 or 4 more slides with extra activities, so there is no need to panic.

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Once the lesson ends, you get an email with autoconfirmation of the class and get paid right away. After each class, you can leave feedback about each student, comment on their attendance and suggest their level. I believe that students have to do something very similar after each class and rate their tutor. My first “group” student told me that he would put me in the top 3 of all the Preply tutors he had up to this point, so I believe that so far I’m doing well!

Group lessons are a great way of making extra cash in your free time. I’ll definitely continue signing up for them while I’m waiting for new students. As Preply works on commissions, you still need to have private students to increase teaching hours and decrease the commission rate (group lessons don’t count, unfortunately). Another benefit is frequent cancellations and, of course, ready-to-go lesson plans. You can also keep signing up for the same lessons over and over again, which will decrease your preparation time to a bare minimum. The main disadvantage is that there are more tutors than lessons available, so you need to be quick to book your spot!

Do you teach on Preply? What do you think about the group lessons?

B1/B2 – Job interview – Soft skills

During my time teaching online, one of the most commonly asked things was to have a pre-job interview class. This happens frequently, especially on online platforms, such as Preply. The demand for these lessons made me sign up for a Preply webinar, “Preparing students for job interviews”, which served as an inspiration for this lesson plan.

Sometimes all stars align, and everything falls into the right place. It happened recently when immediately after the webinar on preparing students for job interviews, one of my current students messaged me saying that she’d received a job interview invitation and needed some practice. I immediately got into planning. Firstly, I went onto Preply and checked out their newest course on preparing for job interviews. I usually don’t follow their learning plans, but I enjoyed their structure and decided to adapt it to my needs.

This lesson plan focuses on differentiating between soft and hard skills by reading authentic material Hard Skills vs Soft Skills by Indeed.com. It is followed by learning about the STAR technique, analysing example questions and answers on soft skills adapted from 10 Soft Skills Interview Questions and Answers, authentic text from Indeed.com. At the end of the class, students should feel confident organising their answers using this method. You can download the lesson plan, the presentation and the worksheet at the end of the post. Also for the first time, you can get an editable copy of the presentation made in Canva so you can adapt this lesson to your needs – click here to get access!

Start the class by looking at 12 words shown in alphabetical order (bilingual, creativity, database management, dependability, empathy, organisation, programming, problem-solving, SEO marketing, statistical analysis, teamwork and typing proficiency). Divide students into pairs and ask them to divide the words into two categories and justify their logic behind it. Reveal that the words can be used to describe hard and soft skills.

If this is the first time that your students hear these expressions, you can ask them to predict their meanings. Read definitions of hard and soft skills and discuss which one they think is more important to get a job.

Check the understanding of these two skills by looking at different actions that can be done at a job interview which may highlight soft and hard skills. For example, showing up on time or early to the interview highlights soft skills by proving that we are punctual and responsible. Once you divide and discuss all the actions, you may want to elicit more examples.

Ask if your students have ever heard of the STAR technique, which is frequently used at job interviews. Students work in pairs and decode the acronym. Say that STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. This technique allows job candidates to organise their answers while discussing their soft and hard skills.

This class focuses on soft skills and the rest of the class will deal with developing perfect answers to questions about these skills. To further highlight the STAR technique, students read a sample interview question Can you discuss a time when you had to manage your team through a difficult situation? supported with an example answer. Students work individually and underline different parts of this answer that best match each point of the STAR technique.

Now it’s time for the students to try and develop their answers. Show a question What is the most significant problem you solved in the workplace? and provide them with a short example that will facilitate them with writing their answers. Students work individually and respond to this question. Monitor the activity and provide students with writing feedback.

Students should feel more confident with the STAR technique. To further help them with answer organisation, give them two more questions and some time to plan their answers following the technique. Once again monitor their writing and provide any help as necessary. Share the answers as a group, and if necessary, think about different ways of improving them.

The final part of the class is answering five more questions about soft skills and responding to them on the spot while following the STAR technique. If you have a bigger group of students, this can be done in pairs. In one-to-one classes, listen to your student and give them speaking feedback as needed.

If you enjoyed this lesson, click the links below and get your free versions now! How do you prepare your students for job interviews?

B2 – Greenwashing – Reading and Speaking

I’m a few days late to the party, but it’s never too late to celebrate Earth Day! This B2 lesson focuses on authentic material on greenwashing, different ways of spotting it and techniques for avoiding it. The best part of it is that the topic is timeless and can be discussed whenever. It’s never a bad moment to talk about the environment!

A while ago, Content Catnip commented on my post Have Yourself a Sustainable Little Christmas and shared their website Palm Oil Detectives.

This comment motivated me to head onto their website and check out what they’ve got to say on the topic. This blog is amazing – it brings to attention a lot of important issues related to the use of palm oil. However, what really caught my eye was 10 Tactics of Sustainable Palm Oil Greenwashing. I went down the rabbit hole of greenwashing and promised that one day, I will use this topic in one of my classes. This lesson plan is dedicated to Content Catnip – a great blog which has one of my favourite series on the platform, 10 Cool Things I Found on the Internet.

At the end of the post, you can find the lesson plan, the worksheet and the presentation available to download for free.

Start the class by showing three real-life examples of greenwashing obtained from The Sustainable Agency. The first things that will come to students’ minds will be big companies, green, environmentally friendly, etc. Collect the ideas from different groups and discuss them.

Try to elicit the term environmentally friendly and think of a range of words associated with it. Students think of at least three words. Their answers may be eco, eco-friendly, green, organic, sustainable, recycle, etc. Read the first part of authentic material from BBC titled What is greenwashing and how can you spot it? and check if students’ environment-related words are in the text. Students answer in their own words the question posed at the beginning of the paragraph – Why do companies want to appear more eco-friendly?

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Ask if students have ever heard of the term greenwashing. If not, elicit their predictions on this topic. Check the answers by reading a short paragraph titled What is greenwashing? Based on its definition, ask how students could spot it. Put students into pairs or small groups, show them three boxes and ask them to spot five signs of greenwashing. If you teach this lesson online, you can do this as a game, by playing an interactive game on the BBC website.

You can either circle the signs of greenwashing on paper, or go to the website and play online!

Even though there are many more signs of greenwashing, this class focuses only on five of them. Students read five short descriptions and match them with headings: buzzwords, green packaging, no proof, not fully recyclable and promises to carbon offset or to donate to environmentally friendly causes. Explain any new words as needed.

Show four real-life examples (Volkswagen, Windex, Walmart and Sun Chips) of greenwashing taken from The Roundup.org – Greenwashing Explained. Students analyse the examples and try to spot greenwashing and match it with the types from the previous exercise. There is more than one answer available. If you want to find out more about these examples and what happened, you can get all information on the website. Ask if students have heard about any of these examples. Maybe this exercise jogged their memory and helped them think of some of their ones!

Discuss why greenwashing may be a problem. Students discuss their answers and read the text Why is greenwashing a problem to find the answers. Five words are missing. Students think of the missing words and guess them based on their definitions. Ask about different ways of avoiding greenwashing and say that one of them is looking out for certifications such as Leaping Bunny, Fairtrade, FSC, Carbon Trust and B Corp. Match the certificates with their purposes.

Finish the class by answering opinion-based questions on greenwashing, for example, if they agree with the examples seen in class as being considered greenwashing or not.

Happy Earth Day! How did you celebrate this day with your students? What are your thoughts on greenwashing?

Thank you, Content Catnip, for the inspiration! This class wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for you!