B1 – The Power of Music

The new group lesson format on Preply seems to have become my new hobby. On top of my Housing course, I started promoting and successfully teaching another course titled Culture Vulture. The course consists of five one-hour-long lessons dealing with different parts of culture: music, books, films, art and television.

I must admit that I have given this course much more thought than the previous one, and really outlined each lesson before submitting it to the Preply team. I have realised that online students want to focus mostly on conversation classes. I believe that music is a universal language that above all is easy and fun to talk about. Even though I knew that music and films would attract the most people, I didn’t want to focus on these two things only. I decided to mix a few culture-related topics, allowing students to talk about many different things and expand their vocabulary as much as possible.

After creating an outline of the course, I quickly designed a thumbnail to promote the classes. The classes were available for a maximum of six students. I must say that I was a bit nervous as for one week I had one student booked for a morning and one for an evening class. However, after a short talk, I convinced one of the students to join the evening class, which meant one thing – the first group lesson was about to happen. In total there were four students, making it the most successful class up to this day.

This blog post focuses on the first out of five lessons. Below you can find the list of lessons included in the course.

  • The Power of Music
  • Are You a Bookworm?
  • Cinema of the Future
  • The Artist in Me
  • Has the Internet Killed Television?
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The first lesson titled The Power of Music gives students a chance to interview their groupmates and learn about their music habits and preferences. Students share their favourite ways of listening to music and its effects on mood and health. Additionally, students are exposed to short extracts from a BBC 6-minute podcast, Life without music, a recording on the way music influences our day-to-day lives. At the end of the post, you can find the presentation and the lesson plan needed to teach this class.

Talk about your music listening habits. Look at the pictures and analyse the most common situations in which people tend to listen to music. Discuss how and when students like to listen to music. Think about the reasons why people enjoy listening to music in these situations and how it may affect the activity they are currently doing. In my case, this warm-up activity led to an interesting discussion on the reasons behind listening to music in public places, such as buses.

Proceed by thinking about the benefits of music on our health. Students work in pairs or groups and think of three positive impacts music has on us. Watch a short video The Scientific Benefits of Music and check if any of the students’ answers appeared in this recording. According to the video, music helps us with memory loss, gives us more energy when exercising and increases the rate of healing. Optionally, you can finish this part by talking about the points mentioned in the video – Do students agree with everything said in it? This recording will be a good listening warm-up before a podcast which is a bit faster and does not provide any visuals.

Before playing the podcast, show a picture of an ear and a worm. Ask students to predict the compound noun and its meaning. I must say that my group did their absolute best in this part of the class. However, the award for the best answer goes to an answer that an earworm is an infection and should be treated immediately! Play the first part of the podcast and check if students correctly guessed the missing word. Finish by explaining some of the new words, for example, to hum, and think about the last time you had a song stuck in your head. If you have extra time, you could also use this part of the class to focus on compound nouns and their formation.

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Talk about the power of music and its hold on our lives. Students read the statements and discuss if they are true or false. Listen to three extracts from the BBC podcast and check the answers. If needed, head to the BBC 6-minute podcast website and show the transcript. You can also listen to the whole podcast or download the full audio from the website for free.

Statement 1: At restaurants, music can affect what we choose to eat and drink.

Statement 2: The music tempo influences how quickly (or slowly) we shop or eat.

Statement 3: Music does not create the atmosphere in the movies.

As you can see, I decided to divide this podcast into shorter extracts to make it easier to digest and less scary. I played the extracts twice without the need to show the transcript. This division also helped us have more speaking time and eliminated the need to hop around the podcast and find the moments that needed to be repeated.

Since the main reason behind the group lessons is speaking, I decided to give the last 10 minutes for the students to talk with each other. I divided students into pairs and put them into breakout rooms. Students received a list of statements about music and discussed them with each. Some of the statements are: Music does not influence me while shopping, I can imagine the world without music, etc. During this part, you can go into ninja mode and observe the students without being visible to them. It eliminates the pressure of being listened to by a teacher and allows students to speak freely with each other.

I finished the class with the presentation of the rest of the course and some speaking feedback. At the end of the lesson, I was left with two students who decided to proceed with the rest of the course. It definitely motivated me to work more on this course and prepare the best lessons possible for my new pupils.

Feel free to download the files below! Happy listening 🎧

B1 – Choosing a Place to Live

A quick update on the new group lessons on Preply – they aren’t going as well as I hoped for. To have a class, you need at least two people to sign up for the class. Unfortunately, I keep getting stuck on one student only! This hasn’t stopped me from continuing with group lesson planning and developing my courses. After all, I can always use those plans with my private students.

The second lesson of the My Space, My Place course is about choosing the right place to live. In this lesson, students talk about their current houses or flats and discuss which additional features they would like to have in their future housing. To expose students to authentic language experience, this class is based on two short videos in which two real estate agents talk about existing properties and all the features included. This should prepare students to look for their ideal place and help them with the language needed to describe their housing needs.

Scroll to the end of the post to get the lesson plan and the presentation.

Start the lesson by revising the housing vocabulary. Look at the main rooms in the house and brainstorm as many words associated with these rooms (objects and furniture) in pairs or small groups. This should provide a good warm-up and put the students into the mindset of speaking in English from the very beginning.

Since the class relies heavily on videos and listening, I think that it’s good to let students speak for as long as possible. Then slowly transition from the warm-up to a group discussion. Allow students to talk about the houses and flats they live in right now. Think about the features they are missing in their current locations and what they would like to have in their future accommodation, for example, a spacious kitchen or two sinks in the bathroom. Let the imagination run loose!

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Proceed by watching two authentic videos of real estate agents presenting two flats, in Reading and Milan. It is a great opportunity to listen to a native and a non-native speaker using the target language naturally. If you watch the videos on YouTube, you can use subtitles in case there are any difficulties with understanding. Before turning on the videos, ask the following questions: What are the benefits and drawbacks of each accommodation? Which place would you prefer to live in?

After discussing the advantages and disadvantages of each location and choosing the place students would like to live in, watch the videos one more time, this time focusing on details. Show questions regarding both flats and decide whether they refer to the place in Reading, Milan, or both. Some of the questions are: Which flat is fully furnished? Which flat is conveniently located? Which place is brand new?

Practise some new vocabulary by reading three short flat descriptions and filling the gaps with the words. I wanted accommodation descriptions that are real and commonly seen online. I found and adapted three from the website Eat, Sleep, Wander. Once the descriptions are completed, students work individually and match them with three types of people looking for a new place to live: a businessperson, two university students and a couple with a dog. Students present their decisions and justify their choices.

The class ends with a short roleplay. One of the students acts as a potential renter who describes their situation and needs. Students get to choose one of the three roles: a family of four, a couple and a single businessperson. The real estate agent presents their three flats and chooses the one that best suits their needs. If you have more time, you can also ask students to present their actual situation and needs and pick a place that would be best for them in real life.

In case you have some extra time left, there are additional group class discussion questions in which students describe their perfect location and what features they would like to have in their ideal accommodation. Encourage students to use newly learnt vocabulary.

If you liked this lesson plan, make sure to have a look at Lesson 1 – Our Home, Our World. Click below to download the files!

Halloween-themed B1 speaking

Following the big success of my last year’s post on FCE Halloween speaking, I decided to prepare something similar, this time focusing on the B1 level. If you still haven’t prepared anything for your spooky lessons, then look no further. I present you with a no-prep PET speaking exam – Halloween edition.

On my blog, the majority of my posts are dedicated to Halloween. It’s hard to say why that is, but my best guess is that it’s the beginning of the academic year, and I’m still full of energy and motivation to prepare engaging lessons. If you like this no-prep lesson idea, then give it a go and see if you enjoy some other of my Halloween lessons.

If you are currently working with your Cambridge exam students and find yourself in a situation in which you have to deliver a themed lesson, then you may want to keep scrolling. This is a fun way of explaining the rules of the PET speaking exam while keeping the spooky atmosphere around. At the end of this post, you can find the printable examiner’s speaking guide (all speaking prompts included!). The speaking guide was written using the original B1 exam speaking script. In case you teach online or don’t want to print anything out, you can also find all the prompts as a PDF presentation.

Before you start this lesson, you may want to explain briefly speaking assessment criteria. This will ensure that students are aware of what you want from them. You can also ask them to listen to each other and write all the positive and negative things they’ve observed during this exercise. At the end of this class, provide students with speaking feedback and also ask them to give feedback to each other.

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I thought that instead of jumping headfirst into the exam, it’d be a good idea to warm them up with some Halloween vocabulary. Present students with eight short definitions and ask them to name these Halloween-related words. With weaker groups, you can use the presentation which has definitions supported by pictures. I usually skip phase 1 of speaking Part 1 as it is very repetitive, and I can’t wait to get into the fun part – asking personal Halloween questions. Some of them include, How do people in your country celebrate Halloween? or Did you go trick-or-treating as a child? There are eight questions in this part.

In Part 2, students talk individually about a picture for about one minute. This usually requires a short picture description and some speculations about the situation. To keep it a bit more interesting, I’ve prepared four different pictures: children trick-or-treating, a woman doing Halloween make-up, children celebrating Halloween and a spiritual seance. Put one minute on the clock and let your students have a go at this task.

In the next part, students need to have a 2-minute pair discussion about one of the two topics: choosing a new pet for a witch and the best last-minute Halloween costume. Read the scenario and present students with the speaking prompts. Let them discuss each option and make a decision at the end of the task – all in about two minutes.

Finish with the best part – opinion-based questions. Ask about some of the Halloween celebrations, dangers of Halloween, cultural appropriation and spiritual seances. Remind them that there are no wrong answers in this part of the exam. Encourage students to say what they think and give them some time to justify their answers. Since this class is more about having fun than worrying about the exam, you may want to give students a bit more time to provide you with meaningful answers.

Click the links below to get the files. If you enjoyed this lesson, make sure to have a look at Halloween-themed B2 speaking. Happy Halloween!

B1 – Our Home, Our World

The unthinkable has happened! On 12th September, I received a mysterious e-mail from someone from Preply, inviting me to be one of the course tutors. Obviously, I accepted! How could I not? I’ve been teaching Preply ready-made group lessons for about five months now, and it felt like the next natural step in my online teaching career.

After being a bit sceptical and verifying that the message was a real invitation from Preply, I followed all the necessary steps to be a part of this experience. Immediately I took it to Twitter to get some topic course ideas. My first instinct was either environment or celebrity gossip/pop culture. However, this quickly changed as I was asked to provide a short description of the 1-10 hour long course. Since my first idea was to go with the flow, I had to actually sit down and figure it out ASAP.

I had a look at all existing courses to avoid any repetition. There were a few on food, breaking news, and job interviews… The list goes on! I decided to design a six-hour course on housing. The course ranges from describing unusual accommodations, talking about our dream houses, everyday language to rent a house and talking about the problems and future of housing. Below you can see a list of lessons from the B1 course titled My Space, My Place.

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You can download the lesson plan and the presentation at the end of the post!

The class starts by looking at and labelling four different types of accommodations: a houseboat, a block of flats, a chalet and a motorhome. Students take turns talking about one of them, discussing possible features that can be found in each one of them, e.g. a spacious kitchen, beautiful views, convenience, etc. Ask which one of them looks most like their house and which one they would choose to stay in for a short holiday.

Follow this short warm-up discussion by showing pictures and reading a short introduction to an article from Earth Homes Now on cave homes. Despite the text being short as it is, I reduced it even more for the sake of the class, focusing more on speaking rather than reading. After this brief introduction, discuss if students are surprised about the cave homes being still used now. Divide students into pairs/small groups and ask them to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of living in a cave. This activity serves as an introduction to reading for gist in the next part.

Students return to the main room / their desks and begin individual work. They read the rest of the article on the pros and cons of living in the cave home. Elicit the answers (you can write them down) and check if any of the students’ ideas appeared in the text. There are four advantages and two disadvantages mentioned in the text: natural sound insulation, warm in the winter and cool in the summer, cheap to build, natural protection from intruders, but also the risk of collapsing and no natural light.

All Preply group lessons have some kind of focus on grammar. I decided to use it as a revision of comparatives. Students are introduced to comparatives in the next activity, reading for gist. Show six sentences, all containing comparatives and ask them to decide if the sentences are true (T), false (F) or the information isn’t given in the text. Then go over the rules and spelling of comparative forms. Practice the use of grammar by writing three sentences comparing living in a cave and living in a block of flats. I chose a block of flats, as almost everyone has some kind of experience living in such a place, but of course, feel free to change it as needed!

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Finish this part of the lesson by discussing the following questions about living in a cave house: Would you like to live in a cave house? How is living in a cave house different from living in your current location? What would you miss the most if you lived in a cave house or another unusual place mentioned in the class? Monitor the activity and provide students with speaking feedback at the end of it.

If you’ve got enough time left, you can put students into pairs and discuss the differences between houseboats and chalets. This is an optional activity that can be also used earlier during the lesson as grammar practice.

So what do you think about my first lesson in the course? You can find the slides and the lesson plan down below! Stay tuned for more classes.

First lesson for B1 Cambridge exam preparation

Here we go again! Another academic year has already started (or is about to begin). If you have Cambridge PET exam preparation groups, I’ve got something just for you! Don’t waste time and get your students working on their speaking skills from day one. This lesson plan uses the official Cambridge PET speaking exam to get to know your new students and get them used to the structure of the exam.

Whether you’re teaching an intensive or a year (or two) long course, it’s a good idea to start preparing for your lessons ahead of time. It’s usually my go-to plan in any exam preparation trial lesson or as a start to an intensive course, as it lets you get to know the students while showing them that the devil’s not so black as he’s painted. If you enjoy this lesson idea and have B2 level students, feel free to check out the First lesson for B2 Cambridge exam preparation.

Scroll down to get the lesson plan based on the Sample Papers for B1 Preliminary for Schools, additional printable resources and links to get Cambridge exam sample papers.

This class is designed to be taught on the first day of school/course, so the best way to begin is by introducing yourself. Talk briefly about who you are, what you do, your preferences, and where and who you live with. Ensure to be quite personal, after all you want to seem approachable and encourage your students to open up about themselves. Give your students a chance to think of some additional questions for you. If you have a group of students, you can divide them into pairs and ask them to think of two more questions.

There is nothing more nerve-wracking than talking in front of a group of newly-met people, so give a minute or two to think about their brief introductions. Even the strongest students may get blocked on the first day, so it’s good to lower their stress. Encourage them to follow your introduction example, so they know what to say.

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Once the introductions are done, transition to Speaking Part 1 ‘phase 2’. At the end of the post, you can find a downloadable file B1 – Speaking Part 1 and Part 4, in which you can find the most commonly asked phase 2 questions. Hand out one or two questions to each student and ask them to write short two-sentence long answers. Students share their answers with the rest of the group without revealing their questions. Allow others to predict what their question was. In this way, you ensure that everyone is listening to each other and they are engaged in each other’s presentations. At the end of the activity give general feedback and ask about the difficulty of this task. You can reveal that what they’ve just done was PET Speaking Part 1.

Proceed with Speaking Part 2 – the picture description. Show a picture of two girls in the kitchen and as a group think of as many words related to the photo as possible. If you want to make it easier, follow the speaking circle that explains a variety of things that you can focus on while speaking. Provide students with eight categories and ask them to write questions or vocabulary related to each one. You can find out more about the speaking circle in How long does one minute feel like? – B1 Speaking Part 2. Elicit vocabulary from different students and write them around the pictures.

Share the second photo of a boy watching football, and give each student two minutes to look at it and think of any possible vocabulary related to it. Divide students into pairs and ask them to describe this picture to each other. Ask students to listen to each other carefully and give feedback at the end of this task.

Part 3 starts by asking a general question – What kind of activities can you do in your capital city? Students may want to share their past experiences and discuss activities that are commonly done in their capital. If you want to gamify this part, put students into small groups and give them a minute or two to think of as many activities as possible. Show a picture of speaking part 3 and check if any of their answers appeared in the exam.

Focus on one of the activities shown in the picture and together think of the advantages and disadvantages of doing it on a school/work trip. Ask students to go back to their groups and give each group three options to think of the pros and cons of each activity. At the end of this task, students share their ideas. If you want to help them out, you can write down all the prompts on the board. Put students into pairs and ask them to have a discussion and choose the best activity to do on a school/work trip to the capital. Listen carefully and at the end of speaking, ask each pair about their final decisions.

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And just like that, you’ve reached the last part of the lesson! Students pick one or two questions (available to download below!) and think about their answers. Remind that this part is always related to part 3 and that there are no wrong answers. Encourage them to speak their mind while providing good reasons. Listen to their answers and take notes throughout the whole lesson. Make sure to give them meaningful feedback at the end of the lesson.

If you have some spare time left, watch an example speaking video to show what an actual exam looks like. If not, you may give it as homework and talk about it at the beginning of your next lesson.

I like using this lesson as an opener to Cambridge exam preparation lessons. It helps students get into the exam mindset right away and proves that there is nothing to be afraid of. Click the links below to get the lesson plan and the speaking prompts.

B1 Listening – Women and Football

It doesn’t matter where you are and who you’re talking to, they can recognise Ronaldo or Lewandowski. Why has football become such an essential part of our lives? Why during a World Cup or any other Championship, does the whole world stop? It seems that anywhere we look we are surrounded by sports bars whose income relies almost solely on showing football matches from all over the world. However, one question should be answered – why women’s football is nowhere near as popular as men’s football?

As an expat living in Spain, I don’t know how many times I was asked which football team I support – Barca or Madrid. The truth is, neither. I was always baffled by the popularity of football and the insane amount of money it brings. What strikes me the most is the popularity of men’s football and the negligence of women’s football. As I was looking for a perfect material to base my lesson on football equality, I found a short podcast by BBC Learning English – 6 minutes English ‘Women’s football’ explaining this phenomenon.

Scroll down until the end of the post to download the presentation and a lesson plan, available for free!

Show pictures of four famous female football players and ask students to name them and predict what they may be famous for. Follow this by showing pictures of four male football players. No matter if your students follow football or not, they will be able to name the men without any issues, or at the very least, they will be able to say what they are known for.

Lieke Martens (Paris Saint-Germain), Alexia Putellas (FC Barcelona), Lucy Bronze (England National Team), Lucie Martínková (Sparta Prague)
Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain), Robert Lewandowski (FC Barcelona), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal National Team), Zlatan Ibrahimović (Sweden National Team)

Now that students are prepped and have an understanding of what is going to happen, ask and discuss the main question Why is men’s football more popular than women’s football? Elicit a few answers and see if students can reach a common conclusion. Before finding out the answer, ask a question posed at the beginning of the podcast: When was the first official women’s football world cup? – A: 1970, B: 1988, or C: 1991. Proceed by playing the first part of the recording (0:00 – 5:20).

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Finish this part by reading the transcript of the podcast and asking if the real reason why women’s football isn’t popular surprises them. Do they think that there may be some other reasons that were not mentioned in the recording? You can find the full transcript of the recording on the BBC website.

The second part of the class deals with six new vocabulary items: to dampen enthusiasm, to ban, a concerted effort, a struggle, to have agency and a backlash. Students match the words with their definitions. Check the answers by listening to the second part of the recording (5:20 – 6:20).

It’s time to put the vocabulary into practice. Students read six questions related to football and fill in the gaps with the words from the previous exercise. Put students into pairs or small groups and let them discuss their answers. Listen to their answers and end this part by giving speaking feedback.

The class may end with a B1 PET style writing – article. If you have enough time, write an article in class, if not give it as homework. Students write a short article dealing with different ways to convince young women to play professional football. They also predict whether this sport has any potential to become as popular as its men’s version.

Click the links below to download the lesson plan and the presentation. You may also adjust this presentation in Canva.

Do online platforms promote ‘lazy’ teaching?

Nowadays, with the online teaching platforms springing up like mushrooms, anyone who speaks English can become an EFL teacher. Even though having a teaching certificate can give you leverage over other unqualified teachers, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful with it. For many, teaching online is a side hustle and an easy way to make some extra cash.

The other day, one of my students stayed with me a bit long on a videocall and gave me a much-needed performance review. He told me what he enjoys about our lessons and how he thinks they are helping him on a day-to-day basis. I always prepare for my lessons. For some of my students, I create presentations and files to keep them engaged, have visual stimulus and in case of lower levels, allow them to understand everything I say. For others, I prepare a script and put things on the whiteboard to make the classes interactive.

Going through coursebooks, searching for useful materials and class preparation take a lot of time, but I don’t get discouraged for two simple reasons – positive feedback and visible student progress. Having a list of presentations and ready-to-go lesson plans, calm me down and allow me to reuse and evolve my current resources and lesson structure. No two lessons are identical.

As I wrote a few months ago in The oversaturated market of ESL teaching, currently there are way too many online ESL teachers. However, I think I’ll let my Preply ratings speak for themselves. Up until this point, all of my students liked my lessons. They were always kind enough to give me feedback and discuss with me their ever-evolving language needs. This respect for respect strategy motivates me to sit down and adapt to their current demands.

One-to-one lessons

Preply, which is the platform I’ve got the most experience with, provides teachers with a resource library. Even though it seems like a useful tool, I have never used it. The explanation for this is very simple – I don’t think these materials are good enough to fill one whole hour. My idea of the resource library was confirmed during the feedback videocall with the student who has got more experience with the platform than I do. During his time on Preply, he’s completed a few Preply courses, which in his words were interesting at first, but got boring quickly.

I believe that teachers deserve to have free time and they should enjoy teaching. They shouldn’t think about class preparation when they’re off, and it’s rather unrealistic to expect every single class to be filled with high-energy levels and excitement. Like anyone else, teachers have better and worse days and having a resource library can remove some of the stress related to class preparation. Also, not all the teachers have the access to many coursebooks and resources, and they may not want to or they may not be able to invest in some materials. The ready-made courses may bring some kind of structure and logical order of teaching. On top of that, if you like your students to prepare before the lesson, they can complete a set of pre-lesson tasks. It can also give them homework to practise anything you did in class without the need for you to spend your free time correcting endless worksheets.

However, I listened to those audios and let me tell you something – they aren’t good. Imagine two Google Translate voices having a conversation. On top of that, all the classes follow the same order: listening ➡️ reading ➡️ (optional video) ➡️ gap fill ➡️ writing ➡️ speaking (done in class). If all lessons look the same, they tend to be predictable and boring. If you attend a few Preply webinars or complete some of their courses, you can see that even their main tutors, all of them qualified and experienced teachers, supplement their classes with additional sources.

Whether you’re using online resources or your materials, it doesn’t change the fact that you should stay flexible and see where the class takes you. The main complaint of this student was that the tutor blindly followed the questions found in the resource library and stuck with them, even if they didn’t land and the student wasn’t interested in the topic. This is also one of the main reasons why I was so hesitant to use the library, as many times I found the questions a bit confusing and uninteresting. If I’m not excited about the topic, the class isn’t going to be a success. That’s a guarantee.

It’s not all inherently bad. In fact, I often go through their library to check any new topics, look at the structure of the lessons and try to get inspiration when my head is empty. It’s usually a successful method of looking for something good which saves me a lot of time and allows me to stay organised. After all, all those materials were created by a group of professionals.

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Group lessons

As I’ve mentioned many times before, every now and then I teach Group lessons on Preply. I love that I was given this opportunity. It’s a nice and easy way to boost your earnings on slow days. Additionally, you are given all the presentations and lesson plans that you must follow whether you like it or not! I always go through the materials and write a short lesson structure, so I know how to lead this class. However, I’ve got a problem with some email wording. 15 minutes before the class, you receive an email that says that it is your last chance to review your lesson material. In my opinion, 15 minutes may not be enough. Group lessons consist of up to six new students that most likely you’ve never met before. Add the stress of being recorded and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a disaster. In order for the classes to be good, you need to think about the lesson order that suits you, think about perfect pair work moments and also predict some of the mistakes and ways in which you can tackle them. After all, you are going to be rated at the end of the lesson!

I often find mistakes in those presentations, so much so that it became one of my recurring games Spot and correct the error! Another thing is that at times I feel like their grammar explanations are lacking. I tend to add some of my examples or fun facts if there’s enough time and I feel like the students may appreciate my input. It also lets me move smoothly from one topic to another as I know what I want and how I want it. I have some time to think about my instructions, which are crucial in the case of lower levels. So if you think that the students can’t see the difference between a teacher who had a look at the notes and the one who didn’t, you are wrong. Up until this point, I had three students who complained about their past group tutors and said that the classes were a mess.

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Final thoughts

First of all, I should apologise for the clickbaity title. For sure there are many quote-unquote lazy teachers, but I don’t think online platforms intend to promote them. These websites were designed to create a network of teachers and make language learning accessible for everyone. Unfortunately, the process of accepting teachers should be a bit more challenging. Many teachers see it as a side hustle, they often forget about these lessons and give a bad name to those who care.

The internet is full of bad tutor stories. Some come from teachers, who try the platforms they teach on as students, and see first-hand the type of teachers students may be exposed to. I guess it’s important to remember that finding the perfect tutor may take some time. At the end of the day, amongst the plethora of online teachers, only those who put their hearts into their work, stay.

The number one thing I should learn from these websites is to promote student independence. To some degree, I manage to do it, but I’m far from perfection. My classes often focus on speaking with some grammar sprinkled here and there as I believe that certain things can be done on your own. However, I try to be flexible and if I see that they need my help, I devote some time to one particular issue, until I’m sure that my students are confident using it. I often instruct them to study grammar beforehand either by watching some YouTube videos or by referring them to English Grammar in Use 5th edition by Raymond Murphy. I suggest buying the book or downloading an application English Grammar in Use, so they can have a look at some free units with the possibility to invest in a full version.

For now, I’m going to stick to my current teaching style. I enjoy using ready-made plans from websites such as ESLBrainsLinguahouse, or going back to some of my past lessons! There is nothing wrong with using online materials. What matters is the ability to adapt all the materials to your group size and of course needs and interests of your students. I think that this is the key to success and a constant influx of students.

What is your experience teaching/learning online? Do you think it’s possible to find good tutors on the online teaching platforms?

It’s a good day for a party, isn’t it? – A2 Listening Part 5

The older you get, the more you appreciate party food! Revise food vocabulary, and talk about the perfect party food, all while practising KEY Cambridge Listening Part 5.

Here comes yet another lesson plan based on the free Cambridge resources. This time I decided to target the A2 level and combine a short listening with a grammar class on question tags. If you are interested in similar lesson plans based on authentic Cambridge exams, you can take a look at my other post A2 – Reading Part 2.

To get the lesson plan with all the exercises and answers, scroll down and get your copy. You can find the original KEY Listening Part 5, including the audio by downloading either A2 Key Handbook or Sample Papers for A2 Key.

The class starts by looking at four pictures of different party foods. Students describe the type of food they see (junk food, pastry, sandwiches and fruit). Discuss which of these foods they enjoy eating at parties and if it’s a common practice to bring food or cook for parties.

Before the listening, show pictures of foods mentioned in the recording. Students write the names of foods. Elicit the words mentioned in the exam task, but you can also think of their synonyms. In this way, students will start being aware of words being different in the exam task and on the recording. Finish this activity by checking the spelling and also choosing the three best and worst foods to bring to the party. This exercise could help students with listening for justifications of choices in the recording.

It is also worth mentioning that in the exam, students will not be presented with pictures – words only. Therefore, the exam situation may be a bit more complicated. Explain the rules of Cambridge Key Listening Part 5. Students listen to a conversation between two people talking about a certain topic – in this case, the party food. They need to match five people with one of the eight options each. There is always an example done for them, which removes one of the options. Two of them aren’t used at all.

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Once you finish this exercise, discuss the answers and put them in the table, mentioning the answers that were mentioned, but not selected. It can help students focus on the options which were rejected, and understand that they are all mentioned, so it’s necessary to pay attention to details.

Write down three sentences from the recording used to explain grammar – question tags. Make sure to pay attention to different tenses used in the examples and the structure of the question tag: auxiliary verb (not) + subject + question mark. The one curious thing shown in the listening was the use of everyone. It is a third singular person in the main sentence, but it is ‘they’ in the question tag.

  1. Everyone gets hungry, don’t they?
  2. He likes cooking, doesn’t he?
  3. He’s coming, isn’t he?

You can practise the form by going in the circle and asking the questions using the answers from the table. For example, Maria is going to bring bread, isn’t she? – No, she isn’t. She’s going to bring a cake or Peter bought chicken, didn’t he? – Yes, he did. It’ll give a chance to speak up and quickly think about different question tag forms. Give students some thinking time by letting them complete ten questions and writing appropriate question tags.

Finish the class by putting students into pairs. Each student has a list of foods and people. They ask each other questions, using question tags and guess who brings which item to the party. Listen to your students and provide them with speaking feedback at the end of the lesson.

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.

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?