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.

School gardens competition – A2 Reading Part 2

Spring is my favourite season, and it’s finally here! As I was thinking about a perfect lesson plan for this moment, I went through exam papers and found a reading task on school gardens competitions. I thought that this topic was ideal for this moment. It can be used to refresh garden, fruit and vegetable vocabulary, while simultaneously teaching KEY for Schools candidates how to successfully answer Reading Part 2.

I realised that I’ve been too focused on my B1 PET students and postponed all the activities for other levels, especially A2 KEY. I always enjoy going through free and readily available activities and using them in my lessons as a part of official Cambridge exam preparation. It shows that the sky is the limit, and you don’t need to pay a lot to prepare engaging and high-quality lessons.

This class focuses on understanding the Reading Part 2 exam task and using existing knowledge of vocabulary to correctly match the answers. It is a very similar task to the ones that you can find on any other higher-level Cambridge exams. You can download this task (and many others) by clicking the link Sample Papers for A2 Key for Schools. You can find this lesson plan and any additional worksheets at the end of the post.

This lesson plan can be a follow-up after a garden and vegetable vocabulary lesson or as a vocabulary reinforcement.

Start the class with a quick vocabulary revision and/or introduction that will be needed to know to complete the exam task. Divide the students into groups and play Taboo with the words vegetable, flower, insect, butterfly, carrot, potatoes, wall and to grow. You can also use more garden-related words if you have time. Once students guess all the words, put the Taboo cards on the board and ask what they all have in common. For example, Where can you find them? Where can you do these activities? The answer is, of course, a garden.

Show three pictures of gardens and ask students to describe what they can see. Ask students which of these three gardens is the best and explain why. Vote on the best garden. Proceed by handing out Reading Part 2 texts School gardens competition. You can find them by downloading Sample Papers for A2 Key for Schools, pages 4 and 5. Students read the three descriptions and match them to the pictures. Since you have already started this class by going over vocabulary, the texts shouldn’t cause too many problems.

Now that your students are already familiar with the texts, explain the rules of the exam task. Students read seven questions, followed by three texts. They need to match the questions with the text that best answers each one. If it’s the first time doing this type of activity, go over each question and underline any key information. Students work individually and look for the answers to the questions in the text. Before checking the answers, you can put students into pairs to compare the answers. Discuss the answers as a group, and make sure to find justification for each in the text.

It’s time for your students to enter their school gardens into a competition. Give each student some time to draw and write a paragraph about their gardens. Finish the class by presenting their projects and voting (anonymously?) on the best school garden. Make sure to display those gardens on your classroom wall for everyone to see!

Click below to download the lesson plan, pictures of gardens and the garden taboo.

2022 – The year of the Tiger

I’m not one to obsess over zodiac signs and how accurately they can define our personalities. However, I enjoy reading my horoscope from time to time and seeing how accurate it is. I think that everyone is quite familiar with the Western zodiac, and believe it or not, zodiac signs tend to come up in conversations every now and then! What about the Chinese zodiac, though? The Chinese New Year is approaching, so why not take this opportunity and learn something about this beautiful culture?

Last year I had a chance to prepare a class on the Chinese New Year – the year of the Ox. In that A2+ class, we watched a TED-Ed video The myth behind the Chinese zodiac, learnt the origin of the zodiac signs and based on our personality traits, we tried to predict which sign best suits us. The class was a success! It brought a lot of laughter as we found out what animal best defines each one of us. We also referred to each other by the animal until the end of the class!

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

Start the class by writing – Happy New Year! Since it’s already late January / early February, your students will be confused and have questions about it. Say that you know of celebrations happening on the 31st December and the year starting on the 1st January. You can talk about different celebratory traditions that you have in your country and how your students celebrated this year. Proceed by saying that the new year is celebrated differently in other parts of the world. If your students haven’t guessed that you’re referring to the Chinese New Year, you may give some clues. Write that the Chinese New Year is celebrated in February. Write _____ February 2022 and elicit the correct date (answer: 1st February 2022).

Ask about students’ dates of birth and elicit their Western zodiacs. Say that in the Asian culture, the zodiacs are a bit different. Show pictures of the Chinese zodiac (out of order) and ask to write the English names of the animals. Check the answers. Say that, unlike in the Western culture, the zodiac signs change once a year. This year we are celebrating The year of the ______. Students guess the animal (answer: Tiger).

Zodiac signs appear in a specific order that was decided based on the race. Put students into pairs/small groups and ask them to predict the order in which the animals came in. Check the answers and ask to justify their orders. Watch the video The myth behind the Chinese zodiac (0:00 – 2:15) and see if their predictions were correct (answer: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, pig).

Before watching the video again, this time in its entirety, go over the multiple-choice questions from the TED-Ed website – The myth behind the Chinese zodiac by Megan Campisi and Pen-Pen Chen. Explain any new words if necessary. Students watch the video and answer the questions. Check and explain the answers.

Look at the animals one more time and ask students to think about the personality traits that come to mind. Do students believe zodiac signs define our personalities? Show vocabulary describing character traits and ask students to choose two that best describe them. Reveal the signs associated with each trait. Check students dates of birth and together discover their Chinese zodiac. Look at the personality traits one more time, this time looking at the ones associated with their zodiacs. Do they agree with these descriptions? Why (not)?

Finish the class by doing the craft. Students draw their Chinese zodiac and write a maximum of five sentences talking about their actual personality traits with explanations.

Happy New Year! I hope that your students will enjoy this class as much as mine did!

Cambridge Exam Score Templates

Who said that ESL teachers don’t need to know math? We do math more than we would like to admit. All Cambridge exam preparation teachers, I’ve got something just for you!

As a teacher in Spain, you do quite a lot of things. You get to teach all ages and levels, and probably one of the most common things – you prepare for the Cambridge exams. If you’ve never prepared for the Cambridge exams, don’t worry, there are plenty of resources on the internet that can help you understand what you should do and what the exams are like.

What I found the most challenging was correcting the exams and explaining the scores to students. After three years of preparing for the Cambridge exams (this includes the intensive summer courses), I think I finally understand what’s going on there. Let me show you my system, how I present the grades to my future candidates and how I keep myself organised, which is especially important before the exams when all you do is give the exams left and right.

I’ve prepared a set of Excel sheets that you can use to stay organised and to help your students see their continuous progress. The first sheet is a detailed breakdown of all the components, scores, percentages and an overall score that can be shared with students and parents.

The worksheets are designed to help your students see each part separately and monitor their continuous progress. The idea is to give this sheet to your students after they complete each mock exam. In the case of teenagers, you may also want to share this file with their parents. The file is fully editable, so you can put the date, the name of your student and the name of the test.

Each part is divided into subsections that give a better overview of the exam and will help you pinpoint the problem areas so you can work on them in the future. It also includes the minimum points needed to “pass” each part to keep your students motivated. All the minimum scores and results breakdown were taken from the KSE Academy.

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The most important part is the final percentage score. It’s done by summing all the % scores per section and dividing them by the number of parts (in the case of B1, it is divided by 4 – reading, listening, writing and speaking). As you can see in the example above, I included a percentage indicator. This is not fully accurate, but I think it can give you a good overview of your students’ progress. Unfortunately, we can’t know the exact Cambridge score as it varies from one exam to another. Therefore, if your students find one exam much easier than others, this means that other Cambridge candidates probably think the same, so the score would be calculated differently on the Cambridge calculator. If you want to understand a bit more about the Cambridge English scale, go and watch a webinar on that topic.

However, I feel that it’s a safe bet when your students score more than 70% on all the exams. This means that they’re ready to take and “pass” the official exams. I intentionally put “pass” in the quotation marks because if students fail their level exam, they should be rewarded with a lower-level certificate. For example, if your B1 student scores less than 140 on the Cambridge English scale, they will be given an official title for the A2 level. Not what they wanted, but better than nothing.

This is the second part of the Excel sheet. It is designed to help you stay organised. I always find it challenging to keep a list of tests that my students have already completed. You can put the name of your student, the date of the exam, the test number (was it their first, second, third, etc.) and the test name. You can include the book title or the source of the exam, as well – trust me on that one.

The rest is the same breakdown as before, so you can see the progress of your students and identify the most confusing areas. In the end, you have a total score, so you can see if your students are ready to take the exam or if they need a bit more practice. Below you can download the Cambridge scores breakdown for students and the scores organiser for the B1 level. To get the full set of sheets for all the levels go to my TpT store – Cambridge scores breakdown – students and Cambridge scores breakdown – teachers. You can also get your copies by clicking the one-time payment button.

How do you stay organised? I need all the tips possible!

Click below to get the full versions of the Cambridge scores breakdown Excel sheets.

Your last holiday – A2 Adults

One month left! If you’re coming back to the same school or academy and you know that you’re getting the same students as before, it eliminates that awkward first class introductions. Instead you can focus on something much better – last summer experience.

Last year I had a pleasure teaching a lovely group of general English A1/A2 level for adults. It was a small and fantastic group of intelligent and funny ladies. I loved all classes with them, they always made me smile and in general I felt good about myself and my teaching style afterwards. That’s why when I thought about the summer coming to an end, my mind immediately went to this group and how I can make the very first lesson memorable and enjoyable for all the parties.

I started looking for a perfect activity that will get my girls excited to get back into English learning. As I already know them I can skip the awkward Hello, my name is… class (that I have already discussed and prepared right here) and I can move to other things. That’s when I stumbled upon One Stop English – First day post with a free file containing different first class speaking activities. I really liked the last activity called Funny Holidays. Students pick different holiday activity cards and either tell the truth about their holiday or go along with the lie written on the card.

The level suggested for this activity is Intermediate+ which doesn’t work for me. I took the idea and adapted it to an A2 level group. The class focuses primarily on talking and writing about past experiences hence it’s also a good moment to revise Past Simple. The plan is made of two files: a lesson plan and a worksheet that are available to download for free at the end of the post!

The class starts with a personalized story of your own holiday. I prepared my own short story that you can read and use as inspiration for your own! Before my students even start reading it, I want them to see it as a naturally flowing conversation. Students listen to your story twice but here’s the trick. It contains five lies, the task is to predict which parts are untrue. I wrote it down as I don’t want to memorize it and also if your students are a bit rusty after the summer, they may find it easier to listen and read at the same time if necessary.

The next step is grammar revision. I focused on Past Simple because this is where we left off at the end of last academic year and it just goes really well with talking about past experience. Students look for six regular and six irregular verbs that are in the text and then write their infinitive forms. It is also a good moment to refresh the use and structure of Past Simple and of course pronunciation of regular verbs!

As this level is still quite low and it’s unlikely that your students did anything English related over summer, I would give them some free time to prepare their own holiday stories (with three lies in it!). This will minimize the stress of coming back to class after holiday and speaking right away. It will give them some thinking time so they can prepare good and interesting stories that they are confident with. Once everyone is done, students present their stories and the rest guesses the lies.

And that’s it! The idea behind this class is to get back into routine, start thinking in English and of course talk about the holidays!

What is your “post-summer” class activity?

Introduce your classmate

First day of school is just around the corner! The very first class is always a challenge for me. I am on a never-ending quest to find the perfect introduction lesson activity. Since introducing ourselves can be a bit awkward, why doesn’t someone else do it for us?

I am yet to prepare a standard introductory class that is memorable, fun and not awkward. I have made a lesson plan for adult A2-B1 level students in which for a change your students have to introduce others to the rest of the group.

The class is sweet, simple and short, and it allows you to assess students’ speaking, writing and listening skills. It is made of only two files: a lesson plan and a worksheet that you can download for free at the end of the blog post!

The class starts in a completely different manner. It’s not your students’ first rodeo and they expect to say something about themselves. However, it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve done that before, it’s always stressful and at times they may feel as if they have nothing to say, or there’s nothing interesting enough about them that they can share with the rest of the group. That’s why give everyone an Introduce yourself worksheet. Students are asked questions ranging from personal to discussion provoking ones. Oops! You haven’t introduced yourself neither so feel free to join the task.

Once everyone has completed the task, collect the worksheets and write the answers on the board. Make sure to mix the worksheets and write the answers in a random order. Okay, so you’ve got all the answers, it’s time to do the writing task. I would say that it is optional and you can jump in directly into speaking, but let’s keep the stress level at its lowest. Ask your students to write a short introduction of the person to their left – including you! Once everyone is done preparing their answers (based on complete assumptions), you can start by reading your example. This should make everyone feel a bit more confident about their answers.

When you finish reading your assumptions the person that was being described has to now confirm how many pieces of information you got right. Then they correct you by actually introducing themselves (this time no writing, only speaking). If you want to make this activity even more challenging ask students to report on their classmates just to see if they were paying attention. As some of the questions are a bit more ‘philosophical’ you may want to ask your students to elaborate on them.

I’ve got still one more month until I go back to classroom and I will definitely use this plan to test it out and see how it goes!

What introductory activities do you normally use in the class?

Teaching Zoom

Teaching online isn’t an innovation. In fact, many people have been learning English online for years. However, recent events forced us to adapt and use new technology.

I think it is safe to say that many people adapted to the new situation fairly quickly and only with some minor issues. I was 29 at the time and even though I was familiar with how everything works, there were moments when I felt as I can only imagine my grandpa feels when asked to check his text messages. That’s why I fully understood the pain of all of my adult online students that I had the pleasure of teaching during CELTA 100% online.

I was teaching students with an average age of 50 years old. To be fair, they were quite good with technology for the most part, but there were moments that on top of trying to give the best teaching performance, we needed to give technical support too!

The course was a success and I was able to go back into the classroom in September. The only thing is…I had to learn how to teach hybrid classes (a completely different story). Nevertheless, the course made me realise the importance of understanding the software before starting to learn English. This is the reason why I came up with a short and basic “ZOOM tutorial” lesson plan that can be used after your first few lessons when you already get the feeling of your students and their knowledge of technology.

A quick checklist before you go any further! Make sure that before you commit to being an online teacher, you check these three boxes:

1. Learn how to use ZOOM yourself

I think this point is quite self-explanatory. I decided to prepare a lesson plan on ZOOM because this is the program that I am most familiar with and in my humble opinion, it is probably the best right now. You should ask your students beforehand and check what programs they know and possibly go with the majority, or choose a program that you are most confident with!

2. Check the connection speed

This is one thing that I learnt during the CELTA application. Every student needed to do the internet speed test and if the connection was lower than 50 Mbps, then well…sorry. A lagging student, or worse, a lagging teacher is going to hold everyone back and taking into account your limited time and the fact that your students pay for these lessons, it is essential to provide good quality service and an overall experience.

3. Use computers ONLY

I understand that this isn’t always a reality, but if everyone uses ZOOM on their computers, you will feel the difference! Everyone can share their screens, send and receive files, annotate…You can make it a general rule, but make sure to stay flexible just in case. You want to be professional but also on the go.

Now we are ready for the tutorial lesson! The lesson should be done with adults and only after you are sure that any additional help with the program is needed. A lesson plan and all the worksheets are available to download for free at the end of the post!

Start the class by a How well do you know ZOOM? questionnaire. This will already put your students’ ZOOM knowledge to the test, as they will have to follow your instructions to enter the breakout rooms. Students work in pairs or groups of three and ask and answer questions about the software. In the end students decide how proficient they think they are. When they are busy working without you, you can go into ninja mode. This means you mute yourself, switch off your camera and hide all non-video participants. Then you can go from one room to another and check how everything is going. Once you finish this activity, you can get general feedback or discuss the main points.

This class focuses on watching a video A participants guide to ZOOM. Before watching introduce your students to basic ZOOM and functions of each button, followed by watching the video (possibly twice) to check the answers to the gap-fill and true or false exercises. This should help your students with the basics and also will give you ease of mind knowing that your students actually watched that tutorial you asked them to.

In my classes, I like to use the whiteboard and screen annotations, so I decided to include a short whiteboard tutorial. This is followed by a fun interactive activity where students race each other to annotate the screen – write, stamp, draw…and so on.

The class ends with a discussion. Divide your students into two groups – one discussing the advantages and the other disadvantages of online learning. Then mix your students to present their points to each other. Once everyone is back in the main room, give your students some time to consider how online classes can be improved. As this class was about speaking, ask your students to write their answers in the chat. One or two sentences are enough, it will let you assess their use of ZOOM but also their writing level.

Finally, go back to the main point of the questionnaire from the lead-in How proficient are you at ZOOM? You can send it as a poll to show another interesting ZOOM feature and see how the answers changed during this one-hour class!

All the files needed to complete this lesson are available for free below!