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?

How long does one minute feel like? – B1 Speaking Part 2

Funny thing how we perceive time. When we have fun, one minute disappears in a blink of an eye. In a stressful situation, say a speaking exam, one minute seems to last forever. That’s how our students feel when they enter the exam hall and speak on their own. It’s good to practise speaking for one minute and get to experience what one minute feels like. It’s also good to know how to fill this one minute, so it ends sooner than we expected.

In my teaching career, I have had the opportunity to meet two types of students – those who love and those who hate speaking activities. Regardless of their stand on this matter, it’s important to teach students how to speak naturally in the most unnatural situation – the speaking exam.

In B1 speaking part 2, students speak alone for about one minute about a picture. Inform them that if they finish before their time is up, they will have to endure awkward silence until the end of the time. Therefore, they need to think of something to say about the stock pictures.

Before you even start teaching speaking exam strategies, you should always try to help students understand what they are being assessed on. Inform them that speaking assessment is divided into four parts grammar and vocabulary, discourse management, pronunciation and interactive communication. Speaking Part 2 is an individual task, so students are marked on everything except for interactive communication.

I always told my B1 students that if they don’t know what to talk about and they still have some time left, they should speculate about what they think is happening and give reasons for it. For example, if you see a group of people, elicit and explain their emotions. If the picture was taken outdoors, describe the weather and the season. If it’s a group of tourists, guess the country! However, I was never quite sure how to help them remember all those things. A week ago, I attended a webinar Top tips for exam success and beyond: Ask us anything about A2 Key and B1 Preliminary, and one part, in particular, grabbed my attention.

The speaking circle, as seen above, gives students ideas of what they could talk about during the speaking assessment. It’s divided into eight sections, people, words, feelings, actions, sounds, numbers, sight and nature. Give students an example picture that they would typically be asked to describe in the exam. I chose a picture from B1 Preliminary for Schools – Handbook for teachers for exams from 2020, which is available to download for free from the Cambridge Official website. Ask students to look at the picture and think of three possible questions that would fall under each category. You can find my example below.

People: Who are they making a cake for? What is their relationship? Whose birthday is it?

Actions: What are they doing? How do you make a cake? What do they need to do after they finish baking?

Feelings: Why are the girls smiling? Are they enjoying making a cake? What the person who the cake is for is going to feel like?

Numbers: How many people are there? How long does it take to make a cake? How many ingredients do they need?

Sounds: What sounds can you hear at home? What sounds can you hear in the kitchen? Is it loud or quiet?

Words: What are they reading? What is the name of this cake? What other files are there on the tablet?

Sight: What can you see in the background? How could you describe the kitchen? What can you see on the tablet?

Nature: What is the weather like? What time of the day is it? Is it hot or cold?

As I was completing this task, I realised that some of the answers came to me more easily than others. It’d probably change depending on the picture and where its location. However, these eight categories would definitely help me prepare my answer and speak for one full minute.

I think the best way to score high in this part is to combine the answers to these questions and talk about them in a logical order. For me the most effective way of describing pictures is as follows:

  • General description:  In one/two sentences say what and who you can see and what they are doing in your opinion. Mention where the people are.

In the picture, I can see two girls making a cake in the kitchen. They look alike, so they are probably sisters.

  • People: Talk about their actions and possible reasoning behind it. Speculate about their relationship and feelings. Briefly describe their physical appearance and clothes.

The girl with longer hair, who is wearing a patterned dress, is cracking some eggs and adding them to flour. The other girl, who has got shorter and curly hair and is wearing a white T-shirt and jeans, is helping her by reading the recipe from the tablet. They seem to be having a lot of fun doing this activity together because they are smiling. I think that they may be preparing a birthday cake for someone in their family. They seem to be recreating the recipe they are following. I think that the cake must be quite easy to make, as they don’t have that many ingredients on the table. Except for flour and a few eggs, they also have a jar of sugar on the table.

  • Background: In case there is some time left, focus on the background. If possible, talk about the weather and seasons. Just because it is a picture, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get into speaking about sounds that they may be experiencing.

As I mentioned before, they are in the kitchen. The kitchen is quite big and light. I can see some cupboards, a cooker, and of course an oven behind them. Everything seems to be very well organised, so they will probably have to clean the kitchen well once they finish. The place appears to be very calm, so I don’t think that it is very noisy. Maybe they are listening to some music while making the cake.

I think that following the topics in the circle is beneficial for students as it helps them structure their answers and concentrate on the grammar and vocabulary part of the assessment. It also helps with understanding that they can talk about anything that they can see in the picture while giving possible reasons for each answer. My biggest issue is with getting the feeling of one minute. This can be achieved through regular training exercises, but remind them that as long as they talk until being stopped by the interlocutor, they should be fine.

I like to supplement any speaking activities by showing the actual speaking exam. I chose this picture, as it is being described in a video recorded at an actual B1 Preliminary for Schools Speaking Test. You may want to show this video before to further understand each part of the speaking exam and get students used to the exam setting. You can also ask them to watch the video and write down any mistakes they heard. During feedback, you can elicit different ways of improving these answers.

I’m glad that I attended the webinar on Top Tips for the Cambridge Exam as it really ensured me that I understand the speaking assessment and also gave me plenty of ideas of how to improve my classes by introducing new and effective activities. Click the link to check the whole webinar for yourself. Hopefully, you will find something inspiring there!

Linking words of purpose, result and reason – B1 Speaking Part 3

Linking words are one of the main causes of headaches for English language learners. Students often feel unsure of their meanings and their use in sentences. That’s why when one of my newest students asked me to have a class on connectors, I took on this challenge. I divided linking words into several groups: reason, result, purpose, contrast and addition. Today I would like to focus on linkers of reason, result and purpose and their use in Speaking Part 3.

In my opinion, students often struggle with linking words for one main reason – they change their meanings depending on the context. Therefore, it’s quite hard to get the feeling of what they are. That’s why I decided not to rush it and show a variety of example sentences that use those structures. At the same time, I wanted to show that linking words are frequently used in the Cambridge exam, not only in writing but also in speaking. After all, in Speaking Part 3, students need to go over a set of options and provide a reason and hypothetical result for each one. So having a wide range of linking words can work in their favour.

You can download the lesson plan and the worksheet for free at the end of the post.

The class starts by writing a sentence with three possible endings (as seen below). Students name functions of each sentence, reason, result or purpose and justify their choices. They should be already familiar with the definitions of each function but may get a bit confused by them – especially with reason and purpose since they often tend to overlap. If you want to make this difference quite clear, you can elicit that purpose often answers the question of why. To further clarify the meaning of these functions, students match them with their definitions.

In order to prove to your students that they already have this knowledge, ask them to combine the sentences using linking words. You can also use this part of the class as a test to see how much help you need to offer and how much teaching you need to do!

I focused on eight different linking words of reason (because, as, since, because of + noun), purpose (in order to / to + infinitive) and result (so, therefore). Show your students the beginning of sentences and ask to match them with appropriate endings. Elicit the function of each sentence and divide the words in bold into correct categories. Finish this part by analysing the use of these linking words. It’s a good habit to start eliciting the structure that follows each word and explaining their usual position in the sentence. If necessary, translate these words to students’ L1. I normally stay away from using L1 in class, but I find it particularly beneficial when it comes to linkers.

Practise using these eight linkers by filling the gaps with one of them. Make sure that students know that more than one answer is correct, as some of these words mean the same in this context. I also added a freer activity, in which students finish the beginning of sentences with appropriate endings (a clause, a noun or an infinitive).

Since I wanted to ensure that students understand the importance and practicality of linking words and phrases, I combined them with speaking part 3, which can be downloaded for free from Sample Papers for B1 Preliminary. You can adapt this activity to any speaking part 3 exam task – including the ones you paid for!

Present your students with a typical speaking part 3 exam task (as seen below) and ask about the purpose of the man wanting to find a new free time activity (He needs a new activity in order to relax.) Since we already know the purpose of each activity, students work in pairs and think of possible reasons for doing them and their hypothetical results. I included one example to further explain this point. At the end of the task, collect students’ ideas and write them on the board. You can also encourage them to think of reasons why some of these free-time activities are bad for this young man!

Finish the class by completing the speaking part 3 exam task in pairs. Provide feedback to every student. As students have already thought of many different reasons and possible results of each action, this activity should be a piece of cake!

B1 – Pronunciation maze – /d/ and /t/

On Thursday, 24th February 2022, I attended a Cambridge webinar for teachers on Developing Speaking Skills for B1 Preliminary and B2 First for Schools with a focus on pronunciation. In this one hour session, the trainers showed many pronunciation exercises that may help our students in the speaking part of the exam. This webinar coincided with one of my 1:1 B1 Preliminary classes on Past Simple regular verbs, which motivated me to create this lesson plan.

Whenever I teach Past Simple and regular verbs, I always spend a good chunk of class ensuring that my students pronounce -ed verbs confidently. The pronunciation of /ɪd/ doesn’t usually cause many problems, as it is quite easy to remember the rule and hear the difference. The confusion appears when differentiating between /t/ and /d/. The difference is minimal and usually doesn’t impede the understanding. However, one of the activities shown during the webinar, called the pronunciation maze, can be used to practise pronunciation and help students with the identification of verbs ending with /d/ and /t/ sounds.

The class can be a part of grammar explanation or can be a stand-alone lesson. In my opinion, it would be best to use it as a separate class. In this way, it serves as a revision of regular tenses in Past Simple. You can download the lesson plan, the worksheet, the list of celebrities and the maze game for free at the end of the post.

Start the class by playing the celebrity weekend. Say that you are someone famous and students need to guess who by asking questions in the Past Simple. Answer by talking about your weekend as this celebrity. You can make this into a game and allow students to work in groups. Make sure that students use correct question word order. You may want to write down some of them on the board. The first group to guess the person wins! I learnt about this activity a while back, but recently got reminded of it again when watching Charlie’s lessons video – Speaking Activities Volume 3.

Now it’s your students’ turn! Each student gets a different famous person (or thinks of one on their own!) and answers questions which you can find on the Worksheet – Celebrity weekend. Monitor the activity and correct any mistakes. Make sure that students use the correct forms of regular and irregular verbs in the Past Simple. Once everyone finishes, students read the answers and the others must guess who the famous people are.

Ask students to go over the questions and their answers and ask them to underline all the regular past verbs. Write them down on the board and make sure that you have a wide range that covers all pronunciations of -ed – /t/, /d/ and /ɪd/. Once you have them all written down, model and drill the pronunciation. Elicit that -ed can be pronounced in three ways. Draw a table on the board with three columns, each designated for one way of pronouncing. Students work in pairs and divide the verbs into three columns.

Check the answers and explain the rules behind -ed pronunciation. The pronunciation /ɪd/ of -ed is easy to understand and hear. Say that all regular verbs ending with the t or d sound in their infinitive forms are pronounced as /ɪd/ in the Past Simple.

The problems begin when explaining the difference between /t/ and /d/. Say that /t/ sound is reserved for verbs ending in unvoiced sound. In the webinar, it was explained that we can visualise it by placing a piece of paper in front of our mouths and saying a word ending in an unvoiced sound, for example, stop, look, wash, kiss. The paper moves as the air come out of our mouth when saying these words. When saying the words ending in voiced sounds, the air does not come out in the same way. Instead, you can tell your students to place two fingers on their throats and feel the vibrations that occur when saying these sounds, for example, cleaned, damaged, loved, offered.

Now that students understand the rules, ask them to pronounce the words written in the table, making sure that they pay attention to the correct pronunciation, especially of /d/ and /t/. To reinforce the pronunciation, you can play a game shown to us during the webinar. Present students with a maze made of words in their regular past forms. Students need to leave the maze by following the /t/ or /d/ sounds. You can download both at the end of the post!

The webinar on Developing Speaking Skills for B1 Preliminary and B2 First for Schools was great and I’m very happy that I attended it. I can’t wait for more webinars and would advise being on the lookout for them, as they can help or at least refresh your memory and remind you of some activities that otherwise you might have forgotten about.

Click the links below to download all the files needed to complete this lesson plan!

Cambridge PET – Speaking Part 3

In the PET speaking exam, the students aren’t alone – they go in with another candidate (and sometimes even two!) For the most part, they don’t need to communicate with each other. However, in Speaking Part 3 they need to exchange their ideas and opinions for two minutes. And yes, they’re being scored on the way they communicate with each other.

I’ve got a series of short lesson plans on Cambridge PET exams, explaining each part and giving tips on getting a high score. Click below for all the other plans that I’ve done so far:

This class consists of the lesson plan and the speaking part 3 worksheet (with answers!). All are available to download at the end of the post.

In Speaking Part 3, students listen to a short imaginary scenario and look at a few options that they need to discuss for two minutes. All the options are shown in a form of pictures, therefore students are required to have a wide range of vocabulary that would help them talk about the prompts. They also need a language that would help them with their discussion, e.g. expressing and asking for opinions, making suggestions, agreeing and disagreeing with their partner, etc. Additionally, they’re expected to have a natural conversation that forces them to think about their answers and listen to the other candidate at the same time.

Start the class by talking about going on a school/work trip. What is the best/worst trip they’ve ever been on? What did they do? Then hand out the worksheet and look at the task adapted from B1 Preliminary for Schools Sample Paper (available to download from the official Cambridge website).

Some students from a small village school are going on a trip to their capital city. Talk together about the different activities they could do in their capital city, and say which would be most interesting.

Students work in pairs and think of six possible activities that they could do on a school trip to the capital. Share the ideas with everyone else. If you want to unify the activity, you may want to choose the best answers from each group and write them down on the board. Then ask the students to think of the advantages and disadvantages of each activity. In the case of big groups, give each group different activity and ask them to discuss only one prompt each. With smaller groups, you can ask them to think about the pros and cons of all of the activities. Share the answers and write them down on the board.

Explain the premise of speaking part 3 – students talk to another candidate and discuss the activities shown in the picture. This task tests the ability to share ideas, ask and give opinions, make suggestions, agree and disagree with the partner. Introduce the most useful vocabulary. Students work on their own and put the phrases in the corresponding categories.

Divide students into pairs. Using the exam task, the prompt answers and the useful vocabulary, ask students to discuss the task and choose the best activity. At this point allow students to talk freely without being timed. Collect the ideas and ask for the reasons why they think that it is the best activity to do in the capital city.

It’s time to reverse this exercise. Now present students with seven prompts, taken from the B1 Preliminary Sample Paper. All of them are connected by the exam task. Ask students to work together and write an exam task that could be used to talk about the prompts. Use the example task from exercise 1 to write their tasks. Students share their ideas with the rest of the class. From this point on, you can go in two different directions:

  • Students exchange their exam tasks and each group discusses their personalized task.
  • Share the real exam task and see how close the predictions were. All groups discuss the same exam task.

Whichever you decide on, monitor the activity and provide feedback.

This is the way I would normally approach Speaking Part 3. It covers the main parts of the exam, teaches useful vocabulary and most importantly, gets students used to this type of task! Click below to download all the files!

Your year in review

Happy New Year everybody! I hope you all had a lovely winter break and enjoyed your time off work. When everyone else is planning their resolutions and different ways of achieving them, why don’t we look back at 2021 and analyse it month by month. I present you with a lesson plan for adults, levels A2/B1, which not only helps us think about the last year but should also put things into perspective.

While I was thinking of different ways of approaching this topic, when I stumbled upon Lesson idea: Using graphs to tell a story, a blog post by Emily Bryson ELT. I decided to plot the level of happiness vs the months of the year. And let me tell you, this was probably one of the most challenging years of my life.

This lesson consists of a plan and a worksheet that can be downloaded for free at the end of the post. Obviously, our years are so distinct that you need to make a personalized version of it. That’s why I included the editable worksheet that allows you to put your graph and events accordingly.

Start the class by drawing the graph without explaining the meaning of axes. If you teach online, you can either prepare your graphs beforehand (just like I did!), or quickly draw them on a digital whiteboard, such as Web Whiteboard. Keep in mind that drawing freehand on a digital whiteboard isn’t going to be as smooth as you would like!

Ask students to guess what the graph represents and predict the meaning of each axis. Since it is almost impossible to guess this correctly, give your student a hint and point out that the X-axis is divided into 12 parts.

The twelve points should give your students some idea that they indicate the months of the year. Now all they need to do is predict the meaning of the Y-axis. Let students brainstorm for a while and collect their ideas. Elicit that the Y-axis represents the happiness level / how good or bad the month was.

Show students 12 events that happened to you last year. Students match the events with the months. Tell them a short story about your year and check the answers. As I mentioned before, my year was not all that perfect. Here is a list of my events:

  • I went to visit my family for the first time in 1.5 years.
  • I recovered and came back to work.
  • I finished my one year contract and started my blog!
  • I had a serious accident and couldn’t walk for three weeks.
  • I decided to start working on my own.
  • I visited my family again and took a break from work and problems.
  • I was informed that I couldn’t return to the academy I’d worked a year before.
  • I rested, got a haircut and felt motivated to come back to work.
  • I started planning my website.
  • I earned money from my website and worksheets!
  • It was a lot harder to work on my own and find students than I’d anticipated.
  • Spring increased my productivity and creativity. I felt motivated to work and think.

I decided to focus my year in review on professional development and mental health. These two topics are quite hard to deal with, so I wouldn’t have this class with younger students. You can easily change your perspective depending on the level and age of your students! The sky is the limit!

After sharing your story, you may want to refresh the memory and go over the use and forms of Past Simple and Past Perfect.

It’s time for your students to work on their own. Students think about their 2021 and plot their graphs. Ask them to write 12 events associated with each month in random order. Students exchange their work and put the events in chronological order. Then everyone shares their 2021 with the rest of the group. It’s that easy!

Thank you, Emily, for the inspiration. It was so much fun playing around with the graphs. Stay tuned for my next blog post in which we will deal with the future and the upcoming year 2022!

Christmas themed B1 speaking

The stress of the exam preparation doesn’t take any days off. That’s why when you want to take a breather and spend some fun and quality time with your B1 students, you may want to kill two birds with one stone. Have a chat about Christmas time, while practising all parts of the PET speaking exam.

Following one of my most popular posts on exam preparation, Halloween themed B2 speaking, I decided to go with the flow and prepare something quite similar – this time focusing on future PET candidates. This class will hopefully reduce the stress of the exam preparation and at the same time, will help your students get into the Christmas mood! However, keep in mind that not everyone celebrates Christmas, so if you teach in an international environment with many mixed religions, maybe it’s best to skip this one for the sake of the students who can’t relate to this holiday.

This class is made of two files: the examiner’s guide notes with the examiner’s speaking script, four Christmassy pictures for speaking part 2 and two scenarios for the discussion in part 3. You can also get all the prompts for speaking part 2 and part 3 as a PDF presentation for those of you who teach online or want to save some paper! All the files are available to download for free at the end of the post!

Just like in the previous festive speaking activity, this class requires no preparation time. All you need to do is download and/or print the files! That easy. I would still encourage you to keep this class under a little bit less strict exam conditions, just because it’s Christmas. You want to make this class educational while keeping it light and fun!

B1 students often struggle with basic spelling. That’s why in speaking part 1, students are asked to spell out some of the trickier Christmas related words, such as a wreath, myrrh or a bauble. The purpose of this part is not only to practise spelling, as some of the words may be new and useful in the following speaking parts. All the pictures supporting vocabulary are included in the PDF presentation. This part is followed by a set of personal questions about Christmas. The questions were inspired by an authentic speaking script and range from asking about family celebrations and traditions to talking about the best Christmas presents.

In speaking part 2, each student is asked to describe a photograph for about a minute. Under normal circumstances, there are two pictures included in this part. I put four different photographs to keep this part more engaging and versatile. All you need to do is read the script, show the pictures and time your students. The photos show a family eating Christmas dinner, a family dressing the Christmas tree, a family exchanging gifts and people walking around the Christmas market. It will ensure that you get to cover a whole range of festive vocabulary!

Speaking part 3 consists of two tasks, so the students will get a chance to listen to two completely different discussions. The first one asks students to think about the most nutritious snack for Santa Claus. The second task asks students to discuss the best Christmas present for Santa Claus. Both are light-hearted and will surely spark some interesting and creative discussions. So read out the script, put two minutes on the clock and enjoy the creativity.

In the last part of speaking, students are asked to discuss their opinions regarding Christmas time. I tried making them interesting and thought-provoking. Students need to express their opinions on topics such as Is it important for children to believe in Santa Claus? Is Christmas too commercialised? or What is your opinion of changing Merry Christmas to Happy Holidays? Even though some of the questions may seem to be quite invasive and controversial, try to keep them easy and light. Christmas is the time of uniting, not dividing!

If you haven’t thought of a good lesson for your future PET candidates, feel free to download all the files below! Merry Christmas!

Have yourself a sustainable little Christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year once again. The time to be jolly, spend time with your loved ones, and of course, give presents. It’s so wonderful that most of the time we forget about the dark side of it – increased waste production. In this Christmas oriented lesson, we look at the negative impact of the holiday on the environment and think of different ways of preventing it.

I always struggled when preparing a Christmas themed lesson. I stay away from doing the same things students do at school. I don’t come anywhere near anything religious. Last year I learnt my lesson. I prepared a festive class, all about traditions and gift-giving. There was a tiny problem, though. One of my students didn’t celebrate Christmas, and she couldn’t care less about it. It got me thinking about Christmassy lessons. Lessons that would be inclusive and engaging for everyone.

My inner environmental engineer got all excited when one specific topic had crossed my mind – the wastefulness of Christmas and how it can be prevented. It’s not only thought-provoking but will also give some room to speak for those who don’t celebrate Christmas but can relate to any other occasion with presents.

In this lesson plan, we explore solid waste production and how to prevent it during the merriest holiday of the year. Go to the end of the post and get your files for free.

The class starts by discussing students annual waste production and when they think their waste production is the highest. Ask about their % increase in waste production during the holiday season. Share the answers and ask if they were surprised. Another way of doing this lead-in is by splitting the class into smaller groups and asking them to predict the weight of waste produced annually and the percentage increase. You can get the answers by saying more or less. According to Eurostat, on average in the EU people produce 502 kg of waste per capita. The average monthly consumption is increased by 30% during the festive season, as reported by Biffa.

Proceed by asking another Christmas oriented question – why do we produce more rubbish at Christmas time? Students work in pairs and think of possible reasons and culprits of higher waste production. Once everyone is done and shares their answers with the rest of the class, read part 1 of the text by phs Wastekit and check if the predictions were correct. Continue with reading for detail. Students read sentences 1-5 and decide whether they are true (T), false (F), or the answers aren’t given in the text (NG).

Moving onto the second part of the text. Students look at six pictures and quickly read Part 2 of the text to find the words that best describe them. Explain any other additional words that may interfere with the reading experience. Look at the Christmas tree and decorations and brainstorm the answers as a group. Collecting ideas about reducing waste caused by Christmas trees and decorations will set an example and will give an idea of how to end this task in groups. Any appropriate and logical answers can be accepted. The answers can range from reusing artificial Christmas trees, buying local natural Christmas trees, recycling Christmas ornaments, and so on. Afterwards, divide everyone into pairs or small groups and ask them to discuss ways in which these problems can be solved. Finish by going over additional solutions and dividing them into Christmas trees and decorations, Shopping and gifts and food and beverages.

Finish the class by discussing if students agree with any of the solutions and if they’re going to implement them this year. Ask if they believe that making such small changes have any significant impact on their surroundings.

So this is my idea of dealing with the Christmas topic. I know that talking about the environment and ways of protecting it, especially during such a magical time, may not be the happiest one to do. However, it’s important to talk about it and bring awareness, so we can all have a sustainable Christmas this year. How are you going to celebrate Christmas in your classroom this year?

Get your lesson plan and worksheet for free by clicking the files below! Merry Christmas!

Cambridge PET – Listening Part 1

Listening is one of the two receptive skills, which is quite polarising. Your students will either love it or hate it! I enjoy Listening Part 1 as it’s entertaining and possibly the easiest of them all. On the flip side, it requires a wide range of vocabulary to choose the correct answers.

I’ve already done short exam preparation lesson plans on Speaking Part 1, Reading Part 1 and Writing Part 1. Let’s move on to Listening Part 1. A lesson showing four easy steps to understand and pass this part of the exam.

This short lesson plan follows the listening that you can download from the B1 Preliminary Sample Paper. I supplemented it with a worksheet that follows an approach to get the most out of this part.

Before we begin with the explanation, let’s look at the optional lead-in. Since the class focuses on listening, it’s good to give your students some extra speaking and teamwork time.

The class starts by showing pictures of everyday objects. Your students see and maybe even use them daily, but will have no idea what they’re called in English. Purposely, I chose a screwdriver, a rake and a thimble. You can put your students in pairs or small groups and ask them to name the objects. Tell them that you don’t accept ‘nothing’ or ‘I don’t know‘ as answers! Once you’ve got some (hopefully) funny words, ask what these objects have in common. No hints! Remember that for What they’ve got in common part there are no wrong answers.

Move on to the Listening Part 1 worksheet. The pictures are taken directly from the B1 Preliminary Sample Paper 1. Students need to write words associated with the pictures and, of course, name the objects (a bookshelf, a desk lamp and a cushion). Don’t give them the answers just yet, as they should get used to predicting the words that may appear in the exam. Form pairs or small groups one more time and ask them to predict the question that may be asked. As it is a class focused on listening, this will give them some time to practise speaking.

Listen to the recording and pause after extract 1. Make sure to listen to it twice. During the listening, students should choose the correct answer and justify why the other two are incorrect. This will make them pay attention to the whole recording while helping them understand that all three things are always mentioned.

Once you finish this part, you can explain this listening part and follow the four easy steps to get a high score!

Step 1 – Underline the keywords

The first step is to underline the keywords in the question. Your students should only concentrate on a few words. That will help them narrow down their focus during listening.

Step 2 – Identify and predict vocabulary

Your students should get into the habit of predicting the words that may appear in the listening. It also helps if they can identify the objects in the pictures! It’s okay if they don’t, as they can easily use the process of elimination to get the answer. While doing that, they can predict the answers, but tell them that the Cambridge listenings are tricky on purpose, so they should expect the unexpected…

Step 3 – Listen and choose the answer

Remind everyone that they will listen to the recording twice. Even if they don’t catch the answer on the first try, they shouldn’t stress. In the case of not hearing the answer on the second try, tell them that at this point they should choose any answer! They may be right, and this one point can help them pass the exam!

Step 4 – Justify the answers

Students should always try and justify their answers. Yes, even the incorrect ones! In this way, even if they are unsure, they may be able to get it right by the process of elimination.

You can pass the exam in only four steps – it’s not a lot! As always, try using the worksheets only at the beginning of the year, just to get your students used to underlining the keywords, identifying the vocabulary and justifying the answers. This part is quite simple, and I’m sure that your students will find it quite fun to do.

Click the links below to download all the files!

Cambridge Exam Score Templates

Who said that the 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 the 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.

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.