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 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.

Cambridge PET – informative brochures

If you are like me and you primarily prepare your students to take Cambridge exams, then you always find yourself going in circles and explaining different parts of the examination. It isn’t rocket science but obviously, some parts are more complicated than others. The handbook provided by Cambridge official helps a lot but I often need to explain the same things and answer the same questions over and over again! This is why I came up with a set of easily digested brochures that are handy and answer all the questions for you.

Preparing for the Cambridge exams isn’t a piece of cake. In order to pass, you have to make sure that your students are familiar with each part of it. At the end of the day, it’s an exam and apart from your students’ knowledge, it also tests their ability to quickly and accurately eliminate the incorrect answers and choose the ones that make the most sense.

The Cambridge exam handbook for teachers provides a good explanation of what to do and what our students are expected to know during the exam. In my opinion, these handbooks are a bit too long and require you, a teacher, to explain everything in detail. If you have ever been in the same room with teenagers, then you know that there are moments that information goes in one ear and out the other. That’s why I felt inspired when I saw a bunch of brochures prepared by Write on with Miss G. She’s prepared them to motivate her students to read different book genres. I love the idea of having brochures as you can easily display them in your classroom, or give them to your students to keep nearby if in doubt.

I’ve made four Cambridge PET brochures, each focusing on a different part of the exam: reading, listening, speaking and writing. Let me show you an example brochure to explain what they are about.

Above you can see the “outside” part of the brochure. On the first part of the trifold, you can see the title, picture and just a general explanation of this part. It also tells you how long this part takes in total and how your students should distribute their writing time.

This page also deals with the most common question of How to improve your writing skills. I came up with a few ways in which your students can practise writing on their own and what parts they need to pay attention to at the exam. My favourite way of improving is paying attention to your errors – something that I should be doing more often myself! After you are done writing, read your answer again just to see if it still makes sense and also pay attention to your most common errors. So simple, yet so effective!

At the back, the students can find the scoring system divided into four parts: content, communicative achievement, organisation and language. To score high, your students need to be aware of what the examiner actually wants, so by explaining each part I believe that learners find it much less intimidating and much more doable.

And of course – the resources. Coming to the classes isn’t enough and learners are often expected to put some effort at home. It isn’t ideal but by telling them that the more effort they put in now, the sooner they can move to another level. I included some of the websites that can be used to find extra tasks to do at home. I especially love Write and Improve an official Cambridge website. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a life-changer! Unfortunately, it doesn’t give any specific tasks for B1 level students, but there are so many other exercises that can help with language development.

This is the inside of the brochure. It is divided into three parts: an email, an article and a story. Each part deals with the objectives of this task and what the candidates are assessed on. Each part helps them understand how many words they are expected to write and shows an example picture of the task. All the tasks were taken from the B1 Preliminary for Schools Handbook. Additionally, each part describes different ways in which your students can approach this task and be successful.

As you can see, all the information is condensed to only one page, which means that it’s easily digestible and also can be stored in students’ files and kept nearby at all times. Moreover, you can always keep them out in the open so they can be accessed at all times and they make for a nice classroom display!

If you like what you see feel free to download Everything you need to know about…Cambridge PET writing for free!

The set of brochures contains four PDFs that you can download from my Teachers pay Teachers store. Below you can see a little teaser of what they look like.

I really enjoyed making these brochures and I hope you liked them too! If you find my content helpful, I would appreciate your support.

Cambridge PET – Speaking Part 1

The beginning of a speaking exam can be a nerve-racking experience. Speaking Part 1 is designed to break the ice and get to know the candidates.

If you have been following me for some time, then you know I have a series on PET Cambridge exam preparation. Check out my previous lesson plans on Writing Part 1 and Reading Part 1. You can find all the files needed to complete this lesson at the end of the blog post, available to download for free!

Speaking Part 1 is a short warm-up before the real deal. The candidates take turns interacting with the interlocutor. The answers should be brief but not too brief.

Phase 1

Start the class by giving a set of questions to one of your students to interview you. Students listen to your one-word answers and write them down. Ask them if they think these answers were good. Obviously, they weren’t good at all! This is a good chance to explain the first point – always use full sentences to answer phase 1 questions. This allows them to show their understanding and knowledge of word order and grammar.

As you already gave some time to think about the answers, ask students to work in pairs and practise fluency. One student acts as an interlocutor and the other as a candidate. Afterwards, they change their roles. You don’t want your students to memorise the answers but it’s a good idea to have something up their sleeves when they enter the exam hall.

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Phase 2

The second phase of the exam consists of personal questions. Candidates may be asked about their daily routine, past activities, plans, and any other personal details. The list goes on. The questions are usually quite simple and easy to predict. Even though it seems easy, it can be a little bit deceiving as candidates need to show a wide knowledge of grammar and vocabulary, and at the same time be able to justify their answers.

Using questions from a B1 Preliminary for Schools Sample Papers you can ask students to elaborate on basic one-clause answers, making them into two-clause sentences! To help them understand the task, for the first two examples provide the first clause. For example, the question How do you get to school every day? can be answered in so many different ways:

  1. I walk to school __________. (example answer: because I live nearby.)
  2. I go by car __________. (example answer: because my dad drops me off on his way to work.)
  3. I go by bike __________. (example answer: because I live nearby and care about the environment.)

Of course, these are only my suggestions and your students can be as creative as they please – just make sure that the answers make sense and are grammatically correct.

The last two questions are fully blank and students need to think of three different ways in which they can be answered. Since all the answers were provided by students, there is no need to be redundant and ask them the same questions again. Instead, you can finish with a group discussion. I have prepared a worksheet with the most commonly asked phase 2 questions that your students can practise by answering them on the spot!

Throughout the lesson, you can write the most common mistakes and address them at the end during a cold correction session. In this way, you avoid interrupting your students and focus on fluency.

I hope you enjoy my PET Cambridge exam preparation series! Stay on the lookout for more lesson plans coming your way! If you are interested, feel free to download the lesson plans and all the worksheets below.

Cambridge PET – Reading Part 1

There is a big difference between reading and understanding the text. In PET reading part 1, students decipher the meaning of five short texts found in everyday situations.

This is my second post focusing on PET exam preparation. Click the link to check out the first part about teaching PET writing Part 1.

In PET reading revised exam for 2020 students complete six parts. Reading part 1 is relatively easy to look at and quick to complete. Candidates look at five short texts such as an e-mail, a notification, a label, a warning sign, etc. and need to choose a paraphrased sentence that is true to the text. This part is short and seems so simple that many students may not think too much about it. Unfortunately, looks can be deceiving, and if we don’t prepare our students to confirm their answers, they may lose some points that can be essential to get a pass.

Just like before, using B1 Preliminary Handbook and Sample Papers for B1 Preliminary can be found by clicking the links or downloaded directly from the Cambridge Assessment English website. I highly recommend checking this website as it is full of official resources. All the pages needed for this lesson, are specified in the lesson plan.

It is a relatively short lesson plan that concentrates on explaining reading part 1 and drills four steps that should be followed to pass with flying colours. The lesson plan and the worksheet following the four steps can be downloaded for free at the end of the post.

If your students want to score high in reading part 1, get them used to these four steps!

Step 1 – understand the context

It doesn’t seem like a big deal, and students usually understand the context without any issues, but it is crucial. It is essential to understand if a given text is, for example, a suggestion or an obligation. Let’s imagine a sign at a local food court – “Please be considerate! Make sure your table is clean before leaving”. Is it an obligation or a request? It is a friendly reminder or a suggestion, but by no means clients are obligated to clean the tables. Therefore, once it is clear we know what modal verbs to look for!

Step 2 – underline the keywords

I can’t tell you how many eye-rolls I get when I ask about the keywords! It seems so basic that is constantly omitted. Even in the case of a short text, it helps and narrows the focus to only a few words. It also leads to the next step…

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Step 3 – think of synonyms (and paraphrase them!)

Yes, the time is limited, and it’s quite hard to think about every single synonym, but there is no harm in jogging your students’ memory and trying to recall some of the previously learnt words. I wouldn’t necessarily expect them to know many synonyms for each keyword. However, it is a good practice to allow the students to think on their own, and predict the words that can be seen in the multiple-choice answers. You can also ask them to paraphrase the text and see if it corresponds with the options given in the exam.

Step 4 – choose the answers and justify them

Well done, you’ve chosen your answers! It is a good habit to go back to the answers and think about why the chosen option is correct, and the other two aren’t. It will make candidates aware of certain grammar and vocabulary that otherwise could be missed. It is also a good practice to finish the task with a group discussion, so all your students understand and learn from their mistakes.

I suggest using PET – reading part 1 worksheet only initially. You want to develop a routine and ensure that students follow the steps needed to complete the task successfully. Once you see that your students do well in this part, your job is done. Let them do the tasks as they would in the exam.

Feel free to download the lesson plan and the worksheet (with the answers!) below! Make sure to follow my blog for more PET exam preparation!

Cambridge PET – Writing Part 1

Teaching writing can be quite hard – especially teaching writing for exam preparation.

Like every teacher, I have my most and least favourite things to teach. It is quite easy to focus on the parts that we really enjoy and neglect the parts that we don’t fully understand or we just don’t have that much fun with. I’ve got some groups that I can play around with, we can watch some videos, listen to music… There are also some groups that are strictly preparing for the Cambridge exams.

While preparing for Cambridge exams I always try to make sure that my students understand each part of it, but most importantly, they know how to produce answers. As in every exam, there is a certain key that learners need to follow and if they know how to achieve that, they can score really high!

There are so many resources distributed by Cambridge Assessment English. As I am not reinventing the wheel, I decided to use one of their materials and adapt them to my class. In order to follow my lesson plan, it is necessary to download B1 Preliminary Handbook and Sample Papers for B1 Preliminary. You can download them by clicking the links or by going to the official website. All the pages used in this class are specified in the lesson plan.

This lesson consists of two files, a lesson plan and a worksheet that is designed to help learners understand how to approach writing part 1 exam task and how to answer it by following the Cambridge writing assessment scale. There is an additional worksheet with suggested answers to make sure that learners understand each step of the exam task. You can download all three files by clicking the links at the end of the post.

In order to score high, it is important to get your learners used to following the steps of the exam task analysis and planning before writing.

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Step 1 – text type

As a group look at the exam task and identify the type of text. This part of the exam is mandatory and students are always asked to write an e-mail. It may seem like an unnecessary step, but I can’t remember the number of times that my students forgot over and over again what they were expected to write.

Step 2 – recipient

One part of the assessment is correctly identifying and approaching the target reader. In this part, students should be aware that most likely they will have to write an e-mail to a friend or a teacher, which obviously will affect their vocabulary.

Step 3 – register

Once learners name the recipient, they should be able to identify the register of their response. In the case of writing to a friend, they can use contractions and less formal language. If the message is intended for a teacher, they should change the register appropriately.

Step 4 – content points

Allow your students to read the message again and identify four main content points. Once students know what they need to address, they should be able to respond correctly, for example, if the message tells them to suggest an activity, learners should use appropriate language and vocabulary relevant to the task. Emphasise that the answers shouldn’t be longer than 100 words, therefore they need to focus on answering the content points without getting too distracted.

Step 5 – plan

Based on the content points learners should be able to plan their answers. If you do it for the first time ever, you can do it as a group to show that students should only write basic ideas and some useful vocabulary. It is quite difficult to convince learners to plan their answers, but remind them that according to the writing assessment scale, they can score up to 5 points for well-organised, linked and coherent answers. Remember that the planning stage shouldn’t be longer than 5 minutes.

Step 6 – write your answer

Now following the plan, students should write their answers in about 10 minutes. It is good to get your learners to work under a time limit to avoid any bad surprises in the exam.

Step 7 – check your answer

Yes, you made it! The answers are written and the exam is about to end. However, tell your learners that if they find themselves with some spare time on their hands, they should read their answers AGAIN and see if they still make sense. It is also a good idea to drill some most common errors, so your pupils know exactly what they are looking for. This shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes.

In order for your learners to really know what they need to do, it is good to spend some time explaining the writing assessment scale. Go through each of the points and back them up with some examples for better comprehension and give everyone a copy of the scale. To make it even more effective try following each writing with peer assessment because there is no better way to learn than from each other!

Hope you enjoy this lesson plan! You can download the lesson plan, writing worksheet and suggested answers below! Be on the lookout as there is more exam content to come.