B1/B2 – Job interview – Soft skills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B2 – Greenwashing – Reading and Speaking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B2/C1 – What’s the best seat on the plane?

By now pretty much everyone has been on a plane at least once in their lives. The feeling of booking the perfect seat based on our preferences is essential. Everyone can also relate to sitting on the plane and waiting impatiently to finish the boarding announcement, hoping that we will get to have a free seat (or maybe even a row) next to us. This reading and speaking class looks into the perfect airline seat and lets students choose the less of many evils to be their long-haul flight companion

Allow students to slowly transition from the spring into the summer with this fun, travel-inspired lesson plan for upper-intermediate/advanced students. This class focuses on developing speaking skills based on authentic material by Anthony Cherkas written for Business Class Experts. Scroll down to the end of the post to download the lesson plan and the worksheet with the adapted article for free.

Start the class by looking at the seat map of a plane and ask students to discuss their perfect seat. If you feel as passionate about the topic as I do, you can also provide your opinion. I believe that there is no better airline seat than a window seat. Yes, I’m a plane sleeper! Ask students to justify their choices by saying what they usually do and how they behave on planes.

Image from Seat Guru

Tell to pay attention to the seats marked on the seat map. Students work in pairs and think of the best places for the six types of travellers: a sleeper, a scared flyer, a family, someone afraid of turbulence, someone tall and someone with a quick connection. Gather some answers and reasons for each answer. Give students about 3 minutes to read the article and see if their predictions were correct.

The text isn’t too challenging, but some vocabulary items may require explanation (e.g. a long-haul flight, a bulkhead row, to recline, long-limbed, etc.) However, it shouldn’t hinder the overall understanding of the text.

Finish the text by discussing whether students agree with certain seats being better than others for a specific group of people. Would they consider the advice given in the article and implement it on their next travel?

Move to the speaking part of the class by discussing different types of travellers. Have they ever sat next to a traveller? What is the ideal passenger to have on their side? Read the typical FCE B2 speaking part 3 exam task and look at the five options, each representing a less than ideal travel companion. Students work in pairs and discuss the characteristics of each traveller (or group of travellers) and think about how they may behave on a plane. Once they have a list of advantages and disadvantages of each passenger, they need to decide which traveller would be the best to sit next to on a long-haul flight.

Proceed by asking standard opinion-based speaking part 4 questions related to air travel and the travellers discussed in the previous part. For example, Is it better to fly alone or with family/friends? Some people believe that flying is the quickest way of travelling. What do you think? Is it beneficial for airline companies to operate near-empty planes? Why?

What’s your ideal airline seat? Are you a sleeper or a hard-working businessperson? Do you agree with the points included in the article?

Incredible vegetables – B2 – Use of English Part 3

I guess spring is in the air, and it makes me more inclined towards healthy food and keeping fit topics. This time we’ll look into different vegetables and their health benefits. This will lead towards the lesson focus and the nemesis of Cambridge exam candidates – Use of English and word formation.

This post and lesson plan is inspired by Stephanie Valerio and her blog post titled B2 Word Formation Sudoku. When I saw it, I knew that I have to find a way to incorporate this incredible idea and spread this game all around. So thank you, Stephanie! I hope that this lesson plan will do your activity some justice.

This lesson is prepared for online/hybrid classes. It contains a lesson plan (with all the answers) and a presentation. Click the files at the end of the post to get your free copies.

Once again, I was going through free Cambridge Sample papers and found a Use of English Part 3 task titled An Incredible Vegetable. You can get your copy of this task with all the answers included from Sample Paper 1 for B2 First.

The first part of the lesson is based on a short YouTube video on the health benefits of certain vegetables titled Foods That Look Like Body Parts Give Clues To Their Health Benefits by ELLICSR Kitchen.

Start the class by showing pictures of foods from the video: walnut, carrot, tomato, olives and Brazilian nut. Students name the vegetables and nuts and match them with body parts that they resemble. Watch the video and check the answers. Discuss if students knew about the health benefits of these foods and if they have tried them before. Check if students remember what they have just watched and ask to write the health benefits of each. Watch again to see the answers and complete the list of health benefits.

Introduce the Reading and Use of English Part 3 by showing a picture of garlic and naming it. Ask if students enjoy it and what are its possible health benefits. Show an official exam task titled An Incredible Vegetable and read it for gist. Elicit some benefits mentioned in the text, e.g. infection resistance, killing bacteria and viruses, useful for coughs and cold, etc.

If it’s the first time that your students do this type of task, you may want to explain the rules and approach to be successful. Mention that one of the strategies is looking at the gaps and thinking about the type of missing words, e.g. noun (plural/singular?), verb, adjective, adverb, etc. Go over each gap and think of the types of missing words. If you have a strong group, you may want to encourage them to predict the missing words at this stage.

Show the base words in alphabetical order and give students some time to think about their different forms. Once everyone has completed the table to the best of their abilities, go over and write the answers. Make sure to include the words that will be used in the exam task later on! Once everyone has their cheatsheets ready, reveal the base words corresponding to each gap. Give students a maximum of five minutes to complete the task by changing the words to fit the gaps. Check and discuss the answers. This class shouldn’t cause too many problems to your students, as you have done the majority of it together.

Finish the class with a fun word-formation sudoku game created by Stephanie! Divide students into pairs and ask them to complete the sudoku – the first group to solve it correctly wins.

The use of English is a pain, and it’s so hard to turn it into a fun class, but I hope that you enjoyed my idea and will adapt it to your lesson! And what about Stephanie’s sudoku? That brain teaser will help many students memorise the new words and their spelling.

Click the links below to download the files for free.

Where do babies come from? – question forms

The other day, I was preparing a C1 level lesson plan on question forms. It’s an exam preparation group, so we follow a coursebook. As always, I started the preparation by checking the approach in the teacher’s book and as always, I decided to put a spin on it. I ended up thinking of a class that starts with a revision of the question word order and rising/falling intonation, followed by question forms.

I started my preparation process by thinking of random or shocking questions that I could ask my students. As I was thinking about the first crucial question, it hit me. Why don’t I ask them the most commonly asked questions by children? They are quite random, at times funny, but most of the time they are head-scratchers. I opened the class by asking Where do babies come from? and Why is the sky blue? It’s a Friday evening class, and I needed to get their attention immediately. Of course, you need to be careful with the question choice as I know that asking about certain things may create an uncomfortable situation. I teach in Spain, and the culture here is quite free. I can get away with talking about unusual and at times inappropriate topics in any 16+ years-old class.

All you need for this class is a lesson plan and a PowerPoint presentation that can be used for both online and in-person classes.

The original lesson plan, suggested by the book, didn’t mention the question word order or the question intonation. I decided to quickly go over these rules, as even though my students are quite good, they make mistakes now and then. In Spain, questions are made by keeping a statement word order and adding an inflection at the end of the sentence. It is quite common to hear this tendency during any English speaking task, for example You like chocolate?

After the opening questions, I asked my students who may ask such tough questions. I proceeded by telling them about the internet survey from April 2020 by nypost, which focused on the most commonly asked difficult questions by children. I told them to think about six other questions that may appear in the survey. Once they finished their discussion, we compared their answers with the actual answers.

I continued by looking at two question types – one with and the other without a question word – and analysing the word order. We also went over other wh- question words. As a revision, students thought of some more questions that we used to complete the table. I asked them to explain the rules and then showed my presentation to help them remember this information. Since it was only a revision, I didn’t spend too much time on it.

Instead, I moved on to the rising and falling intonation in questions. It’s another common Spanish speakers problem. In Spanish, questions are made by rising inflection at the end of a sentence. I proceeded by showing a Y/N question (Do you like chocolate?) and said it in two ways, with a rising and falling intonation. Then I asked a wh- question (Where are you from?) and did the same thing. Students had no problems identifying the correct intonation, but they weren’t sure why it happens. I quickly explained the rules, so they can be more confident about their pronunciation and intonation in the speaking exam. We finished this part by modelling and drilling the intonations.

I finished this revision part by going back to the slide with the eight toughest children questions. I asked my students to rank them from the most difficult (1) to the easiest (8). Once students decided on the order, I revealed the answers, and we tried answering some of the questions!

Then I decided to go back to the book and focused on the question forms (the actual objective of this class). This particular part focused on Angelina Jolie and her rainbow family. I segued into this by asking them What is a rainbow family? (= a multicultural family). There were some wild guesses, but eventually, some of the students were able to define that term. It led to an interesting discussion about who and what may be classified as a rainbow family. Since the conversation was flowing and students were genuinely into it, I decided to get off topic and search for a proper meaning of a rainbow family just to clarify any doubts.

As we were all looking at the picture of Angelina Jolie and her children, I decided to ask them a set of questions using different question forms. I wanted to move to the teaching part as seamlessly as possible, and it worked quite well. It allowed my students to realise that they are familiar with different question forms and that their understanding is quite advanced. You can see all the questions mentioned below.

Once we finished talking about Jolie’s rainbow family, I asked them to decide on the type of question form used in each question. That was probably the hardest part, as some of the forms were not too straightforward. I let them work in small groups and brainstorm to clear any doubts. After the activity, I showed them the answers and explained the politeness and word order of indirect questions, the use and structure of question tags, and the use of question words as the question subject/object.

We proceeded with the grammar practice given in the book. However, since I’m planning on using the same lesson plan with my other C1 level students who don’t follow the book, I thought of two exercises that could be done instead. The first exercise is ordering the words to form questions. The second exercise is thinking about six different questions (total) for the classmates. This freer writing activity will give you a chance to monitor their understanding of the topic. The lesson ends with students answering the questions.

Do you always follow the coursebook and the teacher’s book, or do you like to venture, too? How would you approach this type of class? Let me know!

Click the links below to download the lesson plan and the ppt for free!

The problem with Halloween

It is my last post of October, and even though I had fun with all my themed lessons, a few questions stood out to me. What if I don’t like teaching themed classes? What if I don’t like teaching Halloween? To all those questions I say – fair enough. You shouldn’t teach anything that doesn’t bring you joy. If you are not excited about the topic, neither are your students.

If you work on your own, you have a choice to avoid any type of themed lessons. You don’t need to celebrate any local or British/American holiday. However, if you work at an academy, then from time to time, you’ll be asked to prepare a themed class (whether you like it or not!). Remember that you are still in charge of lesson preparation, so be creative and spin the topic in your favour! PS. This class was heavily inspired by the Teaching with Tracey’s IG post.

This is a B2+ lesson plan that focuses on reading supported with expressing and responding to opinions. You can download all the files at the end of the post for free. I hope it will spark some creativity and not much controversy in your classroom!

Start the class by asking about students’ experience with Halloween. In some countries, it has become popular recently. The chances are that some of your adult students don’t have any memories or sentiment on this holiday (I’m one of them!). You can ask them to share their opinions on this holiday, and if they have children, ask if they allow them to go trick-or-treating. Maybe they have been to some Halloween parties and got dressed up. If yes, what were their costumes?

While you are on the topic of Halloween costumes, show some outfits taken from the Insider – 15 offensive Halloween costumes that you shouldn’t wear. Just yet, don’t mention the problem behind those outfits. Instead, casually chat about them and ask if the students like them, which one is their (least) favourite and if they would ever wear any of those costumes. Once you finish the first part of this discussion, you can mention that these outfits may be a bit problematic. If your students haven’t mentioned the way, in which the costumes are controversial, you may play a snippet of a Bo Burnham song – Problematic (0:52-1:10). I wouldn’t focus on the whole song, as it talks about the cancel culture, which is a whole other class. Instead, focus on the following lyrics:

I'm problematic (He's a problem)
When I was 17, on Halloween, I dressed up as Aladdin (He's a problem)
I did not darken my skin
But still, it feels weird in hindsight

If your students haven’t guessed the theme of the outfits, this verse should help them figure it out. That would be a good moment to explain the meaning of in hindsight and introduce the phrase cultural appropriation.

Move on to the main part of the class – the reading of an article by Alessandra Malito A lot of really bad things are more likely to happen on Halloween. I divided this article into two parts – the problems and the solutions. Firstly, divide the students into pairs or groups and ask them to discuss any other problems that may occur on Halloween. If they struggle with thinking of any other issues, you can help by giving main topics, such as crime, theft, accident, etc. Then let your students read the first part and check if any of their ideas are mentioned in the text. Ask them to read the text again, this time paying attention to the details and answering multiple-choice questions. Proceed with the vocabulary task – matching the words with their definitions, for example, perilous and deductible.

Go to the reading part 2. Before you ask your students to read the text, ask them to work in groups and discuss different ways in which they can stay safe or protect others on Halloween. Read part two and check if your ideas are similar to the ones mentioned in the text. Explain any new words and move to the last part of the class.

Since the class is hand-picking problems in a relatively harmless holiday, ask the students to complain about other topics related to Halloween. You can illustrate it by giving an example.

Put one minute on the clock and start by saying: Don’t get me started on…candy. Proceed by complaining about it in the most ridiculous way, for example, Who needs it? You get so much of it, and all it does is damage your teeth! Pointless! Hand out topics to your students. With weaker groups, you may want to give them some time to prepare their answers. Other topic suggestions are candy, Halloween, costumes, trick-or-treating, pumpkins, parties, etc.

That’s my idea of going against the typical Halloween lesson! Click and download all the files below.

You can do it before or right after Halloween to check on your students and their non-problematic costumes. Did you celebrate Halloween in your class? If yes, what did you do?

Halloween themed B2 speaking

Happy October! As an ESL teacher, you know what that means – themed lesson plans! I’m not a fan of conducting the standard History of Halloween lessons. Instead, I like to have the best of two worlds: exam preparation and Halloween.

Last year I was working with the second year of the B2 Cambridge exam preparation group. They were all great – just a bit stressed out about the upcoming exam. I decided to reduce the stress of the speaking exam and turn it into something a bit more fun – a speaking exam task (all the parts!) related to Halloween. It was one of my best classes. My students were excited to talk and sometimes even wanted to steal each other’s questions because they had so much to say!

This class contains a PowerPoint with all the questions and pictures (in case you either don’t want to print anything out or for all the online teachers out there!). It also has the examiner’s speaking guide (this part includes pictures and the discussion topic, available for printing). All you need to do is to download the files and you are good to go! Keep in mind that if you do this class with teenagers, you may not have enough time to finish it! Since it’s a Halloween themed lesson, I’m not very strict with time and I just want my students to have fun.

As you can see the class requires absolutely no preparation time. The examiner’s notes were written using the original B2 exam speaking script. If you want to keep this class a bit more educational, you can ask other students to take notes on their colleagues’ mistakes and things that went well. You can also time them and end class with general feedback.

The class starts with Part 1, which is just a little bit different than at the exam. Ask students to spell Halloween related words (they may be shocked that they need to spell, but it’s good to keep them on their toes!) and then some general questions about their likes and dislikes about Halloween.

I prepared this class for a group of four, so all my students had something else to talk about in Part 2. I’ve prepared four sets of pictures. Each set is supported by the main topic and a follow-up question for the other candidate. Remember to give them 1 minute to talk!

Part 3 is a pair discussion about what makes a successful Halloween costume. You read the imaginary scenario and students discuss what would make their outfits stand out at a party. It is followed by an additional question about which of the Halloween costume qualities would win them an award for the best costume.

In my opinion, Part 4 is always the best one. Ask students about Halloween celebrations, potential dangers, traditions, etc. I remember my students being so excited, willing to answer the questions for the rest of the class. They were so engaged that we didn’t have time for any error corrections! But it’s okay! It was a special class and it created many happy memories for me. I hope you will enjoy this class as much as I did!

Click below to download all the files for free!

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.

First lesson for B2 Cambridge exam preparation

I was always looking for the perfect first class for exam preparation. Right after I finished CELTA, I had the pleasure of teaching B1 and B2 Cambridge intensive summer courses. As I was still on the high from passing CELTA, I analysed and prepared two full Compact books, including language analysis, possible problems (and solutions) and CCQs!

However, the part that I’m most proud of must be the lesson plan for the very first class. If you’ve ever taught an intensive course, you know that you don’t have that much time to waste and you need to move quite fast. That’s why I decided to combine an introduction class, mock speaking exam and language level assessment all in one 60 minute class. I couldn’t be happier that Joanna post-CELTA was so organised, as she really saved me some time. Especially now, when I have three B2 exam candidates who will all follow those plans, of course within a reason.

This lesson consists of a lesson plan and it closely follows the speaking part of the Cambridge Sample Paper 1 for B2 First. Download the sample paper to see the speaking guide, pictures needed for Part 2 and prompts needed for Part 3! All the other files you can download for free at the end of the post.

As this is an example of the very first lesson, I start it with a short introduction of myself. I like to describe who I am, what I do, my likes and dislikes, and where and who I live with. I try to keep it personal, as I want my students to feel free to talk about their preferences and lives without the feeling of being judged. If I work with groups, I would give them two minutes to think of 3 extra questions for me. These can be about anything that they want to know!

The next step is for my students to say some basic information about themselves. I do it in this way because I want them to mimic my introduction. Even though your students introduce themselves quite often, there is always this moment when their minds go blank, so in this way, they already had some ideas of what they can say.

Once you finish this part, give each student one or two questions from the downloadable file B2 – Speaking Part 1 and Part 4. Students choose the questions at random without seeing them and write two sentence answers. They read their answers and the rest of the group guesses their questions. Once everyone is done, you can ask them if they found this task difficult. Hopefully, they will say ‘no’ and that’s when you can reveal that they’ve just completed Speaking Part 1. Trust me that once they realize that this was an actual exam task, it’ll make them feel so much better!

Then move on to Part 2. Students already know that you are following the exam paper, so you don’t need to keep it a secret! Start by showing two pictures that you can find in the sample paper. Divide students into two groups. Each group thinks of as many words that they can use to describe the pictures. Share the vocabulary and then you can either discuss it as a group or mix students in pairs (picture 1 and picture 2 student) so they can find similarities and differences. Once this task is completed, go to the second set of pictures that show gardens. You can ask students to work in pairs and compare them for 1′.

Part 3 starts by talking about the town you are in. You can ask students a general question What attracts tourists to your town. Students can work in groups and think about different activities and places, or you can do it as a group and present the answers in the form of a mind map. Then show the actual Part 3 task with five prompts around. Check if any of the answers are similar to their ideas. Choose one of the prompts (I normally choose the one about a nightclub) and yet again divide students into two groups – one group discusses the advantages and the other disadvantages of a nightclub on tourism. Then mix one student from the advantages group with one from the disadvantages group so they can present their ideas to each other. And just like that, students should already have an idea about this part of the exam. If you want, you can choose one of the stronger students to present this part with you, or if you have a strong group, you can already ask them to do the task on their own.

Before you realize, you are about to finish the class! Finish with a general discussion about opinions aka Part 4. Explain that the theme of Part 4 is always related to Part 3, so during the exam, your students can already start predicting the type of questions that they may be asked! You can either give one question at random or do it as a group discussion.

Remember to always take notes on all the positive things you heard during this class and all the things that need to be improved. I would finish this class with some good old error corrections. You can write the mistakes on the board and give your students a chance to correct themselves. You can also ask them to identify the type of error (vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, etc.). In this way, you also introduce them to different areas of speaking assessment criteria!

And just like that! The class is over! If your classes are a bit longer, or you had some really quick speakers, you can end this class by showing the video of the actual Cambridge speaking exam that uses the exact same paper you just did in this class! If not, you can ask your future exam candidates to watch it as homework.

As I said before, this is my go-to class for all my exam preparation classes and intensive courses, where the time is so precious that I need my students to get into the exam mindset ASAP. You can download the lesson plan and the speaking prompts below!

CELTA – language skills related tasks

On CELTA you are asked to complete four written assignments. Even though you get plenty of help from your tutors, time is pretty tight, and you need to do a lot of individual research. I’d like to show you my assignment 3 with hopes that it will give you some help and inspiration on your CELTA journey.

Written assignment 3 – language skills related tasks was definitely one of my favourites. In this task, you are asked to find authentic material – a video, a song, an article – the sky is the limit, and make a lesson plan around it. I knew exactly what type of article I wanted to work on.

You see, when I first started teaching I was given the opportunity to teach a B2 group of adults at a private company. They were all great and loved discussing difficult and at times controversial topics. Since the company was located in Extremadura, Spain – the region of jamón and in general meat-lovers, I decided to bring an article on vegan burgers. The class went wild, students were engaged and brought a lot of great points to the table. That’s why when our tutor presented us with CELTA written assignment 3, I knew what to do.

Firstly, we had to select two or three pieces of authentic material and present them to our tutors. I selected two different articles from reputable websites (go for good sources with no grammar or spelling errors!):

  1. Charity shops will be full of ‘treasures’ and ‘gems’ following lockdown clearouts – a very topical and hot topic back in June 2020 by Independent. An article about people doing clothes clearouts while stuck at home and donating them to charity shops.
  2. Burger King ‘plant-based’ Whopper ads banned – an article by BBC News about false and misleading advertising. Another interesting and topical piece of authentic material that can lead to discussions on veganism, misinterpretation of information, fine print and many more.

I presented both of my articles and pushed hard to get a green light on the second one as I’d already had a scaffold of the lesson plan in my head. Luckily, it got approved, and I started working on it immediately. I think that out of all of the tasks, this was the easiest one and the one that took me almost no time to prepare. Scroll down to the end of the post to see the effect of my work and download it for inspiration!

So with the task being chosen and justified, I got on with planning. Following everything I’d learnt by that point, I decided to start with a lead-in by topic prediction based on visuals. Draw or show a burger, vegetables and a TV with a cross/ban sign. Give some time to discuss what they think the article is about.

An example of a lead in topic prediction based on visuals.

It, of course, leads nicely to the next activity – reading for gist. Since the article has about 300 words, your students can quickly skim through it to see if their predictions were correct. It is also a good opportunity for them to underline any new vocab, so you can discuss and explain any new words in the next part.

In this written assignment you are asked to prepare all the activities yourself! I decided to go with true, false, or information not given. I thought that putting this tiny twist on this exercise would make this activity a bit more challenging. I decided to go with eight sentences, so the task is long enough but not too long so students can stay focused.

To finish this part students discuss some general questions about the article topic. The main topic is who is in the wrong – Burger King for putting fine print or consumers for not reading it. I only prepared three questions, but in a classroom situation, I would be more than happy to put more emphasis on a discussion part.

Lastly, I wanted to put a creative spin. I asked students to change the controversial Whopper and make their own, brand new BK item with the list of ingredients, the name and last but not least, the slogan! For this, I went on the Burger King website and took a screenshot of the way they present their burgers. Students follow the example and prepare their very own burgers.

I had a chance to do this class in September 2020 with my B2 teenage group. It worked out well, and my students came up with the burger called The Cheesy Queen! I don’t think I need to share the list of ingredients as the name speaks for itself.

Good luck with your CELTA ventures! If you feel like you need some help or just an inspirational guideline to follow, don’t be shy and take a look at my assignment.

If you have already done CELTA, don’t be shy and tell me the topic of your language skills related task!