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 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.

Advertisements

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 (with solutions) and CCQs!

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 post-CELTA Joanna was so organised, as she saved me some time. Especially now, when I have three B2 exam candidates who will definitely from those lesson plans.

This lesson consists of a lesson plan which 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 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 additional questions for me. These can be about anything that they want to know!

Advertisements

Then it’s time for my students to say something 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 may have 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 found in the sample paper. Divide students into two groups. Each group thinks of as many words as they can 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 of 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 having nightclubs. 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.

Advertisements

Before you realize it, 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 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 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!

Happy Ice Cream Month!

As we transition from June to July, we go from pride month to ice cream month. I think it deserves a lesson that celebrates both of these reasons.

I have met many ESL teachers who often bring their passion into their classrooms -travelling, crafts, learning languages or even space! It made me think – what is my thing. Well, there are a few things – crafts, knitting, travelling and, of course, ice cream! Anytime is good to celebrate this delicious invention, but I think that ice cream is an appropriate summer or pre-summer topic. So if you teach in July and you can afford a theme lesson, why don’t you check out my lesson plan about Ben & Jerry’s, their values and of course their tasty treats!

This lesson is made of a lesson plan, a listening worksheet, a project worksheet and video transcripts. All the files are available for free at the end of the post!

This B2+ level class starts with guessing and analysing Ben & Jerry’s slogan peace, love and ice cream. You can ask your students to discuss their favourite ice cream flavours (in general) and if you are one of the lucky ones who lives in a country where this legendary ice cream shop exists, you can even discuss students’ favourite Ben & Jerry’s flavours.

I spent quite a lot of time thinking and searching for the perfect authentic material about ice cream and when I opened a Ben & Jerry’s website it felt like I entered an ESL heaven. I found two overview videos, one about the company and the other one about its values. Continue the class talking about the general company values, the conversation should go to fair trade and animal welfare, plus any additional topics that students come up with. Watch the video Ben & Jerry’s overview and check if students’ predictions were correct. In case of any issues you can watch it again with subtitles or go over the transcript available for free below.

This first video is filled with great vocabulary. Your learners will not only benefit from listening to a native speaker, but you can easily turn it into a class about food related idioms, for example to bite off more than you can chew or to lick the problem!

The class then moves to the main video that focuses on company’s values. Before watching Ben & Jerry’s values, students work in pairs and predict the missing words. Watch the video and check the answers. To get to the main part of the listening, give your learners some time to read and understand the questions. It is also a good idea to read the video transcript before and mention any vocabulary that may interfere with full understanding of the video.

Discussing one’s values and beliefs can be quite heavy for some of your learners, why don’t you finish on a high note? Talk about the most unusual ice cream names, including the ones from Ben & Jerry’s – for sure your students are familiar with some of them! Look at the top 10 Ben & Jerry’s flavours and think of the list of ingredients that can be found in each ice cream. You can make it into a competitive game by giving points for one correct ingredient! Then let your students rank the flavours and check the answers found at Ben & Jerry’s blog post with their annual ice cream ranking!

After bombarding your students with such creative names and abundance of ingredients, there is no better way of finishing the class than by letting your students create and name their own ice cream flavours!

Happy Ice Cream month – make sure to celebrate every day!

Go ahead and download all the lesson files for free!