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?

Your year in review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Technical language vs. ESL

ESL teachers are expected to know all about the language. Of course, we have no problems explaining grammar, preparing for the exams and of course, going over the most commonly used vocabulary. What happens when you have to teach something you have no expertise on? Should ESL teachers have any other educational background to be more valuable?

One of my students has been preparing for the B1 Cambridge exam.
We’ve been working on all the exam tasks. We practised describing pictures, writing emails, and most importantly, answering according to the key! There are times when I question the accuracy of those exams and if this certificate verifies students abilities to function in the “real” world of English speaking. That’s why when I was asked to leave the exam preparation for two weeks and focus on helping with the fishing school exam preparations, I happily agreed.

I know nothing about fishing vessels, different types of fishing methods and gear used for each one of them. That’s why I started by studying the coursebook on my own. Since it is an adult evening school, there are students of all English levels, ranging from A1 to B2. Although the level is quite low, I found it quite challenging for one main reason – there were many new words to understand and memorise. The coursebook is packed with new vocabulary and explanations. It made me feel quite overwhelmed, so I decided to make a set of worksheets with definitions and pictures. If you are interested in those activities, you can download them for free (with answers!!) at the end of this post.

We went over all the worksheets I’ve prepared and supplemented them with free-hand drawings. I know my most effective way of studying and memorising new material. As my objective is for him to pass the exam, I wanted to give him a variety of different studying methods to make this experience pleasant and useful.

Apart from the ship parts and types of netting, we also revised the types of fish that they are designed to catch and their overall impact on the environment. This student is quite shy and it takes some effort to interest him in any topic. However, this time was a bit different. For the first time in a long time, I saw him genuinely excited about the class. He was happy to label all the pictures and even proceeded by explaining to me the environmental impact and the legal problems with the fishing methods.

Even though it took me a long time to prepare for this class and even longer to learn the new vocabulary, I realised one important thing – my educational background in environmental engineering, definitely helped me understand the topic. First of all, I enjoyed the challenge. Second of all, it reminded me of the marine science course I took in the first year of my master’s degree. I noticed that I was able to engage in a meaningful discussion on the fishing gear and its impact on the environment.

We finished with a discussion about this exam revision. I apologised to him for my lack of knowledge on the matter. I explained that I really tried my best to understand and give him an accurate description of the fishing industry, but I still wanted him to fact check some of the things we talked about. He told me that he appreciated my effort and that it helped him a lot (mostly because he didn’t have to study on his own). Then told me something that truly shocked me…his current technical English teacher doesn’t know anything about the fishing industry and what’s even scarier, apparently she doesn’t know much about the language either. She has a B1 level and all of their lessons are done in Spanish.

How is that even possible? How can a person with a low language level and no technical background be responsible for the education of a group of people? In my opinion, at the end of this course, the students will be able to point to different fishing-related objects and name them, but nothing more than that. These classes won’t prepare them to work in an international environment in the future.

I think that the best combination is to have an ESL teacher with additional educational background. My ESL experience helped me prepare a successful set of revision notes that also focus on possible exam questions. My scientific background helped me focus on the utility of this studying material. I didn’t want to focus on vocabulary only. I wanted to also categorize the items based on their functions.

We still have a few revision classes left. One of them will focus on writing a job application for a fishing expert and an oyster harvester. I’m so happy that I got a chance to work on something slightly different. It woke me up from the Cambridge preparation slumber and doing the same activities over and over again. Most importantly, it gave me the feeling of doing something relevant. I enjoyed getting back into the science mode and refreshing some knowledge obtained in the master’s degree.

What do you normally teach? Do you focus on the exam preparation or do you also dip your toes in more technical or scientific topics? If you are interested in seeing my worksheets, click the links below and get the worksheets with the answers for free

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.

Advertisements

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.