Christmas themed B1 speaking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cambridge PET – Listening Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 1 – Underline the keywords

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

Step 2 – Identify and predict vocabulary

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

Step 3 – Listen and choose the answer

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

Step 4 – Justify the answers

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

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

Click the links below to download all the files!

Cambridge Exam Score Templates

Who said that the ESL teachers don’t need to know math? We do math more than we would like to admit. All Cambridge exam preparation teachers, I’ve got something just for you!

As a teacher in Spain, you do quite a lot of things. You get to teach all the ages and levels, and probably one of the most common things – you prepare for the Cambridge exams. If you’ve never prepared for the Cambridge exams, don’t worry, there are plenty of resources on the internet that can help you understand what you should do and what the exams are like.

What I found the most challenging was correcting the exams and explaining the scores to students. After three years of preparing for the Cambridge exams (this includes the intensive summer courses), I think I finally understand what’s going on there. Let me show you my system, how I present the grades to my future candidates and how I keep myself organised, which is especially important before the exams when all you do is give the exams left and right.

I’ve prepared a set of Excel sheets that you can use to stay organised and to help your students see their continuous progress. The first sheet is a detailed breakdown of all the components, scores, percentages and an overall score that can be shared with students and parents.

The worksheets are designed to help your students see each part separately and monitor their continuous progress. The idea is to give this sheet to your students after they complete each mock exam. In the case of teenagers, you may also want to share this file with their parents. The file is fully editable, so you can put the date, the name of your student and the name of the test.

Each part is divided into subsections that give a better overview of the exam and will help you pinpoint the problem areas so you can work on them in the future. It also includes the minimum points needed to “pass” each part to keep your students motivated. All the minimum scores and results breakdown were taken from the KSE Academy.

The most important part is the final percentage score. It’s done by summing all the % scores per section and dividing them by the number of parts (in the case of B1, it is divided by 4 – reading, listening, writing and speaking). As you can see in the example above, I included a percentage indicator. This is not fully accurate, but I think it can give you a good overview of your students’ progress. Unfortunately, we can’t know the exact Cambridge score as it varies from one exam to another. Therefore, if your students find one exam much easier than others, this means that other Cambridge candidates probably think the same, so the score would be calculated differently on the Cambridge calculator. If you want to understand a bit more about the Cambridge English scale, go and watch a webinar on that topic.

However, I feel that it’s a safe bet when your students score more than 70% on all the exams. This means that they’re ready to take and “pass” the official exams. I intentionally put “pass” in the quotation marks because if students fail their level exam, they should be rewarded with a lower-level certificate. For example, if your B1 student scores less than 140 on the Cambridge English scale, they will be given an official title for the A2 level. Not what they wanted, but better than nothing.

This is the second part of the Excel sheet. It is designed to help you stay organised. I always find it challenging to keep a list of tests that my students have already completed. You can put the name of your student, the date of the exam, the test number (was it their first, second, third, etc.) and the test name. You can include the book title or the source of the exam, as well – trust me on that one.

The rest is the same breakdown as before, so you can see the progress of your students and identify the most confusing areas. In the end, you have a total score, so you can see if your students are ready to take the exam or if they need a bit more practice. Below you can download the Cambridge scores breakdown for students and the scores organiser for the B1 level. To get the full set of sheets for all the levels go to my TpT store – Cambridge scores breakdown – students and Cambridge scores breakdown – teachers. You can also get your copies by clicking the one-time payment button.

How do you stay organised? I need all the tips possible!

Click below to get the full versions of the Cambridge scores breakdown Excel sheets.