B1 – Our Home, Our World

The unthinkable has happened! On 12th September, I received a mysterious e-mail from someone from Preply, inviting me to be one of the course tutors. Obviously, I accepted! How could I not? I’ve been teaching Preply ready-made group lessons for about five months now, and it felt like the next natural step in my online teaching career.

After being a bit sceptical and verifying that the message was a real invitation from Preply, I followed all the necessary steps to be a part of this experience. Immediately I took it to Twitter to get some topic course ideas. My first instinct was either environment or celebrity gossip/pop culture. However, this quickly changed as I was asked to provide a short description of the 1-10 hour long course. Since my first idea was to go with the flow, I had to actually sit down and figure it out ASAP.

I had a look at all existing courses to avoid any repetition. There were a few on food, breaking news, and job interviews… The list goes on! I decided to design a six-hour course on housing. The course ranges from describing unusual accommodations, talking about our dream houses, everyday language to rent a house and talking about the problems and future of housing. Below you can see a list of lessons from the B1 course titled My Space, My Place.

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You can download the lesson plan and the presentation at the end of the post!

The class starts by looking at and labelling four different types of accommodations: a houseboat, a block of flats, a chalet and a motorhome. Students take turns talking about one of them, discussing possible features that can be found in each one of them, e.g. a spacious kitchen, beautiful views, convenience, etc. Ask which one of them looks most like their house and which one they would choose to stay in for a short holiday.

Follow this short warm-up discussion by showing pictures and reading a short introduction to an article from Earth Homes Now on cave homes. Despite the text being short as it is, I reduced it even more for the sake of the class, focusing more on speaking rather than reading. After this brief introduction, discuss if students are surprised about the cave homes being still used now. Divide students into pairs/small groups and ask them to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of living in a cave. This activity serves as an introduction to reading for gist in the next part.

Students return to the main room / their desks and begin individual work. They read the rest of the article on the pros and cons of living in the cave home. Elicit the answers (you can write them down) and check if any of the students’ ideas appeared in the text. There are four advantages and two disadvantages mentioned in the text: natural sound insulation, warm in the winter and cool in the summer, cheap to build, natural protection from intruders, but also the risk of collapsing and no natural light.

All Preply group lessons have some kind of focus on grammar. I decided to use it as a revision of comparatives. Students are introduced to comparatives in the next activity, reading for gist. Show six sentences, all containing comparatives and ask them to decide if the sentences are true (T), false (F) or the information isn’t given in the text. Then go over the rules and spelling of comparative forms. Practice the use of grammar by writing three sentences comparing living in a cave and living in a block of flats. I chose a block of flats, as almost everyone has some kind of experience living in such a place, but of course, feel free to change it as needed!

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Finish this part of the lesson by discussing the following questions about living in a cave house: Would you like to live in a cave house? How is living in a cave house different from living in your current location? What would you miss the most if you lived in a cave house or another unusual place mentioned in the class? Monitor the activity and provide students with speaking feedback at the end of it.

If you’ve got enough time left, you can put students into pairs and discuss the differences between houseboats and chalets. This is an optional activity that can be also used earlier during the lesson as grammar practice.

So what do you think about my first lesson in the course? You can find the slides and the lesson plan down below! Stay tuned for more classes.

First lesson for B1 Cambridge exam preparation

Here we go again! Another academic year has already started (or is about to begin). If you have Cambridge PET exam preparation groups, I’ve got something just for you! Don’t waste time and get your students working on their speaking skills from day one. This lesson plan uses the official Cambridge PET speaking exam to get to know your new students and get them used to the structure of the exam.

Whether you’re teaching an intensive or a year (or two) long course, it’s a good idea to start preparing for your lessons ahead of time. It’s usually my go-to plan in any exam preparation trial lesson or as a start to an intensive course, as it lets you get to know the students while showing them that the devil’s not so black as he’s painted. If you enjoy this lesson idea and have B2 level students, feel free to check out the¬†First lesson for B2 Cambridge exam preparation.

Scroll down to get the lesson plan based on the Sample Papers for B1 Preliminary for Schools, additional printable resources and links to get Cambridge exam sample papers.

This class is designed to be taught on the first day of school/course, so the best way to begin is by introducing yourself. Talk briefly about who you are, what you do, your preferences, and where and who you live with. Ensure to be quite personal, after all you want to seem approachable and encourage your students to open up about themselves. Give your students a chance to think of some additional questions for you. If you have a group of students, you can divide them into pairs and ask them to think of two more questions.

There is nothing more nerve-wracking than talking in front of a group of newly-met people, so give a minute or two to think about their brief introductions. Even the strongest students may get blocked on the first day, so it’s good to lower their stress. Encourage them to follow your introduction example, so they know what to say.

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Once the introductions are done, transition to Speaking Part 1 ‘phase 2’. At the end of the post, you can find a downloadable file¬†B1 – Speaking Part 1 and Part 4,¬†in which you can find the most commonly asked phase 2 questions. Hand out one or two questions to each student and ask them to write short two-sentence long answers. Students share their answers with the rest of the group without revealing their questions. Allow others to predict what their question was. In this way, you ensure that everyone is listening to each other and they are engaged in each other’s presentations. At the end of the activity give general feedback and ask about the difficulty of this task. You can reveal that what they’ve just done was PET Speaking Part 1.

Proceed with Speaking Part 2 – the picture description. Show a picture of two girls in the kitchen and as a group think of as many words related to the photo as possible. If you want to make it easier, follow¬†the speaking circle¬†that explains a variety of things that you can focus on while speaking. Provide students with eight categories and ask them to write questions or vocabulary related to each one. You can find out more about the speaking circle in¬†How long does one minute feel like? ‚Äď B1 Speaking Part 2. Elicit vocabulary from different students and write them around the pictures.

Share the second photo of a boy watching football, and give each student two minutes to look at it and think of any possible vocabulary related to it. Divide students into pairs and ask them to describe this picture to each other. Ask students to listen to each other carefully and give feedback at the end of this task.

Part 3 starts by asking a general question – What kind of activities can you do in your capital city? Students may want to share their past experiences and discuss activities that are commonly done in their capital. If you want to gamify this part, put students into small groups and give them a minute or two to think of as many activities as possible. Show a picture of speaking part 3 and check if any of their answers appeared in the exam.

Focus on one of the activities shown in the picture and together think of the advantages and disadvantages of doing it on a school/work trip. Ask students to go back to their groups and give each group three options to think of the pros and cons of each activity. At the end of this task, students share their ideas. If you want to help them out, you can write down all the prompts on the board. Put students into pairs and ask them to have a discussion and choose the best activity to do on a school/work trip to the capital. Listen carefully and at the end of speaking, ask each pair about their final decisions.

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And just like that, you’ve reached the last part of the lesson! Students pick one or two questions (available to download below!) and think about their answers. Remind that this part is always related to part 3 and that there are no wrong answers. Encourage them to speak their mind while providing good reasons. Listen to their answers and take notes throughout the whole lesson. Make sure to give them meaningful feedback at the end of the lesson.

If you have some spare time left, watch an example speaking video to show what an actual exam looks like. If not, you may give it as homework and talk about it at the beginning of your next lesson.

I like using this lesson as an opener to Cambridge exam preparation lessons. It helps students get into the exam mindset right away and proves that there is nothing to be afraid of. Click the links below to get the lesson plan and the speaking prompts.

B1 Listening – Women and Football

It doesn’t matter where you are and who you’re talking to, they can recognise Ronaldo or Lewandowski. Why has football become such an essential part of our lives? Why during a World Cup or any other Championship, does the whole world stop? It seems that anywhere we look we are surrounded by sports bars whose income relies almost solely on showing football matches from all over the world. However, one question should be answered – why women’s football is nowhere near as popular as men’s football?

As an expat living in Spain, I don’t know how many times I was asked which football team I support – Barca or Madrid. The truth is, neither. I was always baffled by the popularity of football and the insane amount of money it brings. What strikes me the most is the popularity of men’s football and the negligence of women’s football. As I was looking for a perfect material to base my lesson on football equality, I found a short podcast by BBC Learning English – 6 minutes English ‘Women’s football’ explaining this phenomenon.

Scroll down until the end of the post to download the presentation and a lesson plan, available for free!

Show pictures of four famous female football players and ask students to name them and predict what they may be famous for. Follow this by showing pictures of four male football players. No matter if your students follow football or not, they will be able to name the men without any issues, or at the very least, they will be able to say what they are known for.

Lieke Martens (Paris Saint-Germain), Alexia Putellas (FC Barcelona), Lucy Bronze (England National Team), Lucie Martínková (Sparta Prague)
Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain), Robert Lewandowski (FC Barcelona), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal National Team), Zlatan Ibrahimovińá (Sweden National Team)

Now that students are prepped and have an understanding of what is going to happen, ask and discuss the main question Why is men’s football more popular than women’s football? Elicit a few answers and see if students can reach a common conclusion. Before finding out the answer, ask a question posed at the beginning of the podcast: When was the first official women‚Äôs football world cup? – A: 1970, B: 1988, or C: 1991. Proceed by playing the first part of the recording (0:00 – 5:20).

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Finish this part by reading the transcript of the podcast and asking if the real reason why women’s football isn’t popular surprises them. Do they think that there may be some other reasons that were not mentioned in the recording? You can find the full transcript of the recording on the BBC website.

The second part of the class deals with six new vocabulary items: to dampen enthusiasm, to ban, a concerted effort, a struggle, to have agency and a backlash. Students match the words with their definitions. Check the answers by listening to the second part of the recording (5:20 – 6:20).

It’s time to put the vocabulary into practice. Students read six questions related to football and fill in the gaps with the words from the previous exercise. Put students into pairs or small groups and let them discuss their answers. Listen to their answers and end this part by giving speaking feedback.

The class may end with a B1 PET style writing – article. If you have enough time, write an article in class, if not give it as homework. Students write a short article dealing with different ways to convince young women to play professional football. They also predict whether this sport has any potential to become as popular as its men’s version.

Click the links below to download the lesson plan and the presentation. You may also adjust this presentation in Canva.

Do online platforms promote ‘lazy’ teaching?

Nowadays, with the online teaching platforms springing up like mushrooms, anyone who speaks English can become an EFL teacher. Even though having a teaching certificate can give you leverage over other unqualified teachers, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful with it. For many, teaching online is a side hustle and an easy way to make some extra cash.

The other day, one of my students stayed with me a bit long on a videocall and gave me a much-needed performance review. He told me what he enjoys about our lessons and how he thinks they are helping him on a day-to-day basis. I always prepare for my lessons. For some of my students, I create presentations and files to keep them engaged, have visual stimulus and in case of lower levels, allow them to understand everything I say. For others, I prepare a script and put things on the whiteboard to make the classes interactive.

Going through coursebooks, searching for useful materials and class preparation take a lot of time, but I don’t get discouraged for two simple reasons – positive feedback and visible student progress. Having a list of presentations and ready-to-go lesson plans, calm me down and allow me to reuse and evolve my current resources and lesson structure. No two lessons are identical.

As I wrote a few months ago in¬†The oversaturated market of ESL teaching, currently there are way too many online ESL teachers. However, I think I’ll let my Preply ratings speak for themselves. Up until this point, all of my students liked my lessons. They were always kind enough to give me feedback and discuss with me their ever-evolving language needs. This respect for respect strategy motivates me to sit down and adapt to their current demands.

One-to-one lessons

Preply, which is the platform I’ve got the most experience with, provides teachers with a resource library. Even though it seems like a useful tool, I have never used it. The explanation for this is very simple – I don’t think these materials are good enough to fill one whole hour. My idea of the resource library was confirmed during the feedback videocall with the student who has got more experience with the platform than I do. During his time on Preply, he’s completed a few Preply courses, which in his words were interesting at first, but got boring quickly.

I believe that teachers deserve to have free time and they should enjoy teaching. They shouldn’t think about class preparation when they’re off, and it’s rather unrealistic to expect every single class to be filled with high-energy levels and excitement. Like anyone else, teachers have better and worse days and having a resource library can remove some of the stress related to class preparation. Also, not all the teachers have the access to many coursebooks and resources, and they may not want to or they may not be able to invest in some materials. The ready-made courses may bring some kind of structure and logical order of teaching. On top of that, if you like your students to prepare before the lesson, they can complete a set of pre-lesson tasks. It can also give them homework to practise anything you did in class without the need for you to spend your free time correcting endless worksheets.

However, I listened to those audios and let me tell you something – they aren’t good. Imagine two Google Translate voices having a conversation. On top of that, all the classes follow the same order:¬†listening ‚ě°ÔłŹ reading ‚ě°ÔłŹ (optional video) ‚ě°ÔłŹ gap fill ‚ě°ÔłŹ writing ‚ě°ÔłŹ speaking (done in class). If all lessons look the same, they tend to be predictable and boring. If you attend a few Preply webinars or complete some of their courses, you can see that even their main tutors, all of them qualified and experienced teachers, supplement their classes with additional sources.

Whether you’re using online resources or your materials, it doesn’t change the fact that you should stay flexible and see where the class takes you. The main complaint of this student was that the tutor blindly followed the questions found in the resource library and stuck with them, even if they didn’t land and the student wasn’t interested in the topic. This is also one of the main reasons why I was so hesitant to use the library, as many times I found the questions a bit confusing and uninteresting. If I’m not excited about the topic, the class isn’t going to be a success. That’s a guarantee.

It’s not all inherently bad. In fact, I often go through their library to check any new topics, look at the structure of the lessons and try to get inspiration when my head is empty. It’s usually a successful method of looking for something good which saves me a lot of time and allows me to stay organised. After all, all those materials were created by a group of professionals.

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Group lessons

As I’ve mentioned many times before, every now and then I teach¬†Group lessons on Preply.¬†I love that I was given this opportunity. It’s a nice and easy way to boost your earnings on slow days. Additionally, you are given all the presentations and lesson plans that you must follow whether you like it or not! I always go through the materials and write a short lesson structure, so I know how to lead this class. However, I’ve got a problem with some email wording. 15 minutes before the class, you receive an email that says that it is your¬†last chance to review your lesson material. In my opinion, 15 minutes may not be enough. Group lessons consist of up to six new students that most likely you’ve never met before. Add the stress of being recorded and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a disaster. In order for the classes to be good, you need to think about the lesson order that suits you, think about perfect pair work moments and also predict some of the mistakes and ways in which you can tackle them. After all, you are going to be rated at the end of the lesson!

I often find mistakes in those presentations, so much so that it became one of my recurring games¬†Spot and correct the error!¬†Another thing is that at times I feel like their grammar explanations are lacking. I tend to add some of my examples or¬†fun facts¬†if there’s enough time and I feel like the students may appreciate my input. It also lets me move smoothly from one topic to another as I know what I want and how I want it. I have some time to think about my instructions, which are crucial in the case of lower levels. So if you think that the students can’t see the difference between a teacher who had a look at the notes and the one who didn’t, you are wrong. Up until this point, I had three students who complained about their past group tutors and said that the classes were a mess.

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Final thoughts

First of all, I should apologise for the clickbaity title. For sure there are many quote-unquote¬†lazy¬†teachers, but I don’t think online platforms intend to promote them. These websites were designed to create a network of teachers and make language learning accessible for everyone. Unfortunately, the process of accepting teachers should be a bit more challenging. Many teachers see it as a side hustle, they often forget about these lessons and give a bad name to those who care.

The internet is full of bad tutor stories. Some come from teachers, who try the platforms they teach on as students, and see first-hand the type of teachers students may be exposed to. I guess it’s important to remember that finding the perfect tutor may take some time. At the end of the day, amongst the plethora of online teachers, only those who put their hearts into their work, stay.

The number one thing I should learn from these websites is to promote student independence. To some degree, I manage to do it, but I’m far from perfection. My classes often focus on speaking with some grammar sprinkled here and there as I believe that certain things can be done on your own. However, I try to be flexible and if I see that they need my help, I devote some time to one particular issue, until I’m sure that my students are confident using it. I often instruct them to study grammar beforehand either by watching some YouTube videos or by referring them to¬†English Grammar in Use 5th edition by Raymond Murphy. I suggest buying the book or downloading an application¬†English Grammar in Use, so they can have a look at some free units with the possibility to invest in a full version.

For now, I’m going to stick to my current teaching style. I enjoy using ready-made plans from websites such as¬†ESLBrains,¬†Linguahouse, or going back to some of my past lessons! There is nothing wrong with using online materials. What matters is the ability to adapt all the materials to your group size and of course needs and interests of your students. I think that this is the key to success and a constant influx of students.

What is your experience teaching/learning online? Do you think it’s possible to find good tutors on the online teaching platforms?

Heatwave-themed – B2 Speaking

Summer classes and intensive courses can be improved by switching up the coursebook content and presenting students with some themed speaking tasks. As we are pushing through another week of unbearably high temperatures, I can’t think of anything more topical than the heatwave and climate change.

Intensive courses and exam preparation classes tend to be a bit tedious and repetitive. That’s why every now and then, I prepare themed lessons centred around a hot topic. Cambridge exam preparation coursebooks always contain one specific unit – the environment and extreme weather conditions. Why not spice your usual class and prepare your students to talk about the heatwave and their feelings about climate change?

This no-prep lesson idea is made of the examiner’s speaking notes, based on an official examiner’s guide which can be found in the FCE Sample Paper and a set of pictures available to download and print. You can also find a presentation for all the online lessons, or if you don’t want to print anything out! Scroll until the end of the post to download the files.

Start the class with a bit changed version of Speaking Part 1. Go in a circle and give each student one word to spell out. It’s a great way to introduce any new vocabulary, but also pre-teach some words that may be used during the exam practice. Additionally, it’s always good to refresh the alphabet and make sure that students are comfortable spelling things out – a skill that can be checked in Listening Part 2. The words included in the speaking are heatwave, scorching or drought.

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Proceed by asking students one or two questions about themselves. All the questions are related to weather and heatwave, for example, Which do you prefer, hot or cold weather and why? Remind them that this part of the exam is an ice-breaker, and students will be asked to talk about their personal lives.

Elicit the rules of Speaking Part 2, in which students talk individually for about a minute about two pictures. After that, another candidate answers briefly a question related to Candidate A’s pictures. There are two sets of pictures, in the first one students analyse two contrasting behaviours of people during the hot weather. In the first picture, the people are spending time in the swimming pool, and in the second, a man is relaxing on the sofa with a visible A/C unit. Give one minute to describe the pictures and answer the question posed above – Why have the people decided to do these activities?

In the second set of pictures, another candidate compares and contrasts a picture of a farmer in a field, and a woman in a hot office. Students talk about both pictures and think about different feelings they might be feeling in these situations.

Speaking Part 3 deals with a pair discussion. Read the hypothetical situation in which students imagine going on holiday to a hot country. They have 15 seconds to look at the question and five ideas of staying safe during heatwaves, for example, spending time by the water or staying hydrated. Students have two minutes to discuss the prompts and then one more minute to discuss which idea is the most feasible on holidays and why.

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The last part of the exam deals with opinion-based questions on hot weather and climate change. Allow students to develop their answers and support their reasons by giving personal examples. I always mention one of my favourite strategies in this part of the exam – give a general idea (what everyone believes), give your own opinion on the matter, and support it by giving personal examples.

Finish the class by giving everyone feedback. You can also ask the students to take notes throughout the whole class. Elicit all the positive things the others did and some areas which they should work on. If you have a bit more time and expertise, you can also give a predicted score with a short explanation.

Who said that the exam preparation classes must be boring and repetitive? If you like this type of no-preparation lesson, check out my other themed speaking for B1-C1 levels:

Click the links below to get your copy!

Cambridge PET – Writing Part 2 (article)

Telling jokes is a thing of the past. Nowadays, people find amusement in comedies, pranks and endless cat videos on YouTube. Present students with a writing exam task and ask them to write an article explaining what makes them laugh and who they like to laugh with. All that while explaining the main points of the Cambridge Preliminary Writing Part 2.

Things that make us laugh are subjective – we all find humour in different things. For me, one of the funniest things must be either certain people, cat videos or good old dad jokes. I also find plenty of laughter inside my classroom. If you want to read and compare some of the best moments from my lessons, you should read my post Laugh it off! in which you can find some relatable ESL moments.

In Cambridge PET writing, students are asked to complete two tasks. Writing Part 1 is a compulsory task, in which students need to reply to a letter or an e-mail. You can find a lesson task and a step-by-step explanation in Cambridge PET – Writing Part 1. In this post, we will focus on Writing Part 2. In this part of the exam, students are asked to choose between an article or a story. This post is dedicated to an article, which can be found in the B1 Preliminary for Schools Handbook.

At the end of the post, you can find the lesson plan, worksheet and answers.

Start the class by giving your students one or two jokes each, depending on the group size. Students read them aloud and, if necessary, explain them (because all good jokes need to be explained!). The intention is to introduce students to dad jokes. All the jokes and so many more you can find on 175 Bad Jokes That You Can’t Help but Laugh At by Reader’s Digest. Here are some of the best ones which can be found on the worksheet.

What do you call a can opener that doesn’t work? A can’t opener!

I sold my vacuum the other day. All it was doing was collecting dust.

Two windmills are standing on a wind farm. One asks, “What’s your favourite type of music?” The other says, “I’m a big metal fan.”

Put students into pairs and tell them to order the jokes from the most to the least funny. Reveal their rankings and check the differences between their sense of humour. Proceed by writing a well-known English saying Laughter is the best medicine. Discuss what this saying means to students and whether they agree with it. Do they have a similar saying in their L1?

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I love including the Speaking Part 3 discussion in almost most of my Cambridge exam preparation lesson plans. It is a great way of creating your task and generating meaningful and engaging discussions. In this case, propose a question that you can find in the exam task What makes you laugh? As a group, think of six different things that make you laugh and write them down. Divide students into pairs and ask them to discuss each prompt and choose the one that makes them laugh the most. Elicit some answers and discuss why these particular things make them laugh. Below you can find what the task should look like and some sample prompts.

Follow this part by introducing the rules of Writing Part 2. Read the exam task and underline the keywords. Proceed by reading two sample answers which can be found in the B1 Preliminary for Schools Handbook. Give them some time to think about the answers and discuss which one is better and why. Introduce students to the writing assessment criteria and point out that it is divided into four different subscales: content, communicative achievement, language and organisation. Briefly go over each one and explain them. You may also print it out and ask students to keep the assessment criteria for future reference.

If this is the first time going over the assessment criteria, analyse and assess one of the sample answers together. Underline any good and bad points and categorise them into different subscales. Together give and explain the score. Students work individually and analyse the second sample answer. Check the scores and compare them with the official examiner’s mark. Discuss how far off their scores are and if they are surprised by the official result.

It’s your students’ turn to write their articles! Whether you choose to do it as a part of the lesson or not, I always like to do the planning part in class, just to make sure that it becomes a habit and that in the official exam, students will spend 5 minutes organising their answers. Using the perfect sample answer (20/20 points!), students plan their answers and share them with the rest of the group.

At this point, you can either finish with general feedback or if you have more time available, you can give them 30 minutes to write their articles and finish with peer assessment. You need to add about 45 minutes more to the original lesson, but if this is the introduction to writing articles, it may be worth it to devote some class time to writing.

Click the link below to get the worksheet with the lesson plan and suggested answers. If you want to edit this worksheet and the lesson plan, you can also access it by going to my Canva file.

What and who makes you laugh the most? Do you think that sense of humour is universal? Do you think it is a good topic for an article?

What makes you nostalgic? – B2 Listening Part 3

The other day, I posted a lesson plan based on a short scientific podcast The Healing Power of Nostalgia. I felt immediate motivation when I saw short extracts of speakers talking about what makes them nostalgic. It made me think of a typical FCE Listening Part 3 exam task, in which students listen to five speakers talking about one topic.

If you missed my last post Let’s get nostalgic – B2 guided listening, click the link and give it a listen. I did this class with a pair of adult students who were excited to tell me about their nostalgia triggers and gladly discussed why even the hardest of times seem like happy memories after some time. Science Friday, the website which provided me with this podcast gem, has much more to offer! Once I saw separate extracts of real people talking about their nostalgia triggers, I started thinking about FCE exam preparation classes, particularly Listening Part 3.

You can find the worksheet with the lesson plan and all the answers at the end of this post.

I thought that the best way of introducing this topic would be by playing sounds, which should induce group nostalgia. Depending on the age and nationalities, you should choose the sounds accordingly, as some of them may not make any sense. The best way of finding out what triggers nostalgia in a particular age group is by searching Nostalgic Sounds + year on the Internet. In my worksheet, I decided to include sounds that I’m familiar with. Listen to the sounds below. Are you familiar with any of them? How do they make you feel? Are there any other sounds that make you feel nostalgic? Why?

Sound 1
Sound 2
Sound 3
Sound 4
Sound 5
Sound 6

If this is the first time doing FCE Listening Part 3, you may want to explain what this task is about and what you need to do to get a good score. You can either refer them to the Cambridge English website or remind them that this listening consists of about 30 seconds long five themed monologues. Students select five correct options from a list of eight possible answers. There is one point available for each correct answer.

This part of the lesson is based on the short extracts of people talking about things that make them nostalgic (found under the summary of the podcast¬†The Healing Power of Nostalgia).¬†Present a typical Listening Part 3 exam task. The students will listen to two speakers talking about things that make them nostalgic (one related to the sound and the other to collectable toys). It’s only a practice round, so students are presented with only five options instead of eight. Read the text and underline any key information. Say that underlining keywords will help them focus on the most important information and avoid any distractors.

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Proceed by listening to Speaker 1 and reading the transcript simultaneously. Identify two distractors and the correct answer. Underline phrases that give you information to justify all your choices. This part should be underlined and labelled for a better understanding of the distractors, as seen below.

Now that students know how to tackle this task, play the recording of Speaker 2. Listen to the recording twice, choose the correct answer and justify your choices. If necessary, show the transcript and underline the distractors and the correct option.

If you haven’t explained it before, remind that in this part of the exam there are five speakers and eight possible answers to choose from. Give students about 30 seconds to read the task and all the options while underlining key information. In this part of the lesson, students listen to five speakers talking about different smells and what they remind them of. Listen to each speaker twice. While checking the answers, discuss all the options and any possible distractors that your students identified in this part of the exam.

All the audios and transcripts are available on Science Friday – The Healing Power of Nostalgia.

Speaker 1
Speaker 2
Speaker 3
Speaker 4
Speaker 5

Finish this part of the class by discussing the smells that make your students feel nostalgic. Are there any smells from the listening that your students can relate to in particular?

If you want to throw another part of the exam into the mix, I always love having a final pair/group discussion based on FCE speaking part 3. Divide students into pairs and show them the question they need to discuss How do these senses make us nostalgic? Students look at the list of five senses and have two minutes to discuss any examples from their lives and the things that make them feel this way. Finish by asking students to decide which of these five senses makes people the most nostalgic and why. Monitor this activity and finish by giving general speaking feedback.

Click the file below to download the worksheet, and if you need to add any changes to the worksheet, you can head to Canva and edit the file accordingly!

B2 – Let’s get nostalgic (podcast)

The older you get, the more you realise the emotional sadness and sense of longing for the past. You start appreciating all the summers you spent in your grandparents’ countryside, running around carefree, worrying only about making it on time to watch your favourite TV show. This podcast-based class should make your B2 adult student look back at their past through rose-coloured glasses and reminisce about their childhood.

Recently I’ve noticed a pattern all over my social media pages – millennial nostalgia. The content creators hit the right spot, reflecting on our sense of style and songs we loved listening to as children. We poke fun at the use of iPods and the extensive use of photobooth on iMacs. We think about different food and drinks that we used to enjoy and which don’t exist anymore. I got so into it that I started scrolling through the #millenialnostlagia, laughing and feeling warm and fuzzy inside.

Of course, since we all come from different backgrounds, our nostalgia triggers are unique. However, no matter our past, we can all agree on the origins of nostalgia: the smell, the taste, sounds (music), films and TV shows, and certain emotions that assisted us during that time. Since it’s such a feel-good topic, I believe it may spark some interesting discussion about specific things that remind us of better times.

This lesson is based on the podcast by Science Friday titled The Healing Power of Nostalgia, which can be assigned as a pre-lesson listening task or can be listened to in class. Since the topic is quite specific, it is targeted at adult students who may have some experience with nostalgia. You can download the worksheet with the lesson plan and the answers at the end of the post.

Start the class by thinking about different things that make us nostalgic. If you have a bigger group, you can ask students to write down three things that make them feel this way on sticky notes, and put them on the whiteboard under different categories. If you have smaller groups or 1:1, you can show the categories and elicit things that make students nostalgic in each area. Ask individual students to share their stories with the rest of the group.

An example of the nostalgia categories and triggers may look like on the whiteboard.

Depending on the amount of time available, you can do this activity in two different ways. You can send the podcast (available on SoundCloud) and ask the students to listen to it before the class, or you can do it in the form of a guided listening. If you choose to do the latter, focus their attention on Exercise B and ask them to read the question and three available options. At this point, do not explain any words yet. Play the recording (-17:26 – -16:08) and check the answers to the question about what makes the host nostalgic. This should introduce some new podcast-related vocabulary (e.g. a host). Check the diagram from the lead-in and compare your nostalgia triggers with the ones mentioned before.

Continue by dividing students into pairs or small groups, and discussing the benefits of nostalgia. Ask to think of the best way to define this word. Listen to the next part of the recording (-16:08 – -14:06) and check the answers to the questions. The benefit of nostalgia mentioned in the podcast was an emotionally protective force in times of crisis. Do the students agree with this statement, or can they come up with other more appropriate or relatable advantages of nostalgia?

Proceed with some individual work. Students read two questions regarding feelings associated with nostalgia and the reason people used to associate nostalgia with negativity. Continue by listening to (-14:06 – -12:05), then check and discuss the answers.

Put students again into the same pairs or groups as before and ask them to talk about different ways in which we can induce nostalgia. Listen to the next part of the recording (-12:05 – -10:47) and compare your suggestions with the ones mentioned in the podcast, e.g. listening to music, consuming media that reconnects us to the past, journaling and scrapbooking. As a group, collect some ideas and check how students like to induce nostalgia and when they tend to do that. Discuss if anyone has ever tried or would try scrapbooking in the future.

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Continue with individual work. Students read two questions about different ways of processing nostalgia and the negative effects it may have on people who tend to be standoffish in their relationships. Students predict the correct answers and listen to the recording (-10:47 – -8:11) to check the answers. Finish this part by discussing whether they agree with what was said in the recording.

Once again, ask the students to work in pairs and think of the differences between personal and group nostalgia. Listen to the recording (-8:11 – -6:31) and check the answers (personal nostalgia is unique to each person, while group nostalgia depends on generations, people living in the same area, etc.) Discuss different examples of group nostalgia in their countries. I know that for me, a millennial from Poland, a big part of group nostalgia is listening to music channels (Viva!) and drinking the artificially sweet beverage Frugo (sadly, discontinued and then brought back to be terminated again).

The next part of the listening involves talking about different parts of the brain that are included in the process of nostalgia. The second part of the task checks their knowledge of vocabulary. Students need to find the word that best describes the feeling of nostalgia. In the podcast, this word is gratitude, which needs to be matched with its synonym (homesickness, appreciativeness or greatness). Listen to the recording (-6:31 – -4:08) and check the answers.

Since we are on the topic of brain activities, students work in small groups again and discuss the accuracy of their memories. Listen to the recording (-4:08 – -2:57) and report on what was said about the way we tend to remember things (it’s a memory of a memory). Finish this part by discussing if the students are maybe unsure of some of their memories and whether they remember some things from stories or pictures and not from living those experiences.

The podcast finishes with a short comparison of our nostalgia and memories to movie making and editing. Play the recording until the end (-2:57 – 0:00) and check the answers. Finish by writing a quote, ‘People can be very nostalgic about difficult times in their lives’ and discuss whether they agree with it or not. If the topic isn’t too sensitive, students may share their personal stories and how they look back at them through rose-coloured glasses.

Since the lesson is for older students, ask them to use their phones to search for things that induce group nostalgia in their countries, e.g. the sound of dial-up Internet, specific food and drink products, etc. Present them to the rest of the group and discuss how these things make them feel and what they make them think of. Below you can find some of the things that certainly make me feel quite nostalgic.

Click the link to access the PDF directly from Canva (+ edit it if needed!) or click the link below to access the ready-made PDF with the teacher’s notes and the answers at the end of the file!

What induces your nostalgia? Do you know some of the things from my picture above? What would you add to the nostalgia list?

Disclaimer: All the time stamps of the podcast are measured backwards. You can play this podcast directly from the website and check the time above!

B2 – Separating the art from the artist (guided reading)

Recently the whole world united, as we all witnessed twists and turns in the biggest trial of the 21st century between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. Even though there was one clear (public) winner of this case, I can’t help but feel rather disappointed that such a great actor had so many skeletons in his closet. It made me wonder – will I ever be able to truly enjoy Johnny Depp’s movies again?

As a material creator and a teacher, you often need to search for relevant and topical articles that are interesting for your students. The trial brought millions of people in front of the screens, streaming hours of court footage and becoming interested in law vocabulary. There are many different angles from which you can approach this topic. From the strict vocabulary side, perfect use of question tags (You didn’t expect Kate Moss to testify, did you?) or talking about more serious topics such as domestic violence.

Initially, I was planning on talking about the MSNBC article The Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial, America has lost, which poses a serious question – Why were we invested in the trial of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard? It also deals with the consequences and the impact it may have on domestic violence victims who may be too afraid to come forward and talk about their experiences. I started digging and thinking about it more and eventually, I landed on The New York Times article Can We Separate the Art from the Artist by Jennifer Finney Boylan.

This time, instead of a lesson plan, I prepared a short presentation that can be used as a part of guided reading and a full-class discussion. Since we are heading towards the end of the academic year, lessons get a bit lighter, so it may be a nice way of finishing with a conversation about our favourite films, songs and TV shows that include a list of problematic people. Head to the end of the post to download the presentation.

Start the discussion by listening to American Pie by Don McLean. Ask what kind of emotions the song brings and if you enjoy it. It’s an old classic, so it may not be approved by the younger generations, but they may be familiar with its cover by Madonna. Proceed by reading the first part of the article, discuss how the author of the article feels when she hears this song and compare it with Don McLean’s ex-wife’s feelings. Which feelings are closer to your students’ emotions and why? Talk about the effects music has on us. Discuss if you have any songs that make you involuntarily happy or sad.

At this point, you may want to deal with some of the law jargon such as plea agreement, to plead or criminal mischief. Proceed by talking about the guilt of Don McLean and the plea deal that he accepted. Discuss who the students believe more in this situation, Don or his ex-wife. Despite their opinions on the artist, talk if his music should be banned from the radio or if it should be celebrated.

Show a list of different movies, TV shows and songs that all feature problematic artists, such as Charlie Sheen, Roman Polanski or Michael Jackson. Discuss if students still enjoy these pieces of art, or if they sabotaged them once they found out about the crimes of the artists. Go over each person and the gravity of their offences. Make sure to go over the allegations of Gary Glitter and his song which was used recently in the infamous Joker stairs scene, as mentioned in the other part of the article.

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The next part talks about the seriousness of crimes and if they should be a deciding factor in cancelling the art of problematic artists. You can also think about the old crimes and if our perspective on them changes with time. Is it possible that some of the criminal offences can expire and shouldn’t enter the equation? Shift the conversation into removing certain pieces of art and not others and the requirements they need to meet to completely erase a song or a movie. Come back to the part about¬†American Pie¬†and think if this song deserves to be preserved in the National Recording Registry.

Focus on the Rolling Stones’s song Brown Sugar. Analyse the lyrics and the meaning behind them. Discuss if the students can see why the lyrics were seen as controversial and racist. Follow up by reading about the removal of the song from the tour and if it was a good decision to make. Is it possible that some art may change its meaning over time?

Finish this discussion by talking about our feelings towards the art coming from the damaged artists. Discuss the author’s feelings about it and compare them with your students’ feelings. Did this class change their mind about some of the artists? Will they reconsider listening to songs and watching movies of artists who were accused of certain offences? If you want to make it a bit more topical, you can also bring Johnny Depp into the mix and think if you will watch his movies and support his future endeavours.

Click the link to my Canva project if you are interested in the presentation, but would like to adapt it to your needs. If you like what you see, click the link below to get the PDF version of the guided reading presentation.

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?

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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!