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.

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 – the 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 the 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.

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 it is mentioned in the other part of the article.

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?

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!

School gardens competition – A2 Reading Part 2

Spring is my favourite season, and it’s finally here! As I was thinking about a perfect lesson plan for this moment, I went through exam papers and found a reading task on school gardens competitions. I thought that this topic was ideal for this moment. It can be used to refresh garden, fruit and vegetable vocabulary, while simultaneously teaching KEY for Schools candidates how to successfully answer Reading Part 2.

I realised that I’ve been too focused on my B1 PET students and postponed all the activities for other levels, especially A2 KEY. I always enjoy going through free and readily available activities and using them in my lessons as a part of official Cambridge exam preparation. It shows that the sky is the limit, and you don’t need to pay a lot to prepare engaging and high-quality lessons.

This class focuses on understanding the Reading Part 2 exam task and using existing knowledge of vocabulary to correctly match the answers. It is a very similar task to the ones that you can find on any other higher-level Cambridge exams. You can download this task (and many others) by clicking the link Sample Papers for A2 Key for Schools. You can find this lesson plan and any additional worksheets at the end of the post.

This lesson plan can be a follow-up after a garden and vegetable vocabulary lesson or as a vocabulary reinforcement.

Start the class with a quick vocabulary revision and/or introduction that will be needed to know to complete the exam task. Divide the students into groups and play Taboo with the words vegetable, flower, insect, butterfly, carrot, potatoes, wall and to grow. You can also use more garden-related words if you have time. Once students guess all the words, put the Taboo cards on the board and ask what they all have in common. For example, Where can you find them? Where can you do these activities? The answer is, of course, a garden.

Show three pictures of gardens and ask students to describe what they can see. Ask students which of these three gardens is the best and explain why. Vote on the best garden. Proceed by handing out Reading Part 2 texts School gardens competition. You can find them by downloading Sample Papers for A2 Key for Schools, pages 4 and 5. Students read the three descriptions and match them to the pictures. Since you have already started this class by going over vocabulary, the texts shouldn’t cause too many problems.

Now that your students are already familiar with the texts, explain the rules of the exam task. Students read seven questions, followed by three texts. They need to match the questions with the text that best answers each one. If it’s the first time doing this type of activity, go over each question and underline any key information. Students work individually and look for the answers to the questions in the text. Before checking the answers, you can put students into pairs to compare the answers. Discuss the answers as a group, and make sure to find justification for each in the text.

It’s time for your students to enter their school gardens into a competition. Give each student some time to draw and write a paragraph about their gardens. Finish the class by presenting their projects and voting (anonymously?) on the best school garden. Make sure to display those gardens on your classroom wall for everyone to see!

Click below to download the lesson plan, pictures of gardens and the garden taboo.

B1 – Pronunciation maze – /d/ and /t/

On Thursday, 24th February 2022, I attended a Cambridge webinar for teachers on Developing Speaking Skills for B1 Preliminary and B2 First for Schools with a focus on pronunciation. In this one hour session, the trainers showed many pronunciation exercises that may help our students in the speaking part of the exam. This webinar coincided with one of my 1:1 B1 Preliminary classes on Past Simple regular verbs, which motivated me to create this lesson plan.

Whenever I teach Past Simple and regular verbs, I always spend a good chunk of class ensuring that my students pronounce -ed verbs confidently. The pronunciation of /ɪd/ doesn’t usually cause many problems, as it is quite easy to remember the rule and hear the difference. The confusion appears when differentiating between /t/ and /d/. The difference is minimal and usually doesn’t impede the understanding. However, one of the activities shown during the webinar, called the pronunciation maze, can be used to practise pronunciation and help students with the identification of verbs ending with /d/ and /t/ sounds.

The class can be a part of grammar explanation or can be a stand-alone lesson. In my opinion, it would be best to use it as a separate class. In this way, it serves as a revision of regular tenses in Past Simple. You can download the lesson plan, the worksheet, the list of celebrities and the maze game for free at the end of the post.

Start the class by playing the celebrity weekend. Say that you are someone famous and students need to guess who by asking questions in the Past Simple. Answer by talking about your weekend as this celebrity. You can make this into a game and allow students to work in groups. Make sure that students use correct question word order. You may want to write down some of them on the board. The first group to guess the person wins! I learnt about this activity a while back, but recently got reminded of it again when watching Charlie’s lessons video – Speaking Activities Volume 3.

Now it’s your students’ turn! Each student gets a different famous person (or thinks of one on their own!) and answers questions which you can find on the Worksheet – Celebrity weekend. Monitor the activity and correct any mistakes. Make sure that students use the correct forms of regular and irregular verbs in the Past Simple. Once everyone finishes, students read the answers and the others must guess who the famous people are.

Ask students to go over the questions and their answers and ask them to underline all the regular past verbs. Write them down on the board and make sure that you have a wide range that covers all pronunciations of -ed – /t/, /d/ and /ɪd/. Once you have them all written down, model and drill the pronunciation. Elicit that -ed can be pronounced in three ways. Draw a table on the board with three columns, each designated for one way of pronouncing. Students work in pairs and divide the verbs into three columns.

Check the answers and explain the rules behind -ed pronunciation. The pronunciation /ɪd/ of -ed is easy to understand and hear. Say that all regular verbs ending with the t or d sound in their infinitive forms are pronounced as /ɪd/ in the Past Simple.

The problems begin when explaining the difference between /t/ and /d/. Say that /t/ sound is reserved for verbs ending in unvoiced sound. In the webinar, it was explained that we can visualise it by placing a piece of paper in front of our mouths and saying a word ending in an unvoiced sound, for example, stop, look, wash, kiss. The paper moves as the air come out of our mouth when saying these words. When saying the words ending in voiced sounds, the air does not come out in the same way. Instead, you can tell your students to place two fingers on their throats and feel the vibrations that occur when saying these sounds, for example, cleaned, damaged, loved, offered.

Now that students understand the rules, ask them to pronounce the words written in the table, making sure that they pay attention to the correct pronunciation, especially of /d/ and /t/. To reinforce the pronunciation, you can play a game shown to us during the webinar. Present students with a maze made of words in their regular past forms. Students need to leave the maze by following the /t/ or /d/ sounds. You can download both at the end of the post!

The webinar on Developing Speaking Skills for B1 Preliminary and B2 First for Schools was great and I’m very happy that I attended it. I can’t wait for more webinars and would advise being on the lookout for them, as they can help or at least refresh your memory and remind you of some activities that otherwise you might have forgotten about.

Click the links below to download all the files needed to complete this lesson plan!

My very first trial lesson on Preply

So it finally happened! After months of debating and postponing the recording of the video for Preply, I made it. I sat down, recorded the video and after only one day of waiting, my application was approved. I assumed that just like with any other teaching platform I’ve used before, I will wait a week and book maybe a student or two. Spoilers alert – I was wrong.

Once I got accepted to be a Preply English tutor, I completed their four internal self-study courses:

  1. How to create a profile that gets students
  2. How Preply works
  3. The Preply classroom
  4. Preply Methodology for English subject tutors

It took me about an hour to complete all four of them and to be completely frank, I got a little confused. I assumed that I have some time to play around with it and figure it out before I get booked. What I hadn’t anticipated was that I’d get my very first class booked for the next day.

Let me share my Preply experience with you!

1. Before the class

I have had plenty of trial lessons before. I normally follow my routine and focus on delivering a demo lesson just to give a taste of what my lessons look like and what you can expect of me as a teacher.

However, Preply suggests using their built-in agenda to have a successful trial lesson. This feature got me just a little bit nervous.

I decided to follow some of their steps, but make it my own, so I feel comfortable teaching it. As I was wondering what to do during the first class, I searched for inspiration online and found a perfect video that dispelled all my doubts.

First of all, I was doubtful of the Preply courses and wasn’t sure whether they were optional or I could refer to them from time to time. Martin Sketchley from ELT Experiences discusses this point with his student during the trial lesson. He says that even though there is a library of resources available, he likes to use his materials because they are more complete and aligned for students. I felt relieved and decided to follow Martin’s lesson structure and some of his insightful questions and information about the platform and creating the perfect English course. I adapted it to my very first student (level A2/B1).

Below you can see my idea of the first class with a demo lesson on question word order and question intonation.

TimeProcedure
5 mins1. Welcome the student.
2. Share your screen and make sure that she can see it.
3. Discuss the lesson objectives.
8 mins1. Show questions with missing words.
2. Student fills in the gaps with the missing verbs.
3. Discuss the answers to the questions and get to know your student.
7 mins1. Show a variety of topics, e.g. family, studies, profession, hobbies, etc.
2. Student chooses topics and asks the teacher about anything she wants.
3 mins1. Discussion feedback. Discuss the strengths and areas for improvement based on speaking.
5 mins1. Discuss the Preply classroom and Preply tools.
2. Ask if the student is familiar with all the tools.
3. Talk about your favourite platforms and how you generally teach (the videoconference platform, sharing materials, homework, etc.)
7 mins1. Discuss the placement test and the course focus.
15 mins1. Demo lesson: Grammar – question word order and intonation.
2. Show different ways in which you can return questions. Ask the questions and discuss the answers. Give the student opportunity to use return questions prompts.
3. Mention that one of the ways to return questions is by changing intonation, e.g. Where are you from? – Where are you from?
4. Show more questions and identify words that carry information.
5. Listen and check the answers.
6. Model and drill question intonation.
7. Explain that in English, unlike in Polish or Spanish, questions are never made by intonation, e.g. You are going with us?
8. Go over some questions and elicit the word order in each. Put the words in the table under correct headings.
9. Look at the sentences and discuss which ones are correct and which ones are incorrect. Correct the mistakes.
10. Answer the questions from the exercise.
11. Error correction and feedback.
10 mins1. Lesson feedback. Discuss what the student liked about the lesson.
2. Talk about the future class expectations and what she would like to learn.
3. Schedule the future lesson.

I supported my lesson plan with a simple yet aesthetically pleasing presentation. If you want to see my presentation, you can download it for free at the end of the post.

2. During the class

I entered the classroom before the lesson to see how all of the Preply tools work. I had no issues before the class, so I decided to spend the rest of the time relaxing. The class started on time without any hiccups. We made small talk to break the ice and I decided to continue with my presentation. That’s when the problems began.

On any other videoconference platform, it is possible to choose an application that you want to share. This option was available to me before the class. During the lesson, I was only left with sharing my entire screen. It surprised me, but I decided to do that instead. Another thing I realised was that share the sound button seems to appear and disappear whenever it pleases. It was there when I was playing around before the class, but it conveniently disappeared during the lesson. Luckily, we didn’t do listening, so I decided to model and drill pronunciation myself.

Obviously, I was worried about not following the Preply recommended courses, but as it turned out it worked in my favour. The student has tried other tutors before and said that she’s done many of the courses with them and was pleasantly surprised that I came prepared. She said that it looks more professional and it made her feel that I thought about her before the lesson.

The class continued without any issues. We liked each other, and we booked another class next week! In fact, I was able to schedule it for my student, as accidentally she paid for four hours of classes with me. This was done in the last five minutes. In fact, she was surprised when I told her that it was time to finish because we had a great time talking and getting to know each other.

Class booking is very simple and if you use a Google Calendar, all your other commitments get immediately applied, so Preply students can’t take that spot. I used to use the Outlook Calendar before because it was connected to my laptop. Now all my classes are synchronised with the Google Calendar and the Preply Calendar. It’s just much easier.

3. After the class

The class was a success. I got a new student who I enjoyed spending time with, and I think that we can develop a nice long-term relationship. However, I tend to be a little bit critical of myself and my teaching, so here we go.

First of all, I overplanned. I guess it’s better than underplanning. I will keep my presentation as it is and will reuse it with some of my future students. I think that one day, I may have a student who isn’t as talkative and we may be able to go through the whole demo lesson without any delays.

Another important thing is that for the first time in my teaching career I have Polish students. I’m a native Polish speaker and I decided that I won’t be using it in class, unless necessary. I think that the second I show that we can communicate in Polish, this will be the go-to language, and this isn’t the point of this class. This particular student enjoyed this aspect because it felt more natural for her to communicate in English than in Polish, and we want to keep it this way!

I may be using the Preply recommended courses with some students, but definitely not with all of them. This student enjoyed the personal touch and thought that it showed professionalism. Of course, we don’t always have to use presentations as the main way of delivering information. I’ve been using presentations for a while now and I think that it’s a much more structured way of explaining certain things, for example, grammar. Additionally, some students have been on Preply for some time now and have completed some of the courses. By using your materials, you can make sure that everything they learn is taught in a new way. This student also gave me a lot of creative freedom and said that she’s happy to follow my materials and wants to learn following my methodology.

So that’s my experience using the Preply platform. So far, I’m happy with it because I’ve never been able to get that many students in such a short time. I still have a long way to fully understand all the features, but I’m sure that it’s a matter of time before I’m comfortable with it.

Have you tried Preply before? If so, what was your first experience like? If not, would you like to try it?

Starters – Listening Part 4 – FRUIT!

Language exams can be taken at pretty much any age possible – very young learners included! There are many opinions for and against examining children. Some people believe that we need to prepare to take exams early on, and get ready for the adult world, filled with examinations, courses and certificates. Others believe that children shouldn’t be subjected to this type of stress and all YL education should be done through playtime and games. In my opinion, we should have the best of both worlds, and the Starters Cambridge exam proves that it’s possible to test the language level of young learners while keeping it light and fun.

Before I moved onto the digital world of teaching and started focusing on teenagers and adults, I used to teach (very) young learners in person. My groups were divided into Cambridge levels – Starters, Movers and Flyers. At the end of every trimester, I had to deliver a personalised assessment of each student, all of it supported by their final score for the Cambridge mock exam. Based on their final results, I decided which student could take the official Cambridge exam and move to a higher-level group.

For this reason, we used Cambridge exam preparation coursebooks (Fun for Starters) and Cambridge past papers. The exams are simple and relatively fun, for example, there are anagrams in the reading exam and lots of colouring in the listening exam. My favourite part of the Starters exam is Listening Part 4. I always enjoyed my students at the highest concentration levels, looking for the right colours as if their lives depended on it!

I have been working on exam-style vocabulary worksheets for Starters for some time now. When I saw free Starters Practice Papers 2 with a perfect Listening Part 4 activity, I decided to finally use my worksheets and prepare an exam preparation lesson plan for VYL.

Head to the end of the post to get a free set of worksheets focusing on fruit, or go to my TpT store to get the full version, including sixteen words related to fruit and vegetables.

Download the fruit flashcards, print them out, and if possible, laminate them! Hide the fruit flashcards/realia around the classroom. Tell students that there are eight fruits hidden in the room. Students walk around and find them. As they give them back to you, ask them to repeat their names after you. Ask them to sit down and repeat the new vocabulary after you. Finish by showing the flashcards for a split second. Students say the fruit they think they saw. Then, place flashcards on the floor and say the name of the fruit. Students race to touch the correct flashcard. You can change instructions to touch the fruit of a particular colour.

Time for a settler. Hand out anagram worksheets. Students order the letters and write the names of fruits. You can put the flashcards on the board to help them with the spelling and the letter shape. Follow this activity by completing a picture dictionary. Students cut out the pictures of fruit and stick them on top of the corresponding names. It’s also a good activity to practise reading aloud.

It’s time to prepare students for the listening part of the lesson. Give each student five coloured pineapples (green, purple, orange, blue, red). If you have more time, you can ask students to colour them instead. Say the colour of the pineapple and ask students to put them in different places, for example, Put the orange pineapple under the table. This exercise should serve as a revision of colours, prepositions of place and prepare students to follow instructions correctly.

Students come back to their places. Hand out the Cambridge Starters Listening Part 4. Before you start the task, ask them to name all the fruits that they can see. Count all the pineapples and elicit where they are. You can also ask them about the colour of the pineapple on the clock. Students take out their coloured pencils. Play the recording and give them time to colour the pineapples as instructed by the recording. Check and correct the answers.

Finish by asking students to stand in line. Stand in front of your students, facing them. Show the flashcards of fruit and repeat their names. Ask if students like that fruit or not. If they do, they run to the right, if not, they run to the left. Clean the working stations and give some time to pack the backpacks. Before leaving the classroom, show a flashcard to each student and elicit vocabulary. If the answer is correct, they can leave.

If you enjoyed my idea for the listening part 4 lesson, click the files below to get your copies. If you want the full version, or worksheets focusing on another vocabulary (body parts, domestic animals, wild animals and food), go to my TpT store.

5 ways of keeping private students

Ever since I started working with private students, I quickly realized that this is what I’m good at, and as a result, I love doing it. I think that it’s safe to say that I think about my students a lot. I always think about new lesson ideas and plan classes that will benefit them the most. However, once the prepaid classes come to an end, I start to sweat just a tiny bit – what if they quit, and it’s the last time I see them?

Teaching adults and teenagers was always something that I really enjoyed. Now that I work online and the majority of my classes are 1:1, I get to be a bit pickier and teach what I want and how I want to. There are some disadvantages to this situation, which I’ve talked about before in The flakiness of adult students. To be frank, there are more advantages and with the right approach, it’s possible to avoid any issues. In the beginning, I had some hiccups here and there, which were necessary and served me as a lesson. Now I understand 1:1 teaching a bit more. That’s why I thought of five ways in which you can ensure your students don’t disappear from one day to another.

Write down any important information

I’m aware of how creepy it sounds. However, in my opinion, this is possibly the most important piece of information. I came to this realization about a week ago while making small talk with one of my students. She’d mentioned to me before very personal and important news. The truth be told, I’d forgotten about it and only remembered it when I saw her in class. Naturally, I asked about her well-being and noticed that her mood shifted for the better (luckily). I could tell that she appreciated my concern and liked that I checked up on her.

This was my starting point on taking short notes on each of my students. Before, all my notes focused on language-related issues, ways of improving and important dates. Now, each file contains a little note on their birthdays, likes and dislikes, hobbies, family members and some past experiences. I do this with the intention of using it in one of my future lessons. It shows that I listen, care about them and their lives. The notes are there only to help me remember and make sure that I don’t confuse one student with another. Plus, who doesn’t like when a relatively random person remembers and wishes them on their birthdays!

Personalised classes

Once I gather information on their interests, it’s much easier to plan and prepare engaging lessons. There are times when I mind my own business when I stumble upon something that I think one of my students would enjoy, and try to use it next time in my class. Of course, it’s much more difficult to do that when working at an academy or with a larger group of students, when you have a syllabus to follow and all the topics are rather broad. In the case of 1:1 lessons, you can go over general topics, or you can go deep into a rabbit hole and explore any niche possible.

For my aspiring actress student, the lessons tend to be centred around pop culture, musicals, psychology and expressing oneself. For my digital marketer student, I like to prepare lessons on social media, attracting customers and marketing psychology. For my future fisherman, we focus on technical language and environmental impacts of fishing in Spain. It takes more effort to prepare these lessons, but I enjoy learning new things and stepping away (at least for a little bit) from the exam preparation. The most important thing is that I like when they like my lessons.

Be understanding, empathetic and approachable

Even though it’s good to have some kind of insurance and introduce a cancellation policy, it’s also important to be understanding. Private students choose your classes because they may have an irregular schedule and for this reason can’t attend group lessons. Currently, I’ve got three students who need to tell me their availability at the end of each class. At first, I was hesitant, but I got the hang of it now. We always manage to find the day and time that best fits our schedules. They are also more than welcome to message me in case of emergency or if they feel like taking a day off and prefer to postpone a class.

I can’t remember how many times I got a message to postpone the lesson by an hour or a few days, because of a delivery, spontaneous trip or mental health day. It may seem like a hassle, but the truth is, it’s not a big deal. Things happen and I know that if I’m understanding, they’ll be understanding if one day something happens to me. It doesn’t happen often, but there were a few occasions in which I needed to move the class to some other day or even teach on Saturday (or Sunday!). I’m not a big fan of working at the weekends, but it doesn’t bother me too much, now that I work for myself.

Similarly, I don’t get angry if someone cancels English lessons because of personal reasons. People tend to overexplain and make sure that I know that it’s them, not me. I never expect any explanation. If they have a bad personal situation, struggle financially, or just lost motivation – that’s ok! Cancelling English lessons, shouldn’t stress you out.

Be knowledgeable

I always prepare for all of my lessons. If there is a topic that I feel a bit unsure of, I research it and practise it myself first. I read all the texts beforehand and think about the parts that may be difficult. This shows that I put effort into the lessons, and don’t just show up to the class empty-handed.

At the same time, if there’s something that I didn’t predict, I admit it and come back to it next class. I do it in this way because I don’t want to sound and look unprofessional in front of my students. They always appreciate honesty and understand that it’s impossible to know everything. It has happened to me quite recently. I overestimated my C1 level student knowledge and prepared a very basic explanation because I assumed that she knows it. My assumption was based on observation and the fact that she has used this type of structure before. When it came to grammar practice, she got lost and I simply ran out of time to get into it. So the next class was all about this, from start to finish. I apologized for my mistake, and that time we did it properly. There were no hard feelings towards the end and she was thankful, for planning this class while thinking about her and her needs.

Open up to your students

I always welcome my students to open up to me and talk about themselves and their lives (only if they want). Similarly, I include some of my information in classes, too. I tell them about my experience, travels, friendships, relationships (A bad date)… Anything to make the classes more realistic and make them feel that they’re using the language naturally. I love the feeling when they forget that they speak English and just talk. For example, for my B1 level students, I’ve prepared a lesson on prepositions of time, in which I talk about my trip to Singapore. I share my story and normally answer follow-up questions about the trip. I think it’s so much better than a dry textbook story about an imaginary person. It also engages and makes them want to share their pictures and stories with me.

I don’t think that it’s possible to be a perfect teacher. So far, I was able to convince all of my students to stay with me after the trial lessons. Unfortunately, I know that there will be a time when I find someone who doesn’t want to work with me, or who will resign after a few lessons. Until that day comes, I’m not going to think about it. For the time being, I’m going to focus on my current students and help them reach their language goals to the best of my abilities.

How do you make sure that your students are happy and want to stay with you?

The science of attraction – C1 listening

February is such a cold month associated with such a warm day! In this class, let’s talk about the truth behind physical attraction to another person while following the audio version of a TED-Ed video. The video talks about the science of attraction and explains all the fuzzy, gooey feelings we may get when meeting someone new.

So it happened. I fell into a rabbit hole of TED-Ed videos! After basing an A2+ lesson plan on the Chinese Zodiac, I started wondering if I can find something to show to my students on Valentine’s Day. Initially, I wanted to do a scientific class explaining how the heart works – a young learners lesson plan. But then I found a video called The science of attraction and got hooked almost right away.

This year my main focus is on C1 Cambridge exam preparation. That’s why I thought I should turn this TED-Ed video into a CAE listening part 2 task. Scroll to the end of this post to get the lesson plan and the presentation (with answers) for free!

Start the class by writing in the middle of the board – Why are we attracted to certain people and not others? Give a minute to think about different reasons and take five answers from different students. Write them around the question, so that it resembles the speaking part 3 exam task. Divide students into pairs and give them 2 minutes to discuss and decide which of these options is the most probable and why. If you teach 1:1 or have a bit weaker group, you can present them with the diagram below to discuss. Collect answers and provide feedback.

Divide students into groups or pairs and ask them to think about the five main components of attraction. If you want to make it a bit easier or ensure that the answers don’t repeat from the lead-in, you can say that they are all related to the human body. Once everyone has their predicted answers, play the audio of the TED-Ed video. I would recommend NOT showing the video, as it contains a lot of visuals that will give away the answers right away and may be more distracting rather than useful. Play the whole video and check the answers. The answers are eyes (sight), nose (smell), ears (hearing), touch and taste.

Now would be the best time to go over any new words that students heard while listening for gist. If you think that none of the words should impede the understanding of listening for detail, you can move on to the next part.

If it’s the first time doing this type of exercise, you can explain that it is based on CAE – listening part 2, in which students need to listen to a longer recording and fill out the gaps with the missing words. Tell them that they should write between one to three words, and any misspelt words will not count to their point count. They should write what they hear – not synonyms!

Proceed by reading a short text with nine gaps. Give students about 40 seconds to read the text and then play the recording one more time. Students write down the answer and compare them with each other. In case of any issues, play the recording one last time, just like in the exam. Alternatively, you can show the video with the transcript for better understanding.

Follow up the video/recording with a short discussion. Do your students agree with the notion that attraction is purely biological? What about people falling in love over the internet? What does love mean to them?

Click the links below to download the files for free.