Cambridge PET – Speaking Part 1

The beginning of a speaking exam can be a nerve-racking experience. Speaking part 1 is designed to break the ice and get to know the candidates.

If you have been following me for some time then you know that I do a series on PET Cambridge exam preparation. Check out my previous lesson plans on Writing Part 1 and Reading Part 1. You can find all the files needed to complete this lesson at the end of the blog post, available to download for free!

Speaking Part 1 is a short warm up before the real deal. The candidates take turns interacting with the interlocutor. The answers should be brief but not too brief.

Phase 1

Start the class by giving a set of questions to one of your students to interview you. Students listen to your one-word answers and write them down. Ask them if they think these answers were good. Obviously, they weren’t good at all! This is a good chance to explain the first point – always use full sentences to answer phase 1 questions. This gives them an opportunity to show their understanding and knowledge of word order and grammar.

As you already gave some time to think about the answers, ask students to work in pairs and practise fluency. One student acts as an interlocutor and the other as a candidate. Afterwards they change the roles. You don’t want your students to memorise the answers but it’s a good idea to have something up their sleeves when they enter the exam hall.

Phase 2

The second phase of the exam consists of personal questions. Candidates may be asked about their daily routine, their past activities, their future plans, any personal details…Normally the questions are quite simple and easy to predict. Even though it seems quite easy, it can be a little bit deceiving as candidates need to show a wide knowledge of grammar and vocabulary, and at the same time be able to justify their answers.

Using questions from a B1 Preliminary for Schools Sample Papers you can ask students to elaborate on basic one-clause answers, making them into two-clause sentences! To help them understand the task, for the first two examples provide the first clause. For example, a question How do you get to school every day? can be answered in so many different ways:

  1. I walk to school __________. (example answer: because I live nearby.)
  2. I go by car __________. (example answer: because my dad drops my off on his way to work.)
  3. I go by bike __________. (example answer: because I live nearby and I care about the environment.)

Of course, these are only my suggestions and your students can be as creative as they please – just make sure that the answers make sense and are grammatically correct.

The last two questions are fully blank and students need to think of three different ways in which they can be answered. Since all the answers were provided by students, there is no need to be redundant and ask them the same questions again. Instead you can finish with a group discussion. I have prepared a worksheet with the most commonly asked phase 2 questions that your students can practise by answering them on the spot!

Throughout the lesson you can write the most common mistakes and address them at the end during cold correction session. In this way you avoid interrupting your students and focus on fluency.

Hope you enjoy my PET Cambridge exam preparation series! Stay on the lookout for more lesson plans coming your way! If you are interested, feel free to download the lesson plans and all the worksheets below.

Your last holiday – A2 Adults

One month left! If you’re coming back to the same school or academy and you know that you’re getting the same students as before, it eliminates that awkward first class introductions. Instead you can focus on something much better – last summer experience.

Last year I had a pleasure teaching a lovely group of general English A1/A2 level for adults. It was a small and fantastic group of intelligent and funny ladies. I loved all classes with them, they always made me smile and in general I felt good about myself and my teaching style afterwards. That’s why when I thought about the summer coming to an end, my mind immediately went to this group and how I can make the very first lesson memorable and enjoyable for all the parties.

I started looking for a perfect activity that will get my girls excited to get back into English learning. As I already know them I can skip the awkward Hello, my name is… class (that I have already discussed and prepared right here) and I can move to other things. That’s when I stumbled upon One Stop English – First day post with a free file containing different first class speaking activities. I really liked the last activity called Funny Holidays. Students pick different holiday activity cards and either tell the truth about their holiday or go along with the lie written on the card.

The level suggested for this activity is Intermediate+ which doesn’t work for me. I took the idea and adapted it to an A2 level group. The class focuses primarily on talking and writing about past experiences hence it’s also a good moment to revise Past Simple. The plan is made of two files: a lesson plan and a worksheet that are available to download for free at the end of the post!

The class starts with a personalized story of your own holiday. I prepared my own short story that you can read and use as inspiration for your own! Before my students even start reading it, I want them to see it as a naturally flowing conversation. Students listen to your story twice but here’s the trick. It contains five lies, the task is to predict which parts are untrue. I wrote it down as I don’t want to memorize it and also if your students are a bit rusty after the summer, they may find it easier to listen and read at the same time if necessary.

The next step is grammar revision. I focused on Past Simple because this is where we left off at the end of last academic year and it just goes really well with talking about past experience. Students look for six regular and six irregular verbs that are in the text and then write their infinitive forms. It is also a good moment to refresh the use and structure of Past Simple and of course pronunciation of regular verbs!

As this level is still quite low and it’s unlikely that your students did anything English related over summer, I would give them some free time to prepare their own holiday stories (with three lies in it!). This will minimize the stress of coming back to class after holiday and speaking right away. It will give them some thinking time so they can prepare good and interesting stories that they are confident with. Once everyone is done, students present their stories and the rest guesses the lies.

And that’s it! The idea behind this class is to get back into routine, start thinking in English and of course talk about the holidays!

What is your “post-summer” class activity?

Introduce your classmate

First day of school is just around the corner! The very first class is always a challenge for me. I am on a never-ending quest to find the perfect introduction lesson activity. Since introducing ourselves can be a bit awkward, why doesn’t someone else do it for us?

I am yet to prepare a standard introductory class that is memorable, fun and not awkward. I have made a lesson plan for adult A2-B1 level students in which for a change your students have to introduce others to the rest of the group.

The class is sweet, simple and short, and it allows you to assess students’ speaking, writing and listening skills. It is made of only two files: a lesson plan and a worksheet that you can download for free at the end of the blog post!

The class starts in a completely different manner. It’s not your students’ first rodeo and they expect to say something about themselves. However, it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve done that before, it’s always stressful and at times they may feel as if they have nothing to say, or there’s nothing interesting enough about them that they can share with the rest of the group. That’s why give everyone an Introduce yourself worksheet. Students are asked questions ranging from personal to discussion provoking ones. Oops! You haven’t introduced yourself neither so feel free to join the task.

Once everyone has completed the task, collect the worksheets and write the answers on the board. Make sure to mix the worksheets and write the answers in a random order. Okay, so you’ve got all the answers, it’s time to do the writing task. I would say that it is optional and you can jump in directly into speaking, but let’s keep the stress level at its lowest. Ask your students to write a short introduction of the person to their left – including you! Once everyone is done preparing their answers (based on complete assumptions), you can start by reading your example. This should make everyone feel a bit more confident about their answers.

When you finish reading your assumptions the person that was being described has to now confirm how many pieces of information you got right. Then they correct you by actually introducing themselves (this time no writing, only speaking). If you want to make this activity even more challenging ask students to report on their classmates just to see if they were paying attention. As some of the questions are a bit more ‘philosophical’ you may want to ask your students to elaborate on them.

I’ve got still one more month until I go back to classroom and I will definitely use this plan to test it out and see how it goes!

What introductory activities do you normally use in the class?

Laugh it off!

Learning a new language often comes with making mistakes. Some mistakes are natural and relate to first language or mispronunciation. However, every now and then our students make mistakes that can make you laugh uncontrollably. What do you do then?

Certain class situations can make you laugh out loud. I guess that’s just one of the perks of being an ESL teacher. Of course, depending on the level of your students, their age and the country you teach in, you can either allow yourself to let loose and have some fun, or you must control yourself and keep the lesson going.

Being an ESL teacher in Spain allows you to have some fun in the classroom. Spanish culture is quite relaxed, and your students will often try to tell some jokes or anecdotes, so you may as well just go with the flow. I’d like to dedicate my post to all the students whose mispronunciation and misunderstanding made my day and will make me remember them forever. So this one is for you guys!

Kitchen vs. Chicken

I guess you already know where I’m going with this one. It’s possibly one of the most common mistakes that happen in the classroom! From the top of my head, I can recall five separate situations in five different groups when one of my students said I love eating kitchen for lunch or She prepares dinner in her chicken. The first time I heard this mistake I laughed a little bit, but now I’m immune to it. However, this error always brings a lot of laughter amongst the students, so it’ll always remain my number one.

Translating words from Spanish to English

Yes! Sometimes it can work. Students often notice the pattern and try to change Spanish words into English ones because they are usually correct. For example, invención = inventionnacionalidad = nationalitypalpable = palpable, the list goes on. Imagine the shock on my student’s face when he came up to my desk at the beginning of the lesson to say, Hey Joanna! Javier isn’t coming today because he’s constipated. It was at the very beginning of my ESL career when my Spanish was very VERY basic. I looked at my student and responded with Okay. Thanks. That’s a bit TMI, but I appreciate your honesty. At this point, we were both looking at each other with a lot of confusion. After describing Javier’s problem and realizing that he’s under the weather and his bathroom situation is fine, we both learnt something important that day: constipado ≠ constipated (estar constipado = have a cold).

Guess the meaning!

I don’t like spoonfeeding my students. I want them to work for it and guess the meaning from context! It happened in one of the B1 exam prep lessons. My students finished working on reading for gist, and before moving to the exam task, I wanted to go through some vocabulary. Normally, students are great at understanding the meaning from context, but there are times when I like to isolate certain words and elicit definitions. I pointed to one of the sentences The street was filled with pedestrians and asked Who are pedestrians? Jackpot! As suspected they knew that pedestrians are people, but what kind of people? So I decided to describe this word You know, pedestrians are people who walk outside. I could see one of my students have a lightbulb moment Oh, oh! Like pederastas! I remember stopping for a second and saying Erm…no. Pederastas can be pedestrians too, but that’s not it. After this, I lost it. My student’s face turned red, and I just decided to give the Spanish word pedestrian = peatón. Don’t worry, she laughed it off, and I am more than sure that she’ll remember this word forever.

Repeat after me ‘fish, sit’

This happened quite recently in one of my adult general English classes. I was modelling and drilling the pronunciation of /ɪ/. It was going well, but one of my students kept saying feesh /iː/. I quickly tried to remember any other word with /ɪ/ that she was familiar with. We did imperatives and she did well before, so I wrote down sit. Then I decided to model pronunciation myself and let her repeat after me. I said, Ok, listen. Fish – Sit, Fish – Sit, Fish – Sit! She looked at me with determination and said Fish – Shit! Her eyes opened wide, and she covered her mouth, then she started laughing. I started laughing too. I created this situation unintentionally. I must say one thing though, she nailed that /ɪ/!

They are too young to know…

The last mistake I’d like to describe happened in one of my VYL classes. I had three brave five-year-olds who loved repeating after me. I pulled out my flashcards with farm animals and asked them to listen to me, point to the animal and say the name. Where is a duck? Here it is! Good job! Now, where is a cow? Right there! Awesome! Okay, can you see a horse? They all knew where it was, but as they were repeating one of them kept saying hore – no ‘s’. I thought to myself that I shouldn’t ignore this mistake and drill the pronunciation of horse as it may bring some problems in the future. I tried everything – saying ‘ssssss’ like a snake (horssssse), triple pronunciation, shouting, whispering, singing…and nothing! He knows how to say ‘s’ on its own, it’s just this word that seemed to be complicated. For now, I left it as it is. I guess I know what I need to work on next year…

Here are some of my favourite ESL mistakes. Some of them are universal, and some of them you can only hear in a Spanish speaking country. Tell me about your funny classroom situations and how they are affected by the country you teach in!

Cambridge PET – Reading Part 1

There is a big difference between reading and understanding the text. In PET reading part 1, students decipher the meaning of five short texts found in everyday situations.

This is my second post focusing on PET exam preparation. Click the link to check out the first part about teaching PET writing Part 1.

In PET reading revised exam for 2020 students complete six parts. Reading part 1 is relatively easy to look at and quick to complete. Candidates look at five short texts such as an e-mail, a notification, a label, a warning sign, etc. and need to choose a paraphrased sentence that is true to the text. This part is short and seems so simple that many students may not think too much about it. Unfortunately, looks can be deceiving, and if we don’t prepare our students to confirm their answers, they may lose some points that can be essential to get a pass.

Just like before, using B1 Preliminary Handbook and Sample Papers for B1 Preliminary can be found by clicking the links or downloaded directly from the Cambridge Assessment English website. I highly recommend checking this website as it is full of official resources. All the pages needed for this lesson, are specified in the lesson plan.

It is a relatively short lesson plan that concentrates on explaining reading part 1 and drills four steps that should be followed to pass with flying colours. The lesson plan and the worksheet following the four steps can be downloaded for free at the end of the post.

If your students want to score high in reading part 1, get them used to these four steps!

Step 1 – understand the context

It doesn’t seem like a big deal, and students usually understand the context without any issues, but it is crucial. It is essential to understand if a given text is, for example, a suggestion or an obligation. Let’s imagine a sign at a local food court – “Please be considerate! Make sure your table is clean before leaving”. Is it an obligation or a request? It is a friendly reminder or a suggestion, but by no means clients are obligated to clean the tables. Therefore, once it is clear we know what modal verbs to look for!

Step 2 – underline the keywords

I can’t tell you how many eye-rolls I get when I ask about the keywords! It seems so basic that is constantly omitted. Even in the case of a short text, it helps and narrows the focus to only a few words. It also leads to the next step…

Step 3 – think of synonyms (and paraphrase them!)

Yes, the time is limited, and it’s quite hard to think about every single synonym, but there is no harm in jogging your students’ memory and trying to recall some of the previously learnt words. I wouldn’t necessarily expect them to know many synonyms for each keyword. However, it is a good practice to allow the students to think on their own, and predict the words that can be seen in the multiple-choice answers. You can also ask them to paraphrase the text and see if it corresponds with the options given in the exam.

Step 4 – choose the answers and justify them

Well done, you’ve chosen your answers! It is a good habit to go back to the answers and think about why the chosen option is correct, and the other two aren’t. It will make candidates aware of certain grammar and vocabulary that otherwise could be missed. It is also a good practice to finish the task with a group discussion, so all your students understand and learn from their mistakes.

I suggest using PET – reading part 1 worksheet only initially. You want to develop a routine and ensure that students follow the steps needed to complete the task successfully. Once you see that your students do well in this part, your job is done. Let them do the tasks as they would in the exam.

Feel free to download the lesson plan and the worksheet (with the answers!) below! Make sure to follow my blog for more PET exam preparation!

Happy Ice Cream Month!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go ahead and download all the lesson files for free!

Native speakers only!

Native speakers wanted! Our academy hires native speakers only! Learn English with native speakers! Sounds familiar? What if I tell you that it is all a lie…

If you’ve ever looked for an ESL job, surely you were bombarded with native speakers only! as the top requirement. When I saw it for the first time I was mortified – who’s going to hire a Polish girl to teach English? Luckily for me, Spain has one of the lowest percentages of English speakers in Europe with less than 30% people being able to use it! (El Pais, 2017). Language academies, especially in smaller towns or in less popular areas, would do anything to have you on board – with or without any certifications. That is precisely what happened to me and how I discovered my love for teaching English.

Even though I am a certified teacher with a few years of experience and good reputation among my students, every now and then I get side-eyed by some parent or an older student when they learn that I am not a native speaker. This raises a question Can you be a good ESL teacher without being a native speaker? The answer is simple – Yes, you can!

I remember starting CELTA and thinking What if I’m not good enough? What if I don’t understand everything? Will I ever be able to teach higher levels? In fact, the thought of teaching a B2 level group kept me awake at night, to the point that I decided to address my concerns to Mike, my CELTA tutor. He told me a story about a guitar student who kept attending guitar lessons despite being better than his teacher. When asked why he continued taking lessons, he answered that he has fluency but the teacher has the technique.

Needless to say, Mike boosted my confidence and helped me with teaching higher English levels. I passed CELTA with flying colours and realised that I am a good ESL teacher. A teacher who listens and understands her students. A teacher who isn’t afraid to look for help or admit that there are some things beyond her current knowledge. A teacher who continues learning and growing to accommodate the needs of her students.

A message to all language students: If you ever look for a language teacher, don’t reject non-native speakers. If they have university studies, years of experience or any extra language teaching certifications, you are much better off with them than with a non-certified native speaker. A native speaker without any certification or knowledge of language can give you fluency but will not be able to give you the technique.

A message to all language teachers: If you ever look for a teaching job that in a description puts native speakers only or rejects you based on your nationality – it is for the best. It may seem like a bummer at first, but you don’t want to be somewhere where people are discriminated based on their passport. Look for a work place that appreciates your expertise, allows you to grow and most importantly accepts you for who you are!