Group lessons on Preply

Preply is an online teaching platform that I’ve been using for the last three months. It’s mostly known for its 1:1 lessons, but recently I received a notification saying that I’d be an ideal candidate for their group lessons. After some thinking, I decided to give it a go and see if this option is as good for me as they claim.

On 28th April, Preply notified me about the possibility of teaching groups via Zoom. This email coincided with another Preply milestone – teaching over 60 hours on the platform, which isn’t quite common (only 50% of tutors reaches this far). The message initially freaked me out, but I decided to take it easy and firstly applied for their internal Teach group lessons on the Preply course.

The idea is straightforward and seems a bit too good to be true. You choose the level and the topic you want to teach. Then you decide on a day and time and you’re set. Preply provides you with lesson plans and presentations, and that’s pretty much it. You can sign up for as many or as few lessons as you want. The idea is to provide students with cheaper lessons which they can take whenever they want. It offers flexibility, exposes them to English speakers from all over the world and gives them the possibility to be surrounded by a variety of accents. Sounds too good to be true? I needed to check it for myself.

Firstly, I needed to register as a group tutor. Since all the classes are on Zoom, Preply provides teachers with the full software version. Before you give them your email, they warn you about all the lessons being recorded, which can’t be switched off, so you should create a new email that you don’t currently use on Zoom. Otherwise, you may have an issue with your private Zoom lessons and personal videocalls. I got the access to group lessons and a full version of Zoom in less than 24 hours after registering.

Immediately after receiving the confirmation, I started scrolling through possible lessons. There are a lot of options from A1 to C1 levels. You have the ability to go over the notes before you commit, so you can teach something that you enjoy and feel comfortable with. Initially, I signed up for one class and got nervous. After some thinking, I decided to fill my mornings with group lessons. In my first week of trying group lessons, I joined six group lessons. The advantage of choosing classes is that you can teach the same class over and over again, which reduces preparation time.

As I was waiting impatiently for my first lesson, something unexpected happened – it got cancelled. I realised that the majority of classes get cancelled. The Preply group lesson policy is that if no one signs up for the lesson 24 hours before, it gets cancelled, and you get paid 50% of your hourly rate after commission. At the moment of writing this post, I registered for 12 group lessons, and only four of them weren’t cancelled. I must admit that this Preply feature is quite beneficial for me and provides me with income that requires minimal effort.

However, four out of these 12 lessons happened, so let’s focus on them instead. Once the lesson is confirmed, you can check its status on your profile under Group lessons – Your lessons. After the cancellation, the lesson disappears from there. If you’re waiting for confirmation, you can check when you have this class and what the topic is. It also shows the number of available spots for this lesson. The class size ranges from 1-to 6 students. 15 minutes before the lesson starts, you get an email with a notification reminding you about the class and information about the number of students who signed up for this class. In two of my group lessons, I had two students who registered and in both, only one of them showed up. In the other two, only one student booked the class. One of the ‘group’ students told me that in the 13 lessons that he attended, he had a partner in only one of them.

The idea of these group lessons is for students to follow a 30-hour course with 30 different tutors. Therefore, you aren’t allowed to bring any new material to class. You can personalise and modify it, depending on your teaching style. I decided to follow the material. If the students were a little bit less chatty, I managed to do more vocabulary revision before the main part of the lesson. The lessons are 55 minutes long, and Preply offers more than enough materials to fill that time. You are also expected to finish the class with error corrections and help students find their homework and pre-lesson task for the next lesson. Yes, students are expected to complete a pre-lesson task, so they should come in ready and aware of the topic. Here is an example lesson plan I followed during my first group lesson on Preply.

TimeProcedure
5 mins1. Welcome the students and introduce yourself.
2. Get to know each other:
– How long have you been on Preply?
– Do you have any questions about the pre-lesson task?
– What task was difficult/easy?
3. Topic related questions:
– When did you last travel by plane?
– Where did you go?
4. Present the lesson objectives.
5. Present the lesson structure.
5 mins1. Warm-up:
– Describe the picture (a family waiting at an airport).
– Answer the questions: Where are they? Where were they going? What are they doing? What has happened? How do they feel?
5 mins1. Pre-teach / Revise vocabulary: read an airport announcement and fill in the gaps with the missing words (reschedule, depart, cancelled, announcement, delayed).
2. Explain any new vocabulary.
3. Elicit the difference between delayed and cancelled.
4 mins1. Set the listening: A woman waiting at the gate when she hears an announcement.
2. Give some time to read and understand the questions.
3. Listen to the recording and answer the questions.
4. Check and discuss the answers.
4 mins1. Pronunciation: Elicit the difference between the word stress -teen and -ty in numbers.
2. Model and drill pronunciation.
5 mins1. Set the listening: The woman’s flight was cancelled.
2. Give some time to read and understand the questions.
3. Listen to the recording and write the answers to the questions.
4. Check and discuss the answers.
5 mins1. Teach – grammar: cause and effect.
– When do we use why?
– How is because different from because of?
because of = due to + a noun
because (conjunction) + a clause
2. Grammar practice: fill in the gaps with because / because of / due to.
7 mins1. Review the use of why / because / because of / due to.
2. Controlled practice: Ask and answer questions about flying using new grammar.
3. Model the activity: write a question starting with why and ask the student to give you the answer.
4. The student writes in the chat three questions starting with why. Discuss the answers.
7 mins1. Set the roleplay: Student A works for an airline. Student B is a passenger. A flight was cancelled. Talk on the phone and discuss the reason why the flight was cancelled, reschedule the flight and ask about any vouchers.
2. Swap roles.
8 mins1. Error correction.
2. Reflect on your class experience – ask for a rating (1-5).
– How well can you understand an airport announcement?
– How well can you use because / because of / due to?
– What vocabulary can you add to your flashcards?
3. Discuss what needs to be done next (repeat the class, sign up for the next lesson, do the post-lesson task).
An example 55 mins lesson plan for A2 level (The flight has been delayed)

This lesson plan is very different from what I offer to my 1:1 students, but I stick to the rules and follow the materials as necessary. I noticed that the material provided by Preply is more than enough to have a successful 55 minutes long lesson. In the case of finishing a bit too early, at the end of each presentation, there are 3 or 4 more slides with extra activities, so there is no need to panic.

Once the lesson ends, you get an email with autoconfirmation of the class and get paid right away. After each class, you can leave feedback about each student, comment on their attendance and suggest their level. I believe that students have to do something very similar after each class and rate their tutor. My first “group” student told me that he would put me in the top 3 of all the Preply tutors he had up to this point, so I believe that so far I’m doing well!

Group lessons are a great way of making extra cash in your free time. I’ll definitely continue signing up for them while I’m waiting for new students. As Preply works on commissions, you still need to have private students to increase teaching hours and decrease the commission rate (group lessons don’t count, unfortunately). Another benefit is frequent cancellations and, of course, ready-to-go lesson plans. You can also keep signing up for the same lessons over and over again, which will decrease your preparation time to a bare minimum. The main disadvantage is that there are more tutors than lessons available, so you need to be quick to book your spot!

Do you teach on Preply? What do you think about the group lessons?

B1/B2 – Job interview – Soft skills

During my time teaching online, one of the most commonly asked things was to have a pre-job interview class. This happens frequently, especially on online platforms, such as Preply. The demand for these lessons made me sign up for a Preply webinar, “Preparing students for job interviews”, which served as an inspiration for this lesson plan.

Sometimes all stars align, and everything falls into the right place. It happened recently when immediately after the webinar on preparing students for job interviews, one of my current students messaged me saying that she’d received a job interview invitation and needed some practice. I immediately got into planning. Firstly, I went onto Preply and checked out their newest course on preparing for job interviews. I usually don’t follow their learning plans, but I enjoyed their structure and decided to adapt it to my needs.

This lesson plan focuses on differentiating between soft and hard skills by reading authentic material Hard Skills vs Soft Skills by Indeed.com. It is followed by learning about the STAR technique, analysing example questions and answers on soft skills adapted from 10 Soft Skills Interview Questions and Answers, authentic text from Indeed.com. At the end of the class, students should feel confident organising their answers using this method. You can download the lesson plan, the presentation and the worksheet at the end of the post. Also for the first time, you can get an editable copy of the presentation made in Canva so you can adapt this lesson to your needs – click here to get access!

Start the class by looking at 12 words shown in alphabetical order (bilingual, creativity, database management, dependability, empathy, organisation, programming, problem-solving, SEO marketing, statistical analysis, teamwork and typing proficiency). Divide students into pairs and ask them to divide the words into two categories and justify their logic behind it. Reveal that the words can be used to describe hard and soft skills.

If this is the first time that your students hear these expressions, you can ask them to predict their meanings. Read definitions of hard and soft skills and discuss which one they think is more important to get a job.

Check the understanding of these two skills by looking at different actions that can be done at a job interview which may highlight soft and hard skills. For example, showing up on time or early to the interview highlights soft skills by proving that we are punctual and responsible. Once you divide and discuss all the actions, you may want to elicit more examples.

Ask if your students have ever heard of the STAR technique, which is frequently used at job interviews. Students work in pairs and decode the acronym. Say that STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. This technique allows job candidates to organise their answers while discussing their soft and hard skills.

This class focuses on soft skills and the rest of the class will deal with developing perfect answers to questions about these skills. To further highlight the STAR technique, students read a sample interview question Can you discuss a time when you had to manage your team through a difficult situation? supported with an example answer. Students work individually and underline different parts of this answer that best match each point of the STAR technique.

Now it’s time for the students to try and develop their answers. Show a question What is the most significant problem you solved in the workplace? and provide them with a short example that will facilitate them with writing their answers. Students work individually and respond to this question. Monitor the activity and provide students with writing feedback.

Students should feel more confident with the STAR technique. To further help them with answer organisation, give them two more questions and some time to plan their answers following the technique. Once again monitor their writing and provide any help as necessary. Share the answers as a group, and if necessary, think about different ways of improving them.

The final part of the class is answering five more questions about soft skills and responding to them on the spot while following the STAR technique. If you have a bigger group of students, this can be done in pairs. In one-to-one classes, listen to your student and give them speaking feedback as needed.

If you enjoyed this lesson, click the links below and get your free versions now! How do you prepare your students for job interviews?

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!

B2/C1 – What’s the best seat on the plane?

By now pretty much everyone has been on a plane at least once in their lives. The feeling of booking the perfect seat based on our preferences is essential. Everyone can also relate to sitting on the plane and waiting impatiently to finish the boarding announcement, hoping that we will get to have a free seat (or maybe even a row) next to us. This reading and speaking class looks into the perfect airline seat and lets students choose the less of many evils to be their long-haul flight companion

Allow students to slowly transition from the spring into the summer with this fun, travel-inspired lesson plan for upper-intermediate/advanced students. This class focuses on developing speaking skills based on authentic material by Anthony Cherkas written for Business Class Experts. Scroll down to the end of the post to download the lesson plan and the worksheet with the adapted article for free.

Start the class by looking at the seat map of a plane and ask students to discuss their perfect seat. If you feel as passionate about the topic as I do, you can also provide your opinion. I believe that there is no better airline seat than a window seat. Yes, I’m a plane sleeper! Ask students to justify their choices by saying what they usually do and how they behave on planes.

Image from Seat Guru

Tell to pay attention to the seats marked on the seat map. Students work in pairs and think of the best places for the six types of travellers: a sleeper, a scared flyer, a family, someone afraid of turbulence, someone tall and someone with a quick connection. Gather some answers and reasons for each answer. Give students about 3 minutes to read the article and see if their predictions were correct.

The text isn’t too challenging, but some vocabulary items may require explanation (e.g. a long-haul flight, a bulkhead row, to recline, long-limbed, etc.) However, it shouldn’t hinder the overall understanding of the text.

Finish the text by discussing whether students agree with certain seats being better than others for a specific group of people. Would they consider the advice given in the article and implement it on their next travel?

Move to the speaking part of the class by discussing different types of travellers. Have they ever sat next to a traveller? What is the ideal passenger to have on their side? Read the typical FCE B2 speaking part 3 exam task and look at the five options, each representing a less than ideal travel companion. Students work in pairs and discuss the characteristics of each traveller (or group of travellers) and think about how they may behave on a plane. Once they have a list of advantages and disadvantages of each passenger, they need to decide which traveller would be the best to sit next to on a long-haul flight.

Proceed by asking standard opinion-based speaking part 4 questions related to air travel and the travellers discussed in the previous part. For example, Is it better to fly alone or with family/friends? Some people believe that flying is the quickest way of travelling. What do you think? Is it beneficial for airline companies to operate near-empty planes? Why?

What’s your ideal airline seat? Are you a sleeper or a hard-working businessperson? Do you agree with the points included in the article?

One month on Preply

On 24th February 2022, I had my very first Preply class. Now, a little over a month later, I’ve gathered some Preply experience and statistics that I’d like to share with you and think about my next steps on the platform.

Let me walk you through my humble beginnings and a successful month on Preply.

Becoming a tutor

I’d been thinking of becoming an online tutor for the longest time. When I finally mustered some energy and motivation to proceed, the first thing I did was head to the Preply – Become a tutor. I put all my credentials, wrote a short introduction, uploaded my certificates, and then hit the wall. The thought of recording a video made me delay my experience by a month. I finally managed to sit down, watch their video tutorials and write my own script. The good thing about their introductory video is that it has to be between 50 and 100 seconds long. You can find thousands of introduction videos that you can use for inspiration, and also some guidelines on how to create the perfect video in the Profile video advice section. After watching some of their videos, I noticed a pattern and divided my video into sections:

  • Introduce myself
  • My background
  • My teaching experience + qualifications
  • My teaching style
  • Humblebrag about my current students and what they say about me

I wrote the script in about 15 minutes, but the recording took me a bit longer. I’m not going to lie – I was exhausted at the end of the recording, wanted to upload it and stop thinking about it immediately. Apart from the short length of the video, the other good thing about it is that you don’t have to edit it! I’ve tried recording a video on Italki before, but their video style scared me off, as it seemed to be quite complicated and required a lot of technical skills that I don’t think I have.

Once I hit upload the video I decided to forget about it. The standard video approval takes approximately 48 hours, but I’ve heard stories of people waiting well over a week or being ghosted completely. Much to my surprise, I received a positive message the very next day, in less than 24 hours and felt a sense of euphoria.

Preply courses

Before I completed my profile and made it live, I decided to go over the Preply internal courses to fully understand the platform and how it works. There are four courses that, in my opinion, you should go over to feel a bit more confident:

  • How to create a profile that gets students
  • How Preply works
  • The Preply classroom
  • Preply methodology

Preply has many options that I’m yet to discover and understand, but I thought that this would give me somewhat of an idea of what I’m expected to do. I sat down and completed all the courses in less than an hour. Most of them are short texts or videos that briefly explain the functions of different parts of the platform. I’d definitely recommend going over these courses as they take the initial shock and let you play around with the settings just a tiny bit.

Going live

Once I completed the courses, I revised my profile and wrote an additional description in my native language – Polish. I was wondering about the ideal price and decided to low-ball hard as I was a newbie and wanted to attract some students to get the ball rolling. After using many other websites I had very low expectations, so imagine my surprise when I got booked six times within the first 48 hours. During that time, I doubled my prices and still got new students.

I remember when I watched the video explaining the functions of Preply, I giggled when they mentioned that it’s possible to hide your profile in case you get overbooked. What I hadn’t anticipated was that I’d have to make myself invisible in the first week of teaching. I think that my success rate depended on my knowledge of other languages. Most of my students on Preply are from Poland, and all of them want me to understand them in their native language. I use English 99% of the time, but they want to feel safe and comfortable during this 1% of class when we may need to clarify things in Polish.

I believe that my success rate would be much lower if I hadn’t spoken any additional language other than English. I’ve communicated with some English native speakers who started more or less at the same time as I did, and they had a bit more problems finding new students. I’m not sure how the Preply algorithm works, but I got certainly lucky and was pushed up having a multi-language profile and being immediately booked on the first day.

Trial lessons

Once you go live, you need to organise your schedule. I decided to keep it simple and didn’t offer crazy hours. I thought that I can work 4 hours in the morning and 4 hours in the afternoon, with a 2 hours break in between for lunch. I wanted to work and get money, but I didn’t want to lose my mind and obsessively check my phone every 30 minutes to see if my calendar had changed.

Normally, students book a class before communicating with you, which is a blessing and somehow a curse at the same time. As I mentioned before, I completed the Preply courses and listened to their advice to set trial lesson notice for at least one day in advance. I don’t know about you, but I need some time to prepare mentally before teaching a new student.

Whenever I got booked, I messaged new students and thanked them for choosing me. I informed them about what I was going to do in the first lesson and asked about their preferences and their first lesson goals. Preply also offers placements tests, so you can get an idea of the level and plan accordingly. Before my very first trial lesson, I went above and beyond to deliver the best quality class I could imagine. If you are interested in reading more about my experience and some thoughts that I had afterwards, go to My very first trial lesson on Preply. The only disclaimer I have is that after having exactly 10 trial lessons, my approach has changed, I’m less stressed and I’d normally follow the lesson plan I’d prepared for the first trial lesson and adapt it depending on the level and needs of students.

I also mentioned the curse of being able to book a class with me without any prior communication. I decided to not teach children online anymore and focus on teaching teenagers and adults only. I mentioned it in my profile description, but as it turns out, not everyone reads that. I was booked one time for a child and needed to decline the offer. The class wasn’t actually cancelled, the mum of the child decided to take this opportunity, and we chatted for an hour in English. This was our first and last meeting as she wasn’t looking for a teacher for herself. So, I had a free trial lesson without actually getting a student.

Teaching on Preply

I must admit that at first, I didn’t like Preply that much. The platform is very useful and you don’t stress about not being paid, as the money appears on your profile 15 minutes after the class, but the classroom itself left a lot to desire. I enjoy getting emails notifying me about being booked, or a build-in chat that lets me communicate with students at any given time. It helps me stay organised and I have no difficulties keeping track of everything we do. However, there are many issues with screen and sound sharing, whiteboard appearing and disappearing, calendar blocking certain hours and also students not being able to reserve future times without paying upfront. I have mentioned all this and my solutions to these problems in Videoconferencing software.

Preply claims that they want to implement flipped classroom methodology. Students should choose a topic ahead of time, complete listening, reading and writing exercises and come in to check their homework and chat about the topic. I’m sure that it works for some teachers and I even gave it a go, but somehow it’s not it for me. I have a library of my resources, I prepare my lessons, and of course, focus on speaking for the main part of the class. So far so good! Students enjoy my teaching style and the topics I (and sometimes they) bring to the table. With some of them, I communicate ahead of time and let them know my lesson objectives, so they can prepare themselves and tell me about what they’d learnt. Of course, it depends on students and their preferences. It took me some time to understand their needs and see how well we work together. I use the library from time to time, but more as an inspiration rather than a lesson plan itself.

Cancelling lessons

I haven’t cancelled any classes yet, but I have rescheduled a few. Preply has the policy that students can reschedule up to four hours before the class. If they don’t and they can’t attend, you are allowed to claim this money for the class that didn’t happen. I had a few instances in which students messaged me two or three hours before, informing me about not being able to attend lessons for various reasons. I rescheduled and didn’t ask for payment. I do like money, but also I like working for it. If a student apologises for having an emergency, no internet or a meeting at work, I understand. After all, one day I may be in a similar situation and will ask for understanding, too.

Getting reviews

This is something I didn’t know and didn’t really think about – at the end of each class I’m being rated on my performance! I must say that when I realized that this was the case, I got slightly nervous. I taught 46 hours so far and got an average of 5/5! This makes me feel extremely motivated and happy, but at the same time, it makes me question the quality of other teachers on Preply. I understand that many people use this website as a way of getting some extra cash and probably don’t care too much about preparing interesting and engaging classes, but it’s not my case! No matter the hourly rate, each student gets the attention they deserve.

After teaching five hours to the student, you can ask them to leave a review. I didn’t ask for that, as I think it’s a bit annoying to beg for reviews. I believe that all of my students will leave an honest review whenever they feel like it.

Getting paid

This subject is a bit sensitive. On Preply you don’t get paid anything for trial lessons, so the beginnings require a lot of unpaid work. These classes are paid by students and 100% commission goes straight to the platform. This means that if you are a popular teacher and ask quite a bit per hour, Preply definitely enjoys having you around.

Preply is a free platform, and you don’t need to pay anything to be on it, but they work on lesson commissions. The more you teach, the lower the commissions. In a way, I do understand this model, as the platform is convenient and offers a wide range of functions that maybe you’d have to pay for if you worked on your own. However, the commission rates range from 33 to 18%, so even if you commit to Preply and work solely on their platform, you can’t get more than 82%.

The nice and definitely motivating thing about Preply is that you can see your balance increase after each class. You get a nice e-mail saying that your money has already been deposited and informed about the remaining hours until the lower commission. You can also withdraw your money at any given moment, using Paypal, Wise, Skrill or Payoneer. It is a very quick and sensible action, which lets you have your money within minutes.

End of a month statistics

Last month I taught 45 hours, including 10 trial lessons. From that, I got nine new students. Some of them became regulars, and others booked a class every other week. My average review rating, based on one (voluntarily written) review is 5/5, and an average lesson rating is also 5/5. I haven’t missed or cancelled any lessons.

Overall, despite some drawbacks, I’m satisfied with Preply. I didn’t know that I could be a successful teacher online. It allowed me to focus on my professional development and took most of the free time that now I spend teaching. I’m looking forward to my future on Preply and seeing how it helps me become a better teacher.

Have you ever tried online teaching platforms? Where do you teach, and what’s your experience with them? Would you ever consider teaching on Preply?

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.

How long does one minute feel like? – B1 Speaking Part 2

Funny thing how we perceive time. When we have fun, one minute disappears in a blink of an eye. In a stressful situation, say a speaking exam, one minute seems to last forever. That’s how our students feel when they enter the exam hall and speak on their own. It’s good to practise speaking for one minute and get to experience what one minute feels like. It’s also good to know how to fill this one minute, so it ends sooner than we expected.

In my teaching career, I have had the opportunity to meet two types of students – those who love and those who hate speaking activities. Regardless of their stand on this matter, it’s important to teach students how to speak naturally in the most unnatural situation – the speaking exam.

In B1 speaking part 2, students speak alone for about one minute about a picture. Inform them that if they finish before their time is up, they will have to endure awkward silence until the end of the time. Therefore, they need to think of something to say about the stock pictures.

Before you even start teaching speaking exam strategies, you should always try to help students understand what they are being assessed on. Inform them that speaking assessment is divided into four parts grammar and vocabulary, discourse management, pronunciation and interactive communication. Speaking Part 2 is an individual task, so students are marked on everything except for interactive communication.

I always told my B1 students that if they don’t know what to talk about and they still have some time left, they should speculate about what they think is happening and give reasons for it. For example, if you see a group of people, elicit and explain their emotions. If the picture was taken outdoors, describe the weather and the season. If it’s a group of tourists, guess the country! However, I was never quite sure how to help them remember all those things. A week ago, I attended a webinar Top tips for exam success and beyond: Ask us anything about A2 Key and B1 Preliminary, and one part, in particular, grabbed my attention.

The speaking circle, as seen above, gives students ideas of what they could talk about during the speaking assessment. It’s divided into eight sections, people, words, feelings, actions, sounds, numbers, sight and nature. Give students an example picture that they would typically be asked to describe in the exam. I chose a picture from B1 Preliminary for Schools – Handbook for teachers for exams from 2020, which is available to download for free from the Cambridge Official website. Ask students to look at the picture and think of three possible questions that would fall under each category. You can find my example below.

People: Who are they making a cake for? What is their relationship? Whose birthday is it?

Actions: What are they doing? How do you make a cake? What do they need to do after they finish baking?

Feelings: Why are the girls smiling? Are they enjoying making a cake? What the person who the cake is for is going to feel like?

Numbers: How many people are there? How long does it take to make a cake? How many ingredients do they need?

Sounds: What sounds can you hear at home? What sounds can you hear in the kitchen? Is it loud or quiet?

Words: What are they reading? What is the name of this cake? What other files are there on the tablet?

Sight: What can you see in the background? How could you describe the kitchen? What can you see on the tablet?

Nature: What is the weather like? What time of the day is it? Is it hot or cold?

As I was completing this task, I realised that some of the answers came to me more easily than others. It’d probably change depending on the picture and where its location. However, these eight categories would definitely help me prepare my answer and speak for one full minute.

I think the best way to score high in this part is to combine the answers to these questions and talk about them in a logical order. For me the most effective way of describing pictures is as follows:

  • General description:  In one/two sentences say what and who you can see and what they are doing in your opinion. Mention where the people are.

In the picture, I can see two girls making a cake in the kitchen. They look alike, so they are probably sisters.

  • People: Talk about their actions and possible reasoning behind it. Speculate about their relationship and feelings. Briefly describe their physical appearance and clothes.

The girl with longer hair, who is wearing a patterned dress, is cracking some eggs and adding them to flour. The other girl, who has got shorter and curly hair and is wearing a white T-shirt and jeans, is helping her by reading the recipe from the tablet. They seem to be having a lot of fun doing this activity together because they are smiling. I think that they may be preparing a birthday cake for someone in their family. They seem to be recreating the recipe they are following. I think that the cake must be quite easy to make, as they don’t have that many ingredients on the table. Except for flour and a few eggs, they also have a jar of sugar on the table.

  • Background: In case there is some time left, focus on the background. If possible, talk about the weather and seasons. Just because it is a picture, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get into speaking about sounds that they may be experiencing.

As I mentioned before, they are in the kitchen. The kitchen is quite big and light. I can see some cupboards, a cooker, and of course an oven behind them. Everything seems to be very well organised, so they will probably have to clean the kitchen well once they finish. The place appears to be very calm, so I don’t think that it is very noisy. Maybe they are listening to some music while making the cake.

I think that following the topics in the circle is beneficial for students as it helps them structure their answers and concentrate on the grammar and vocabulary part of the assessment. It also helps with understanding that they can talk about anything that they can see in the picture while giving possible reasons for each answer. My biggest issue is with getting the feeling of one minute. This can be achieved through regular training exercises, but remind them that as long as they talk until being stopped by the interlocutor, they should be fine.

I like to supplement any speaking activities by showing the actual speaking exam. I chose this picture, as it is being described in a video recorded at an actual B1 Preliminary for Schools Speaking Test. You may want to show this video before to further understand each part of the speaking exam and get students used to the exam setting. You can also ask them to watch the video and write down any mistakes they heard. During feedback, you can elicit different ways of improving these answers.

I’m glad that I attended the webinar on Top Tips for the Cambridge Exam as it really ensured me that I understand the speaking assessment and also gave me plenty of ideas of how to improve my classes by introducing new and effective activities. Click the link to check the whole webinar for yourself. Hopefully, you will find something inspiring there!

Linking words of purpose, result and reason – B1 Speaking Part 3

Linking words are one of the main causes of headaches for English language learners. Students often feel unsure of their meanings and their use in sentences. That’s why when one of my newest students asked me to have a class on connectors, I took on this challenge. I divided linking words into several groups: reason, result, purpose, contrast and addition. Today I would like to focus on linkers of reason, result and purpose and their use in Speaking Part 3.

In my opinion, students often struggle with linking words for one main reason – they change their meanings depending on the context. Therefore, it’s quite hard to get the feeling of what they are. That’s why I decided not to rush it and show a variety of example sentences that use those structures. At the same time, I wanted to show that linking words are frequently used in the Cambridge exam, not only in writing but also in speaking. After all, in Speaking Part 3, students need to go over a set of options and provide a reason and hypothetical result for each one. So having a wide range of linking words can work in their favour.

You can download the lesson plan and the worksheet for free at the end of the post.

The class starts by writing a sentence with three possible endings (as seen below). Students name functions of each sentence, reason, result or purpose and justify their choices. They should be already familiar with the definitions of each function but may get a bit confused by them – especially with reason and purpose since they often tend to overlap. If you want to make this difference quite clear, you can elicit that purpose often answers the question of why. To further clarify the meaning of these functions, students match them with their definitions.

In order to prove to your students that they already have this knowledge, ask them to combine the sentences using linking words. You can also use this part of the class as a test to see how much help you need to offer and how much teaching you need to do!

I focused on eight different linking words of reason (because, as, since, because of + noun), purpose (in order to / to + infinitive) and result (so, therefore). Show your students the beginning of sentences and ask to match them with appropriate endings. Elicit the function of each sentence and divide the words in bold into correct categories. Finish this part by analysing the use of these linking words. It’s a good habit to start eliciting the structure that follows each word and explaining their usual position in the sentence. If necessary, translate these words to students’ L1. I normally stay away from using L1 in class, but I find it particularly beneficial when it comes to linkers.

Practise using these eight linkers by filling the gaps with one of them. Make sure that students know that more than one answer is correct, as some of these words mean the same in this context. I also added a freer activity, in which students finish the beginning of sentences with appropriate endings (a clause, a noun or an infinitive).

Since I wanted to ensure that students understand the importance and practicality of linking words and phrases, I combined them with speaking part 3, which can be downloaded for free from Sample Papers for B1 Preliminary. You can adapt this activity to any speaking part 3 exam task – including the ones you paid for!

Present your students with a typical speaking part 3 exam task (as seen below) and ask about the purpose of the man wanting to find a new free time activity (He needs a new activity in order to relax.) Since we already know the purpose of each activity, students work in pairs and think of possible reasons for doing them and their hypothetical results. I included one example to further explain this point. At the end of the task, collect students’ ideas and write them on the board. You can also encourage them to think of reasons why some of these free-time activities are bad for this young man!

Finish the class by completing the speaking part 3 exam task in pairs. Provide feedback to every student. As students have already thought of many different reasons and possible results of each action, this activity should be a piece of cake!

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?