A2/B1 – How is wine made? (the present passive)

Two of my long-term private students, recently have asked me to change the format of our conversation lessons. Up to this point, I was allowed to practise Dogme style, but now I’m back to good old basics. They always give me the topic of our next meeting, and this time I really enjoyed it – wine production. So when life gives you lemons, make some lemonade. When life gives you grapes, make some wine.

The second I heard about the topic of our next class, I knew that it would be a great opportunity to practise the passive form. If you’ve ever had a business English class, then you know that any class on some sort of production gives the perfect opportunity for this grammar topic. Since the class is based on a simple Insider video titled How wine is made, I think that it can be a good class for A2 and B1 general and business English.

The class consists of a lesson plan, a presentation (for online teaching) and also a worksheet (for face-to-face teaching). You can find them all to download for free at the end of the post!

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Start the class by looking at the world map and checking students’ knowledge of top worldwide wine producers. Put them into pairs and ask them to think of the top 10 wine producers. Reveal the answers and check how well students did in that task. Proceed by showing a pie chart with the top 10 countries and the percentage of wine produced according to Wisevoter – wine-producing countries. Once again, students work in pairs and match the countries with the percentage of world wine production. Show the answers and check how well they know their wine producers.

Before watching the video and getting into the main portion of the class, have a short discussion about wine. With a show of hands check how many of your students enjoy wine and their favourite type of it. Ask if they’ve ever visited a winery or been wine-tasting.

In the next pre-listening / pre-watching activity, students think about the steps involved in the pinot noir grape wine production. Put all the steps in order, and watch the video How wine is made to check the answers. Discuss how this process is different for white grape and sparkling wine (white grape wine goes through the press directly, and sparkling wine is fermented in bottles). Present students with 5 questions about the video. Watch it again, if needed, and answer the questions. This sums up the video portion of the class.

Now it’s time to briefly explain the rules of the passive form. Show an active sentence from a video and its passive form equivalent. Explain how in the passive form the object of the active sentence becomes the subject in the passive form.

Now give students some time to change the active sentences from the video into their passive forms. Think and talk about how the passive form makes us sound a bit more formal and removes the need to mention the agent, which may be irrelevant or obvious to the listener. Once again, remind that the passive form is made by putting the verb to be in the correct tense followed by a verb in past participle form. Students read a short paragraph on how white wine is made and complete the sentences by putting the verbs in brackets in the passive form. You can either reveal the answers or watch the video one last time, as all of the phrases were mentioned there.

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Since the class is created with the thought of adult students, ask them to think and write down five things they do at work / university / school / home. Ask them to read their sentences in the active form and then tell them to change their sentences into their passive equivalent. Once again, check the answers and correct any errors as needed.

Finish the class with some general discussion about wine. Discuss the meaning of a wine sommelier and its importance in society. Check how many of your students know something about wine and food pairing and if they have ever tried producing their own wines.

Are you a wine sommelier? If so, click the links below to get the files and check how many of wine connoisseurs are in your class. 🍷

B1 – Are you a Bookworm?

Are you a Bookworm? is my second lesson of the Preply course titled Culture Vulture. As the title suggests, the class shifts its focus from music to books. Even though the lesson is on reading habits, the primary purpose of this class is speaking.

As I’ve mentioned before, I gave much more thought to this group class and completed it with one group so far. I wanted to keep students on their toes and change the topic, as well as the structure of the class, so they wouldn’t get bored too quickly. Since the first lesson The Power of Music was mainly focused on listening, I thought that the second lesson should be centred around speaking. The second reason was that unfortunately fewer people are genuinely interested in books, so to keep them engaged, I wanted them to speak for almost the whole lesson.

If you are interested in this class, you can download the lesson plan and the presentation at the end of the post.

I wanted to start the class by bringing to attention the fact that reading is one of the most essential skills in our lives. Students begin their speaking by thinking about situations when they read without realising. Ask them to think of a few things we read which aren’t books. My examples included newspapers, notes, recipes, shopping lists, etc. Discuss the importance of understanding the text in that context.

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Proceed by talking about students’ speaking habits. This can be done in pairs or small groups. Students interview each other and think if they prefer to read paper versions, e-books, or maybe listen to audiobooks. If some of your students are into audiobooks, you can start a debate about whether listening to books could be counted as reading. End this part of the lesson by thinking of two advantages and disadvantages of reading printed material as opposed to digital. In my lesson, students immediately came up with examples, such as the full reading experience by holding and smelling the book, which was the most important to all of them.

I’m a big fan of PET and FCE speaking part 3 question type and love including similar tasks in my speaking-oriented lessons. Start this part by discussing the saying Don’t judge a book by its cover. For sure the students have heard this expression before and will be able to explain it in their own words. With a show of hands, you can check who agrees or disagrees with this statement.

Divide students into pairs or small groups and ask them to decide the main criterium for choosing a book to read. Is it the author, the title, the cover, the genre or maybe good reviews? Give each group two to three minutes to choose the main point. Elicit answers from each group and ask them to justify their choices. Finish this part by focusing on book reviews, as it is the main focus of the next part. Ask if students read or write book reviews once they finish reading.

For this part of the class, I searched for short and real book reviews. I found two that seemed to be just perfect. They were written by Brief Book Reviews (Brief Book Reviews on Instagram) in a post titled Going on vacation? If you are a bookworm and are looking for some great book suggestions, I recommend checking that blog. Students read two book reviews, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North and A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towels, and decide which of the two books they would prefer to read and why. Students discuss how a good book review can change their opinion on books.

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Finally, students compare their reading habits in the past and the present. Ask them to think about their favourite childhood books and the reasons why they enjoyed them. Students work individually and think about their top 3 all-time favourite books. Go over a classroom and check the answers. Ask to justify their top picks.

Students hold on to their top 3 lists, as they will need them in the next part of the lesson. Explain the roleplay to the students. Student A describes their current reading needs and asks Student B for help choosing their next read. Based on that description, Student B chooses one of his top 3 books and recommends it to their partner. Students try to convince each other to read one of their favourite books.

If you have some time left, you can finish the class with a general group discussion on books and their reading habits. As always, end the class with speaking feedback and error correction.

So how many of your students are bookworms? Get your files below and find out!

Halloween-themed B1 speaking

Following the big success of my last year’s post on FCE Halloween speaking, I decided to prepare something similar, this time focusing on the B1 level. If you still haven’t prepared anything for your spooky lessons, then look no further. I present you with a no-prep PET speaking exam – Halloween edition.

On my blog, the majority of my posts are dedicated to Halloween. It’s hard to say why that is, but my best guess is that it’s the beginning of the academic year, and I’m still full of energy and motivation to prepare engaging lessons. If you like this no-prep lesson idea, then give it a go and see if you enjoy some other of my Halloween lessons.

If you are currently working with your Cambridge exam students and find yourself in a situation in which you have to deliver a themed lesson, then you may want to keep scrolling. This is a fun way of explaining the rules of the PET speaking exam while keeping the spooky atmosphere around. At the end of this post, you can find the printable examiner’s speaking guide (all speaking prompts included!). The speaking guide was written using the original B1 exam speaking script. In case you teach online or don’t want to print anything out, you can also find all the prompts as a PDF presentation.

Before you start this lesson, you may want to explain briefly speaking assessment criteria. This will ensure that students are aware of what you want from them. You can also ask them to listen to each other and write all the positive and negative things they’ve observed during this exercise. At the end of this class, provide students with speaking feedback and also ask them to give feedback to each other.

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I thought that instead of jumping headfirst into the exam, it’d be a good idea to warm them up with some Halloween vocabulary. Present students with eight short definitions and ask them to name these Halloween-related words. With weaker groups, you can use the presentation which has definitions supported by pictures. I usually skip phase 1 of speaking Part 1 as it is very repetitive, and I can’t wait to get into the fun part – asking personal Halloween questions. Some of them include, How do people in your country celebrate Halloween? or Did you go trick-or-treating as a child? There are eight questions in this part.

In Part 2, students talk individually about a picture for about one minute. This usually requires a short picture description and some speculations about the situation. To keep it a bit more interesting, I’ve prepared four different pictures: children trick-or-treating, a woman doing Halloween make-up, children celebrating Halloween and a spiritual seance. Put one minute on the clock and let your students have a go at this task.

In the next part, students need to have a 2-minute pair discussion about one of the two topics: choosing a new pet for a witch and the best last-minute Halloween costume. Read the scenario and present students with the speaking prompts. Let them discuss each option and make a decision at the end of the task – all in about two minutes.

Finish with the best part – opinion-based questions. Ask about some of the Halloween celebrations, dangers of Halloween, cultural appropriation and spiritual seances. Remind them that there are no wrong answers in this part of the exam. Encourage students to say what they think and give them some time to justify their answers. Since this class is more about having fun than worrying about the exam, you may want to give students a bit more time to provide you with meaningful answers.

Click the links below to get the files. If you enjoyed this lesson, make sure to have a look at Halloween-themed B2 speaking. Happy Halloween!

First lesson for B1 Cambridge exam preparation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B1 Listening – Women and Football

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cambridge PET – Writing Part 2 (article)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cambridge PET – Reading Part 2

B1 Reading Part 2 is one of the exam tasks that aren’t only fun to do but are also fun to teach. Students read five short descriptions of people and match them with texts, all dealing with the same topic. Even though this exercise seems quite simple, it requires a lot of attention to detail and the identification of distractors.

Anyone who has been following me from the beginning knows that I love using free official resources to give my students some tips and tricks on how to complete the Cambridge exams successfully. If you like this plan, you may want to check out my previous post on Cambridge PET – Reading Part 1.

At the end of this post, you can download the worksheet with the lesson plan and all the (suggested) answers. This class was based on Reading Part 2, which can be found in either B1 Preliminary for Schools Handbook or Sample Papers for B1 Preliminary for Schools.

The class starts with a general group discussion on attending after-school or work courses. Ask some questions and get a general idea of why people might be interested in taking such courses. Shift the conversation to the topic of the class – cycling courses. Think about the popularity of such courses as a whole and also in students’ countries.

As Reading Part 2 looks at profiles of five different people, I thought that students may benefit from writing short descriptions about themselves. Before they do this part, put them into pairs and complete a questionnaire on their cycling experience and interests. Collect the answers and provide general speaking feedback.

To give a clearer example of what you want your students to do, complete the task yourself and present a short written description of your profile. I modelled my answer on the descriptions given in Reading Part 2. Analyse your text and ensure that students can see the connection between the answer and the questionnaire. As students form their descriptions, monitor the task and correct any spelling and grammar errors, as needed.

Joanna is an experienced cyclist. She enjoys riding a bicycle in the city, but she would like to find out more about road safety. She wants to learn alongside other bikers. As she works during the week, she can only attend the course once a week at the weekend.

Once everyone has their short descriptions ready, you can ask them to exchange them with their partners. Direct their attention to eight cycling courses, presented in exercise 3. Students need to read all the descriptions quickly and pick one that best matches their expectations. For example, the best course that matches my profile is D – Pedal Power. Underline the parts that correspond to your description and see explain how this is an exact match, as seen below.

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Give some time to read all the texts and pick the ones that best fit each student. Students present the courses that best fit their needs and explain the reasons why they picked them. If this is the first time completing PET Reading Part 2, you may want to say what the task is about and how it should be handled. I think that making it personal, should make this exam task a bit more engaging and help students stay more focused during the explanation.

Obviously, in the exam students read about five random people in whom they may not be interested. Read Nancy’s profile. As a group, analyse what kind of person she is and what she wants her cycling course to look like. If students find this task a bit more challenging, you may want to go over all the courses one by one and eliminate them as needed. In the case of stronger groups, give them 3-4 minutes, and ask to find an ideal course for her. Underline all the pieces of information that match her description.

Students complete the rest of the exam task individually. Make sure that everyone underlines keywords and matches them with the phrases that best fit each description. Put students into pairs to compare and discuss the answers, and finish by confirming and justifying them by finding examples in the text.

Finish by eliciting and giving tips on how to complete this task to get the best results possible, for example, underlining keywords or checking the answers to make sure that they match the descriptions.

Click the Canva link to modify the worksheet as needed. If you are satisfied with the way it looks, click the link below to get the PDF version.

How do you use free resources in your class? What courses do you attend? What do you think about cycling courses?

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!

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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.

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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!