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.

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?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B2 – Greenwashing – Reading and Speaking

I’m a few days late to the party, but it’s never too late to celebrate Earth Day! This B2 lesson focuses on authentic material on greenwashing, different ways of spotting it and techniques for avoiding it. The best part of it is that the topic is timeless and can be discussed whenever. It’s never a bad moment to talk about the environment!

A while ago, Content Catnip commented on my post Have Yourself a Sustainable Little Christmas and shared their website Palm Oil Detectives.

This comment motivated me to head onto their website and check out what they’ve got to say on the topic. This blog is amazing – it brings to attention a lot of important issues related to the use of palm oil. However, what really caught my eye was 10 Tactics of Sustainable Palm Oil Greenwashing. I went down the rabbit hole of greenwashing and promised that one day, I will use this topic in one of my classes. This lesson plan is dedicated to Content Catnip – a great blog which has one of my favourite series on the platform, 10 Cool Things I Found on the Internet.

At the end of the post, you can find the lesson plan, the worksheet and the presentation available to download for free.

Start the class by showing three real-life examples of greenwashing obtained from The Sustainable Agency. The first things that will come to students’ minds will be big companies, green, environmentally friendly, etc. Collect the ideas from different groups and discuss them.

Try to elicit the term environmentally friendly and think of a range of words associated with it. Students think of at least three words. Their answers may be eco, eco-friendly, green, organic, sustainable, recycle, etc. Read the first part of authentic material from BBC titled What is greenwashing and how can you spot it? and check if students’ environment-related words are in the text. Students answer in their own words the question posed at the beginning of the paragraph – Why do companies want to appear more eco-friendly?

Ask if students have ever heard of the term greenwashing. If not, elicit their predictions on this topic. Check the answers by reading a short paragraph titled What is greenwashing? Based on its definition, ask how students could spot it. Put students into pairs or small groups, show them three boxes and ask them to spot five signs of greenwashing. If you teach this lesson online, you can do this as a game, by playing an interactive game on the BBC website.

You can either circle the signs of greenwashing on paper, or go to the website and play online!

Even though there are many more signs of greenwashing, this class focuses only on five of them. Students read five short descriptions and match them with headings: buzzwords, green packaging, no proof, not fully recyclable and promises to carbon offset or to donate to environmentally friendly causes. Explain any new words as needed.

Show four real-life examples (Volkswagen, Windex, Walmart and Sun Chips) of greenwashing taken from The Roundup.org – Greenwashing Explained. Students analyse the examples and try to spot greenwashing and match it with the types from the previous exercise. There is more than one answer available. If you want to find out more about these examples and what happened, you can get all information on the website. Ask if students have heard about any of these examples. Maybe this exercise jogged their memory and helped them think of some of their ones!

Discuss why greenwashing may be a problem. Students discuss their answers and read the text Why is greenwashing a problem to find the answers. Five words are missing. Students think of the missing words and guess them based on their definitions. Ask about different ways of avoiding greenwashing and say that one of them is looking out for certifications such as Leaping Bunny, Fairtrade, FSC, Carbon Trust and B Corp. Match the certificates with their purposes.

Finish the class by answering opinion-based questions on greenwashing, for example, if they agree with the examples seen in class as being considered greenwashing or not.

Happy Earth Day! How did you celebrate this day with your students? What are your thoughts on greenwashing?

Thank you, Content Catnip, for the inspiration! This class wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for you!

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?

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.

Cambridge PET – Reading Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 1 – understand the context

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

Step 2 – underline the keywords

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

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

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

Step 4 – choose the answers and justify them

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

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

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