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!

Christmas-themed B2 speaking

It has become somewhat of a tradition on this blog that for every bigger holiday you can count on a Cambridge-style themed speaking. Last year I prepared a speaking class for the B1 level. This time it’s time to focus on FCE students and let them enjoy Christmas while practising English.

If you have used my other exam preparation lesson idea, Christmas-themed B1 speaking, you may find this post interesting. Practise the Cambridge exam structure while still getting into the Christmas spirit with this easy, no-prep examiner’s speaking notes, supported with a PDF presentation for all the online students. You can download the examiner’s notes and the presentation at the end of the post.

Start the speaking part with a quick warm-up activity. Show pictures of Christmas-related objects and read out the definitions. Students need to name what they see. In this way, they will enrich their vocabulary and get a few new words which they can use in the next part of the speaking lesson. If think you need to bring something extra to this activity, you can ask students to spell out these words. It will not only keep them on their toes but will also refresh the alphabet. Additionally, some of the words may seem easy but can be quite challenging to spell. Good luck spelling mistletoe or bauble!

Now, it’s time to start the speaking exam. I usually skip the get to know each other questions and go straight to phase two of speaking part 1. All of the questions refer to students’ personal experiences with Christmas. You can find questions such as When did you stop believing in Santa?, or Does your family have any Christmas traditions? What are they? It’s a great way of thinking about Christmas while practising a range of tenses.

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In speaking part 2, each student gets to compare and contrast two pictures while answering the question. In the first set of pictures, students think about the reasons why people decided to buy a natural and a plastic Christmas tree. Make sure to let the other students know that they need to pay attention as at the end of the task they will have to answer an additional question about the pictures. The other two pictures deal with the weather and its influence on the Christmas mood. Think about the celebrations in the sunny down under and compare them with the parties in the snowy northern hemisphere.

In part 3, students work in pairs or groups of three. Say that they need to think about the perfect Christmas party. Present them with the five speaking prompts and put two minutes on the clock. Students discuss which of the following things creates a unique Christmas atmosphere: being with the family, Christmas music, food, presents and snowy weather. Students end the discussion by choosing one prompt they cannot imagine Christmas celebrations without.

As always, end with opinion-based questions centred around Christmas. The questions range from What do you think about the commercialization of Christmas? to What would be the best snack that you could leave out for Santa? Remind them that there are no wrong answers, and let their creativity flow freely!

Turn this lesson into a fun exam preparation activity. Ask everyone to listen to each other carefully and provide a peer speaking assessment. In my experience, students were always very kind and motivated each other with positive feedback.

If you are still trying to figure out what to do with your FCE group this Christmas time, look no further. Click the files below to download the lesson plan and the presentation.

B2 – The bizarre world of perfume ads

Christmas time is already here, and what goes with it – the many perfume ads on TV. They stand out and have a different feeling from your typical Christmasy ads. They are often shot in the style of professional movies and more often than not, leave us questioning the meaning behind them. During one of these commercials, I found an inspiration to create this B2 speaking-driven lesson plan.

I’m not going to lie – these ads confuse me more than anything in the world. They are so bizarre that they started a household game called Guess the scent. The rules are simple, watch the ad, and based on the visuals, try to predict three scents you could find in one of those bottles. Use the shape of the bottle and the perfume name to come to your conclusions. I felt so passionate about the topic that I brought it to one of my conversational classes and eventually turned it into a video-based speaking-driven lesson plan.

At the end of the post, you can find the lesson plan, the presentation and the worksheet needed to conduct the class.

I thought that it would be good to warm the students up with a brief revision of the five senses: touch, taste, hearing, sight, and of course, smell. To ensure that we can see all the senses, I decided to go with the classic Lindt Excellence TV commercial. Watch the video and write down the words that come to their minds and are associated with the senses.

After the video, elicit some answers used to describe each sense. Discuss which part of the video made the students feel this way and think of some other commercials that make students connect with their senses. What visuals do these commercials use that allow them to feel this way?

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It’s time for the fun part – talking about the weird perfume commercials. Start by discussing a typical perfume ad that they can see on television. Maybe some new ones particularly stand out in their minds at the moment. Think about the things that you would normally find in such commercials. Proceed by showing three bottles of perfumes. I decided to go with the following feminine fragrance: Lancôme – Idôle, Dior – J’adore and Yves Saint Laurent – Black Opium.

Lancôme – Idôle
Dior – J’adore
Yves Saint Laurent – Black Opium

Looking only at the packaging and the name of the perfumes, ask students to predict the type of smell they would expect from each one. With more advanced groups, you can ask them to discuss three scents they could pick up from each fragrance, e.g. vanilla, rose, musk, etc. You can also predict which of them you would wear during the day, and which one you would wear at night. What makes them feel this way?

After the discussion, show three descriptions of the perfumes and match them with the bottles. All three extracts were copied from their original websites. Since the descriptions are quite cryptic, you may have to explain some words.

  1. Lancôme – Idôle: With its alluring scent and sharp thorns, the rose symbolises the complexity of femininity. Oil of Jasmine absolutes acts as a gentle yet generous accompaniment to the perfume’s heart. An abundance of radiant petals blended with musks, form a sophisticated citrus alliance, which recalls the airy freshness of just-washed linens.
  2. Dior – J’adore: Finely crafted down to the last detail, like a custom-made flower, it is a bouquet of the most beautiful flowers from around the world. The essence of Ylang-Ylang with its floral and fruity notes and the essence of Damascus Rose from Turkey blend with a rare duo of Jasmine Grandiflorum from Grasse and Indian Jasmine Sambac, with fruity and voluptuous sensuality.
  3. YSL – Black Opium: This seductive women’s perfume is inspired by the edgy and daring woman. Emboldened by the strong scent of coffee, the sensuous warm floral vanilla perfume captivates the senses with a sweet vanilla base and a burst of floral at the heart of the fragrance.
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Now it’s time to watch the ads. Watch all three of them and discuss if the videos helped students match the descriptions of perfumes with the bottles. It’s ok if the ads didn’t clarify anything – that’s the whole point! You may want to engage students in a discussion of how the women of different ages change our perception of smell and the target demographic.

It’s time to have a short discussion about the idea behind the perfume ads. Think what perfume commercials try to sell – the smell or the feeling? Focus on each of the women, and the way they are portrayed, for example, free, powerful, and unstoppable. Elicit other adjectives that come up during the lesson. How do students feel when they wear perfumes? Do perfumes change their behaviour and increase their confidence? What perfume are they currently using? How did they choose it, and why did they decide to buy it? Do they wear the same perfumes or switch them up?

Finish the class with a short, fun and very creative project. Students think about scents that would best represent them. Ask them to think of ingredients that would be found in their fragrance and the shape of the bottle. What about the name of this perfume? If you have some more time, you can ask them to think of a short ad concept and a song that would be used in the background. Students present their projects to the rest of the group.

If you enjoyed this lesson plan, click the links below and use them in your class! You can also access the presentation using the Canva link. Edit the presentation and make it your own!

B1 – The Power of Music

The new group lesson format on Preply seems to have become my new hobby. On top of my Housing course, I started promoting and successfully teaching another course titled Culture Vulture. The course consists of five one-hour-long lessons dealing with different parts of culture: music, books, films, art and television.

I must admit that I have given this course much more thought than the previous one, and really outlined each lesson before submitting it to the Preply team. I have realised that online students want to focus mostly on conversation classes. I believe that music is a universal language that above all is easy and fun to talk about. Even though I knew that music and films would attract the most people, I didn’t want to focus on these two things only. I decided to mix a few culture-related topics, allowing students to talk about many different things and expand their vocabulary as much as possible.

After creating an outline of the course, I quickly designed a thumbnail to promote the classes. The classes were available for a maximum of six students. I must say that I was a bit nervous as for one week I had one student booked for a morning and one for an evening class. However, after a short talk, I convinced one of the students to join the evening class, which meant one thing – the first group lesson was about to happen. In total there were four students, making it the most successful class up to this day.

This blog post focuses on the first out of five lessons. Below you can find the list of lessons included in the course.

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The first lesson titled The Power of Music gives students a chance to interview their groupmates and learn about their music habits and preferences. Students share their favourite ways of listening to music and its effects on mood and health. Additionally, students are exposed to short extracts from a BBC 6-minute podcast, Life without music, a recording on the way music influences our day-to-day lives. At the end of the post, you can find the presentation and the lesson plan needed to teach this class.

Talk about your music listening habits. Look at the pictures and analyse the most common situations in which people tend to listen to music. Discuss how and when students like to listen to music. Think about the reasons why people enjoy listening to music in these situations and how it may affect the activity they are currently doing. In my case, this warm-up activity led to an interesting discussion on the reasons behind listening to music in public places, such as buses.

Proceed by thinking about the benefits of music on our health. Students work in pairs or groups and think of three positive impacts music has on us. Watch a short video The Scientific Benefits of Music and check if any of the students’ answers appeared in this recording. According to the video, music helps us with memory loss, gives us more energy when exercising and increases the rate of healing. Optionally, you can finish this part by talking about the points mentioned in the video – Do students agree with everything said in it? This recording will be a good listening warm-up before a podcast which is a bit faster and does not provide any visuals.

Before playing the podcast, show a picture of an ear and a worm. Ask students to predict the compound noun and its meaning. I must say that my group did their absolute best in this part of the class. However, the award for the best answer goes to an answer that an earworm is an infection and should be treated immediately! Play the first part of the podcast and check if students correctly guessed the missing word. Finish by explaining some of the new words, for example, to hum, and think about the last time you had a song stuck in your head. If you have extra time, you could also use this part of the class to focus on compound nouns and their formation.

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Talk about the power of music and its hold on our lives. Students read the statements and discuss if they are true or false. Listen to three extracts from the BBC podcast and check the answers. If needed, head to the BBC 6-minute podcast website and show the transcript. You can also listen to the whole podcast or download the full audio from the website for free.

Statement 1: At restaurants, music can affect what we choose to eat and drink.

Statement 2: The music tempo influences how quickly (or slowly) we shop or eat.

Statement 3: Music does not create the atmosphere in the movies.

As you can see, I decided to divide this podcast into shorter extracts to make it easier to digest and less scary. I played the extracts twice without the need to show the transcript. This division also helped us have more speaking time and eliminated the need to hop around the podcast and find the moments that needed to be repeated.

Since the main reason behind the group lessons is speaking, I decided to give the last 10 minutes for the students to talk with each other. I divided students into pairs and put them into breakout rooms. Students received a list of statements about music and discussed them with each. Some of the statements are: Music does not influence me while shopping, I can imagine the world without music, etc. During this part, you can go into ninja mode and observe the students without being visible to them. It eliminates the pressure of being listened to by a teacher and allows students to speak freely with each other.

I finished the class with the presentation of the rest of the course and some speaking feedback. At the end of the lesson, I was left with two students who decided to proceed with the rest of the course. It definitely motivated me to work more on this course and prepare the best lessons possible for my new pupils.

Feel free to download the files below! Happy listening 🎧

B1 – Choosing a Place to Live

A quick update on the new group lessons on Preply – they aren’t going as well as I hoped for. To have a class, you need at least two people to sign up for the class. Unfortunately, I keep getting stuck on one student only! This hasn’t stopped me from continuing with group lesson planning and developing my courses. After all, I can always use those plans with my private students.

The second lesson of the My Space, My Place course is about choosing the right place to live. In this lesson, students talk about their current houses or flats and discuss which additional features they would like to have in their future housing. To expose students to authentic language experience, this class is based on two short videos in which two real estate agents talk about existing properties and all the features included. This should prepare students to look for their ideal place and help them with the language needed to describe their housing needs.

Scroll to the end of the post to get the lesson plan and the presentation.

Start the lesson by revising the housing vocabulary. Look at the main rooms in the house and brainstorm as many words associated with these rooms (objects and furniture) in pairs or small groups. This should provide a good warm-up and put the students into the mindset of speaking in English from the very beginning.

Since the class relies heavily on videos and listening, I think that it’s good to let students speak for as long as possible. Then slowly transition from the warm-up to a group discussion. Allow students to talk about the houses and flats they live in right now. Think about the features they are missing in their current locations and what they would like to have in their future accommodation, for example, a spacious kitchen or two sinks in the bathroom. Let the imagination run loose!

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Proceed by watching two authentic videos of real estate agents presenting two flats, in Reading and Milan. It is a great opportunity to listen to a native and a non-native speaker using the target language naturally. If you watch the videos on YouTube, you can use subtitles in case there are any difficulties with understanding. Before turning on the videos, ask the following questions: What are the benefits and drawbacks of each accommodation? Which place would you prefer to live in?

After discussing the advantages and disadvantages of each location and choosing the place students would like to live in, watch the videos one more time, this time focusing on details. Show questions regarding both flats and decide whether they refer to the place in Reading, Milan, or both. Some of the questions are: Which flat is fully furnished? Which flat is conveniently located? Which place is brand new?

Practise some new vocabulary by reading three short flat descriptions and filling the gaps with the words. I wanted accommodation descriptions that are real and commonly seen online. I found and adapted three from the website Eat, Sleep, Wander. Once the descriptions are completed, students work individually and match them with three types of people looking for a new place to live: a businessperson, two university students and a couple with a dog. Students present their decisions and justify their choices.

The class ends with a short roleplay. One of the students acts as a potential renter who describes their situation and needs. Students get to choose one of the three roles: a family of four, a couple and a single businessperson. The real estate agent presents their three flats and chooses the one that best suits their needs. If you have more time, you can also ask students to present their actual situation and needs and pick a place that would be best for them in real life.

In case you have some extra time left, there are additional group class discussion questions in which students describe their perfect location and what features they would like to have in their ideal accommodation. Encourage students to use newly learnt vocabulary.

If you liked this lesson plan, make sure to have a look at Lesson 1 – Our Home, Our World. Click below to download the files!

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.

Heatwave-themed – B2 Speaking

Summer classes and intensive courses can be improved by switching up the coursebook content and presenting students with some themed speaking tasks. As we are pushing through another week of unbearably high temperatures, I can’t think of anything more topical than the heatwave and climate change.

Intensive courses and exam preparation classes tend to be a bit tedious and repetitive. That’s why every now and then, I prepare themed lessons centred around a hot topic. Cambridge exam preparation coursebooks always contain one specific unit – the environment and extreme weather conditions. Why not spice your usual class and prepare your students to talk about the heatwave and their feelings about climate change?

This no-prep lesson idea is made of the examiner’s speaking notes, based on an official examiner’s guide which can be found in the FCE Sample Paper and a set of pictures available to download and print. You can also find a presentation for all the online lessons, or if you don’t want to print anything out! Scroll until the end of the post to download the files.

Start the class with a bit changed version of Speaking Part 1. Go in a circle and give each student one word to spell out. It’s a great way to introduce any new vocabulary, but also pre-teach some words that may be used during the exam practice. Additionally, it’s always good to refresh the alphabet and make sure that students are comfortable spelling things out – a skill that can be checked in Listening Part 2. The words included in the speaking are heatwave, scorching or drought.

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Proceed by asking students one or two questions about themselves. All the questions are related to weather and heatwave, for example, Which do you prefer, hot or cold weather and why? Remind them that this part of the exam is an ice-breaker, and students will be asked to talk about their personal lives.

Elicit the rules of Speaking Part 2, in which students talk individually for about a minute about two pictures. After that, another candidate answers briefly a question related to Candidate A’s pictures. There are two sets of pictures, in the first one students analyse two contrasting behaviours of people during the hot weather. In the first picture, the people are spending time in the swimming pool, and in the second, a man is relaxing on the sofa with a visible A/C unit. Give one minute to describe the pictures and answer the question posed above – Why have the people decided to do these activities?

In the second set of pictures, another candidate compares and contrasts a picture of a farmer in a field, and a woman in a hot office. Students talk about both pictures and think about different feelings they might be feeling in these situations.

Speaking Part 3 deals with a pair discussion. Read the hypothetical situation in which students imagine going on holiday to a hot country. They have 15 seconds to look at the question and five ideas of staying safe during heatwaves, for example, spending time by the water or staying hydrated. Students have two minutes to discuss the prompts and then one more minute to discuss which idea is the most feasible on holidays and why.

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The last part of the exam deals with opinion-based questions on hot weather and climate change. Allow students to develop their answers and support their reasons by giving personal examples. I always mention one of my favourite strategies in this part of the exam – give a general idea (what everyone believes), give your own opinion on the matter, and support it by giving personal examples.

Finish the class by giving everyone feedback. You can also ask the students to take notes throughout the whole class. Elicit all the positive things the others did and some areas which they should work on. If you have a bit more time and expertise, you can also give a predicted score with a short explanation.

Who said that the exam preparation classes must be boring and repetitive? If you like this type of no-preparation lesson, check out my other themed speaking for B1-C1 levels:

Click the links below to get your copy!

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?

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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?