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!

B2/C1 – Buccal fat removal (guided reading)

I don’t know about you, but I spend a little too much time on social media. Luckily, I don’t own a TikTok account, but other platforms with similar features rob you of your free time. I saw a video on buccal fat removal during one of those YouTube scrolling sessions. Whether it was the clickbait or an attractive thumbnail, I clicked on it and serendipitously found a new topic for one of my private lessons.

As you can see from the title, I didn’t end up using the video in my class. It was a reaction to a commentary on celebrities following the buccal fat removal trend and the nasty consequences of the procedure. I searched for another video that would hopefully explain this trend, and focus more on the before-and-after pictures without shaming anyone who’s ever gone under the knife. However, I had no luck that day. Instead, I started searching for a news article, which I could send to my students before class and focus on the topic later in class. That’s when I found Why Is Everyone Suddenly Obsessed With Buccal Fat? by Madison Malone Kircher from The New York Times. If you don’t use The New York Times too often, you should be able to access the article for free. I decided to trim the text and adapt it to my students’ needs before sending it their way.

If you are interested in this guided reading lesson, scroll to the end of the post to download the lesson plan and the presentation for free.

If you don’t want to send the article before the class, you can start with a lead-in in which students look at the pictures of seven famous women and predict what they might have in common. At this stage, any answer may be correct. For example, they are all celebrities, all women, all young and attractive-looking. The correct answer is that allegedly all the women had a buccal fat removal procedure.

Read the first paragraph of the article in which the author explains what buccal fat is and the reason why so many people are crazy about it. Another problem I found while researching the topic, was the inconsistency in pronouncing buccal. For this reason, I went to the Cambridge Dictionary and included the meaning and proper pronunciation of the word. In the first part of the reading, I focused on three vocabulary items: chiselled, sculpted and swelling. To reinforce the word formation, students identify the parts of speech and change these words to other parts of speech, for example, chiselled (adjective) – to chisel (verb) – a chisel (noun).

Moving on to the second paragraph, in which students learn more about buccal fat. Before reading the main text, students read the questions and then look for the answers in the text. The questions are designed in a way to help understand the words fluctuation and cherubic. In the original text, the author refers to the angels from the Sistine Madonna as cherubs. It could be a nice additional word and another example of word formation, in case you decide to keep it.

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Now it’s time to get to the main part of the text – Why are we even talking about the buccal fat removal now? I thought it could be a good idea to allow the students read the paragraphs and discuss the answers to the opinion-based questions in pairs or groups. The text is quite easy, and I believe that higher-level students will have no problems understanding it without any help. Students discuss answers to the questions like Should we criticise celebrities for not being honest about their cosmetic surgeries? or Who should take the blame for a bad procedure – celebrities or plastic surgeons? Give students time to talk about these topics and elicit answers from some groups.

Of course, it’s much easier to criticise celebrities. It’s time to think about the nonpublic-facing people who decided to get the surgeries done and shared their buccal fat removal journeys online. Students read about a woman who travelled to Mexico to get it done at a lower price. You can also watch a 10 seconds video as an example of what can be found on the internet. Once again, students discuss if they know anyone who had this procedure done. They also think about a more serious issue – Would you ever travel abroad to get the surgery? Why (not)? Students may think about the reasons for going abroad to get the surgery, for instance, the price or easier access, etc.

In the next part, students read about the procedure and answer simple questions to check their understanding of the text and procedure. The idea behind this paragraph is a quick introduction to a discussion if students would ever decide to get this procedure done on their faces.

The author suggests doing the best Zoolander impression to get an idea of what the effects of the procedure would look like on them. Do your best impressions and decide if that procedure is a good idea.

Students work in pairs or small groups again and think about three possible risks of getting a buccal fat removal procedure. Collect the ideas and read the paragraph to check the answers. The answers given in the text are bleeding, nerve injuries, infection, numbness and an asymmetrical face. After finding out about the possible risks of the surgery, would the students still want to get it done? Do they believe that the procedure is worth the risk?

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In the next paragraph, students read about the biggest problem with any plastic surgery – ageing. The paragraph mentions the type of people who are best candidates for this type of surgery (people with an excess of buccal fat). Students deal with this paragraph by describing an ideal person for this procedure. You can check if they remember previously mentioned vocabulary, such as the cherubic face. Yet again, the paragraph isn’t overly complicated, but you may want to explain the meaning of sunken in and hollow.

Following the last two words from the previous paragraph – No regrets – students think about their regrets regarding haircuts, purchases, or maybe some of the cosmetic procedures they had done before. Most likely, none of your students will have a bad plastic surgery story, so you may want to focus on bad haircuts and how they dealt with reversing the process. Then students read about how the buccal fat removal procedure can be reversed.

Finally, students read the last paragraph in which the author mentions any other additional information that we should know about. The main point of this paragraph is talking about trends, not only in fashion or TikTok dances but also in more invasive ones, such as cosmetic surgeries. Finish with a group discussion talking about the previous trends and predicting the next big plastic surgery trend.

That was a long one! If you enjoyed this guided reading description, look at the lesson plan and the presentation below. If you are a user of Canva, you can also get the presentation on that platform.

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 🎧

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!

B1 – Our Home, Our World

The unthinkable has happened! On 12th September, I received a mysterious e-mail from someone from Preply, inviting me to be one of the course tutors. Obviously, I accepted! How could I not? I’ve been teaching Preply ready-made group lessons for about five months now, and it felt like the next natural step in my online teaching career.

After being a bit sceptical and verifying that the message was a real invitation from Preply, I followed all the necessary steps to be a part of this experience. Immediately I took it to Twitter to get some topic course ideas. My first instinct was either environment or celebrity gossip/pop culture. However, this quickly changed as I was asked to provide a short description of the 1-10 hour long course. Since my first idea was to go with the flow, I had to actually sit down and figure it out ASAP.

I had a look at all existing courses to avoid any repetition. There were a few on food, breaking news, and job interviews… The list goes on! I decided to design a six-hour course on housing. The course ranges from describing unusual accommodations, talking about our dream houses, everyday language to rent a house and talking about the problems and future of housing. Below you can see a list of lessons from the B1 course titled My Space, My Place.

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You can download the lesson plan and the presentation at the end of the post!

The class starts by looking at and labelling four different types of accommodations: a houseboat, a block of flats, a chalet and a motorhome. Students take turns talking about one of them, discussing possible features that can be found in each one of them, e.g. a spacious kitchen, beautiful views, convenience, etc. Ask which one of them looks most like their house and which one they would choose to stay in for a short holiday.

Follow this short warm-up discussion by showing pictures and reading a short introduction to an article from Earth Homes Now on cave homes. Despite the text being short as it is, I reduced it even more for the sake of the class, focusing more on speaking rather than reading. After this brief introduction, discuss if students are surprised about the cave homes being still used now. Divide students into pairs/small groups and ask them to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of living in a cave. This activity serves as an introduction to reading for gist in the next part.

Students return to the main room / their desks and begin individual work. They read the rest of the article on the pros and cons of living in the cave home. Elicit the answers (you can write them down) and check if any of the students’ ideas appeared in the text. There are four advantages and two disadvantages mentioned in the text: natural sound insulation, warm in the winter and cool in the summer, cheap to build, natural protection from intruders, but also the risk of collapsing and no natural light.

All Preply group lessons have some kind of focus on grammar. I decided to use it as a revision of comparatives. Students are introduced to comparatives in the next activity, reading for gist. Show six sentences, all containing comparatives and ask them to decide if the sentences are true (T), false (F) or the information isn’t given in the text. Then go over the rules and spelling of comparative forms. Practice the use of grammar by writing three sentences comparing living in a cave and living in a block of flats. I chose a block of flats, as almost everyone has some kind of experience living in such a place, but of course, feel free to change it as needed!

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Finish this part of the lesson by discussing the following questions about living in a cave house: Would you like to live in a cave house? How is living in a cave house different from living in your current location? What would you miss the most if you lived in a cave house or another unusual place mentioned in the class? Monitor the activity and provide students with speaking feedback at the end of it.

If you’ve got enough time left, you can put students into pairs and discuss the differences between houseboats and chalets. This is an optional activity that can be also used earlier during the lesson as grammar practice.

So what do you think about my first lesson in the course? You can find the slides and the lesson plan down below! Stay tuned for more classes.

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.

Do online platforms promote ‘lazy’ teaching?

Nowadays, with the online teaching platforms springing up like mushrooms, anyone who speaks English can become an EFL teacher. Even though having a teaching certificate can give you leverage over other unqualified teachers, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful with it. For many, teaching online is a side hustle and an easy way to make some extra cash.

The other day, one of my students stayed with me a bit long on a videocall and gave me a much-needed performance review. He told me what he enjoys about our lessons and how he thinks they are helping him on a day-to-day basis. I always prepare for my lessons. For some of my students, I create presentations and files to keep them engaged, have visual stimulus and in case of lower levels, allow them to understand everything I say. For others, I prepare a script and put things on the whiteboard to make the classes interactive.

Going through coursebooks, searching for useful materials and class preparation take a lot of time, but I don’t get discouraged for two simple reasons – positive feedback and visible student progress. Having a list of presentations and ready-to-go lesson plans, calm me down and allow me to reuse and evolve my current resources and lesson structure. No two lessons are identical.

As I wrote a few months ago in The oversaturated market of ESL teaching, currently there are way too many online ESL teachers. However, I think I’ll let my Preply ratings speak for themselves. Up until this point, all of my students liked my lessons. They were always kind enough to give me feedback and discuss with me their ever-evolving language needs. This respect for respect strategy motivates me to sit down and adapt to their current demands.

One-to-one lessons

Preply, which is the platform I’ve got the most experience with, provides teachers with a resource library. Even though it seems like a useful tool, I have never used it. The explanation for this is very simple – I don’t think these materials are good enough to fill one whole hour. My idea of the resource library was confirmed during the feedback videocall with the student who has got more experience with the platform than I do. During his time on Preply, he’s completed a few Preply courses, which in his words were interesting at first, but got boring quickly.

I believe that teachers deserve to have free time and they should enjoy teaching. They shouldn’t think about class preparation when they’re off, and it’s rather unrealistic to expect every single class to be filled with high-energy levels and excitement. Like anyone else, teachers have better and worse days and having a resource library can remove some of the stress related to class preparation. Also, not all the teachers have the access to many coursebooks and resources, and they may not want to or they may not be able to invest in some materials. The ready-made courses may bring some kind of structure and logical order of teaching. On top of that, if you like your students to prepare before the lesson, they can complete a set of pre-lesson tasks. It can also give them homework to practise anything you did in class without the need for you to spend your free time correcting endless worksheets.

However, I listened to those audios and let me tell you something – they aren’t good. Imagine two Google Translate voices having a conversation. On top of that, all the classes follow the same order: listening ➡️ reading ➡️ (optional video) ➡️ gap fill ➡️ writing ➡️ speaking (done in class). If all lessons look the same, they tend to be predictable and boring. If you attend a few Preply webinars or complete some of their courses, you can see that even their main tutors, all of them qualified and experienced teachers, supplement their classes with additional sources.

Whether you’re using online resources or your materials, it doesn’t change the fact that you should stay flexible and see where the class takes you. The main complaint of this student was that the tutor blindly followed the questions found in the resource library and stuck with them, even if they didn’t land and the student wasn’t interested in the topic. This is also one of the main reasons why I was so hesitant to use the library, as many times I found the questions a bit confusing and uninteresting. If I’m not excited about the topic, the class isn’t going to be a success. That’s a guarantee.

It’s not all inherently bad. In fact, I often go through their library to check any new topics, look at the structure of the lessons and try to get inspiration when my head is empty. It’s usually a successful method of looking for something good which saves me a lot of time and allows me to stay organised. After all, all those materials were created by a group of professionals.

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Group lessons

As I’ve mentioned many times before, every now and then I teach Group lessons on Preply. I love that I was given this opportunity. It’s a nice and easy way to boost your earnings on slow days. Additionally, you are given all the presentations and lesson plans that you must follow whether you like it or not! I always go through the materials and write a short lesson structure, so I know how to lead this class. However, I’ve got a problem with some email wording. 15 minutes before the class, you receive an email that says that it is your last chance to review your lesson material. In my opinion, 15 minutes may not be enough. Group lessons consist of up to six new students that most likely you’ve never met before. Add the stress of being recorded and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a disaster. In order for the classes to be good, you need to think about the lesson order that suits you, think about perfect pair work moments and also predict some of the mistakes and ways in which you can tackle them. After all, you are going to be rated at the end of the lesson!

I often find mistakes in those presentations, so much so that it became one of my recurring games Spot and correct the error! Another thing is that at times I feel like their grammar explanations are lacking. I tend to add some of my examples or fun facts if there’s enough time and I feel like the students may appreciate my input. It also lets me move smoothly from one topic to another as I know what I want and how I want it. I have some time to think about my instructions, which are crucial in the case of lower levels. So if you think that the students can’t see the difference between a teacher who had a look at the notes and the one who didn’t, you are wrong. Up until this point, I had three students who complained about their past group tutors and said that the classes were a mess.

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Final thoughts

First of all, I should apologise for the clickbaity title. For sure there are many quote-unquote lazy teachers, but I don’t think online platforms intend to promote them. These websites were designed to create a network of teachers and make language learning accessible for everyone. Unfortunately, the process of accepting teachers should be a bit more challenging. Many teachers see it as a side hustle, they often forget about these lessons and give a bad name to those who care.

The internet is full of bad tutor stories. Some come from teachers, who try the platforms they teach on as students, and see first-hand the type of teachers students may be exposed to. I guess it’s important to remember that finding the perfect tutor may take some time. At the end of the day, amongst the plethora of online teachers, only those who put their hearts into their work, stay.

The number one thing I should learn from these websites is to promote student independence. To some degree, I manage to do it, but I’m far from perfection. My classes often focus on speaking with some grammar sprinkled here and there as I believe that certain things can be done on your own. However, I try to be flexible and if I see that they need my help, I devote some time to one particular issue, until I’m sure that my students are confident using it. I often instruct them to study grammar beforehand either by watching some YouTube videos or by referring them to English Grammar in Use 5th edition by Raymond Murphy. I suggest buying the book or downloading an application English Grammar in Use, so they can have a look at some free units with the possibility to invest in a full version.

For now, I’m going to stick to my current teaching style. I enjoy using ready-made plans from websites such as ESLBrainsLinguahouse, or going back to some of my past lessons! There is nothing wrong with using online materials. What matters is the ability to adapt all the materials to your group size and of course needs and interests of your students. I think that this is the key to success and a constant influx of students.

What is your experience teaching/learning online? Do you think it’s possible to find good tutors on the online teaching platforms?