Group lessons on Preply

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B1/B2 – Job interview – Soft skills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B2 – Greenwashing – Reading and Speaking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One month on Preply

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

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

Becoming a tutor

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

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

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

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

Preply courses

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

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

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

Going live

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

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

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

Trial lessons

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

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

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

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

Teaching on Preply

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

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

Cancelling lessons

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

Getting reviews

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

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

Getting paid

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

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

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

End of a month statistics

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

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

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

School gardens competition – A2 Reading Part 2

Spring is my favourite season, and it’s finally here! As I was thinking about a perfect lesson plan for this moment, I went through exam papers and found a reading task on school gardens competitions. I thought that this topic was ideal for this moment. It can be used to refresh garden, fruit and vegetable vocabulary, while simultaneously teaching KEY for Schools candidates how to successfully answer Reading Part 2.

I realised that I’ve been too focused on my B1 PET students and postponed all the activities for other levels, especially A2 KEY. I always enjoy going through free and readily available activities and using them in my lessons as a part of official Cambridge exam preparation. It shows that the sky is the limit, and you don’t need to pay a lot to prepare engaging and high-quality lessons.

This class focuses on understanding the Reading Part 2 exam task and using existing knowledge of vocabulary to correctly match the answers. It is a very similar task to the ones that you can find on any other higher-level Cambridge exams. You can download this task (and many others) by clicking the link Sample Papers for A2 Key for Schools. You can find this lesson plan and any additional worksheets at the end of the post.

This lesson plan can be a follow-up after a garden and vegetable vocabulary lesson or as a vocabulary reinforcement.

Start the class with a quick vocabulary revision and/or introduction that will be needed to know to complete the exam task. Divide the students into groups and play Taboo with the words vegetable, flower, insect, butterfly, carrot, potatoes, wall and to grow. You can also use more garden-related words if you have time. Once students guess all the words, put the Taboo cards on the board and ask what they all have in common. For example, Where can you find them? Where can you do these activities? The answer is, of course, a garden.

Show three pictures of gardens and ask students to describe what they can see. Ask students which of these three gardens is the best and explain why. Vote on the best garden. Proceed by handing out Reading Part 2 texts School gardens competition. You can find them by downloading Sample Papers for A2 Key for Schools, pages 4 and 5. Students read the three descriptions and match them to the pictures. Since you have already started this class by going over vocabulary, the texts shouldn’t cause too many problems.

Now that your students are already familiar with the texts, explain the rules of the exam task. Students read seven questions, followed by three texts. They need to match the questions with the text that best answers each one. If it’s the first time doing this type of activity, go over each question and underline any key information. Students work individually and look for the answers to the questions in the text. Before checking the answers, you can put students into pairs to compare the answers. Discuss the answers as a group, and make sure to find justification for each in the text.

It’s time for your students to enter their school gardens into a competition. Give each student some time to draw and write a paragraph about their gardens. Finish the class by presenting their projects and voting (anonymously?) on the best school garden. Make sure to display those gardens on your classroom wall for everyone to see!

Click below to download the lesson plan, pictures of gardens and the garden taboo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My very first trial lesson on Preply

So it finally happened! After months of debating and postponing the recording of the video for Preply, I made it. I sat down, recorded the video and after only one day of waiting, my application was approved. I assumed that just like with any other teaching platform I’ve used before, I will wait a week and book maybe a student or two. Spoilers alert – I was wrong.

Once I got accepted to be a Preply English tutor, I completed their four internal self-study courses:

  1. How to create a profile that gets students
  2. How Preply works
  3. The Preply classroom
  4. Preply Methodology for English subject tutors

It took me about an hour to complete all four of them and to be completely frank, I got a little confused. I assumed that I have some time to play around with it and figure it out before I get booked. What I hadn’t anticipated was that I’d get my very first class booked for the next day.

Let me share my Preply experience with you!

1. Before the class

I have had plenty of trial lessons before. I normally follow my routine and focus on delivering a demo lesson just to give a taste of what my lessons look like and what you can expect of me as a teacher.

However, Preply suggests using their built-in agenda to have a successful trial lesson. This feature got me just a little bit nervous.

I decided to follow some of their steps, but make it my own, so I feel comfortable teaching it. As I was wondering what to do during the first class, I searched for inspiration online and found a perfect video that dispelled all my doubts.

First of all, I was doubtful of the Preply courses and wasn’t sure whether they were optional or I could refer to them from time to time. Martin Sketchley from ELT Experiences discusses this point with his student during the trial lesson. He says that even though there is a library of resources available, he likes to use his materials because they are more complete and aligned for students. I felt relieved and decided to follow Martin’s lesson structure and some of his insightful questions and information about the platform and creating the perfect English course. I adapted it to my very first student (level A2/B1).

Below you can see my idea of the first class with a demo lesson on question word order and question intonation.

TimeProcedure
5 mins1. Welcome the student.
2. Share your screen and make sure that she can see it.
3. Discuss the lesson objectives.
8 mins1. Show questions with missing words.
2. Student fills in the gaps with the missing verbs.
3. Discuss the answers to the questions and get to know your student.
7 mins1. Show a variety of topics, e.g. family, studies, profession, hobbies, etc.
2. Student chooses topics and asks the teacher about anything she wants.
3 mins1. Discussion feedback. Discuss the strengths and areas for improvement based on speaking.
5 mins1. Discuss the Preply classroom and Preply tools.
2. Ask if the student is familiar with all the tools.
3. Talk about your favourite platforms and how you generally teach (the videoconference platform, sharing materials, homework, etc.)
7 mins1. Discuss the placement test and the course focus.
15 mins1. Demo lesson: Grammar – question word order and intonation.
2. Show different ways in which you can return questions. Ask the questions and discuss the answers. Give the student opportunity to use return questions prompts.
3. Mention that one of the ways to return questions is by changing intonation, e.g. Where are you from? – Where are you from?
4. Show more questions and identify words that carry information.
5. Listen and check the answers.
6. Model and drill question intonation.
7. Explain that in English, unlike in Polish or Spanish, questions are never made by intonation, e.g. You are going with us?
8. Go over some questions and elicit the word order in each. Put the words in the table under correct headings.
9. Look at the sentences and discuss which ones are correct and which ones are incorrect. Correct the mistakes.
10. Answer the questions from the exercise.
11. Error correction and feedback.
10 mins1. Lesson feedback. Discuss what the student liked about the lesson.
2. Talk about the future class expectations and what she would like to learn.
3. Schedule the future lesson.

I supported my lesson plan with a simple yet aesthetically pleasing presentation. If you want to see my presentation, you can download it for free at the end of the post.

2. During the class

I entered the classroom before the lesson to see how all of the Preply tools work. I had no issues before the class, so I decided to spend the rest of the time relaxing. The class started on time without any hiccups. We made small talk to break the ice and I decided to continue with my presentation. That’s when the problems began.

On any other videoconference platform, it is possible to choose an application that you want to share. This option was available to me before the class. During the lesson, I was only left with sharing my entire screen. It surprised me, but I decided to do that instead. Another thing I realised was that share the sound button seems to appear and disappear whenever it pleases. It was there when I was playing around before the class, but it conveniently disappeared during the lesson. Luckily, we didn’t do listening, so I decided to model and drill pronunciation myself.

Obviously, I was worried about not following the Preply recommended courses, but as it turned out it worked in my favour. The student has tried other tutors before and said that she’s done many of the courses with them and was pleasantly surprised that I came prepared. She said that it looks more professional and it made her feel that I thought about her before the lesson.

The class continued without any issues. We liked each other, and we booked another class next week! In fact, I was able to schedule it for my student, as accidentally she paid for four hours of classes with me. This was done in the last five minutes. In fact, she was surprised when I told her that it was time to finish because we had a great time talking and getting to know each other.

Class booking is very simple and if you use a Google Calendar, all your other commitments get immediately applied, so Preply students can’t take that spot. I used to use the Outlook Calendar before because it was connected to my laptop. Now all my classes are synchronised with the Google Calendar and the Preply Calendar. It’s just much easier.

3. After the class

The class was a success. I got a new student who I enjoyed spending time with, and I think that we can develop a nice long-term relationship. However, I tend to be a little bit critical of myself and my teaching, so here we go.

First of all, I overplanned. I guess it’s better than underplanning. I will keep my presentation as it is and will reuse it with some of my future students. I think that one day, I may have a student who isn’t as talkative and we may be able to go through the whole demo lesson without any delays.

Another important thing is that for the first time in my teaching career I have Polish students. I’m a native Polish speaker and I decided that I won’t be using it in class, unless necessary. I think that the second I show that we can communicate in Polish, this will be the go-to language, and this isn’t the point of this class. This particular student enjoyed this aspect because it felt more natural for her to communicate in English than in Polish, and we want to keep it this way!

I may be using the Preply recommended courses with some students, but definitely not with all of them. This student enjoyed the personal touch and thought that it showed professionalism. Of course, we don’t always have to use presentations as the main way of delivering information. I’ve been using presentations for a while now and I think that it’s a much more structured way of explaining certain things, for example, grammar. Additionally, some students have been on Preply for some time now and have completed some of the courses. By using your materials, you can make sure that everything they learn is taught in a new way. This student also gave me a lot of creative freedom and said that she’s happy to follow my materials and wants to learn following my methodology.

So that’s my experience using the Preply platform. So far, I’m happy with it because I’ve never been able to get that many students in such a short time. I still have a long way to fully understand all the features, but I’m sure that it’s a matter of time before I’m comfortable with it.

Have you tried Preply before? If so, what was your first experience like? If not, would you like to try it?

Incredible vegetables – B2 – Use of English Part 3

I guess spring is in the air, and it makes me more inclined towards healthy food and keeping fit topics. This time we’ll look into different vegetables and their health benefits. This will lead towards the lesson focus and the nemesis of Cambridge exam candidates – Use of English and word formation.

This post and lesson plan is inspired by Stephanie Valerio and her blog post titled B2 Word Formation Sudoku. When I saw it, I knew that I have to find a way to incorporate this incredible idea and spread this game all around. So thank you, Stephanie! I hope that this lesson plan will do your activity some justice.

This lesson is prepared for online/hybrid classes. It contains a lesson plan (with all the answers) and a presentation. Click the files at the end of the post to get your free copies.

Once again, I was going through free Cambridge Sample papers and found a Use of English Part 3 task titled An Incredible Vegetable. You can get your copy of this task with all the answers included from Sample Paper 1 for B2 First.

The first part of the lesson is based on a short YouTube video on the health benefits of certain vegetables titled Foods That Look Like Body Parts Give Clues To Their Health Benefits by ELLICSR Kitchen.

Start the class by showing pictures of foods from the video: walnut, carrot, tomato, olives and Brazilian nut. Students name the vegetables and nuts and match them with body parts that they resemble. Watch the video and check the answers. Discuss if students knew about the health benefits of these foods and if they have tried them before. Check if students remember what they have just watched and ask to write the health benefits of each. Watch again to see the answers and complete the list of health benefits.

Introduce the Reading and Use of English Part 3 by showing a picture of garlic and naming it. Ask if students enjoy it and what are its possible health benefits. Show an official exam task titled An Incredible Vegetable and read it for gist. Elicit some benefits mentioned in the text, e.g. infection resistance, killing bacteria and viruses, useful for coughs and cold, etc.

If it’s the first time that your students do this type of task, you may want to explain the rules and approach to be successful. Mention that one of the strategies is looking at the gaps and thinking about the type of missing words, e.g. noun (plural/singular?), verb, adjective, adverb, etc. Go over each gap and think of the types of missing words. If you have a strong group, you may want to encourage them to predict the missing words at this stage.

Show the base words in alphabetical order and give students some time to think about their different forms. Once everyone has completed the table to the best of their abilities, go over and write the answers. Make sure to include the words that will be used in the exam task later on! Once everyone has their cheatsheets ready, reveal the base words corresponding to each gap. Give students a maximum of five minutes to complete the task by changing the words to fit the gaps. Check and discuss the answers. This class shouldn’t cause too many problems to your students, as you have done the majority of it together.

Finish the class with a fun word-formation sudoku game created by Stephanie! Divide students into pairs and ask them to complete the sudoku – the first group to solve it correctly wins.

The use of English is a pain, and it’s so hard to turn it into a fun class, but I hope that you enjoyed my idea and will adapt it to your lesson! And what about Stephanie’s sudoku? That brain teaser will help many students memorise the new words and their spelling.

Click the links below to download the files for free.

Starters – Listening Part 4 – FRUIT!

Language exams can be taken at pretty much any age possible – very young learners included! There are many opinions for and against examining children. Some people believe that we need to prepare to take exams early on, and get ready for the adult world, filled with examinations, courses and certificates. Others believe that children shouldn’t be subjected to this type of stress and all YL education should be done through playtime and games. In my opinion, we should have the best of both worlds, and the Starters Cambridge exam proves that it’s possible to test the language level of young learners while keeping it light and fun.

Before I moved onto the digital world of teaching and started focusing on teenagers and adults, I used to teach (very) young learners in person. My groups were divided into Cambridge levels – Starters, Movers and Flyers. At the end of every trimester, I had to deliver a personalised assessment of each student, all of it supported by their final score for the Cambridge mock exam. Based on their final results, I decided which student could take the official Cambridge exam and move to a higher-level group.

For this reason, we used Cambridge exam preparation coursebooks (Fun for Starters) and Cambridge past papers. The exams are simple and relatively fun, for example, there are anagrams in the reading exam and lots of colouring in the listening exam. My favourite part of the Starters exam is Listening Part 4. I always enjoyed my students at the highest concentration levels, looking for the right colours as if their lives depended on it!

I have been working on exam-style vocabulary worksheets for Starters for some time now. When I saw free Starters Practice Papers 2 with a perfect Listening Part 4 activity, I decided to finally use my worksheets and prepare an exam preparation lesson plan for VYL.

Head to the end of the post to get a free set of worksheets focusing on fruit, or go to my TpT store to get the full version, including sixteen words related to fruit and vegetables.

Download the fruit flashcards, print them out, and if possible, laminate them! Hide the fruit flashcards/realia around the classroom. Tell students that there are eight fruits hidden in the room. Students walk around and find them. As they give them back to you, ask them to repeat their names after you. Ask them to sit down and repeat the new vocabulary after you. Finish by showing the flashcards for a split second. Students say the fruit they think they saw. Then, place flashcards on the floor and say the name of the fruit. Students race to touch the correct flashcard. You can change instructions to touch the fruit of a particular colour.

Time for a settler. Hand out anagram worksheets. Students order the letters and write the names of fruits. You can put the flashcards on the board to help them with the spelling and the letter shape. Follow this activity by completing a picture dictionary. Students cut out the pictures of fruit and stick them on top of the corresponding names. It’s also a good activity to practise reading aloud.

It’s time to prepare students for the listening part of the lesson. Give each student five coloured pineapples (green, purple, orange, blue, red). If you have more time, you can ask students to colour them instead. Say the colour of the pineapple and ask students to put them in different places, for example, Put the orange pineapple under the table. This exercise should serve as a revision of colours, prepositions of place and prepare students to follow instructions correctly.

Students come back to their places. Hand out the Cambridge Starters Listening Part 4. Before you start the task, ask them to name all the fruits that they can see. Count all the pineapples and elicit where they are. You can also ask them about the colour of the pineapple on the clock. Students take out their coloured pencils. Play the recording and give them time to colour the pineapples as instructed by the recording. Check and correct the answers.

Finish by asking students to stand in line. Stand in front of your students, facing them. Show the flashcards of fruit and repeat their names. Ask if students like that fruit or not. If they do, they run to the right, if not, they run to the left. Clean the working stations and give some time to pack the backpacks. Before leaving the classroom, show a flashcard to each student and elicit vocabulary. If the answer is correct, they can leave.

If you enjoyed my idea for the listening part 4 lesson, click the files below to get your copies. If you want the full version, or worksheets focusing on another vocabulary (body parts, domestic animals, wild animals and food), go to my TpT store.

5 ways of keeping private students

Ever since I started working with private students, I quickly realized that this is what I’m good at, and as a result, I love doing it. I think that it’s safe to say that I think about my students a lot. I always think about new lesson ideas and plan classes that will benefit them the most. However, once the prepaid classes come to an end, I start to sweat just a tiny bit – what if they quit, and it’s the last time I see them?

Teaching adults and teenagers was always something that I really enjoyed. Now that I work online and the majority of my classes are 1:1, I get to be a bit pickier and teach what I want and how I want to. There are some disadvantages to this situation, which I’ve talked about before in The flakiness of adult students. To be frank, there are more advantages and with the right approach, it’s possible to avoid any issues. In the beginning, I had some hiccups here and there, which were necessary and served me as a lesson. Now I understand 1:1 teaching a bit more. That’s why I thought of five ways in which you can ensure your students don’t disappear from one day to another.

Write down any important information

I’m aware of how creepy it sounds. However, in my opinion, this is possibly the most important piece of information. I came to this realization about a week ago while making small talk with one of my students. She’d mentioned to me before very personal and important news. The truth be told, I’d forgotten about it and only remembered it when I saw her in class. Naturally, I asked about her well-being and noticed that her mood shifted for the better (luckily). I could tell that she appreciated my concern and liked that I checked up on her.

This was my starting point on taking short notes on each of my students. Before, all my notes focused on language-related issues, ways of improving and important dates. Now, each file contains a little note on their birthdays, likes and dislikes, hobbies, family members and some past experiences. I do this with the intention of using it in one of my future lessons. It shows that I listen, care about them and their lives. The notes are there only to help me remember and make sure that I don’t confuse one student with another. Plus, who doesn’t like when a relatively random person remembers and wishes them on their birthdays!

Personalised classes

Once I gather information on their interests, it’s much easier to plan and prepare engaging lessons. There are times when I mind my own business when I stumble upon something that I think one of my students would enjoy, and try to use it next time in my class. Of course, it’s much more difficult to do that when working at an academy or with a larger group of students, when you have a syllabus to follow and all the topics are rather broad. In the case of 1:1 lessons, you can go over general topics, or you can go deep into a rabbit hole and explore any niche possible.

For my aspiring actress student, the lessons tend to be centred around pop culture, musicals, psychology and expressing oneself. For my digital marketer student, I like to prepare lessons on social media, attracting customers and marketing psychology. For my future fisherman, we focus on technical language and environmental impacts of fishing in Spain. It takes more effort to prepare these lessons, but I enjoy learning new things and stepping away (at least for a little bit) from the exam preparation. The most important thing is that I like when they like my lessons.

Be understanding, empathetic and approachable

Even though it’s good to have some kind of insurance and introduce a cancellation policy, it’s also important to be understanding. Private students choose your classes because they may have an irregular schedule and for this reason can’t attend group lessons. Currently, I’ve got three students who need to tell me their availability at the end of each class. At first, I was hesitant, but I got the hang of it now. We always manage to find the day and time that best fits our schedules. They are also more than welcome to message me in case of emergency or if they feel like taking a day off and prefer to postpone a class.

I can’t remember how many times I got a message to postpone the lesson by an hour or a few days, because of a delivery, spontaneous trip or mental health day. It may seem like a hassle, but the truth is, it’s not a big deal. Things happen and I know that if I’m understanding, they’ll be understanding if one day something happens to me. It doesn’t happen often, but there were a few occasions in which I needed to move the class to some other day or even teach on Saturday (or Sunday!). I’m not a big fan of working at the weekends, but it doesn’t bother me too much, now that I work for myself.

Similarly, I don’t get angry if someone cancels English lessons because of personal reasons. People tend to overexplain and make sure that I know that it’s them, not me. I never expect any explanation. If they have a bad personal situation, struggle financially, or just lost motivation – that’s ok! Cancelling English lessons, shouldn’t stress you out.

Be knowledgeable

I always prepare for all of my lessons. If there is a topic that I feel a bit unsure of, I research it and practise it myself first. I read all the texts beforehand and think about the parts that may be difficult. This shows that I put effort into the lessons, and don’t just show up to the class empty-handed.

At the same time, if there’s something that I didn’t predict, I admit it and come back to it next class. I do it in this way because I don’t want to sound and look unprofessional in front of my students. They always appreciate honesty and understand that it’s impossible to know everything. It has happened to me quite recently. I overestimated my C1 level student knowledge and prepared a very basic explanation because I assumed that she knows it. My assumption was based on observation and the fact that she has used this type of structure before. When it came to grammar practice, she got lost and I simply ran out of time to get into it. So the next class was all about this, from start to finish. I apologized for my mistake, and that time we did it properly. There were no hard feelings towards the end and she was thankful, for planning this class while thinking about her and her needs.

Open up to your students

I always welcome my students to open up to me and talk about themselves and their lives (only if they want). Similarly, I include some of my information in classes, too. I tell them about my experience, travels, friendships, relationships (A bad date)… Anything to make the classes more realistic and make them feel that they’re using the language naturally. I love the feeling when they forget that they speak English and just talk. For example, for my B1 level students, I’ve prepared a lesson on prepositions of time, in which I talk about my trip to Singapore. I share my story and normally answer follow-up questions about the trip. I think it’s so much better than a dry textbook story about an imaginary person. It also engages and makes them want to share their pictures and stories with me.

I don’t think that it’s possible to be a perfect teacher. So far, I was able to convince all of my students to stay with me after the trial lessons. Unfortunately, I know that there will be a time when I find someone who doesn’t want to work with me, or who will resign after a few lessons. Until that day comes, I’m not going to think about it. For the time being, I’m going to focus on my current students and help them reach their language goals to the best of my abilities.

How do you make sure that your students are happy and want to stay with you?