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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B1 – Are you a Bookworm?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

These are a few of my favourite things (2022)

Happy New Year everyone! Welcome to my first post of 2023! Wrapping up and reflecting on the past year is a thing, so I can’t stay behind. I’d like to kick off this year by looking at some of the people and things that made my life easier and pushed me forward. I wouldn’t be where I am right now without them.

As I’m looking at my last year’s post, These are a few of my favourite things (2021), I can’t help but smile at how much has changed over the last 12 months. I closed 2021 with 2,301 visitors and 6,673 views in total. In 2022, I had 19,189 and 45,060 views! How crazy is that?! I can’t imagine what this year is going to look like.

JoannaESL stats

I think that this year I would like to focus on my small achievements first and share with you some of my most viewed posts. My top three posts were:

I must admit that changing the layout of the website and making it easier for everyone to access any of my older lesson plans has increased the views. Who would have thought?🤯At the moment, all my lesson plans are available based on levels. In the future, I’m planning to divide them based on topics.

I’m a big fan of maps, so here is the view of all the countries I reached in the last 365 days. The top countries are Spain (10,684 views), Italy (3,680 views) and Vietnam (1988 views).

I think it is important to mention everyone who featured my blog posts this year. It’s always so exciting to see that people enjoy my lesson plans and share them with their followers. Thank you, everyone! I hope that I didn’t miss anyone!

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Books for teachers

This year, the book that I looked at the most was English Grammar in Use 5th Edition by Raymond Murphy (Cambridge University Press). It helped me prepare much better and more in-depth explanations. It also provided me with many engaging and comprehensive tasks that I implemented in class and also often assigned as extra homework. It has never failed, and many of my students appreciated this extra work as it made them feel a bit more confident with the structure and use of English.

Coursebook

I used to focus primarily on Cambridge exam preparation. I still do it occasionally, but now most of my students look for conversational and general English classes. For this reason, I was looking for a perfect general English coursebook. I love all English File 4th edition books, but to keep myself sane, I decided to use some other coursebooks. Since last year I loved all the coursebooks published by Oxford University Press, I had a go at their Headway 5th edition. It’s got a bit different approach to grammar, but the reading and listening materials are topical and interesting, which makes for a great learning experience.

Teacher influencer

I wouldn’t have made it this far without Martin Sketchley (@ELTExperiences). I had been following Martin for quite some time before I really started paying attention to his incredible content. In February of last year, I was preparing for my first Preply trial lesson and his video A Real Preply Trial Class / 55 minutes / Unedited Lesson on Preply was exactly what I needed. It’s needless to say that he saved me a lot of time. Even though my Preply trial lesson style has changed, I still use his class as a scaffold.

Martin has quickly become one of the online teachers who I follow religiously now. His walk-and-talk series was one of my favourites this year. He was also the person who gave me a space to talk about my online teaching experience. It was a nerve-racking experience as it was the first time for me to speak online, but he put so much effort into making this video as informational and enjoyable as possible.

Another teacher influencer who put me on an online EFL map is Miguel Míguez (@onthesamepagelt). Whenever I need to find some good lesson plans, I end up on his website On the same page. His website is an endless source of classroom ideas. I think Miguel is best known for his Facebook page, though. I believe so far, two of my blog posts were on his radar and got promoted on his page. Thanks to him, many people found out about my blog and became regulars.

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Teachers on WordPress

It’s almost impossible to find one or two EFL teachers who blew my mind this year. Everyone is great and unique. Unfortunately, due to my schedule, I tend to miss a blog post or two every now and then. If I have to pick from the posts that I saw this year, there is a certain post that comes to my mind.

Pete from ELT Planning (@eltplanning) posted Where do my materials writing opportunities come from? in which he talked about, you guessed it, his writing opportunities! I read it and started dreaming that maybe one day, I will reach the same level and receive some opportunities to write a short lesson plan. Besides this post, there are many other posts and lesson plans, so click and check it out for yourselves.

Another person who never ceases to amaze me is Svetlana (@ELT_CATION) from ELT-cation. I always look for new activities to use in my classroom. That’s why when I saw her 12 5-minute vocabulary revision activities, I knew she would be on my list. I used this post to implement quick vocabulary revisions at the beginning of my lessons. However, she’s more known for teaching tutors how to create their courses and build their websites. If you are at the beginning of your online teaching/presence journey, give her a follow -you won’t regret it.

Tools

Ever since I joined an online teaching platform, I ditched a Microsoft Calendar and switched to a Google Calendar, as it is just easier to use. It synchronizes to all my accounts and books any open spots for me. I have a widget calendar on my phone, so I can quickly check my next class, and so far I haven’t missed even one lesson, so I guess it’s been my little success this year.

I also moved away from my Instagram account and focused on Twitter. I find it a much better tool to socialise with EFL teachers all over the world. Unfortunately, despite a good following on Instagram, I felt like I was interacting with bots. The number of followers didn’t reflect under my posts. This was quite discouraging and ultimately lead to my account being permanently closed.

In February, I also started teaching on an online platform called Preply and quickly got students over there. Despite its flaws, I wouldn’t have made it this far without it. It gave me a chance to become a group tutor, which I talked about in Group lessons on Preply. The format of teaching has changed, but I remained the group tutor in a new format. I think that one of my resolutions for this year is to put a bit more energy and effort into creating group courses, as it also brings me a lot of content to the blog.

Here are my stats and favourite things about 2022. This year has been revolutionary for me and showed me that if I put my mind to something, anything is possible. I think I should keep the ball rolling, and aim for four blog posts a month (I’m sure I will regret those words later!). Thank you for another year with me, and let’s see what will happen in 2023!

Happy New Year and hope to see you around!

Christmas-themed B2 speaking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B2 – The bizarre world of perfume ads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B1 – The Power of Music

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feel free to download the files below! Happy listening 🎧

B1 – Choosing a Place to Live

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Halloween-themed B1 speaking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.