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C1: Advanced Training: Water Cooler Gossip

Cartoon Characters People Around Water Cooler Gossip Concept.. Royalty Free  Cliparts, Vectors, And Stock Illustration. Image 124635636.

This is a lesson plan designed to develop students’ understanding of common idiomatic expressions that can come up in the C1 Advanced exam. Students discuss the topic of problems in the workplace and look at fixed expressions in the context of a dialogue. Download the student handout and exam practice activity below:

I made this lesson plan by taking a bunch of the expressions that are tested in this quizlet set of key word transformations and shoehorning them into a dialogue. You may also wish to use this quizizz game for spaced repetition of the expressions.


Give out the handout and have students discuss the pre-reading topic in small groups. Clear up any vocab doubts and briefly recap in open class.

Have students read the text and answer the gist question: Read the text, which workplace problems does it describe? The text describes a case of nepotism.

Have students answer the detail questions:

  1. Who are the two people? co-workers/colleagues
  2. What are they annoyed about? being overlooked for a promotion
  3. Why did James get the job? he’s the boss’s son-in-law
  4. What is their plan? to wait for James to make a mistake then “throw him under the bus”
  5. Why do they need to be careful? because if anyone finds out they’re plotting, they might lose their jobs

Students look at the language focus section. 2 expressions of surprise: come as a surprise to someone + be taken aback

Have them discuss the other expressions and come up with a simpler paraphrasing for the expression. What they’re doing essentially is writing the first sentence in a key word transformation exercise.

Have students flip the paper over and look at version 2. Now they must use the key words to recall the expressions from the original version from memory. They can then flip back over and check their answers, encourage them to focus on small details like prepositions and verb patterns (gerund/infinitive after the expression) as these can often be worth a mark in the exam.

Students then work in groups to write a new dialogue using as many expressions as possible. Set the key word transformation worksheet, which tests the same structures, as homework. Alternatively you could space it slightly more and have them complete the worksheet in the following class.


Barcelona based English Teacher, blogger and sometime actor and director.

5 thoughts on “C1: Advanced Training: Water Cooler Gossip

  1. Thanks for sharing. Unfortunately, since recently I can neither look through nor download any lesson. Can this be amended in any possible way?
    Best regards,

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