Posted in Phrase of the Day

Proficiency Phrase of the Day #23: To give your word

Today’s phrase is…

To give one’s word

Here are some examples:

He gave her his word that he wouldn’t tell anyone her secret.

I give you my word that everything I’ve told you is the truth.

Lead students to the meaning: to make a solemn promise.


  • How often do you make promises to your friends?
  • Do you always keep your promises?
  • How good are you at keeping secrets?
  • Which of your friends do you feel you can trust with your secrets?
  • Are you good at telling if someone is lying or being insincere when they make a promise?

Here’s the Quizlet set of all the previous phrases of the day.

Posted in Teacher Training

Innovate ELT 2023 – May 20th & 21st

Come to Innovate ELT at Oxford House in Barcelona! It’s always one of the best ELT conferences because of the combination of inspiring talks, a beautiful setting and a commitment to fostering a welcoming and supportive atmosphere for networking.

I’ll be giving a talk on Saturday May 20th from 18:30-19:15 entitled “Atomic Classroom Habits”. The aim of the talk is to examine how we can apply theories of habit formation from James Clear’s bestselling book “Atomic Habits” to the ESL classroom.

There are loads of other great talks by a range of inspiring speakers such as Scott Thornbury, Teresa Bestwick, Geoff Jordan and many more!

Follow this link to find out more information about the conference and this one to buy your tickets!

You can also follow Oxford House and the Innovate ELT conference on all the socials. Have a click around to check out lots of videos about the theme of the conference and the various speakers:

InnovateELT Facebook

InnovateELT Instagram

InnovateELT Twitter

Oxford TEFL Facebook

Oxford TEFL Instagram

OxfordTEFL Twitter

Oxford TEFL LinkedIn

Hopefully see you in the beautiful Oxford House garden!

Posted in Phrase of the Day

Proficiency Phrase of the Day #22: All of a sudden…

Today’s phrase is…

All of a sudden

Introduce it with some examples:

All of a sudden, the power went out and we were left in complete darkness.

We were driving along the highway when all of a sudden a deer ran out in front of us.

Lead students to the meaning: suddenly/unexpectedly.


  • Have you ever had a near miss while travelling in a car/bus/other vehicle? What happened?
  • Have you ever been shocked, scared or surprised by a sudden unexpected event? What happened?
  • Are you a fan of horror films? Can you remember any particularly good jump scares?
  • Invent the perfect jump scare from a horror film. The ingredients are: a spooky situation, tension building, a distraction or misdirect, the sudden appearance of something horrifying.

Here’s the Quizlet set of all the previous phrases of the day.

Posted in Phrase of the Day

Proficiency Phrase of the Day #21 – Go to waste…

Today’s phrase is….

go to waste

Introduce it with some examples:

When I go out for dinner I often overeat because I hate to see good food go to waste.

He was a great guitarist but all that talent went to waste when he decided to become an accountant instead.

Meaning: fail to be used or taken advantage of


Put students in pairs or small groups and have them answer the following questions:

Which of these statements are true for you?

  • I often buy food from the supermarket and end up throwing it away.
  • I always overorder at restaurants.
  • Wasting food/water makes me feel guilty.
  • I eat food that is past its best before date.
  • I would consider eating fruit and vegetables that supermarkets have thrown away.
  • I’ve worked hard on projects that have ended up failing or not going anywhere.
  • I can think of sportspeople, musicians or other celebrities who have wasted their talent.

Here’s the Quizlet set of all the previous phrases of the day.

Posted in Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency, Reading Classes

Proficiency Reading Part 6: Gapped Text Training

This is a training lesson plan to help students preparing for the C2 Cambridge Proficiency exam tackle part 6 of the reading and use of English paper. Students tend to struggle with this part of the exam and need a lot of guidance.

I’ve based this lesson plan around an example task from the CUP Proficiency Testbook 1 on the topic of expedition rafting. Download the PowerPoint, student handout and a scanned annotated copy of the text below:


First have students activate their schemata on the topic of rafting with the 3 conversation questions in the first slide.

In slide 3 students will look for the ways in which paragraph B fits into the first gap. By giving them the answer to the first gap, we can provide them with an opportunity to analyse the text and find the vocabulary, grammar and story connections that link the paragraph to text on either side. Reveal the answers on slide 4.

Go through the exam strategy on slide 5, then have students complete the clue hunt on slide 6. Reveal the answers to them and remind them to bear the clues in mind while they complete the task.

Negotiate a time limit for the students to complete the rest of the task individually. In the official exam they should dedicate 20 minutes to this part of the exam, however, as you’ve already done some prep work on this text, negotiate a time between 10 and 15 minutes.

Once they’ve completed the task, have them compare their answers in pairs. Make sure they refer back to the clue hunt and explain how each of the clues connect the paragraphs to the text.

Use the final few slides to reveal the answers and annotations.

Set them another part 6 task for homework and share the PowerPoint with them to refer to at home.

Posted in Phrase of the Day

Proficiency Phrase of the Day #20: To be in one’s element

Today’s phrase is…

To be in one’s element

Introduce it to your students with some examples:

I had a dinner party last week with loads of old friends from university, I love telling jokes and old anecdotes about our uni days I was in my element.

There was a lot to get done before the wedding but my uncle was in his element; he was giving out orders, making phone calls and making sure everyone was involved.

Lead students to the meaning: to be in a situation where you feel comfortable and perform well.

Put students in pairs or small groups and have them discuss the following questions:

  • When are you in your element?
  • How do you feel in the following situations?:
  • When people are looking to you to make decisions.
  • In a group of people cracking jokes and making fun of each other.
  • In a large crowd at a concert or festival with loud music.
  • In the sales in a busy shopping centre hunting for bargains.
  • Planning a social event.
  • Working on a creative project on your own.
  • Leading a team of people.

Here’s the Quizlet set of all the previous phrases of the day.

Posted in Advanced C1, Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency, Writing Classes

C1/C2 Review Writing Task: A Life of Crime

This is a writing task for C1/C2 students who are preparing to take the C1 Advanced or C2 Proficiency exams and need to practise writing film/TV reviews. You could set it for homework after having used my vocabulary/use of English training activity The Heist. You may also find my lesson plan on incorporating engaging hooks into this type of writing task useful.

Download the handout below:


Your university’s film club is asking for reviews of films or TV shows on the topic of crime. Maybe you’ve seen a thrilling heist movie, a dark film noir or a TV show about the nefarious adventures of a mafia family. Your review should comment on the plot of the film/show, the quality of the script and acting and recommend the film/show to a specific demographic or warn a specific group against watching it. C1: 220-260 words C2: 280-320 words

Posted in Phrase of the Day

Proficiency Phrase of the Day #19: To be out of touch with

Today’s phrase is….

to be out of touch

Introduce it with some examples:

The politician’s response to that question just shows that he is completely out of touch with the ordinary person on the street.

I used to listen to the latest pop music when I was younger but I‘m a bit out of touch now.

They’re completely out of touch with reality if they think building more coal power plants is a good idea.

Lead the students to the meaning of the expression: to not be aware of recent changes to a situation or to not understand a situation fully.

Put students in pairs and have them discuss the questions in pairs:

  • Do you keep up with any of the following things?
  • Football/pop music/fashion
  • Do you think politicians understand what life is like for ordinary people? Why?/why not?
  • How would you describe yourself, are you a pragmatist with your feet on the ground, or do you tend to have wild and unrealistic hopes and dreams?

Here’s the Quizlet set of all the previous phrases of the day.

Posted in Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency, Writing Classes

C2 Proficiency: Report on a Charity Concert

This is another report task for students preparing to take the Cambridge C2 Proficiency exam. It’s designed to give them some practice of planning a report task for part 2 of the writing paper.

A common problem I find is that the report tasks are often quite open and require a bit of creativity and imagination. They may be required to invent a company or organisation they work for or a school they attend. My students often neglect to do this and end up writing things like:

The aim of this report is to evaluate the company event that took place last week.

They don’t use their imagination enough or really generate the situation which leads to bland, unfocused pieces of writing. Therefore, in this worksheet, students will put some time into generating ideas about the charity they work for, the event they organised and what went wrong. They will also revise some inverted conditionals so they can put them to use in their final compositions. Download the handout and key below:

Posted in Phrase of the Day

Proficiency Phrase of the Day #18: Come to terms with

Today’s phrase is…

to come to terms with

Introduce it by showing your students the photo on the left. Have them discuss the meaning in pairs. Lead them towards the idea of the empty nest as the family home once all the children have moved out. Ask them to discuss how parents tend to feel when they become “empty nesters”, then show them the sentence below:

It can be difficult for parents to come to terms with being empty nesters.

It can be difficult for parents to come to terms with the fact that their children are independent adults who can fend for themselves (mostly).

Lead them to the meaning of the expression: to accept a new and painful event or situation.

Put students in pairs and have them discuss the following questions:

How would you describe the process of accepting/adapting to the following important changes in life and how long do you think the process takes?

  1. The death of a family pet
  2. Breaking up with your childhood sweetheart
  3. A romantic partner cheating on you
  4. Your child becoming a teenager
  5. Your football team being relegated
  6. Retirement from a job you loved

What unique challenges does each situation involve?