Posted in Advanced C1, B2 First, Conversation Classes, Proficiency

Where do you stand? Summer Edition

Is SUMMER about to truly start? - The Church Irish Bar Albir

This is a special summer edition of my “Where do you stand?” conversation series. Students decide to what extent they agree with different statements on the topic of summer activities and holidays and then share their views with their classmates. Download the PowerPoint and student handout below:

The PowerPoint has some quite advanced language for discussion on it. You may want to use this phrase sheet, designed with B2 students in mind, for lower levels.

Posted in Advanced C1, Conversation Classes, Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency, Vocabulary Classes

C1/C2: Killer Expressions Grouped by Topic

PsBattle: An Impressed Footballer's face : photoshopbattles

Thanks to my colleague Natascha Wallace for this idea. Basically it’s a list of advanced expressions, grouped by topic, for C1/C2 students and sets of conversation questions on those same topics. The idea being that they can drop them into their writings or use them in the speaking exam in order to score more points. Alternatively, beyond the world of exams, they will undoubtedly be useful IRL! Download the handouts below:


Have students read the expressions in the first category and try to guess the meaning in pairs. Clear up any doubts in open class.


Tell students they have 1 minute to try to memorise as many of the expressions in the category as they can. After 1 minute tell them to turn their papers over. Students then play “ping-pong” in pairs one person says one expression and the other must say another back and forth until one can’t remember any more expressions. After they’ve played a couple of rounds tell them to look at the expressions again and refresh their memories of the ones they struggled to remember.

Then hand out the conversation questions and have students discuss them in groups of 3. One member of the group should act as the examiner, asking the questions and also counting the number of killer expressions each person uses. Encourage students to have fun with it and use as many as they can.

Then move onto the next category, rinse and repeat.

There are a lot of categories so you may want to split it over several classes.

You can then use this quizziz quiz for space repetition.

Posted in Advanced C1, B2 First, Conversation Classes, Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency

Where do you stand? Education

aswar akka consultancy | How Important is Educational Management and  Organization?

This is another edition of my “Where do you Stand?” conversation series. Students debate different topics related to education but must rate their opinion on a scale from 1-6 before they begin the discussion. Download the PowerPoint and student handout below:

If you want to use it with B2 students you could use this phrase sheet.

Credit to Owlcation for some of the debate topics:

Posted in Advanced C1, B2 First, Conversation Classes, Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency

Where do you stand? Science & Technology

Technology and Science | Study Abroad Life

This is another edition of my “Where do you Stand?” conversation series. Students debate different topics related to science and technology but must rate their opinion on a scale from 1-6 before they begin the discussion. Download the PowerPoint and student handout below:

If you want to use it with B2 students you could use this phrase sheet.

Credit to Owlcation for some of the debate topics:

Posted in Conversation Classes, Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency

C2 Proficiency: DIY Speaking Long Turn Topics

C2 Proficiency de Inglés (CPE) del Cambridge: Cómo Aprobarlo | TURBOLANGS

This is a lesson plan for students preparing to take the Cambridge C2 Proficiency exam. Students create their own topic cards for part 3 of the speaking exam; the dreaded long turn! Download the handout and examples below:


You could use this lesson plan to introduce the long turn, give students a chance to practice and go over some useful language before they make their own topic cards.

Print and cut out the example cards, these examples were created by my C2 group. As you can see they came up with some thought provoking topics that are definitely more engaging than some of the run-of-the-mill topics from most text books.

Put students in pairs and have them complete a timed long turn each to get them warmed up to the task.

Then give them a set of blank cards each (candidate A & B) and have them work together to create two topic cards with a main question and three bullet points. Tell them that their classmates are going to use their topic cards so they should choose engaging, open topics. Give them 3-5 minutes to do this. In the exam, after candidate A has finished their long turn, candidate B is asked a shorter question in response to what candidate A has just said, so you could have your students write a question for candidate B on the back of A’s card and vice versa for candidate B.

Have them pass their newly created cards to another pair so that everyone has a set created by another group. Instruct them to keep practicing two-minute long turns using the new cards. Then encourage students to give feedback to the group who wrote the topic card; was it easy to talk about for two minutes? Did the bullet points help? Could anything be clarified?

Students then pass the cards to another group, rinse and repeat. Students will get lots of practice for this part of the exam on topics chosen by their peers.

I was really impressed by the questions my group came up with, there weren’t too many softballs in there. Comment below with some of the topics and bullet points your students come up with and I’ll add them to the example doc, that we can create a big list of topic cards for future use.

Posted in Advanced C1, Conversation Classes, Proficiency

Where do you Stand? Entertainment & Culture

Entertainment And Culture Icon Set High-Res Vector Graphic - Getty Images

This is another edition of my “Where do you Stand?” conversation series. Students debate different topics related to entertainment and culture but must rate the opinion on a scale from 1-6 before they begin the discussion.

The PowerPoint contains examples of language of opinion, agreement and disagreement designed with C1 students in mind. If you are teaching lower level students, you could just use the student handout. You can download a B2 phrase sheet here.

Here are the topics students discuss:

The book is always better than the film.

There are too many sequels and spin-off films these days. There aren’t many original stories.

The original version of a song is always the best.

Celebrities shouldn’t complain about being in the public eye. It’s part of the jobNetflix will kill the cinema.

You shouldn’t watch films on your phone. It ruins the experience.

Watching a film at the cinema is always better than at home.

Violent films and videogames should be banned.

Music, art and drama should be compulsory subjects at school.

Social media companies should be responsible for the content that users post on their platforms.

Children shouldn’t play with “violent” toys like guns and weapons.

Something is always lost when a text is translated.

Physical books will disappear one day.

Governments should be allowed to censor some elements of the media including books and films.

The benefits of social media platforms outweigh the negative aspects.

Sports involving animals (hunting, horse riding, bullfighting, etc.) are an important part of my culture and must be protected.

Watching too much television makes you stupid.

Posted in Conversation Classes

Conversation Topic: Kids & Parenthood

Preparing your finances for parenthood | Vanguard

A simple conversation activity I designed as a follow-up to my previous post entitled “A Weekend Off”. It can be used with B1+ students. Students discuss various topics related to parenthood, kids and growing up. Download the handout below:

Put students in pairs or small groups and have them discuss the questions. Pause regularly to feedback in open class. The activity should generate a lot of emergent language.

Student Handout

  • How does life change when you have kids?
  • How can other family members help with childcare?
  • What things do you think new parents miss about their old life?

What do you think are the biggest challenges for new parents?

  • Feeling unprepared for parenthood
  • Suffering from sleep deprivation
  • A loss/lack of intimacy
  • Changing dirty nappies/diapers
  • Picking kids up from kindergarten/nursery
  • Financial struggles

How is growing up different for:

  • The first child?
  • The middle child?
  • The baby?

What position were you in your family?

What are some stereotypes associated with the different positions among siblings?

What are the pros and cons of being an only child?

What do children learn from having siblings?

What do you think is the perfect number of children to have?

  • 1?
  • 2?
  • 3?
  • 4?
  • More?

What are the pros and cons of these stages of children’s lives?

  • Babies (0-1)
  • Toddlers (1-3)
  • Kids (3-10)
  • Pre-teens (10-12)
  • Teenagers (13-18)
  • Young adults (18-22)

What’s the most rewarding and most challenging aspect of each stage?

Posted in Advanced C1, Conversation Classes, Guest Posts, Proficiency, Vocabulary Classes

Guest Post: Personality Traits – B2+

Big Five personality traits - Wikipedia

This is a guest post by Darren Wynne-Jones on the topic of personality traits. It was designed with one-to-one adult classes in mind but could also be used for group classes. Download the handout below:

This is a flipped 1 hour(ish) lesson for strong upper-int / advanced students focussing on adjectives to describe personality traits. This lesson uses an online personality quiz, a worksheet from Onestopenglish, and a heavy focus on emergent language. I have created a Quizlet set including all the terms on the worksheet for students to use for self-study after the lesson. I created this lesson for one-to-one classes but it is easily adaptable for groups.


  1. Before the class, ask the student to complete the personality quiz at and Complete the quiz yourself
  2. Tell students to only read the introduction page for the personality type assigned to them at the end of the quiz (although it doesn’t really matter if they read more as they will be doing this for homework anyway)
  • Begin by discussing the introductions and how they relate to your own perceptions of your personalities. Focus on emergent language by extending vocabulary and grammatical structures as they arise in the conversation. This is also a good time to note errors to look at later. (During online classes, I use a Word document to note errors, emergent language, and homework, which I then email to the student. I’ll include the template at the end of this document should you wish to use / adapt it for your own classes. It is based on another teacher’s template but I CAN’T REMEMBER WHO IT WAS TO CREDIT THEM!)
  • Open the personality traits worksheet and share your screen
  • Ask the student to select two adjectives from each of the 6 categories that they would use to describe themselves. You will need to help students with the meaning of unfamiliar adjectives so make sure you check the meanings yourself before the class (do you know the difference between diligent, conscientious, and industrious?? I certainly didn’t!)
  • Discuss similarities and differences between the adjectives selected and the information from the quiz with further focus on emergent language.
  • Error correction


  • Students read the rest of ‘their’ personality description from the website, find more similarities / differences to their own self-perceptions, and write a short text summarising these.
  • Use the Quizlet to review and revise the adjectives (there are a lot of these so perhaps just focus on a few at a time)

Possible follow-up ideas:

  • Look at some of the figurative language from the personality descriptions, e.g. using others as a sounding board; their minds buzz; appear to drift about; a bedrock of emotional support
  • Read another introduction section and describe a friend or family member that would fit the description
  • Read two other introductions and decide if the people with these traits would be compatible as friends, lovers, business partners, etc.
Posted in Advanced C1, Conversation Classes, Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency, Vocabulary Classes

C1/C2: Complaining & Criticising

Criticising vs Critiquing – Thesislink

This is a lesson plan in which high level students get to grips with functional language and expressions used for complaining and criticising. Download the handout below:


I recommend having your students complete the excellent lesson plan from the Macmillan Pragmatics page before using this lesson plan as it gives a great insight into language used for introducing and couching criticism.

Once you’ve done that, give out the handout and have students start to tackle the dialogue between Bob and his boss. Students should try to paraphrase the expressions and discuss their use.

Further idiomatic expressions and structures are then listed, have students discuss them in pairs and field any questions and doubts they may have.

Students then complete a controlled practice activity:

Complete the sentences with one word:

  1. You could at least call to let us know you’re running late.
  2. If you will keep leaving the heating on, you can’t complain about the gas bill.
  3. Your work has not been up to scratch for some time now and you really need to pull your finger out.
  4. I resent having to listen to your complaints every morning.
  5. The onus is on you to apologise to her, you were way out of line.
  6. You could/might/should have told me you were sick this morning, now there’s no time to organise a substitution.
  7. You had better knuckle down and start making an effort in this relationship, otherwise I’m gone.
  8. I don’t mean to throw Dave under the bus but it was his responsibility to lock up after the show.

Now have students roleplay the scenarios and write up a dialogue for their favourite.

Set the writing task for homework, point out that the tone should be firm but friendly and informal. Encourage the use of as many expressions as possible.

Posted in Conversation Classes, Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency, Vocabulary Classes

C2: Proficiency Training – The Heist

Cartoon Safe Heist ⬇ Vector Image by © ronleishman | Vector Stock 13979890

In this lesson C2 students will develop their understanding of idiomatic expressions that often come up in the Cambridge C2 Proficiency exam. They will encounter the expressions in a text about a bank heist gone wrong. Download the student handout below:

Credit to: for the planning a bank robbery activity.

You may also wish to use this quizizz game for spaced repetition of the target language.


Students start by discussing common tropes of heist movies. They then skim the text to find out what went wrong in this case. (they were set up, someone ratted them out the police)

Students then answer the detail questions:

  1. How had they planned for the robbery? In great detail, taking note of intricacies while the narrator was working in the bank
  2. What was the first problem they encountered? The getaway driver was late
  3. How did the staff in the bank react? Only the bank manager put up any resistance
  4. What are the pros and cons of the way Tony behaves? he’s unpredictable but intimidating
  5. What happens to Tony and Barry? they are killed in the gunfight
  6. Where is the narrator at the end of the story? in prison

Language Focus

Students now focus on the expressions in bold. They discuss their meaning with their partner and try to paraphrase them, they then make a note of how familiar the expressions are to them.

Students now flip the paper over and look at version 2 of the same text. Now the expressions have been replaced with simpler language. Using the key words, they must recall the expressions. They then flip over their paper to check their answers.

Set the key word transformations testing the expressions for homework.

Plan a heist

Put students in small groups and have them plan a bank heist using the prompts on pages 2 and 3, which are adapted from

Students then present their different plans to the class.

Text Version 1

The Heist

  1. What heist/bank robbery films have you seen?
  2. Do you enjoy this type of movie? Why? Why not?
  3. How do people typically rob banks in films? What strategies do they use?
  4. How can heists go wrong?

Read the text about a bank heist, what went wrong?

The plan had been simple. I had been instrumental in drawing it up, I’d worked in that branch for over 5 years and had taken note of all the little intricacies and predicted all the problems we might have to contend with down to the last detail; I was nothing if not meticulous. I had done everything in my power to make sure everything went like clockwork. In the lead-up to the big day some doubts had been preying on my mind to such an extent that I hadn’t got a wink of sleep, but it was nothing out of the ordinary. 

We’d stuck to the plan to the letter. Aside from a rocky start, when the getaway driver had kept us waiting for the best part of an hour, everything had gone smoothly, almost too smoothly. The bank clerk had offered no resistance, the security guard had admitted defeat pretty quickly, clearly realising that facing off against armed robbers was above his pay grade. The manager made a bit of a fuss about handing over the combination to the vault but Tony soon made him see sense. A gun barrel pressed to your forehead can be very persuasive. I’m not 100% on board with how Tony conducts himself but you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs. He had risen to fame as useful muscle for a tight spot but he wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box.

Barry got to work on the vault without interference and before long we were stuffing the duffle bags with wads of cold, hard cash, it was a beautiful sight, which did wonders for everyone’s confidence. Maybe that was it, we got too cocky, little did we know what lay in store for us outside. Tony was the first to catch sight of the blue lights, I was loath to start shooting but, as always, there was no stopping Tony, they didn’t call him the loose cannon for nothing. All of a sudden it was like a warzone, Tony didn’t stand a chance, neither did Barry. It’s nothing short of a miracle that I got out alive. It was obvious that the game was up, it must have been a set-up but who had ratted us out? I guess that’s something I’ll be pondering for the next 25 years. It ain’t so bad, running water, 3 square meals a day and a roof over my head. I guess I should spare a thought for those who were not so lucky.

  1. How had they planned for the robbery?
  2. What was the first problem they encountered?
  3. How did the staff in the bank react?
  4. What are the pros and cons of the way Tony behaves?
  5. What happens to Tony and Barry?
  6. Where is the narrator at the end of the story?