Posted in Listening Classes

CAE Listening Exam Technique

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This is a handout to help students tackle the four parts of the CAE listening paper. You can download it below. Do you have any other tips?

CAE Listening Technique

Part 1 – Short conversations – Multiple Choice

  • 3 short extracts. Short conversations between two people.
  • 2 questions per extract. 6 marks in total
  • Time in between extracts to read next two questions.
  • Read questions 1+2 – underline key words
  • Listen to extract 1 twice
  • Move onto questions 3+4 etc.

Part 2 – Sentence Completion

  • Sentence completion – complete sentence with word or short phrase
  • 8 questions, 8 marks
  • 45 seconds to read task – underline key words and make predictions about type of word (adjective, noun, verb) and possibilities (number? animal? place?)
  • Listen for first time – be careful for distractors:

Identify the distractors in this question:

Sentence: The subject Steven was teaching when he first read about the bath toys was ____________________.

Listening text: “So how did I get involved? I’m a college lecturer but not teaching anything like economics or even geography; media studies is my field.”

  • Confirm answer on second listening.
  • Numbers can be like this: 36 or like this: thirty-six
  • Check that word or phrase makes sense in the context of the sentence, Should it be plural? Does it need an article? (a/an/the)

Part 3 – Long Interview – Multiple Choice

  • 6 questions multiple choice
  • 6 marks in total
  • 70 seconds to read the task – 10 seconds per question, underline key words in questions and options, focus on phrases like “biggest benefit” or “most important.”
  • First listen try to answer each question or at least cross out any that aren’t possible
  • Confirm on second listen.

Part 4 – Two Task Matching

  • 5 extracts about same topic – short monologues.
  • Two tasks at same time – 10 marks in total.
  • 45 seconds to read task – first thing: underline the information for each task: reason why they did the course, consequences/benefits of doing the course.
  • Read options and attempt to memorise
  • Try to complete both tasks at the same time.
Posted in Conversation Classes, Listening Classes

Giving Advice: The Best Way to Quit Smoking

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I’m running the Barcelona Half-Marathon dressed as David Bowie to raise money for Cancer Research, sponsor me here:

This is a lesson plan for B1+ students on the topic of quitting smoking in which students learn the language of asking for, giving, accepting and rejecting advice and using it in a role-play. I prepared and taught this class as part of my productive skills assignment for the DELTA at International House Barcelona.

Download all the materials below:

Giving Advice Problem Cards

Smoking TWarre Prod Skills – Powerpoint

TWarre prod skills listening comp qs – Listening questions

TWarre Prod Skills Procedure – Procedure/Teacher’s notes

TWarre prod skills sts handout – Student hand out

Audio File


Stage Time Focus Procedure Aim
Speaking  1 3 mins Closed pairs





Sts ask and answer questions about smoking from 1st slide of powerpoint (pp)


Give opportunities for 1 or 2 sts to explain how they quit.

To engage top-down knowledge and personalise topic.

Lead in to pre-listening.

Pre-listening 5 mins Closed pairs










Closed pairs

Sts brainstorm different ways to quit. Board any that are different to the 4 on slide 2: nicotine gum/patches, e-cigarettes, hypnosis.



Show 2nd slide, board pronunciation of cigarette, patches and hypnosis. Drill briefly.

/sɪɡə’ret/ /ˈpætʃɪz/ /hɪpˈnəʊsɪs/


Sts answer questions at bottom of 2nd slide.

To activate top-down knowledge further and pre-teach some vocab for listening.


To check and improve pronunciation.



Sts react to content.

Listening 5-10 mins Closed pairs
















Introduce characters and situation from listening with 3rd slide.



Give out listening comprehension handout. Sts listen and answer 3 questions from handout:

1.       What methods does Joanne recommend?

2.       What methods does Ian recommend?

3.       Which method does Katy decide to try?

Replay as needed, break into two parts if necessary.


Check answers across class.


Give out handout, sts listen again with tape script. “Any questions?”

To ground sts in the situation of the listening.


TAVI exercise to aid sts listening comprehension. Secondary aim: to introduce exponents of advice in context.








To clear up doubts.

Language focus 10 mins Closed pairs
















OC/closed pairs

Sts categorise the exponents listed on the handout by meaning. Elicit correct categories for first 2/3. Show slide 4 with first 3 in correct categories.


While sts do this board all exponents  in categories, add phonetic script for pronunciation focus:

Drill pronunciation of:

If I were you, I’d…

/ɪf ˈaɪ wə ju: aɪd/ Stress “I” and “you”

That’s a good idea

/ðæts ə ɡʊd aɪˈdɪə/ stress “that’s”

Why don’t you try

/waɪ dəʊnt jə traɪ/ notice weak “you” compared to in “If I were you”


Sts analyse grammar of components. Use 5th slide to give examples, then answers.

Focus on meaning








Focus on form: pronunciation, elements of connected speech.





Focus on form: grammar, verb patterns.

Speaking – controlled practice 1 2 mins Grps of 3 Sts use the transcript to practice the dialogue from listening.


Monitor and correct pronunciation.

Controlled practice of exponents without pressure of creating new sentences.
Writing + speaking controlled practice 2 5-10 mins OC

















Grps of 3

Sts write their own dialogue. Explain that we’ll do an example together on the board. Students don’t write anything yet.


Label one strong group of students A-C, choose strongest student to be A.


Give A a problem card.


Using cued dialogue on 6th slide model a dialogue on the board.


Sts create their own dialogues in the space on the handout. Monitor and correct written form, board vocabulary.


Sts read their dialogues.

Scaffolded controlled practice of exponents without performance pressure.











Spoken controlled practice.

Speaking controlled practice 3 10 mins Rotating groups of 3 A’s stand up and rotate to the next group. They explain their problem to the new group who give them advice. Less structured, A is now free to accept/reject advice.


Repeat until all A’s have spoken to all groups.

Less scaffolded controlled speaking practice.
Wrap-up 5 mins OC A’s tell class the best advice they received. Focus sts attention to emergent language. Sts respond to activity + develop fluency.

Student’s handout


Katy: Hi guys, I need your help with a problem I’m having. I want to give up smoking but I’m finding it very difficult. What should I do?

Joanne: Well, if I were you, I’d try to stop smoking gradually. You know, smoke 10 cigarettes today, then 9 tomorrow, 8 the next day until you’ve stopped.

Katy: Hhmmm, I don’t think that’ll work. I tried it last year and it was too difficult.

Ian: I think you should buy an electronic cigarette. My girlfriend has one and she loves it!

Katy: I’m not sure. I think they’re bad for me too.

Joanne: Ok well, why don’t you try nicotine chewing gum or patches? My sister used them to give up.

Katy: Ok, that’s a good idea.

Ian: Or you could try hypnosis, my friend Sarah is a hypnotist, I could give you her number.

Katy: Hhmm, maybe not. I think I’ll try the nicotine chewing gum. Thanks for your advice guys.


Put the expressions in bold (1-10) in the correct box (A-D)

  1. What should I do?
  2. If I were you, I’d try to stop smoking gradually.
  3. I don’t think that’ll work.
  4. I think you should buy an electronic cigarette.
  5. I’m not sure. I think they’re bad for me too.
  6. Why don’t you try nicotine chewing gum or patches?
  7. Ok, that’s a good idea.
  8. You could try
  9. Hhmm, maybe not. I think I’ll try the nicotine chewing gum.
  10. I recommend giving up gradually
A.      Asking for advice. B.      Giving advice. C.      Accepting advice. D.      Rejecting advice.









Look at the expressions in the language exercise, how does the grammar work?

  1. If I were you, I’d try to stop smoking gradually.

If I were you, I’d + BASE FORM (stop/go/have/buy etc.)

  1. I think you should buy an electronic cigarette.

I think you should + __________________________________

  1. Why don’t you try nicotine chewing gum or patches?

Why don’t you + _____________________________________

  1. You could try hypnosis/going to a hypnotist.

You could try + _________________________________________

  1. I recommend giving up gradually.

I recommend + _______________________________________

Now practice the dialogue in groups of 3, one person is Katy, one is Ian and one is Joanne.

Writing a new dialogue

Write a new dialogue with your group, you HAVE TO follow the structure below.

A: Hi guys, I need your help with a problem I’m having. (Explain problem)____________________________. What should I do?

B: Well, if I were you, I’d (gives advice) ____________________.

A: (rejects advice) ___________________________.

C: (gives advice) ___________________________.

A: (rejects advice) ____________________________.

B: Ok well, (gives advice) ___________________________.

A: (rejects advice) ____________________________.

C: (gives advice) ______________________________.

A: (accepts advice) __________________________. Thanks for your advice guys!

Posted in Listening Classes, Vocabulary Classes

Scared Stiff! – Fear and Horror Film Expressions

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This is a lesson plan for higher level students (high B2+) in which students learn expressions related to fear and horror movies. It is a good companion activity my Chucky’s Participle Clauses lesson, I plan to teach the two activities in one 90 minute class. You will need the audio file and handouts below:

Scared Stiff Teacher notes

Scared Stiff Student Handout

Listening Audio File

Scared Stiff

Listening Comprehension

First check students understand “scared stiff” then tell them they are going to listen to a man talking about horror films. Dictate them these 5 questions, students write them down. Play the audio twice all the way through.

  1. What’s his opinion of gory films? He doesn’t find them frightening
  2. What types of gory scenes make him uncomfortable? Gory scenes involving eyes
  3. What types of horror films scare him the most? Psychological horror
  4. What sometimes happens while they are watching a horror film? The phone rings or the cat makes a noise, scaring them.
  5. What’s his girlfriend scared of? Spiders and anything that looks like a spider

Being a bit of a scaredy-cat I’m not really into horror films. But every now and then I like to sit down and watch one with my girlfriend. I’m not very squeamish so I don’t really find gory films very frightening but anything to do with eyes gives me the heebie-jeebies, so I find any scenes where people get the eyes cut or poked out really unsettling.

The films that really send shivers down my spine are psychological horror films, for me they’re far scarier than gory films. Maybe ones where some people are exploring a spooky house and there’s some creepy music playing, they really put me on edge because you don’t know when something is going to jump out and scare you half to death. Sometimes the scariest thing is when we’re watching a horror film and the house phone suddenly rings, or the cat makes a sound and we jump out of our skins with fright.

My girlfriend is slightly different to me. She’s petrified of spiders and anything that looks like a spider but they don’t really bother me. Once we watched a film about giant alien bugs and we had to switch it off because she was shaking like a leaf!

Students listen again and write down as many expressions as they can.

Language focus

Students look at the expressions in the box, find them in the text and try to deduce meaning from context.

1.       Scaredy-cat – a person who is easily frightened/scared of a lot of things

2.       Squeamish – a person who can’t deal with the sight of blood/gore

3.       Gory – a film with lots of blood and guts

4.       Gives me the heebie-jeebies – makes me feel uncomfortable/scared/disgusted

5.       Unsettling – makes you feel uncomfortable

6.       Sends shivers down my spine – a physical response to being scared

7.       Spooky – haunted, supernatural

8.       Creepy – discomforting, films can be creepy but people can too, a creepy guy etc.

9.       Put me on edge – makes me nervous

10.   Scare you half to death – scare a lot

11.   Jump out of your skin – gives you a big fright

12.   Petrified of – very scared of

13.   Shake like a leaf – physically trembling with fear

Memory gap-fill

Students turn the hand out over and try to remember the positions of all the expressions to complete the text. If they get stuck they can turn the paper over and look for one expression.


Students look at the expressions and analyse them with the following questions to increase chance of retention.

  1. Is the meaning obvious from the words?
  2. Which ones exist in your own language?
  3. Which one is your favourite?
  4. Which one will be the easiest/most difficult to remember? Why?


Students discuss the following questions with their partner using the expressions and the language in the box below. Students should be encouraged to use the “showing interest” expressions to actively listen to their partner.

Showing interest Personalising

That’s interesting/weird.

Oh, I see.



I see what you mean.

I’m exactly the same.

Uh-uh, not me.

No way!

You’re joking

For me personally,

Speaking personally,

From my point of view,

When it comes to (scary movies), I think…

Speaking of (scary movies), in my opinion…

I find (gory movies) really (terrifying)


(psychological horror movies) are much/far scarier than (gory movies)

  1. Are you a scaredy-cat?
  2. Are you squeamish? Do gory movies give you the heebie-jeebies?
  3. What type of movies put you on edge?
  4. What are you petrified of?
  5. Can you think of a scene in a film that made you jump out of your skin?
  6. What type of scenes/monsters send shivers down your spine?
  7. Which films left you shaking like a leaf?
  8. What scares you more, a spooky place or creepy music?
  9. What situations are unsettling in real life?
  10. Has a friend or family member ever made you jump out of your skin or scared you half to death?

Follow up

Students right a CAE style review of the scariest film they’ve ever seen, explaining why it was so scary and who they would recommend it to.

Posted in Listening Classes

Listening: I got double-scammed!

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This is a listening lesson for high B1+. I designed this lesson for my DELTA receptive skills assessed class. It’s based around a listening text from Speak Out Upper-Intermediate (Pearson), in which a woman describes how she had her bag stolen while sitting in a café. I chose this text because this type of crime is an extremely common occurence here in Barcelona.

Below you can download the lesson procedure, students’ and teachers’ handout, an annotated version of the transcript and the listening file.

Lesson Procedure 

Lisas bad day student handout 

Lisas bad day Teacher’s copy

Audio file

annotated transcript lisa0001

The most important thing to bear in mind is that this is a class which focuses on developing students’ listening skills rather than simply testing their comprehension of a text so feel free to replay sections of the text as many times as it takes for them to get the message.

It’s important to follow the steps as laid out in the procedure. The pre-listening tasks, in which students make predictions about what will happen next, aid students in their comprehension as they are given the opportunity to apply their own knowledge and experience to the text.

After listening the language focus section on connected speech will help students to identify and decipher fast connetced speech, for example, the pronunciation of past modals “can’t/must/might have”. I’m currently working on my grammar assessment class in which I will come back to past modals of speculation. It should make a good follow-up class to this one so watch this space.

Posted in Listening Classes, Proficiency

Proficiency Podcasts: Radiolab, Words

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This is the second in a series of lesson plans based around podcasts for high level learners (high C1+). This one is based on the first part of Words by radiolab. The link, transcript and lesson plan are below:

Proficiency Podcasts words, Lesson plan

Words Transcript – divided into sections.

Warmer – Charades

SS have to sign the following sentences:

I don’t like bananas

I love soup

I think it will rain

Where is Joan?

I went swimming yesterday.

Can I have a pen?

Was it easy? Which sentences were the easiest? Do you ever play this game with your family?

  1. Do you know sign language?
  2. How difficult is it to communicate without words?
  3. What’s your favourite word in your own language/English?

Listening – Radiolab, words

1st section 00:15 – 01:02

Listen and answer these questions:

  • What happened to Susan? She was hit by a catering truck while riding her bike.
  • What were the consequences? She had concussion and couldn’t go to school.
  • How did she feel? Very bored

Listen once, ss share answers in pairs. Listen again for specific detail and language.

  • How does she describe the accident? A catering truck hit me.
  • How does she describe her feelings? Bored out of my mind.

Follow same sequence with each section, general comprehension questions, then listen again and clear up language problems.

2nd section 01:02 – 1:40

  • What did she do? Why? Her friend suggested that she crashed classes at the local uni.

2nd listen for language.

Make a prediction in pairs:

  • What happened that changed her life?

3rd section 01:40 – 2:15

  • What happened? She walked into a signing class.
  • What was her reaction? Mesmerised

Predict: What’s going to happen next?

4th sections 2:15 – 3:05

  • What happens next? Becomes a signer.
  • Where does she go? LA
  • Who does she meet? A man born deaf.

5th section 3:05 – 3:50

  • How does she describe the man? Beautiful, great cheekbones, black hair black eyes.
  • What’s the guy’s problem? Copies everything, visual echolalia

6th section 3:50 – 4:48

  • What does he realise about the guy? Has no language
  • How does he think the world works? That we figure stuff out visually

7th section 4:48 – 5:07

  • What questions do they ask?
  • What do words do for us?
  • Are they necessary?
  • Can you live without them?
  • Can you think without them?
  • Can you dream without them?
  • Can you swim without them?

Discuss these questions as a class.

Set the rest of this part of the podcast as homework with the following questions:

5:07 – 8:35

  • What problems did she have teaching him? He copied everything she did, he thought everything was an order. Didn’t know how to say goodbye, didn’t know if he would come back.
  • How did she make a breakthrough? Acted out the role of student and role of teacher.
  • What was his reaction? He broke down in tears.


  • Have you ever had to communicate without words? Why?
  • How do you make yourself understood if you’re in a country where you don’t speak the language?
  • Have you ever had a misunderstanding with someone in this situation?
  • How much do you rely on signing and body language?
  • Have you ever spoken English on the phone? What was it like?

Accuracy vs Fluency

  • What’s more important accuracy or fluency when speaking?
  • If you spoke extremely accurately but with no fluency what problems would you have? And vice versa.
  • In what situations is it especially important to be accurate?
  • In what situations is it especially important to be fluent?
  • “Only teachers notice your mistakes” Do you agree?
  • “As long as the errors don’t affect understanding they don’t matter” Do you agree?
  • “Little mistakes will go away over time, you don’t have to focus on them.” Do you agree?
  • “Confidence is more important than how much you’ve studied when speaking a foreign language” Do you agree?