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The pitfalls of exam preparation

Just getting my teeth into Delta module 3, food for thought…

Oxford University Press

Girl sat at desk writingAhead of his talk at IATEFL Liverpool, Zoltan Rezmuves looks at some of the tough choices that must be made when preparing students for exams.

What’s your main goal in teaching English? You’ll probably say something along the lines of “enabling students to communicate well in English” and perhaps also “developing students to be better people“. But have you ever had a group of students preparing for an examination? Then you know that your success or failure will be measured not by how well they can express themselves in real life, and not even by how well they fit into society. Where there is an important exam at the end of the process, you can only succeed if your students pass the exam. It’s that simple. But what does this mean in terms of classroom practice?

EXAM PREPARATION TO-DO LIST

1. You will have to cover…

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Posted in Conversation Classes, Exam Preparation Class, Uncategorized

CAE Speaking Part 2: Task-based Approach

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Image credit: Deesite – WordPress.com

Follow me on twitter @RobbioDobbio

This is a task-based lesson plan to help CAE students complete part 2 of the speaking exam in which they must compare and contrast two of three pictures. Big thanks to my colleague Raquel Gomez for her help with the development of this lesson plan. You can download the student handout, pictures, teacher’s notes and audio files below:

cae-speaking-part-2-teachers-notes

cae-part-2-pictures

cae-speaking-part-2-student-handout-1

Audio Files

Teacher’s Notes

First Attempt

Choose a set of part 2 pictures from your text book, put students in pairs and have them record themselves comparing two of the pictures for a minute. Give students no guidance as to the language they should use. While they are doing this, monitor them and make a note of the structures they are using.

Now have students listen back to their recording in pairs and evaluate it. This is likely to make them a little uncomfortable, no one likes the sound of their own voice recorded, but tell them to go for it.

Language Focus

Follow the exercises below, which are focused on improving students’ performance in this task.

Project “CAE part 2 pictures” onto the board. Have “CAE Speaking part 2 audio” ready to play.

Comprehension

Listen to the candidate talking completing part 2 and answer the questions:

Play audio through once and have sts answer in pairs.

  1. Which two pictures does he talk about?
  2. What does he say the people in the pictures are doing?
  3. How does he think they are feeling?
  4. Which situation does he prefer?

Text Completion

Listen again and complete the text.

Play audio through once, then again, stopping after each gap to check understanding.

In the first picture at the bottom we can see a couple who seem to be camping. Maybe up a mountain, they seem to have a camp fire and their tent set up and I think they’re roasting marshmallows. They definitely seem to be having a good time. They might have been walking all day and then they’ve finally finished and set up their tent, now they’re sitting down to enjoy some nice hot food.

In contrast, in the other photo we can see a man who seems to be working. I think he’s a builder, it looks as if he’s helping to build a house. His feelings are probably quite different to the couple in the other photo because he’s at work obviously so it’s probably nowhere near as enjoyable as the activity the other couple are doing.

But maybe working outside isn’t as bad as working in an office so he might be happy about that. For me personally, I’d rather be with the couple here camping on the mountain than at work definitely.

Pronunciation – Connected Speech

Play audio of individual sentences; have sts practice repeating them in pairs.

Listen to the expressions again and practise saying them with a partner

  • It looks as if he’s helping to build a house.

Looks as if he’s – /lʊks əz-ɪf-iːz/ – all connected and “h” from “he’s” disappears

  • They might have been walking all day.

Might have been – /maɪt əv bin/ – “have” very weak /əv/ “been” sounds like “bin”

  • A couple who seem to be camping

Seem to be – /siːm tə bi:/ – weak form of “to” /tə/

Second Attempt

Now students attempt the task again, recording themselves a second time. Again monitor and make a note of the structures. Then have students compare their two attempts. Board all of the language from the two attempts and encourage students to notice the changes.

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Teacher Training Workshops in Collaboration with Useful Languages

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Image credit: http://www.uflbarcelona.com/#

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Calling Barcelona-based English teachers! Eleanor Walker, DoS of Useful Languages, and I are going to be setting up weekly teacher training workshops to help teachers tackle exam classes for the main suite of Cambridge exams (FCE, CAE, CPE) starting on Friday February 24th.

  • Venue: Useful Languages – Carrer de Pelai, 44, Primera, 08001 Barcelona
  • Date of first session: February 24th 2017
  • Time: TBA: please complete the survey below
  • Price: €10 per person per 90 minute session, special offer: 6 sessions for €50
  • Contact: If you are interested in attending please contact Useful Languages: sylvie@uflbarcelona.com

We want to base the sessions on your needs so if you’re interested in attending it would be great if you could complete the surveymonkey below so we can get an idea of what to focus on and also the time-slot that suits you best.

Click here to complete the survey

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Recycling Language in a Dogme Classroom

chiasuanchong

I have often have teachers asking me, ‘If language just emerges, how do you ensure learning takes place? How do you recycle the langauge?’

Many of you have read, or written blogposts on the same subject, but I thought I’d share my favourite ways of recycling language (which I’ve, of course, stolen and adapted from all the wonderful teachers and colleagues around me).

First things first, I find a retrospective record of my Dogme lessons useful in helping me keep track of what has gone on, so as to revise the language covered, and also to enable me to provide the appropriate scaffolding for subsequent lessons. To do this, I simply take a photo of my boardwork (with my mobile phone) at the end of each lesson. (The other advantage of taking photos is that when students tell you that they have no recollection of a language item being clarified, mainly because they…

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Formal Writing: CAE Essay

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Image credit: LitReactor

Follow me on twitter @RobbioDobbio

This is a lesson plan designed to help students tackle the CAE writing part 1 formal essay task. It walks students through structuring their essays correctly. Download the handout and Powerpoint below:

formal-writing

formal-writing-handout

Student Handout

Introduction

In this day and age a worrying percentage of children are showing signs of obesity. The past few years have seen a steep decline in the number of school-aged children taking part in team sports or getting regular exercise. What is the most effective way to tackle this problem and encourage children to be more active?

In this essay I am going to talk about the problem of children not getting enough exercise. I will start by talking about parental influence and then I will discuss the role schools can play.

Hardly a week goes by without another article on the topic of childhood obesity appearing in the media. This is clearly a growing issue which must be addressed urgently. There are a number of ways in which this problem could be tackled.

Language for introductions

  • In this day and age…
  • … is a hotly-debated topic that often divides opinion.
  • … is a growing issue in today’s society
  • We live in an age when many of us are…
  • More and more families are choosing to have only one child.
  • The trend nowadays is towards having smaller families.
  • Over the past ten years or so the media have frequently carried reports of ……………
  • Recent research indicates that the number of teenagers who smoke is increasing.
  • Hardly a week goes by without another report of …………….. appearing in the media.
  • Although most people would generally agree that …………… few would deny that ……..

Language for topic sentences

First Paragraph

  • …. clearly/undoubtedly has an impact on…
  • It is common knowledge that… plays a crucial role in…
  • It is undoubtedly the case that…
  • There is little doubt that…
  • … is widely believed to contribute to…
  • It is generally considered that…
  • Recent research suggests that…
  • Studies have shown that… has an impact/influence on…
  • Few people would contest/dispute the fact that…

Second Paragraph

  • Another factor to consider is…
  • On the other hand/In contrast…
  • It is often claimed that…
  • All the evidence suggests that…

Language for supporting ideas

Language for introducing supporting ideas:

  • For example,
  • For instance,
  • An obvious example of this is…
  • A clear example of this is…
  • This is illustrated by…
  • As a case in point…

Paragraph Skeleton

It goes without saying that ______________________________________ A clear example of this is ___________________________________________ In addition,________________________________________ Nevertheless,_____________________________________________________________

Language for conclusions:

  • In light of the above, / Taking all this into consideration/account,…
  • As far as I am concerned, / in my opinion, / as I see it, etc.
  • … is the most effective way to… due to the fact that…

OR

  • In light of the above, / Taking all this into consideration/account,…
  • Despite the fact that… undoubtedly plays a role in… I firmly believe that… is more effective due to the fact that…

Credit to Cork English Teacher for some of the language from the handout.

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Shop Till You Drop!

Resultat d'imatges de shopping

Image credit: http://www.santamonica.com/shopping/

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This is a lesson plan designed to be used with a range of levels and ages. The different slides of the powerpoint indicate the level and age group.

shop-till-you-drop-lp – Lesson plan

shopping-conversation – Powerpoint

Quizlet set – shopping vocab

Procedure

Vocabulary

Use the quizlet set to introduce the different shopping vocabulary and then have students play the “match” game in teams to practice it.

Conversation

Put students in small groups (2 or 3) and show them the first slide from the powerpoint, have them ask and answer the questions in their groups. Repeat for slide 2. Note: Questions are slightly different for teenagers.

Corner shop role-play

There are three different dialogues for use with different levels:

  • ELM – elementary, very basic, using “do you want?” not “would you like?”
  • ELM+ – slightly higher, using “do you want?” and other phrases like “here you are”
  • Pre-int – slightly higher again, using “would you like?”

Choose two strong students to demonstrate the dialogue to the class or 1 strong student to perform it with you.

Then, put students in pairs and have them practice the dialogue. Monitor and correct pronunciation: weak forms in questions, vowel sounds etc. When students have finished have them swap characters and repeat.

Memory: Flash up the memory slide and have students fill in the blanks in open class.

Your shopping list: Students write their own shopping lists and then repeat the dialogue with the items they have listed. Note: limit students to countable items to avoid opening a can of worms with countable/uncountable nouns many/much etc. unless they’re ready for it, in which case introduce it here.

From memory: Now switch off the projector and challenge them to perform the dialogue by heart helping where needed, then ask if any confident students would like to come to the front and perform it for the class.

Debate

This one is only really suitable for higher levels (B1+). Split the class into two groups, flip a coin to decide which group is for/against. Give them 5-10mins to think of as many arguments to support their position as they can and then hold a debate. Allow each team to present one of their arguments uninterrupted, then give the other team the chance to counter the argument, repeat until both teams have exhausted their list. Award a winner at the end. Focus on encouraging the use of the expressions of opinion, agreeing and disagreeing.

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CAE Ice-Breaker UPDATE

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Image credit: englishrussia.com

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This is an updated version of my CAE/C1 ice-breaking activity for the first class of a course. Click this link to the prezi (you’ll only need the first 5 slides).

Obviously it’s tailored to my interests but you’ll get the idea and be able to adapt to your own.

First I flash up the sentences with the adjective/verb + preposition combination (petrified of) etc. and tell them that some are true and some are false. They have to decide which are true and which are false in pairs. Award points to the pairs who guess correctly.
Then test them on the prepositions by flashing up the slide with them omitted. Then they have to write 4 sentences using the same combinations, some true some false and read them to their partner, who has to guess which are T/F.
Then the next bit is 6 sentences with some nice phrases about personal interests etc. “I’m into….” etc. I show them my examples (they’re all true) and let them ask me some questions. Then they have to complete the sentences so they’re true for them.
Then they have to mingle around the class reading their sentences to each other, flash up the expressions for showing interest: Uh-huh, mm-hmmm etc. and encourage them to use them. Tell them that they should try to remember as much information as they can about their classmates. While they do this, monitor and board any emergent language to look at later.
After 10 mins or so have them sit down and split them into two teams. Select one member from the first team, the other team then has to remember as much as they can about that person:
“He’s into football and rugby.”
“He has a burning ambition to meet Messi.” etc.
Award 1 point for each correct bit of info. The idea is that they’re recycling the 6 expressions over and over and getting to know each other at the same time.