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 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 Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency, Writing Classes

C2 Proficiency: Report on a Training Course

This is a worksheet to help C2 proficiency students practise writing formal reports in preparation for part 2 of the writing paper. Students will brainstorm ideas to complete the task then complete some exercises to help them include advanced grammar and relevant vocabulary. Download the handout and key below:

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

C1+ A Video Game Review

This is a lesson plan for C1+ students who are preparing for Cambridge exams in which they have to write reviews of video games. Students will learn about the storytelling technique “in media res” and analyse a model text of an informal video game review. Download the handout, PowerPoint and key below:

Overcooked: Cooperative Cooking Chaos

A bead of sweat rolls down your forehead as you frantically rush from chopping board to frying pan. “Two cheeseburgers with everything, then a pepperoni pizza, then two sushi rolls.” You hear your colleague, a raccoon in a wheelchair, shout. “Ok, we’ve got this” you shout back. Then, out of the blue, the kitchen splits in two, and a giant rat steals your tomato! Don’t worry, you’re not having a nightmare, it’s the new, chaos-filled cooking extravaganza that is Overcooked! If you’re a fan of fast-paced teamwork, hilarious mishaps, and delicious meals, this is the game for you.

In Overcooked, you and your pals take on the role of chefs working frantically to prepare and serve up tasty dishes. But it’s not as simple as just tossing some ingredients together and throwing them on a plate. Oh no, no, no. You’ll be tasked with all kinds of crazy challenges, from cooking on a pirate ship to dodging traffic on a busy street.

Now, here’s the real kicker: you have to work together to get it done. That’s right, it’s a co-op game, which means you’ll need to communicate, delegate tasks, and keep an eye on the clock if you want to succeed. But never fear, even if you burn the soup or accidentally set the kitchen on fire, it’s all in good fun.

The mechanics of the game are simple enough for anyone to pick up, but the challenges quickly become more and more demanding. You’ll need to chop, fry, boil, and plate dishes as fast as you can while avoiding obstacles. It’s easier said than done, but trust me, when you finally manage to serve up that perfectly cooked sushi roll, the sense of satisfaction is unbeatable.

Overall, I’d say Overcooked is an absolute blast to play with friends. It’s the kind of game that will have you shouting and laughing and high-fiving each other (or apologising profusely for dropping the pizza on the floor). I’d recommend it to anyone who loves a good party game or just wants to bond with their buddies over some virtual cooking chaos. So fire up the grill and get ready to serve up some culinary mayhem!

Read the text and answer the questions:

  1. What type of game is it?
  2. What cooperative elements does it have?
  3. Why is it fun?
  4. Who does the writer recommend the game to?
Posted in Proficiency, Writing Classes

Letter to Editor: Friendship – Worksheet

I’ve been crazy busy doing three jobs recently so not had a chance to post. Got a lot of recently made materials that I just haven’t had a chance to post, but hopefully that’ll change soon. Anyway, here goes:

This is a writing task for C2 Proficiency students. The task is taken from Proficiency test book one and the friendship expressions come from my old BFFs lesson plan. Download the handout with answer key below:

Posted in Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency, Writing Classes

C2 Proficiency: Hooks for Articles & Reviews

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My C2 proficiency students have just taken a full mock exam and one of the issues their writings had in common was the lack of “hooks” in their articles and reviews to draw the reader in an encourage them to keep reading. So, I put together this lesson plan, based heavily on this great article by Suzanne Davis.

The final task I set my students is on the topic of fame, so you might want to use my “The Life of a Celeb” vocabulary lesson before setting it. Download the handout below:


Have students read the opening paragraphs by Gary Provost to each other out loud and ask them to reflect on the message. Encourage them to attempt a similar range of sentence lengths in their own articles.

Have students refer to the 7 steps to success while writing their article for homework.

Lead students through the different types of hook and field questions.

Draw students’ attention to the need to use an engaging title.

Have students read the writing task and underline the content points. Then put them in pairs and have them discuss which hook would work best for this particular task. Then have them choose an expression about fame for their title.

Some possible answers could be:

Story hook: Imagine the scene, you just want to nip to the shops for a pint of milk but no sooner have you stepped out the door than a mob of paparazzi are hassling you. The constant click, click, click of the shutters, the blinding flashes fill your eyes, it’s enough to make you question if it’s all worth it.

Metaphor hook: Fame is, undoubtedly, a double-edged sword; while it bestows upon you all the riches your heart could desire, it slices away such basic comforts as privacy and anonymity.

Quotation hook: As Clive James once said “a life without fame can be a good life, but fame without a life is no life at all”

Writing Part 2 – 7 Steps to Success

  1. Read the task, underline content points.
  2. Organise content points into paragraphs.
  3. WHAT are you going to say? Add notes to paragraphs. STAY ON TOPIC!
  4. HOW are you going to say it?
    1. Register? Formal/informal?
    2. Range of structures: What impressive grammar are you going to use?
      1. Inversions (not only/no sooner/not until/seldom)
      2. Inverted conditionals (Were I to…./Had they known…)
      3. Cleft sentences (What impressed me most was…)
      4. Participle clauses (Having visited the city before, I know what to expect. Being a massive fan of cheese, I had a whale of a time in France)
      5. Double comparatives (The more cheese I ate, the fatter I became. The more I studied the more I understood about French culture.)
    3. Range of vocabulary:
      1. Phrasal verbs. (switch over, zone out, sit back)
      2. Idioms/similes (like watching paint dry/to be on the edge of one’s seat)
      3. Relevant vocabulary to the topic (chat show, current affairs, couch potato, remote control)
      4. Other expressions (Something for everyone, a smorgasbord of options, kill time, etc.)
  5. Forms and conventions: Report/proposal – paragraph titles, letter conventions.
  6. Write!
  7. Check
    1. Repetition
    2. Spelling
    3. Punctuation

An Article “Hook”

Capture the reader’s attention with your introduction, draw them in and make them want to read more.

The Story Hook

Throw the reader straight into a narrative or story related to the topic. The story should be in the 1st person, be descriptive and intriguing:

I got off the train and pulled my luggage behind me.  A cab pulled up to the curb, and the driver got out.  He lifted my luggage and said, “Miss, I’m just going to put your stuff in the boot.”  I didn’t know what he meant until I saw him open the car’s trunk.  Then I realized the boot means car trunk.  I got in the cab, wondering how many other words would be different in England.

Start in the middle of the most exciting part, then go back later:

“Boom, boom, boom,” The sound of my heart beating faster and faster echoed in my ears. How on earth had I got myself into this situation? You might ask. Twenty feet underwater with nothing but a thin metal cage between me and perhaps the most terrifying apex predator on the planet, the great white shark….

Well, it had all started two weeks previously when….

The Descriptive Hook

Similar to the story hook but focus more on describing one moment/thing in great detail. Leave the reader wanting to know more about it.

The dog howled in pain and limped along the side of the road.  His leg was cut and blood streamed down his leg.

Doesn’t this scene make you curious about what will happen to the dog?

The leather strap of the ancient watch was creased and faded from long years in the sunlight. Down the glass of the face ran a long, roughly vertical crack, recalling the blunt impact which had stopped the hands of the timepiece dead all those years ago.

Don’t you want to hear the story of the watch?

The Metaphor/Simile Hook

The metaphor/simile hook engages your readers because it makes them think about a topic in a different way. 

A metaphor is a figure of speech that directly compares one thing to another, but these two things seem unrelated.  An example of a metaphor is: Her boyfriend is a rat.

The boyfriend is not really a rat, but he behaves like one.

A simile is like a metaphor.  Both compare two unrelated things to each other, but a simile uses the words like or as to connect them. For example:  Writing a research paper is like running a marathon when it’s 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

If your article topic is on business blogging you could write the metaphor hook:

A business blog is a magnet pulling clients to a company.

Or the simile hook:

A business blog is like a magnet that pulls clients to a company.

Metaphor hooks: Marriage is a journey, with its ups and downs.
They say that silence is golden.
Laughter is the best medicine.
Simile hooks: Love is like a fine wine, it matures with age.
My grandmother has always been as tough as an old boot.
The dress fit her like a glove, there was no denying it

The Quotation Hook

This is a hook where you begin your article with a quotation.  The quotation could be from a famous person, but it doesn’t have to be. You can quote anyone if it connects to what you’re writing about.

If you are writing about the topic of education you could begin with: Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”

If you want to use a quotation for a hook, make sure you quote the words exactly.  Choose quotations where the words are striking, powerful, and/ or memorable.

Famous quotes:

  • “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu
  • “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
  • “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon
  • “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” – Joe Kennedy
  • “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
  • “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” – Mae West
  • “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” – Wayne Gretzky
  • “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” – Albert Einstein
  • “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” – Forrest Gump

Article Titles – Keep it Catchy

Most proficiency articles require a catchy title, try to include:

  • An expression/idiom/proverb:
    • Taking the rough with the smooth
    • Life in the limelight
    • Coming face-to-face with a man-eater!
    • The long arm of the law


You recently read an article from an online youth magazine on the pressures of fame for young celebrities. The magazine has invited readers to respond to the topic with a short article of their own, which answers the following questions…

  • Is becoming famous worth it?
  • Do male and female celebrities experience the same pressures?
  • What can be done to shield young celebrities from the drawbacks of fame?
Posted in Advanced C1, B2 First, Grammar Classes, Writing Classes

B2+ Formal Linkers

Fine 3d Image Of Metal Ring Chain Cartoon Style Stock Photo, Picture And  Royalty Free Image. Image 9852810.

A new worksheet for B2+ students to help them add more cohesion to their writing through the use of formal linkers and connectors. Download the handout and key below:

Lead students through the worksheet. Encourage creativity in the final activity. Set students an FCE or CAE part 1 essay for homework.

Label the groups of linkers (A, B, C, D) with the titles in the box based on their function.

  1. ____________________
  2. One of the main benefits of research into green energy is the impact it can have on the environment. Furthermore, by switching to renewable energy sources, we can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels such as oil.
  3. The project failed to live up to the expectations of the management team. What is more, it was €100,000 over budget.
  4. Construction of the solar farm was finished on time. Moreover, workers were able to increase power output by 15% in the first month.
  5. ____________________
  6. Many parts of the world are being ravaged by extreme weather conditions due to/owing to the impact of climate change.
  7. Emissions of harmful greenhouse gases have increased owing to/due to the fact that the world’s population keeps growing.
  8. Further research is needed in order to push the boundaries of our scientific knowledge.
  9. Governments should provide more funding for green energy projects so as to increase their efficiency.
  10. More charging stations for electric cars should be installed so that there are enough to meet demand.
  11. ____________________
  12. Space exploration is undoubtedly an exciting area of research. Even so, is it really the most pressing issue humankind is facing right now?
  13. In spite of/Despite recent technological advancements we have seen, we still know very little about the universe.
  14. In spite of/Despite the fact that time is running out, we must not give up and accept our fate.
  15. Much progress has been made in this field. Nevertheless, there is still a lot to be done.
  16. ____________________
  17. Unless we take steps to combat climate change now, we may be too late.
  18. Even if we manage to reduce emissions considerably, there is no guarantee that it will be enough.
  19. We are still not sure whether or not we are alone in the universe.

Sentence Structure Rules

Group A:

  • What do you notice about the way all 4 linkers are used?

Group B:

Look at the sentences and choose the correct alternative:

  1. Due to/owing to + a noun // a clause (subject + verb + object)
  2. Due to/owing to the fact that + a noun // a clause (subject + verb + object)
  3. In order to + a verb // a clause
  4. So as to + a verb // a clause
  5. So that + a verb // a clause

Group C

  • What do “even so” and “nevertheless” have in common?

Look at the sentences and choose the correct alternative:

  1. In spite of/Despite + a noun // a clause (subject + verb + object)
  2. In spite of/Despite the fact that + a noun // a clause (subject + verb + object)

Group D

Look at the linkers in group D and match them to their meaning

  1. “it doesn’t matter if”
  2. “If we don’t”
  3. “If or not”


Complete the sentences with a linker from the previous exercise, more than one answer might be possible.

  1. They brought in extra seats …………. everyone could sit down.
  2. ………… you were the only man in the world, I still wouldn’t go out with you.
  3. They planted trees in the garden …………… attract more wildlife.
  4. His CV is impressive. ………….., I’m still not sure if he’s the right candidate.
  5. …………. all their hard work, they weren’t able to complete the project on time.
  6. I was unable to attend the meeting ……………. the heavy snowfall.
  7. Many people have chosen to move out of the city ……………….. house prices have fallen in the countryside.
  8. One benefit of city life is the superior health facilities. ……………….., there are many more job opportunities.
  9. It seems like a very tempting offer. ……………….., I feel I must reject it.
  10. ……………….. we run, we’re going to miss the last train.
  11. I’m still not sure ……………….. we made the right decision.
  12. He cancelled all his morning appointments ……………….. spend time with his family.

Creative Practice

Use linkers to upgrade these sentences for use in a C1 essay. You can also upgrade the language in the sentences.

  1. Shopping in shops is good, but shopping online is better.
  2. We should build more parks because they’re good for people.
  3. People got sad because the pandemic was bad.
  4. It doesn’t matter if you recycle, big companies are bad for the planet.
  5. There are too many cars, that’s why there’s lots of pollution.
  6. We should make drivers pay more to make them take the bus.
  7. Veganism is good but I don’t think I could do it.
  8. Books are good because they help you learn words and you imagine things.
Posted in Advanced C1, Writing Classes

C1 Advanced Essay Task: Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

How To Reduce The Carbon Footprint? | World Culture Network

This is a writing task for C1 students preparing for the Cambridge Advanced exam. Download the handout below:


Your class has recently taken part in a debate on ways individual citizens can reduce their carbon footprints in order to combat climate change. Below are three of the methods discussed and some quotes from people who took part in the debate.

  • Changing our diets
  • Changing travel habits
  • Changing our shopping habits


“Going vegetarian or vegan would be so hard for me, I couldn’t live without meat or cheese!”

“Airplanes and cars pollute so much, I cycle to work and try not to fly too often.”

“Fast fashion is terrible for the planet, people buy cheap clothes and sometimes don’t even wear them!”

Write an essay discussing two of the methods in your notes. You should explain which method you think is most realistic for most people and give reasons to support your argument. You may, if you wish, make use of the opinions expressed in the debate but you should use your own words as far as possible. Write your essay in 220-260 words in an appropriate style.

Posted in Guest Posts, Pronunciation Classes, Reading Classes, Writing Classes

Guest Post: Hot Take English – Limericks

This is another guest post by Alice at on the topic of limericks. Students learn the rhyme and syllable structure of a limerick, then write their own. Download the student handout and teacher’s notes below:

Check out Alice’s blog for more great lesson plans. The limericks used in this lesson plan are from

Posted in Advanced C1, Writing Classes

C1 Advanced: Writing Part 1 Formal Essay

C1 Advanced (CAE) | The Lleida Cambridge Exams Centre
Image credit: Cambridge Assessment English

This is yet another designed to help students prepare for part one of the C1 Cambridge Advanced (CAE) writing exam. Some of the content has been rehashed from old posts but the approach is slightly different. Download the student handout below:

Give out the handout and draw students’ attention to the task on page one and the first version at the bottom of the page. Have them read the task, then the model answer, then answer questions 1-3 with their partner:

  1. Which of the three areas (convenience, cost & enjoyment) does the writer focus on? cost and convenience
  2. Which one do they decide has the biggest impact on where people choose to shop? cost
  3. Give the essay a score out of 5 for:
    • Content (have they answered the question?) 4.5 – 5 – yes, question is fully answered
    • Range of language 2.5 – reads more like a B2 First essay
    • Appropriate style (formal/informal) 1.5 – too informal, not the right style: contractions, words like “stuff”, too personal (too much “I” and “we”), “first let’s look at”

Now have students look at question 4. If you’re pressed for time, you could skip this part. Have students brainstorm more formal and advanced ways of expressing the parts in bold in pairs or groups. Perhaps you could assign one paragraph to each group and have them report back in open class. Board their ideas.

Now have students flip the paper over. Version 2 essential expresses the same ideas but with more advanced language and a more appropriate register. Direct students to find the “fancy” equivalents of the underlined phrases from version 1 in version 2.

Set students the homework task by first encouraging them to discuss the topic:

Factors when deciding where to go on holiday:

  • Weather
  • Price
  • Cultural activities

Encourage them to use the language from version 2 and the language on pages 2 and 3 in their compositions.

Version 1

Read version 1 and answer the questions:

  1. Which of the three areas (convenience, cost & enjoyment) does the writer focus on?
  2. Which one do they decide has the biggest impact on where people choose to shop?
  3. Give the essay a score out of 5 for:
    • Content (have they answered the question?)
    • Range of language
    • Appropriate style (formal/informal)
  4. Look at the sections in bold, how could you express the same ideas in a more impressive/formal way?

We’re always hearing in the news about how more and more people are buying things on the internet. It’s a big problem that fewer people are going shopping in physical shops nowadays. But, what makes people decide where to shop?

First, let’s look at convenience. It’s true that shopping online is much easier than shopping in physical shops. You can buy stuff on your computer and you can sit on your sofa, you don’t need to leave your house. Also, the stuff gets sent to your house. When you go to the physical shop you have to take it home yourself.

Now I’ll talk about cost. Some people think that cost is the most important thing people think about when they decide where to shop. For example, when the sales are on people buy things in shops they don’t normally go to. But some people don’t care about the price. It doesn’t matter if it’s expensive or not.

In conclusion, looking at the facts, I think that cost is the most important thing for most people because if you don’t have enough money, you can’t buy it.

Version 2

Find and underline the ways that the same ideas are expressed in this version.

Hardly a week goes by without another news report about the recent dramatic increase in online shopping. The decline of the high street shop is undoubtedly a major issue in this day and age. However, which aspect of shopping has the biggest influence on where people shop?

The first area to take into account is convenience. It is undoubtedly the case that shopping online is much more convenient than shopping on the high street. Not only can you make a purchase with the click of a button, but also you can do it from the comfort of your sofa without setting foot outside your door.  In addition, the goods are delivered directly to your door whereas when you shop in physical shops you have to carry it home yourself.

Another aspect to consider is cost. There are those who argue that cost has the biggest impact on where people decide to shop. This is illustrated by the fact that during the sales many people buy things in shops they would not normally enter. Nevertheless, for some people the cost is not an issue, they buy what they want to buy no matter the price.

In light of the above, weighing up all the evidence, it is probably true to say that cost does indeed have the biggest influence on where people decide to shop due to the fact that most of the time, if you cannot afford something then you will not be able to buy it.

(247 words)

Homework Task

Your class has had a class debate on the most important factors when it comes to deciding on a holiday destination.

Factors when deciding where to go on holiday:

  • Weather
  • Price
  • Cultural activities

Some opinions expressed in the debate:

  • “If it’s not a sunny place, then I’m not going. Why would I visit a cold, rainy city?”
  • “I want my money to go further. For the price of a weekend in Paris, I could spend 2 weeks in Morocco.”
  • “I can’t stand just lying on a beach, I need to get out and learn something about the places I’m visiting.”

Write an essay for your tutor, discussing two of the factors in your notes. You should explain which factor is the most important for most people, giving reasons to support your argument.

You may, if you wish, make use of the opinions expressed in the debate but you should use your own words as far as possible. Write your essay in 220-260 words in an appropriate style.

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

Second 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…

Third 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, …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. Overall/in summary ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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…


  • 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…