Posted in Advanced C1, Phrase of the Day, Proficiency, Vocabulary Classes

Proficiency Phrase of the Day #9: Get out of hand

Today’s phrase is….

To get out of hand

Introduce it to your students with some personalised examples:

The party got a little bit out of hand after you left.

His Miley Cyrus obsession has got a little bit out of hand.

Help students to infer the meaning of the expression:

to become difficult to control

Have students discuss the following questions in pairs ro small groups:

  1. Have you ever been to a party that got a bit wild?
  2. Have you ever attended or witnesses a celebration or protest that became difficult for authorities to manage?
  3. At school, were there specific times of day or times of the year when teachers had difficulty controlling students?
  4. Do you have any hobbies, tastes or pastimes that you think might be turning into obsessions?

Use this Quizlet set to recall previous phrases of the day.

Posted in Advanced C1, Exam Preparation Class, Phrase of the Day, Proficiency, Vocabulary Classes

Proficiency Phrase of the Day #8: Not be cut out for…

Today’s phrase is….

To not be cut out for something


To not be cut out to do something

Introduce the expression to your students with a personalised example:

After just 2 days working for an insurance company, I decided I wasn’t cut out for an office job.

While at medical school my sister realised that she wasn’t cut out to be a doctor.

Have students infer the meaning: to not be the right type of person for that job/situation. Point out that it is almost always used in the negative and that it can be followed by “for” and a noun, or my “to” and a verb.

Put students in pairs and have them discuss the following jobs and situations. They should decide how suitable they think they are for them and to give reasons for their answers:

How well do you think you would cope in these situations?

  1. As a waiter in a busy restaurant on a Saturday night.
  2. As a board member of a big corporation.
  3. In an army on a battlefield.
  4. As an Olympic athlete.
  5. As a doctor in an emergency room.
  6. As an explorer in the 1500s.
  7. As a teacher in a class of 30 4-year-olds.
  8. As a teacher in a class of 30 14-year-olds.
  9. As a world famous celebrity.
  10. As an auctioneer selling world famous artworks.
  11. As a reclusive writer living in a cabin in the woods.
  12. As an astronaut piloting a rocket to Mars.

Use this Quizlet set for recall activities with previous phrases of the day.

Posted in Advanced C1, Exam Preparation Class, Phrase of the Day, Proficiency, Vocabulary Classes

Proficiency Phrase of the Day #7: Do wonders for

Today’s phrase is….

to do wonders for

Introduce it to your students with a personalised example:

“Getting away from the city for a couple of days did wonders for my mental health.”

Show them some more examples to help them grasp the meaning:

All that sunshine does wonders for your mood.

Yoga will do wonders for his fitness.

Fresh vegetables and pure water can do wonders for the liver.

Get a pet – my dog has done wonders for my soul.

The expression means to have a big positive effect on something. It’s most often used to describe positive impacts on physical or mental health, but can also be used to describe improvements to relationships or reputations.

The couples therapy did wonders for their marriage.

The announcement of the ceasefire did wonders for the country’s standing on the world stage.

Put students in pairs or small groups and have them think of some examples:

  1. A product or activity that has had a positive impact on their mental or physical health.
  2. Some advice you could give a couple who are going through a rough patch.
  3. Something that a celebrity did that had a really good impact on their career or reputation.
Posted in Advanced C1, Exam Preparation Class, Phrase of the Day, Proficiency, Vocabulary Classes

Proficiency Phrase of the Day #5: Contrary to Popular Belief, …

The phrase of the day today is….

“Contrary to popular belief,….”

Introduce it to your students with some examples:

“Contrary to popular belief, you can’t catch a cold just from being cold.”

“Contrary to popular belief, gorillas are shy and gentle creatures.”

“Contrary to popular belief, British cuisine is actually quite good.”

The expression is used to introduce a fact or statement that is the opposite of what most ordinary people think

Challenge students to be stereotype/myth busters. They can either choose to disprove a stereotype about people from their country/region using the expression, or they can disprove a commonly held theory or “old wives’ tale”.

Please post some of their example sentences in the comments!

Posted in Advanced C1, Phrase of the Day, Proficiency, Vocabulary Classes

Proficiency Phrase of the Day #1: Strange as it may seem…

I’m trying to introduce some micro-learning to my proficiency class by starting a “phrase of the day” system. I’ll collect them in a Quizlet set so I can revisit them.

The first one is:

Strange as it may seem, ….


Strange as it may sound, ….

I’ll introduce it to my students in a sentence about myself:

Strange as it may sound for someone who is petrified of heights, I actually love rollercoasters.”

You can also use corpus websites like Skell, to show students more examples, though personalised sentences are always more effective.

Allow students to react to the meaning of the sentence. Do they think it’s strange that I like rollercoasters as Simeone who is scared of heights? How do I rationalise it?

Then have students come up with three examples about their own life. Encourage them to think carefully about some interesting or contradictory facts about themselves.

Have them read their sentences to each other and use it as a jumping off point for a short conversation. Can they find common ground? Who has the strangest fact?

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 Advanced C1, Proficiency, Vocabulary Classes

C1+: Teaching Idioms & Expressions Through Contrastive Analysis

This is a lesson plan for C1+ Spanish speaking students. Students use contrastive analysis to compare Spanish idioms and expressions with their English equivalent. It was inspired by an activity in Leo Selivan’s book Lexical Grammar. Download the student handout and key below:

Posted in Advanced C1, B2 First, Proficiency

Rhetorical Devices in Speech and Writing

This is a lesson plan designed to help students make their written and spoken English more emphatic and engaging. Students will learn various rhetorical devices, then put them to use in conversation. Download the handout and key below:

Rhetorical Devices in Speech and Writing – Student Handout

We can use the following rhetorical devices to make our speeches and writings more engaging.

  1. Rhetorical Questions

Ask a question that you don’t expect an answer to.

“How can we encourage more people to recycle? Well, one way would be to…”

“How much impact do one person’s habits really have on the environment? Surprisingly, ….

  1. Personification

Giving human actions or emotions to non-living/inanimate things.

“I could hear the pack of cookies calling to me from the cupboard.”

“The music industry chewed him up and spat him out.”

“The soft bed welcomed me with open arms.”

“The fear of failure chased him wherever he went.”

  1. Hyperbole

Using exaggeration to draw attention to the severity of the matter or to make a strong point. 

“I called her a thousand times.”

“I will literally die if they ask me to give a speech to the whole class.”

“I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.”

  1. Litotes

Ironic understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of its contrary

“How did Steve look when you visited him? Not great to be honest.”

“How was the film? Yeah, not bad.”

“Let’s just say he doesn’t have the best attendance record.”

  1. Anadiplosis

Repetition of the last word in a phrase at the beginning of the next phrase or sentence.

“Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering.” –Yoda, Star Wars

“We ordered a pizza. A pizza that changed our lives.”

“She got on the bus, and on that bus she met a man. A man who would turn out to be the love of her life. A life that would be tragically cut short at only 25 years old.”

  1. Simile

A simile is a comparison in which something is said to figuratively be like something else. They usually contain “like” or “as”.

“It was as hot as a desert this morning.”

“His heart was beating like a broken clock.”

“My grandad is as blind as a bat and as deaf as a post.”


Identify the different rhetorical devices:

  1. It certainly wasn’t the worst school play I’ve ever been to.
  2. I’m absolutely starving, when can we stop for lunch? 
  3. My little brother is as thick as two short planks, he’s just not the academic type.
  4. The far-off lights of the city seemed to welcome us as we got closer.
  5. He spent the last of his money on an old bike. An old bike that he ended up riding for over 20 years.
  6. How can we convince more people to invest in electric cars? I’ll tell you how.
  7. The last episode was like watching paint dry, I couldn’t stand it.
  8. Her brain is the size of a pea, it’s like talking to a brick wall.
  9. It’s not the most useful application, so I’ll probably delete it.
  10. What can be done about the issue of short attention spans? Well, first of all, we could….
  11. The leg bone’s connected to the knee bone. The knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone.
  12. The car engine grumbled, coughed and burst into life.
Posted in Advanced C1, Conversation Classes, Guest Posts, Proficiency, Reading Classes, Vocabulary Classes

Guest Post: C1/C2 – Collin’s Word of the Year by Suzy Ratcliff

This is a guest post by teacher, teacher trainer, director of studies and materials writer Suzy Ratcliff. The lesson plan is based around the Collin’s Dictionary’s annual blog post revealing the shortlist for the words of the year. It’s a great example of how to exploit a piece of authentic materials to the max!

Download the student’s handout and teacher’s notes below:

Blog post

A year of ‘permacrisis’

1st Nov 2022

The 2020s have certainly seen their fair share of upheaval – and we’re only two years in! Already this decade we’ve had to contend with a pandemic and its aftermath, a brutal new war in Europe, and in the UK an economic crisis that saw the Bank of England warning of a “material risk to financial stability”. We’ve also had three prime ministers – so far.

How fitting, then, that 2022’s Word of the Year is permacrisis, a term that perfectly embodies the dizzyingsense of lurching from one unprecedented event to another, as we wonder bleakly what new horrors might be around the corner. Collins defines it as “an extended period of instability and insecurity” and that certainly rings true. Much more of this and we might have forgotten what stability and security ever felt like.

The current permacrisis also happens to be responsible for some of the other words on this year’s shortlist – not surprising given its all-consuming nature. Partygate, of course, is one of the events that set off the period of political turbulence whoseramifications are still playing out. It proves that the “-gate” suffix – made famous by the discovery of secret recordings in Washington DC’s Watergate Hotel – still has some life in it.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine produced an energy shock to which warm banks – places where those too poor to heat their own homes can gather in the event of a cold snap –are one proposed solution. The lexical analogy here is with another grim indicator of economic crisis, the food bank. The invasion also meant that we all quickly learned the Ukrainian spelling and pronunciation of the city of Kyiv. And while warfare may be Russia’s preferred tactic, increased scrutiny of Russia’s super-rich has led to a crackdown on lawfare, the use (or abuse) of legal powers to silence opponents.

In the labour market, changes have been afoot too. There’s been a vibe shift away from the culture that defined the world of work pre-pandemic: now people are less concerned with climbing the greasy pole, and more with quality of life. This has led to an epidemic of so-called quiet quitting, which, as Collins puts it, involves “doing no more work than one is contractually obliged to do”. For burnt-out millennials, it’s a third way between making your job your life and quitting altogether. Work-life balance is important, so why not relax as the year draws to a close by watching some football? The FIFA World Cup is due to start this month in Qatar – but beware the spectre of sportswashing, which some have accused the Qatari authorities of doing, given concerns around human rights and the welfare of migrant workers. This follows the pattern that has given us “greenwashing“, and of course goes back ultimately to “whitewashing“– blotting out imperfections with a thin coat of paint.

All in all, it’s a difficult note on which to begin the Carolean era, which the new king, Charles III, will preside over (the medieval Latin for Charles is, of course, Carolus). Let’s hope this is just a shaky start, and things will improve soon, Your Majesty. In the meantime, we all could be forgiven for just wanting to join our furry friends in splooting – which, Collins explains, is the act of lying flat on the stomach with the legs stretched out – until all of these problems have gone away.

Written by David Shariatmadari, author of Don’t Believe A Word: From Myths to Misunderstandings – How Language Really Works

Ex 1. Complete the sentences with your own ideas, then compare and discuss with your partner.

  1. In 2023, I’d like to see a crackdown on…
  2. The way I see it, … is just around the corner.
  3. In my life, I’ve had my fair share of
  4. The idea that …. really rings true to me
  5. The word …. perfectly embodies 2022 for me, because…

Ex 2. Discuss these questions:

  1. To what extent do you agree that 2022 has been a year of upheaval? Is it fair to say that the future looks grim or bleak? Why (not)?
  2. Have you witnessed someone close to you or a public figure lurching from one crisis to another? Have you ever experienced this sensation yourself?
  3. How do you predict the aftermath of the World Cup controversy will play out? Could changes be afoot in the world of big sporting events?
  4. In which industries do you think it’s necessary to ‘climb the ‘so-called’ greasy pole’? Have you ever felt that way in your career? Why (not)?
Posted in Advanced C1, Conversation Classes, Current Affairs Classes, Exam Preparation Class, pragmatics, Proficiency

C1/C2: Expressing Opinion – Hot Button Topics

This is a quick activity I threw together to help higher level students with expressing opinions on a range of controversial or “hot button” topics. I got the list of opinion expressions from the excellent, they have some great lists of functional language exponents organised by level, check them out:

Download the handout and PowerPoint below:


Give out the handout and have students work together to try to complete the opinion expressions.

Go over their answers in open class.

Drill natural pronunciation of the expressions. Point out to students that we often emphasise or stress the part that identifies the stated opinion as our own:

In MY opinion,…

As far as I’M concerned,…

You know what *I* think?

For the hot-button topics you could either brainstorm some with your students by asking:

What issues are people debating fiercely these days?

What was the last heated argument/debate you had about?

Or, you could use the ones in the PowerPoint. Show a slide and have students express their opinions in small groups.

If you have an exam preparation group, the activity would work well as a warm-up to tackling some of the collaborative tasks such as Advanced speaking parts 3&4.