Posted in Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency, Vocabulary Classes

C2 Proficiency: Inverted Open Cloze

C2 Proficiency: Exam Technique – Reading Part 7 – Tim's Free English Lesson  Plans

This is a lesson plan for C2 proficiency students designed to more fully exploit a use of English part 2 open cloze text. Download the handout below:

The part 2 exercise is taken from the Expert Proficiency Coursebook published by Pearson.

Students first complete the exercise from their books, compare answers with a partner and correct the task in open class. The teacher then instructs them to close their books/fold the handout over and try to complete the second “inverted” version. In this version, different words have been removed from the fixed expressions tested in the original text. Other changes have been made in order to fully exploit the text for more high level lexis such as phrasal verbs and fixed expressions. Students can then refer back to the original in order to check their answers.

You can create your own inverted cloze exercises from any text in your course book. Happy inverting!

Inverted Version

Cover the original exercise.

Complete this version.

The relationship between the modern consumer and their rubbish is a complex one. Getting (1) ……. of rubbish has come to mean a great (2) ……. more than simply consigning breakfast leftovers (3) ……. a plastic bag. With the advent (4)……. recycling, rubbish has now invaded many people’s personal lives to an unprecedented (5) ……. There was a time, (6) ……. living memory, when rubbish collection was a simple matter – but today’s household rubbish, before being (7) ……., has to be filed and sorted (8) ……. colour-coded containers (9) ……. to its recycling category.

What is (10) ……., we are brought (11) ……. in a rash of irritation by the suggestion that, if rubbish collections were to become more infrequent, people would then make the effort to (12) ……. down on shopping and recycle more. We might be excused for wondering (13) ……. this would be possible. Can people realistically buy fewer eggs or (14) ……. of toothpaste than their lives require?

Recycling is supposed to be good for us. But for some, it’s just a (15) ……. of rubbish.

Posted in Advanced C1, Exam Preparation Class, Guest Posts, Proficiency, Reading Classes

Guest Post: C1/C2 Reading – Procrastination

Students and faculty examine procrastination cures - The Pitt News

This is a guest post by Soleil García Brito. It’s a Cambridge exam style multiple choice reading activity based on an article from the New York Times by Charlotte Lieberman on the topic of procrastination. Watch this space for another activity on the topic coming soon… Download the handout and teacher’s notes below:

Reading and Use of English – Part 5

Read the text below and answer the following questions:

Why You Procrastinate (It Has Nothing to Do With Self-Control)

By Charlotte Lieberman

If you’ve ever put off an important task by, say, alphabetizing your spice drawer, you know it wouldn’t be fair to describe yourself as lazy. After all, alphabetizing requires focus and effort — and hey, maybe you even went the extra mile to wipe down each bottle before putting it back. And it’s not like you’re hanging out with friends or watching Netflix. You’re cleaning — something your parents would be proud of! This isn’t laziness or bad time management. This is procrastination.

When we procrastinate, we’re not only aware that we’re avoiding the task in question, but also that doing so is probably going to have a detrimental effect on our morale. And yet, we do it anyway.

“This is why we say that procrastination is essentially irrational,” said Dr. Fuschia Sirois, professor of psychology at the University of Sheffield. “It doesn’t make sense to do something you know is going to have negative consequences.” She added: “People engage in this pointless cycle of chronic procrastination because of an inability to manage negative moods associated with a task.”

The particular nature of our aversion depends on the given task or situation. It may be due to something inherently unpleasant about the task itself — having to clean a dirty bathroom or organizing a long, boring spreadsheet for your boss. But it might also stem from deeper feelings related to the task, such as self-doubt, low self-esteem, anxiety or insecurity. Staring at a blank document, you might be thinking, I’m not smart enough to write this. Even if I am, what will people think of it? What if I do a bad job?

There’s an entire body of research dedicated to the ruminative, self-blaming thoughts many of us tend to have in the wake of procrastination, which are known as “procrastinatory cognitions.” According to Dr. Sirois, the thoughts we have about procrastination typically exacerbate our distress and stress, which contribute to further procrastination.

Although procrastination offers momentary relief, Dr. Sirois argues that it is what makes the cycle especially vicious. In the immediate present, shelving a task provides relief — “you’ve been rewarded for procrastinating,” Dr. Sirois said. This is precisely why procrastination tends not to be a one-off behavior, but a cycle, one that easily becomes a chronic habit. Over time, chronic procrastination has not only productivity costs, but measurably destructive effects on our mental and physical health, including chronic stress, general psychological distress and low life satisfaction, symptoms of depression and anxiety, unhealthy behavior, chronic illness and even hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

If it seems ironic that we procrastinate to avoid negative feelings, but end up feeling even worse, that’s because it is. And once again, we have evolution to thank. Procrastination is a perfect example of present bias, our hard-wired tendency to prioritize short-term needs ahead of long-term ones.

“We really weren’t designed to think ahead into the further future because we needed to focus on providing for ourselves in the here and now,” said psychologist Dr. Hal Hershfield, a professor of marketing at the U.C.L.A. Anderson School of Management.

His research has shown that, on a neural level, we perceive our “future selves” more like strangers than as parts of ourselves. When we procrastinate, parts of our brains actually think that the tasks we’re putting off — and the accompanying negative feelings that await us on the other side — are somebody else’s problem.

The human ability to procrastinate is deeply existential, as it raises questions about individual agency and how we want to spend our time as opposed to how we actually do. But it’s also a reminder of our commonality — we’re all vulnerable to painful feelings, and most of us just want to be happy with the choices we make. In the end, we have to find a better reward than avoidance — one that can relieve our challenging feelings in the present moment without causing harm to our future selves.


  1. In the first paragraph, the author thinks that procrastinating:
    1. doesn’t include activities like cleaning and organizing, because they are productive.
    2. involves focusing on very detailed tasks that require a lot of effort.
    3. should not be equated to laziness.
    4. consists of activities like watching Netflix and spending time with friends.
  2. Why does the author say that procrastination is irrational?
    1. We are not conscious of the fact that we are about to avoid a task.
    2. We put off the task despite knowing it will affect us negatively.
    3. People repeat the same behaviour for no reason.
    4. Particular tasks evoke strong negative emotions.
  3. According to the text, where does our reluctance to get on with tasks come from?
    1. Deep negative feelings that were once associated with the task.
    2. Some tasks are gruesome and we want to avoid them.
    3. The dullness of some tasks makes us bored and unmotivated.
    4. It is probably not contingent on one specific origin.
  4. What does the article say about the vicious cycle of procrastination?
    1. Procrastinating provides an immediate and prolonged sense of relief.
    2. The behaviour only takes place once because it has negative consequences.
    3. It is a consequence of the negative effects on our physical and mental health.
    4. Putting off a task can reinforce the procrastinating behaviour.
  5. What is the relationship between evolution and procrastination, according to Dr. Hershfield?
    1. Brains have evolved to place current demands above future consequences.
    2. Procrastination is a product of recent evolution.
    3. It is ironic that we evolved to be procrastinators.
    4. We evolved to avoid negative feelings that may arise in the future.
  6. What is the neural justification for procrastination, according to Dr. Hershfield’s research?
    1. We avoid thinking about the future, even if it affects us in the present.
    2. Putting off a task provides relief from stress and anxiety.
    3. Our brains assign the responsibility for the task to a different entity. 
    4. The pursuit of happiness is the most important goal for our brains.

Language focus:

Phrasal verbs and vocabularyIdioms and collocations
Put off a task/doing somethingTo go the extra mile
Detrimental effect on/toTo stem from
Inherently (+adjective)In the wake of
Shelving (as a verb)A one-off (behavior)
Hard-wired (as an adjective)To have (something) to thank for
Await (vs wait?)To raise questions
Agency (as an abstract noun)Prioritize X ahead of Y
CommonalityIn the here and now
Posted in Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency, Writing Classes

C2 Proficiency: Hooks for Articles & Reviews

Fishing Hook Stock Photo - Download Image Now - iStock

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

C2 Expressions: Brain, Face, Head, Wits, Mind

Free Businessman banging his head against the wall Image - Stock by Pixlr

This is a vocab lesson plan based on an exercise from the Expert Proficiency Course book. It expands a short exercise from the book out into a full activity with exam practice and a speaking task. Students learn expressions with the words brain, face, head and wits and put them into practice in a key word transformation exercise and a discussion activity. Download the handout with key below:

Expert Proficiency Coursebook page 74

Sentence Completion

Complete the expressions in the sentences with brain, face, head, or mind.

  1. I couldn’t tell you the exact figure off the top of my …… but I think we sold about 10,000 units last year.
  2. The neighbour just called to say they’ve found our cat, that’s a load off my ……
  3. She was at her …… end trying to figure out how to control her 14 year-old son.
  4. He presented the new model to the shareholders but she’s the real …… behind it.
  5. We were lucky enough to come …… to …… with a Bengal tiger.
  6. I have to admit, it never crossed my …… to ask Brian for help with the artwork, but it turns out he’s brilliant!
  7. If they don’t turn that music down, I’m going to go over there and give them a piece of my ……
  8. He’s insufferable these days, all the money and praise has clearly gone to his ……
  9. My laptop has a …… of its own, it shuts down whenever it wants.
  10. The students struggled to keep a straight …… while the teacher was having difficulty playing the video.
  11. That part of town is a bit dodgy, you need to keep your …… about you if you go there.
  12. Trying to get the boys to tidy their bedrooms I always feel like I’m banging my …… against a brick wall.
  13. The boss had to think of a way to break his promise without losing ……
  14. In order to save …… the company recalled all the faulty products and gave their customers full refunds.
  15. I’ve been racking my …… all night trying to remember my PIN number but I just can’t.
Become arrogant after success
From memory
A relief
Thinking really hard
Very stressed, not know what to do
Be within touching distance
Suffer damage to one’s reputation/social standing
Tell sb off/reprimand
Wasting my time, actions have no effect
Maintain one’s reputation
Occurred to me
The person who thought of an idea
Seem capable of thought and independent action
Not laugh/show signs of amusement
Be alert/keep an eye out


Complete the sentences with one of the expressions.

  1. I’ve been trying really hard to remember where I left my keys.


I’ve …………………..………….. to remember where I left my keys.

  1. Being embarrassed in front of other teenagers of the same age can be devastating for teenagers.


It can be devastating for teenagers ……………………..……………..….. Group.

  1. It’s vital that you be careful, don’t reveal any unnecessary information in the meeting.


It’s vital that you ……………………..……………..….. any information slip in the meeting.

  1. I can’t think of any examples right now from memory but I’m sure there are loads.


I can’t recall any examples off ……………………..……………..….. in no doubt that there are loads.

  1. Steve Jobs was the one who came up with the idea of the Ipod. 


Steve Jobs ……………………..……………..….. the Ipod.

  1. “Don’t let money change you!” said the old rapper to the newbies.


The old rapper advised the newbies …………………………………………………..

  1. My car stereo does whatever it likes, there’s no controlling it.


My car stereo ……………………………………………….., there’s no controlling it.


Complete the questions with one of the expressions, then answer the questions with a partner.

  1. What sort of things do politicians and celebrities tend to do to …… face after a scandal? Does it usually work?
  2. If your neighbours are keeping you up, do you tend to ……. them a piece of your mind? Or grin and bear it?
  3. Think of a time when you struggled to ……. a straight face in a serious situation. Did you manage it?
  4. Can you think of a time when you lost ……. in front of your peers when you were a teenager? Can you laugh about it now?
  5. Are you good at remembering names, figures and dates ……. the top of your head? Or do you often need to look them up? 
  6. Do you need to ……. your brain to put names to faces? Are there any things you struggle to remember?
  7. Do the brains ……. the biggest inventions always get the credit? Can you think of any examples of people who didn’t get the credit they deserved?
  8. What are you most stressed about at the moment? If you could wave a magic wand and make one of your problems disappear, what would be the biggest ……. off your mind?
  9. Are you someone who tends to have your wits ……. you when you’re walking down the street? Or do you have your head in the clouds?
  10. Do any of your electronic devices/appliances have minds of their …….? What sort of things do they do?
  11. Do people tend to do what you ask them to? Or is it sometimes like ……. your head against a brick wall? Give some examples?
  12. Have your parents ever been ….. their wits end with your, or one of your sibling’s behaviour? Why? What did they do?
  13. What’s the best way to stop praise or money ……. to a person’s head? Do you think it’s inevitable?
  14. Have you ever received help or advice from an unexpected source? Had it ever ……. your mind to turn to that particular person?


  1. HEAD – B
  2. MIND – C
  3. WITS – E
  4. BRAINS – L
  6. MIND – K
  7. MIND – H
  8. HEAD – A
  9. MIND – M
  10. FACE – N
  11. WITS – O
  12. HEAD – I
  13. FACE – G
  14. FACE – J
  15. BRAIN – D




  1. SAVE
  2. GIVE
  3. KEEP
  4. FACE
  5. OFF
  6. RACK
  8. LOAD
  9. ABOUT
  10. OWN
  12. AT
  13. GOING
Posted in Advanced C1, Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency, Vocabulary Classes

C1/C2: The Life of a Celeb – Fame Vocabulary

Where are the next Tom Cruises?': how the internet changed celebrity |  Culture | The Guardian

This is a vocabulary lesson plan for C1/C2 students on the topic of fame and celebrities. Students read a text on the pros and cons of fame, examine some advanced expressions on the topic, then put them into practice in a Cambridge-style exercise, a discussion and a debate. Download the handout below, you’ll find the key for the key word transformations on page 3:

Part 1: Pre-reading

  1. What type of people do you think want to be famous?
  2. What do you think are some of the most common pros and cons of fame?
  3. What is the stereotypical story of the life of a child star?
  4. What advice would you give to someone who still wants to be famous despite the cons?

Part 2: Reading

Read the text.

Does it mention anything you discussed in part 1?

The life of a celeb isn’t all a bed of roses, you know. It really is a double-edged sword and it’s difficult to know if the pros outweigh the cons. Being in the limelight 24/7 can’t be good for your mental health. Being under constant scrutiny, having every aspect of your life dissected by the tabloids, it’s enough to drive you round the bend. It’s no wonder so many child stars go off the rails in such a spectacular fashion. They get their big breaks and rise to fame at such a young age then burn out in a blaze of glory for all to see. Keeping your feet on the ground is no mean feat when you’re surrounded by so many hangers-on blowing smoke up your backside. It must be so easy to let the fame go to your head and start thinking you’re the best thing since sliced bread. Then, if things take a turn for the worse, the fall from grace can be precipitous. 

It’s not all doom and gloom however, being in the public eye does have its perks. For one thing you get to lead a glamorous lifestyle; on the guestlist for every event, endorsed by all the biggest brands, it’s ironic that some of the richest people in the world hardly have to pay for anything. Designers and companies bend over backwards to get those publicity shots of you decked out in their latest products. But brands and products aren’t the only ones that can benefit by association with a megastar; some A-listers choose to use their platforms to raise awareness of various issues and campaigns, drawing their followers’ attention to the plights of various disenfranchised groups around the world.

So, have you still got your heart set on making a name for yourself in the world of show business? If so, be warned, you’ve got to learn to take the rough with the smooth. And should you happen to make it to the top, against all odds, enjoy your time in the sun, make the most of your 15 minutes of fame, because they might be over in the blink of an eye. 

Read the text again.

Answer the questions. 

  1. What drawbacks of fame does it mention?
  2. What effect can becoming famous have on your psyche/character?
  3. What are some of the perks of fame?
  4. What advice does the writer give to wannabe celebs?

Part 3 – Language Focus

Look at the underlined expressions. 

Discuss the meaning with your partner. 

  1. How familiar are the expressions to you? Mark them with:
    1. A tick if you’ve heard them before.
    2. A wavy line if they ring a bell.
    3. A cross if they’re completely new to you.

Memory test:

The life of a celeb isn’t all a …… of roses, you know. It really is a double-…….. sword and it’s difficult to know if the pros ……… the cons. Being in the l……… 24/7 can’t be good for your mental health. Being …….. constant scrutiny, having every aspect of your life dissected by the t………, it’s enough to drive you r…….. the b…….. It’s no …….. so many child stars go off the …….. in such a spectacular fashion. They get their big …….. and r……. to fame at such a young age then burn ……. in a blaze of glory for all to see. Keeping your feet on the …….. is no m……. feat when you’re surrounded by so many h……..-on blowing s……… up your b……… It must be so easy to let the fame go to your ……. and start thinking you’re the best thing since s…….. b…….. Then, if things take a ……. for the worse, the fall from ……… can be p……….. 

It’s not all d…… and g……. however, being in the …….. eye does have its perks. For one thing you get to ……. a glamorous lifestyle; …… the guestlist for every event, endorsed by all the biggest brands, it’s ironic that some of the richest people in the world hardly have to pay for anything. Designers and companies bend over b……… to get those publicity shots of you d……. out in their latest products. But brands and products aren’t the only ones that can benefit by association with a m……..; some A-l……… choose to use their p…….. to …….. awareness of various issues and campaigns, ……… their followers’ attention to the p…….. of various dis………….. groups around the world.

So, have you still got your …….. set on making a ……. for yourself in the world of …… If so, be w…….., you’ve got to learn to take the r…….. with the s………. And should you happen to make it to the ……, against all o……., enjoy your time in the sun, make the most of your ……. minutes of fame, because they might be over in the …….. of an eye. 

Key Word Transformations

  1. My agent showed me some of the articles that had appeared in the papers.


My agent…………………………………………. some of the articles that had appeared in the papers.

  1. It’s hard for newly famous celebrities to continue to act in a sensible and practical way.


Newly famous celebrities struggle ……………………………………………………………..

  1. The life of a famous dancer isn’t always good.


The life of a famous dancer………………………………………………………………….

  1. He moved to New York to become famous in the art world.


He moved to New York with the intention ………………………………………………… the art world.

  1. She wants to be an actress more than anything else in the world.


She …………………………………………………………………………… an actress.

  1. He aims to make more people aware of the difficulties the indigenous population are facing.


His objective is ………………………………………………………….. of the indigenous population.

Part 4 – Discussion

  1. Would you like to be famous?
  2. How well do you think you would cope with being famous?
  3. Do you think that the pros of fame outweigh the cons?
  4. Overall, do you think celebrities have a positive or a negative impact on society?
  5. Why do you think so many celebrities tend to suffer from addiction problems or poor mental health?
  6. If you had to choose images of celebrities to illustrate the pros and cons of fame, whose image would you choose and why?
  7. How do you think fame and show business have changed in your lifetime? How do you think it will change in the future?

Debate topic: Celebrities have a positive effect on society


Key Word Transformations

  1. My agent showed me some of the articles that had appeared in the papers.


My agent DREW MY ATTENTION // TO some of the articles that had appeared in the papers.

  1. It’s hard for newly famous celebrities to continue to act in a sensible and practical way.


Newly famous celebrities struggle TO KEEP THEIR FEET // ON THE GROUND.

  1. The life of a famous dancer isn’t always good.


The life of a famous dancer ISN’T ALL A BED // OF ROSES.

  1. He moved to New York to become famous in the art world.


He moved to New York with the intention OF MAKING A NAME FOR HIMSELF IN the art world.

  1. She wants to be an actress more than anything else in the world.



  1. He aims to make more people aware of the difficulties the indigenous population are facing.


His objective is TO RAISE AWARENESS // OF THE PLIGHT of the indigenous population.

Posted in Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency, Vocabulary Classes

C2 Proficiency: Use of English Worksheet & Conversation

C2 Proficiency: Exam Technique – Reading Part 7 – Tim's Free English Lesson  Plans

This is a lesson plan for students preparing to take the C2 Proficiency exam. Students look at some typical phrasal verbs, collocations and dependent prepositions that often come up in the exam and put them into practice in conversation. Download the handout, key and accompanying slides below:

Here is a link to a quizziz game you can use for spaced repetition:


First of all students have to choose from two prepositions to complete the phrasal verbs so that it fits the context of the sentence. Then have them match the phrasal verbs to the definitions in the box below. You could then have students test each other, one says a definition, the other has to recall the phrasal verb.

Show students slide 2 of the presentation and instruct them to turn their handouts over and attempt to recall the missing words in the questions from memory. In this exercise they are required to recall the verb, rather than the preposition. Once they have completed the exercise, have them ask and answer the questions in pairs or small groups and then share any funny/interesting discoveries in open class.

Students then repeat the process for the dependent prepositions. However, in this case, rather than matching definitions, they match synonyms of the collocations to transform the sentence. I most cases they are direct synonyms that fit the same grammatical pattern but in a couple of cases they will need to make changes to the sentence, instruct them to check carefully if the synonym fits.

Slide 4-5 have a similar gapped questions task to the first one for students to complete in pairs. The final exercise contains more expressions and phrasal verbs with prepositions. Have students complete the exercise in pairs, then after checking in open class, have students come up with gapped questions for their classmates to complete. Tell them that their questions must be open-ended and designed to spark conversation, for example:

Are there any things that you’ve done so many times that you can now do ….. auto-pilot?

Feel free to post any of your students’ questions in the comments! Let me know how it goes!

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

C2 Proficiency: Christmas Speaking Practice

Want to do Christmas activities but your students have an exam coming up? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Here’s some Christmassy proficiency speaking part 2 tasks. Students work in pairs on a timed collaborative task. Download the PowerPoint below:

You could also give them this speaking phrase sheet:

Posted in Advanced C1, Exam Preparation Class, Vocabulary Classes

117 C1 Phrasal Verbs: Study Sheet

This is a self-study resource for C1 students. Full credit to for the list of phrasal verbs:

All I’ve done is put each one in context with a sentence or two, then made a quizlet set with the prepositions removed. Download the handout below:

At the end of the handout I’ve added a QR code to the quizlet set so that students can access it easily.

117 C1 Phrasal Verbs

  1. They’ve made their demands and they’re not going to back down. – stop demanding something
  2. My car always breaks down when I don’t have enough money to get it repaired. – stop working
  3. They broke/split up last year but then they got back together. – to end; to separate (a marriage / a relationship / etc.)
  4. My parents died when I was very young so my grandma brought me up. – raise/educate/care for (a child)
  5. I bumped/ran into an old friend from uni in the street. – to meet someone unexpectedly
  6. The situation calls for  calm negotiations and cool heads from everyone involved. – demand / request
  7. They’ve had to call off  the match due to bad weather. – cancel (an event)
  8. I’m just going to carry on working on my presentation, but let me know if you need anything.  – continue
  9. The new hairstyle has really caught on with teenagers in my town. catch on – to become popular (an idea or a style); 
  10. I kept dropping hints about what I wanted for my birthday but my wife didn’t catch on. – to understand/realise after a long time
  11. I bought him a pint to try to cheer him up – make happier
  12. I came across my old school books while I was clearing out the attic. – find by chance
  13. He came into quite a lot of money when his grandparents passed away. come into (money) – inherit
  14. Come round after school and we’ll work on the science project together. – come to your house
  15. I’ve come up with a great idea for our Halloween costumes. – think of and suggest an idea
  16. The topic of a pay rise came up in my meeting with the boss. – be mentioned, arise or appear (in class / an exam / a meeting)
  17. Don’t be late! Everyone is counting on you. – to rely on
  18. My New Year’s resolution is to cut down on fast food.– reduce the amount you consume
  19. Sorry, the call got cut off when we went through a tunnel. – separate / isolate / interrupt
  20. My doctor has told me I need to cut out all processed meats from my diet. – stop doing / eating something
  21. The child was struggling to do up his shoelaces. We’re doing up our house this summer. – fasten, button up clothes; repair, redecorate or modernize a building or room
  22. We all dressed up as monsters for Halloween.– put on different clothes in order to disguise yourself
  23. My Dad dropped by on his way home to work to say hello. – to visit informally or unexpectedly
  24. He also came to drop off my Christmas presents. The taxi dropped us off outside the airport. – to take something (or someone) to a place and leave it there
  25. He didn’t enjoy the economics degree course and dropped out after 6 months. – stop taking part in (a competition, a university, etc.)
  26. We got lost and ended up in a completely different town. We were supposed to go out clubbing but we ended up staying in. – an end result of something planned or unplanned
  27. She fell for him the moment she met him. – fall in love with
  28. She fell out with her younger sister over who was going to look after grandma at Christmas. – argue and stop being friendly with someone
  29. Yesterday she found out that she passed her law degree. – discover
  30. I wrote them an email to follow up my complaint from the previous day. – find out more about something; take further action
  31. I get along/on really well with all my teachers. – have a good relationship with
  32. We just want to get away for the weekend and have some peace and quiet. – go on a short holiday/break 
  33. He stole €10 from his mum’s purse and got away with it, she blamed his brother. – not be punished for doing something
  34. I don’t earn much but it’s enough to get by. – manage to survive / live
  35. Stop chatting and get on with your work! – start or continue doing something (especially work)
  36. It took him a long time to get over her, I think he still loves her. – recover after the end of a relationship with someone
  37. I’m still getting over a nasty cold but I should be fine in a couple of days. – recover from
  38. I get together with my old uni friends every 6 months or so. – meet (usually for social reasons)
  39. I’m cleaning out my garage this weekend, I’m going to get rid of so much old stuff. – eliminate/discard
  40. He accidently gave away the surprise birthday party to the birthday girl, what an idiot! – reveal
  41. Hey! That’s my bag! Give it back – return
  42. Don’t forget to give/hand in your essays at the end of the class.  – submit (homework, etc.)
  43. The kids wouldn’t stop asking for an ice cream so I finally gave in and let them have one. – agree to something you do not want to
  44. The rotting fruit was giving off a nasty smell. (a smell) – produce and send into the air
  45. The receptionist gave out all the most important information to the guests. – announce or broadcast information
  46. They’re giving/handing out free samples of delicious cheese at the supermarket. – distribute to a group of people
  47. The sudoku puzzle was too difficult so I gave up and read a book instead. – to stop trying to do something (often because it is too difficult)
  48. A: We should decorate the kitchen. B: Yeah, I’d go along with that. – support an idea or agree with someone’s opinion
  49. The milk has gone off, we’ll have to buy some more. A bomb went off outside the airport, luckily nobody was hurt. – explode; become bad (food)
  50. The poker game went on for hours and hours. – to continue
  51. Have you heard? Charlie is going out with Kathy.  – have a romantic relationship with someone
  52. My Dad’s threatening to take away my car keys if I don’t tidy my room but I don’t think he will go through with it. – complete a promise or plan
  53. My best friend from primary school and I grew apart over the years and now we hardly speak. – get distant from someone, like a friend
  54. When I grow up, I want to be a firefighter.  – slowly become an adult
  55. We hung around outside the concert hall for 2 hours after the show trying to get an autograph. – to wait or spend time somewhere, doing nothing
  56. I’m just going to hang out with my friends tonight. – spend time relaxing (informal)
  57. Don’t leave your shirts on the floor, you need to hang them up. She finished the call and then hung up. – to hang clothes or an object on a hook or line; to end a phone call
  58. Go down this street and then head for the big church, your hotel is right next door to it. – go towards
  59. My shyness always holds me back in social situations. – prevent someone from making progress
  60. We need to hurry up! Our train leaves in five minutes.  – do something more quickly
  61. Just keep on walking this way and you’ll get to the station in no time. – to continue
  62. Where were you on Saturday? I really needed your help and you let me down. – disappoint
  63. The police decided to let the kids off with a warning because it was their first offence. – give someone a lighter punishment than they expected (or not punish at all)
  64. I can’t come out, I need to look after my baby brother. – take care of
  65. I hate it when people look down on those who are less fortunate than them. – feel superior to
  66. I’ve been looking for a flat for 2 months but haven’t found one I like yet. – try to find
  67. I’m really looking forward to Christmas this year. – feel happy about something that is going to happen
  68. The police are looking into the case of the missing dog. – investigate
  69. I had never heard of my Dad’s favorite footballer, I had to look him up on wikipedia.  – find information about (e.g. a word in a dictionary)
  70. I’ve always looked up to my mum, she’s very resilient. – admire and respect
  71. They gave us free tickets to a different show to make up for the cancellation. – compensate for
  72. They fell out over something stupid but now they’ve made up. – become friends again
  73. He’s always making up ridiculous stories and excuses for why he’s late. (something) – invent (stories, excuses)
  74. Ok, thanks for that report Jon, now let’s move on to Sarah’s presentation. – change to a different job, activity or place
  75. I moved out of my parents house when I was 18. – stop living in a house or flat
  76. He was so dehydrated that he passed out and woke up in the back of an ambulance. – lose consciousness
  77. When are you going to pay back the money you owe me? – return money
  78. Don’t worry, my parents are going to pay for dinner. – purchase
  79. They’ve finally managed to pay off the mortgage on the house. She got into Oxford University, all of her hard work has paid off! – finish paying for something; have a positive result from hard work
  80. Mum, it’s raining really hard, can you come and pick me up from the train station? – meet / collect someone (e.g. at the station / from school)
  81. At the end of the presentation our boss pointed out several obvious mistakes we had made. – to draw attention to something or someone
  82. Vicky! Come and put away your toys before you have dinner. – put something back in the correct place
  83. I’m going to the dentist tomorrow, I’ve been putting it off for months. – postpone
  84. They put on a big show to raise money for charity. (an event/a show) – organize an event
  85. Put your coat on, it’s cold outside. (clothes /make up) – place something on your body
  86. I put on quite a lot of weight during lockdown. (weight) – increase (weight)
  87. The firefighters were finally able to put the fire out. – extinguish (e.g. fire)
  88. My uncle can put us up for a couple of nights while we’re in London. (for the night) – accommodate
  89. Put your hand up if you have any questions. (your hand) – lift into the air
  90. I’m not going to put up with anymore lateness from those kids. – tolerate
  91. The car rental company tried to rip us off but I was having none of it. – charge someone too much for something
  92. We ran out of petrol in the middle of nowhere, it was terrifying. – use up (e.g. money, petrol, time)
  93. We had to set off at 4am, it was horrible. – start a journey
  94. We set up the company in 1995 and it’s still going strong to this day. – establish / start (e.g. a company)
  95. Dan! Stop showing off and pass us the ball, we’re losing 4-0. – try to impress people by telling or showing them what you are capable of
  96. They’ve had to shut down 5 stores in the area because sales have dropped. – to close
  97. We need to sort out accommodation for our trip to Paris. – arrange or order by classes or categories; find a solution
  98. BBC stands for the British Broadcasting Corporation. – to represent
  99. His ginger hair really makes him stand out from the rest of the boys in his class. – be easy to see because of being different
  100. I’d say I take after my Dad in my looks and my Mum in my personality. (someone) – resemble a member of your family in appearance, behaviour or character
  101. Please take your feet off the seat, your shoes are very dirty. – to remove from a surface or your body (clothes)
  102. Our plane takes off at 9pm. – leave the ground (e.g. a plane)
  103. She’s taken on a lot of extra responsibilities in her new job. – attempt something new; employ
  104. A new manager has taken over the department.  – take control of
  105. I took to ice-skating really quickly and now I’ve signed up for weekly classes.– start to like, especially after only a short time
  106. I first took up volleyball when I was in secondary school. – start doing (a hobby)
  107. The teacher told us off for being late. – speak angrily to someone who has done something wrong
  108. I’ve decided to throw away my old sofa, unless you want it. – get rid of something you do not need any more
  109. The weather on the mountain got really bad so we had to turn back. – return towards the place you started from
  110. They’ve turned down our offer for the house, they want more money. – reject or refuse
  111. On a full moon he turns into a werewolf! They’ve turned my favourite restaurant into a Burger King! – to transform
  112. Don’t forget to turn/switch off the lights when you leave. – to disconnect (e.g. a computer)
  113. He switched/turned on the TV and sat down to watch the match. – to connect (e.g. the TV)
  114. Our bus didn’t turn up for 2 hours. – arrive, usually unexpectedly, early or late
  115. He always uses up all the toilet roll and doesn’t replace it. – finish a supply of something
  116. I’ve completely worn out my old football boots, I need to get some new ones. – to use something until it becomes unusable
  117. I work out 3 times a week at the gym. The students struggled to work out the complicated equations. The police couldn’t work out how the burglars got into the house. – think about and find a solution; do exercise

– Quizlet set

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

C1/C2: Animal Idioms

How the Cat Gets Its Stripes: It's Genetics, Not a Folk Tale - The New York  Times

This is a vocabulary and conversation lesson for C1/C2 students. Students look at 18 animal idioms and put them into practice in conversation and an optional writing exercise. Download the handouts below:

Students first recall the names of some animals, then have a chance to share animal idioms they already know.

Then they must use the 16 animals from exercise 1 to complete the different animal expressions.

Keep the conversation questions hidden from students until after they’ve completed the first gap-fill.

Then have them recall the expressions by filling in the gaps in the questions. They can then ask and answer the questions in pairs or small groups.

I designed this task for use with a C2 Proficiency preparation group so I added on a writing task, an article, for them to do as homework.

Posted in Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency, Vocabulary Classes

C2 Proficiency/CPE: 99 Key Word Transformation Expressions

I found this document with 99 expressions from CPE key word transformations lost in the depths of my onedrive account, I could have sworn I’d already posted it but couldn’t find it anywhere, so here goes. Download it below:

CPE Key Word Transformation Expressions

  1. John needs to step up to the plate and start doing his share of the work.
  2. There’s nothing I’d like more than to spend the rest of the day on the beach.
  3. The kids took absolutely no notice of what the teacher was saying.
  4. Only as a last resort will the company employ inexperienced workers.
  5. When darkness falls the animals come out to hunt.
  6. A great deal of care and effort went into preparing the wedding.
  7. There was a lack of clarity in the teacher’s explanation.
  8. The wind and rain made it difficult to see where we were going.
  9. But for the GPS on my iPhone, we would have got completely lost.
  10. Prompt action in putting out the fire saved hundreds of lives.
  11. There’s every likelihood/chance/possibility that it will rain tomorrow. (it’s likely)
  12. We were left with no choice but to pitch our tent and wait for the storm to pass.
  13. When I lived in England I got into/developed/acquired the habit of drinking tea.
  14. Hundreds of people were taken in by the email scam.
  15. The last thing I want is for her to feel uncomfortable when she comes to visit.
  16. The company has sustained heavy losses this month.
  17. Maybe it would have been better if I hadn’t invited him.
  18. My friend lives in Australia but we keep in touch/contact via Skype and Whatsapp.
  19. There’s no change to/in his condition so he’ll have to stay in hospital for now.
  20. She’s very reliable; I’ve no reason to suppose that she will let me down.
  21. At no time were there fewer than 3 teachers looking after the children.
  22. On no account are passengers to stand up during take-off.
  23. We were at a loss to understand/know how the burglars got into the house.
  24. She has no intention of giving up her independence.
  25. I will do everything in my power to ensure that everyone is safe and happy.
  26. It’s nothing short of a miracle that nobody was hurt in the bus crash.
  27. I don’t think you were justified in speaking to the boss in that way.
  28. The kids made such a fuss when we told them we couldn’t go to Disneyland.
  29. We have a lot of problems to contend with at the moment.
  30. All of a sudden, a band appeared and started singing happy birthday to me.
  31. Messi was instrumental in Barça winning the match.
  32. As long as we stick to a plan/agreement, everything will work out fine.
  33. Had I known it was going to take this long, I would have gone a different way.
  34. Spare a thought for people who are less fortunate than you.
  35. After trying to open the jar for ages he admitted defeat and asked his Dad for help.
  36. My spirits rose/were lifted when I saw my parents waiting for me at the school gate.
  37. The ship’s crew finally caught sight of land after 10 weeks at sea.
  38. The fans waited outside the concert hoping to catch a glimpse of the band.
  39. A week’s holiday would do wonders for your health.
  40. The project is going really smoothly.
  41. Someone should take a note of everyone’s feedback so the same mistakes are not repeated.
  42. The company was deluged with calls the day after their advert was broadcast.
  43. The way he conducted himself in the meeting was very unprofessional.
  44. Failure to pay on time will result in your booking being cancelled.
  45. You must conform to the standards laid out in the course handbook.
  46. Such was the confusion caused by the accident that no one knew what to do.
  47. Little did he know what lay in store for him just around the corner.
  48. The problem with my girlfriend has been preying on my mind all week.
  49. Michael Jackson rose to fame/stardom in the early 1980s.
  50. The pursuit of profits often comes at the expense of the environment.
  51. Could you do me a favour?
  52. John kept me waiting for over two hours.
  53. I was waiting for the best part of an hour.
  54. She didn’t agree immediately as she wanted to keep her options open.
  55. He’s so indecisive and finds it hard to make his mind up.
  56. What sets our hotel apart are the breath-taking views.
  57. The crisis had serious repercussions for people’s quality of life.
  58. He was determined to succeed and let nothing stand in his way.
  59. The meeting was meant to finish at 15.00 but to all intents and purposes it was over by 14.00.
  60. To my mind the biggest threat to the planet is global warming.
  61. He regretted treating her badly and went to great lengths to make it up to her.
  62. She was on the point of going to bed when the phone rang
  63. His reaction came as no surprise to me
  64. It makes no difference whether we go out to dinner or stay in
  65. His interview was a success and he made an impression on the interviewer.
  66. After thinking about it we came to the conclusion that it was best to cancel the meeting.
  67. He found her impossible to put up with
  68. His son is a source of great pride for him
  69. It took him a long time to come to terms with the reality of his illness
  70. Had it not been for his behaviour, they wouldn’t have been asked to leave.
  71. It was bought to my attention that some of the employees were not happy.
  72. Provided that nobody has any objections, the meeting is postponed until Monday.
  73. There was no reoccurrence of the phenomenon, to everyone’s relief.
  74. How can we account for the drop in sales?
  75. There has been a marked rise in violence since last year.
  76. They decided not to say anything for fear of insulting him.
  77. It was raining so we had no choice but to cancel the picnic.
  78. He didn’t want to but we talked him into coming with us.
  79. It never crossed my mind to ask for help.
  80. He was on the verge of giving up when suddenly help arrived.
  81. It’s up to you to decide what we have for dinner tonight.
  82. The chances of Jane succeeding are slim
  83. The lecturer drew a clear distinction between external and internal motivation.
  84. George wasn’t alone in thinking that her excuse didn’t sound plausible.
  85. It’s high time we went home.
  86. Entrance to the VIP area is restricted to those is possession of a bracelet.
  87. George never tires of hearing the story of how his parents met.
  88. The company is rumoured to be bankrupt.
  89. Sara looked everywhere but the keys were nowhere to be seen
  90. He’s quite tolerant but he draws the line at letting his children go out during the week.
  91. The couple put their success down to hard work
  92. He bought her flowers to make up for forgetting her birthday
  93. Contrary to popular belief pigeons are quite intelligent.
  94. There’s little prospect of Greece recovering from the financial crisis.
  95. The museum is well worth a visit
  96. Customers are under no obligation to make a purchase
  97. It goes without saying that you can stay as long as you want
  98. Complaints are taken seriously at our company.
  99. Entrance is restricted to visitors with special authorisation.