Posted in Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency, Reading Classes

Proficiency Reading Part 6: Gapped Text Training

This is a training lesson plan to help students preparing for the C2 Cambridge Proficiency exam tackle part 6 of the reading and use of English paper. Students tend to struggle with this part of the exam and need a lot of guidance.

I’ve based this lesson plan around an example task from the CUP Proficiency Testbook 1 on the topic of expedition rafting. Download the PowerPoint, student handout and a scanned annotated copy of the text below:


First have students activate their schemata on the topic of rafting with the 3 conversation questions in the first slide.

In slide 3 students will look for the ways in which paragraph B fits into the first gap. By giving them the answer to the first gap, we can provide them with an opportunity to analyse the text and find the vocabulary, grammar and story connections that link the paragraph to text on either side. Reveal the answers on slide 4.

Go through the exam strategy on slide 5, then have students complete the clue hunt on slide 6. Reveal the answers to them and remind them to bear the clues in mind while they complete the task.

Negotiate a time limit for the students to complete the rest of the task individually. In the official exam they should dedicate 20 minutes to this part of the exam, however, as you’ve already done some prep work on this text, negotiate a time between 10 and 15 minutes.

Once they’ve completed the task, have them compare their answers in pairs. Make sure they refer back to the clue hunt and explain how each of the clues connect the paragraphs to the text.

Use the final few slides to reveal the answers and annotations.

Set them another part 6 task for homework and share the PowerPoint with them to refer to at home.

Posted in Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency

C2 Proficiency: Exploiting Use of English Texts Further

This is a worksheet for students preparing to take the Cambridge C2 Proficiency exam. It serves as a way of extending use of English activities to further exploit the text. Download the handout below:

My students are using the official test book 1 to prepare for the June exam. This worksheet is based on parts 1 & 2 of test 2 from the book.

Part 1 – Multiple Choice Cloze

After they complete a part 1 task, either for homework or in class, I prepare an activity like the first one on the worksheet in which they’re required to use one more of the words from the multiple choice cloze to complete another sentence. This can help draw the attention to subtle differences in meaning and usage between the often confusing vocabulary items test in this part.

Part 2 – Open Cloze

After they’ve done a part 2 task, I create an inverted version of the same text by taking a photo of the original and running it through to turn it into editable text. I then remove other words from the text, perhaps the delexicalized verb in an expression like “take into account”. Whereas in the original test the student might have been tested on the preposition: “take ….. account”, in the inverted version they might be tested on the verbs: “…… into account”

I also aim to remove some words from expressions that students may have overlooked in the rest of the text in their race to fill in the gaps. For example, this particular text contains the expression: “to all intents and purposes”, meaning “in all the most important ways”

If you create any similar training worksheets and want me to post them on the blog, feel free to get in touch via the comments.

Part 1

Use the extra words from part 1 to complete the sentences:

  1. During the Vietnam war thousands of American men were called …. to serve in the military.
    1. on
    2. up
    3. in
  2. She decided to wear a ……. pink satin dress to the interview.
    1. arresting
    2. catching
    3. fetching
  3. Undergoing a ten-week basic training course is …….. practice for anyone wanting to join the US army.
    1. native
    2. standard
    3. typical
  4. He was excited to see his cousins again but when he saw them he ……… all shy for some reason.
    1. came over
    2. gave out
    3. set up
  5. The paramedics did their best to save him but he was ……….. dead on arrival at the hospital.
    1. predicted
    2. entered
    3. pronounced
  6. They considered his political ideas to be too ……… for the group and his membership was revoked.
    1. basic
    2. radical
    3. central
  7. It suddenly …….. on me that he had been lying to me the whole time.
    1. started
    2. dawned
    3. birthed
  8. We thought we’d put the issue to ……., but it was brought up again at the next meeting.
    1. sleep
    2. bed
    3. ground

Part 2

Film music 

Any mention ….. the movie Star Wars instantly triggers the resounding opening bars of the film score, which signals the presence of the enemy. But can you ….. to mind who wrote the music? 

According …… the legendary film director Orson Wells, music ……… for half the work in a movie, mostly without the audience ……. knowing the composer’s name. The cruellest part of it for the composer is that, in a good film, that is how it ……. be. If the art of dressing well is to …. intents and purposes to dress in …… a way that others do not ……. your elegance, the art of a great music ……. is to fuse so perfectly with what is …… the screen that audiences are unconsciously …….. into the mood of the movie. ……. this reason, even great movie music ……. very little recognition to composers.


Part 1:

  1. b – up – be called up to the military
  2. c – fetching – a fetching dress = an attractive dress
  3. b – standard – standard practice = what people normally do
  4. a – came over all + adjective = to react in a specific way to a situation
  5. c – pronounced – be pronounced dead = a doctor officially announces and records your death
  6. b – radical – radical political ideas
  7. b – dawned – if something dawns on you, you realise it is happening.
  8. b – bed – put something to bed – solve/resolve an issue/debate

Part 2

Film music 

Any mention OF the movie Star Wars instantly triggers the resounding opening bars of the film score, which signals the presence of the enemy. But can you CALL to mind who wrote the music? 

According TO the legendary film director Orson Wells, music ACCOUNTS for half the work in a movie, mostly without the audience EVEN knowing the composer’s name. The cruellest part of it for the composer is that, in a good film, that is how it SHOULD be. If the art of dressing well is to ALL intents and purposes to dress in SUCH a way that others do not NOTICE your elegance, the art of a great music SCORE is to fuse so perfectly with what is ON the screen that audiences are unconsciously SUCKED into the mood of the movie. FOR this reason, even great movie music BRINGS very little recognition to composers.

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, Conversation Classes, Guest Posts, Vocabulary Classes

Guest post: “A Long Time Coming” – Vocabulary/collocations related to national identity and obtaining dual citizenship – B2+

This is a guest post by Steve Krajewski from English Coach Online on the topic of national identity and gaining dual citizenship.

Steve writes texts based on his own life experiences and shares them with students. His texts are packed with phrases and collocations that are common in spoken English.

For this post, Steve decided to focus on a text called ‘A long time coming’. This text will enable students to discuss whether they’ve ever done a family tree, what they know about their ancestors and to what extent gaining dual citizenship would have an impact on their lives.

Skills practiced include listening for gist, guessing the meanings of words from context and scanning the text for details.


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

Download the audio file for the text here:

Long time coming audio.

Student Handout

A long time coming

As I have the right to obtain Polish citizenship by descent, I’ve been spending a great deal of time getting to grips with the Law on Polish citizenship and asking specialists for advice about which documents I need to submit for my application.

Obtaining Polish citizenship by descent is relatively straightforward. Considering the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, and the future rights of British citizens who wish to travel, live and work in the EU, holding dual citizenship might be very useful down the line. My father will apply for a Polish passport as well.

A few weeks ago, I hired a genealogist to carry out research on my Polish ancestors. I’ve learned some revealing things about my grandfather, such as the fact that the Soviets deported him and his family to Arkhangelsk, Russia, in 1940. My researcher has also discovered the names, birthplaces and educational backgrounds of my grandfather’s siblings and parents.

Applying for Polish citizenship has made me wonder why so many people don’t take an interest in their roots and ancestors. I certainly feel a little guilty for not visiting the villages connected with my ancestors when I lived in Poland on and off between 2006 and 2013.

So – what do you think? Should families research their family history and start a family tree together?


a long time coming – arriving or happening after a lot of time has passed

(here I refer to my regrets that it took such a long time to learn about my


citizenship – the position or status of being a citizen of a particular


(by) descent – the origin or background of a person in terms of family or


get to grips (with something) – to start to deal with a problem, situation, or job that you have to do

submit – to give or offer something for a decision to be made by others

straightforward – uncomplicated and easy to do or understand

uncertainty – a situation in which something is not known for sure

surrounding – related to; around; involved with

rights – a moral or legal entitlement to have or do something

dual citizenship – the status of a person who is a legal citizen of two or more countries

down the line – in the future

genealogist – a person who traces or studies lines of family descent

carry out research (on something) – a careful study of a subject (e.g. medical/historical/scientific), especially in order to discover new facts or information about it

revealing – showing something that was not previously known or seen

educational background – your educational background refers to all of the education you have received

take an interest (in something) – be concerned or curious

roots – family origins, or the particular place you come from and the experiences you have had living there

ancestor – a person related to you who lived a long time ago (usually

before grandparents)

(feel) guilty – to feel intense regret for something

on and off – only for part of a period of time; not in a regular or

continuous way

family tree – a diagram showing the relationship between people in several generations of a family

Read Steve’s posts related to ELT and language learning here:

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 Proficiency, Vocabulary Classes

C2: Advanced Descriptive Language

Long time no post! Since I started a full-time materials writing job in the summer keeping up with the blog has been a bit of a struggle. I’ve still been creating new content for my C2 students just haven’t found the time to post it. Hopefully this will be the first of a little flurry of activity.

I was inspired by two recent episodes of Sean Hutchman’s wonderful podcast Ethos English on the topic of adverb use for higher level students. He quotes a bunch of great, colourful collocations in the episodes that I thought my C2 students would really benefit from, so I decided to make this lesson plan. Be prepared to offer your students a lot of support as mine found some bits a bit tricky, but very rewarding. Based on Sean’s recommendation, I used Sketch Engine for inspiration for some of the collocations. You can get a 30-day trial, but then you have to pay, it might be worth asking your director of studies to pay for an academic account as it’s a very useful tool.

Download the student handout and answer key below. Please post some of your students’ gapped sentences in the comments!

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 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 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.