Posted in Exam Preparation Class, Reviews

Review – IELTS Reading Practice: Academic | Student Book, by Peter Clements and Paul Murphy

Knowing how much I love engaging and effective exam preparation materials, Peter Clements kindly asked me to review his latest book, which he co-authored with Paul Murphy, so here goes!

Overview

IELTS Reading Practice: Academic, published by Prosperity Education, is aimed at students preparing to take, you guessed it, the IELTS Academic exam. While it specifically focuses on the reading tasks found in the exam, that’s not to say that it scrimps on opportunities for practicing other skills and exam tasks. You can buy the book through the link below and also check out their other exam preparation materials:

https://prosperityeducation.net/books

Structure & Content

The book is divided into 14 units, each of which examines a specific task type from the exam, ranging from tasks such as matching headings and true, false, not mentioned through to other IELTS staples like the table/flow chart/diagram completion tasks.

Each unit is divided into three two-page sections which follow a logical sequence with appropriate levels of scaffolding:

Think and prepare

The first part aims to activate students knowledge of the topic of the upcoming reading texts and also develop their understanding of some key lexis that will both be required later and also prove useful to students’ general communicative competence.

Here is an example of the “think” section:

You’ll notice that students are also directed to the bank of extra activities at the back of the book, where, in this case, they will find a topic card based on IELTS speaking part 2 covering the same topic as the unit. This is just one example of how the book offers teachers scope for planning varied, engaging, topic-based lessons, something that can be difficult to find in published exam preparation materials.

Students then move onto the “prepare” phase, which comprises short activities focusing on key topical lexis:

Students are led through a definition match activity followed by some controlled practice:

And finally some discussion questions:

While the structure may get repetitive – the same series of activities is repeated in each unit – it’s hard to argue with the logic of the stages and it’s one I use myself all the time so, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The lexis chosen is extremely relevant to the topic and pitched at the perfect register. Aside from aiding students’ comprehension of the upcoming texts, they are exactly the kinds of expressions candidates will be expected to produce in the writing and speaking parts of the exam.

There are also extra activities for this section which act as nice learner training exercises to nudge students towards good habits such as effective note-taking:

I was particularly drawn to this example of a graphic organiser. Students are encouraged to make notes on specific lexis and also associate it with an image, something I’ve been experimenting with in my own exam preparation classes.

I feel like activities like this can be extremely valuable for students who haven’t developed good study skills or learning habits; the examples in the book are clear, simple and can be easily replicated.

Practise

In the next section of each unit students are presented with a shorter version of the given reading task, along with an action plan and strategies. They are then encouraged to reflect on the efficacy of the plan and their own performance.

Students first do an introductory skimming task, for example:

They are then walked through an action plan for the task stage by stage:

Put it to the test

Finally, students are let loose on a full-length example exam task in order to put their newfound strategies into practice. The book contains 14 full-length texts, one for each task type. However, it doesn’t end there, in the extra activities section you will find one additional task for each of the 14 texts. These extra activities focus on a different task type, so for example, students could work on a true/false/not mentioned task in class and then complete a headings match task based on the same text for homework. In the back of the book there are also additional post-reading vocabulary tasks for each of the full length texts. This means that each of the texts is fully exploited.

Task information & tips

The book also contains a detailed analysis of each of the tasks and specific, detailed tips for approaching each one. I was particularly impressed by the rationales given for each tip:

I particularly liked the example of drawing students’ attention to topic sentences in paragraphs for the heading match task.

Summary

As you can probably already tell, I was really impressed by the book for a number of reasons:

Ease of use

Flicking through the pages as a teacher, I can immediately form a lesson plan in my head for a 90 minute class on each unit plus at least one homework task. I know it’s all there and I can pick and choose the order based on my students. I know they’re going to get lots of valuable exam practice and I can spin off into speaking tasks or vocab recall games when their motivation starts to wane towards the end of the class.

Topic-based exam prep

I know I’ve already mentioned it but it bears repeating, in exam prep classes it can be difficult to stick to the themed/topic-based classes we know we should be teaching, especially when there’s a big scary official exam looming. I know that IELTS and the Cambridge main suite exams are different beasts, but in my experience, intensive exam technique-focused prep classes for the Advanced and Proficiency can end up feeling like a poorly assembled patchwork quilt of different themes and topics due to the range of different texts students have to tackle. However, in this book the topics hold equal billing with the task type, which surely helps make for more cohesive classes and also aids students’ assimilation of the lexis.

Fully exploited texts

With the time constraint associated with exam preparation classes, it can sometimes feel overindulgent to linger for too long on a reading text to really drill down into it and exploit it for all its worth. The way this book manages to combine that impulse with further exam practice and vocab activities is really ingenious, hats off!

Clear strategies with clear rationale

It can be difficult to get students to take exam techniques and strategies on board, some can be stuck in their ways or view them as waste of time. The detail and rationale behind each strategy presented here make them easy to follow with plenty of opportunities to put them into practice straightaway.

In short, if you’re teaching IELTS Academic, get yourself a copy! Here are the details:


IELTS Reading Practice: Academic
 | Student Book, by Peter Clements and Paul Murphy

ISBN: 978-1-913825-31-7

Publication: October 2021

https://prosperityeducation.net/books

You can also find it on Amazon, simply search for the title!

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

C1/C2: Review – Gadget, App, Software

Los 21 gadgets que te vas a comprar en 2020, según Business Insider |  Business Insider España

This is a lesson plan for C1-C2 students designed to develop their understanding of vocabulary to describe gadgets, apps and pieces of software. Candidates are often required to describe such things in writing tasks in the main suite of Cambridge exams. This lesson plan may also be useful for business English classes. Download the handout and key below:

Students start by discussing the most useful gadgets, apps and pieces of software they own. Then they read a text describing the new Thermomix cooking robot. After focusing on the language, they put it into practice by writing their own short product pitches and presenting them to the class.

Pre-reading

  1. What’s the most useful gadget you have in your house?
  2. What’s the most useful app you have on your phone?
  3. What’s the most useful piece of software you have on your computer?
  4. How do these things make your life easier?
  5. Why do you think these gadgets/apps/pieces of software have become popular?

Reading

  1. Does your family have a Thermomix? If so, is it useful? If not, would you like one?
  2. What things can it do?
  3. How does it compare to its competitors?

Read the text, does it contain any of the ideas you mentioned?

Theromix have been making waves in the world of kitchen gadgets for some time now. Ever since the advent of their first appliance way back in 1985, they’ve been at the cutting edge of the market lending a hand to hard-pressed families the world over.

The latest model, the TM6, really made a splash when it hit the shelves last month. This latest iteration really is lightyears ahead of its competitors. With its state-of-the-art design it truly is a sight to behold. That being said, what really makes it stand out from the crowd is how easy it is to use. It really is a piece of cake, and you’ll be savouring that cake sooner than you think.

Simply scroll through the different preset menus, select the one that catches your eye, add the ingredients and let thermomix take care of the rest. It’s touch-screen menus and ergonomic controls are so user-friendly that you’ll master them in no time at all. It enables you to make quick, mouth-watering meals at the touch of a button. Though its competitors may come with all sorts of bells and whistles, there’s a reason Thermomix has cornered the kitchen robot market: elegance, ease of use, and efficiency. It’s not rocket science!

Language Focus

Look at the expressions in bold, make notes on their meaning with your partner.

Can you remember the missing words?

Theromix have been _________ waves in the world of kitchen gadgets for some time now. Ever since the a______ of their first a_______ way back in 1985, they’ve been at the cutting ______ of the market lending a _______ to ______-pressed families the world _______.

The latest model, the TM6, really made a s_______ when it ______ the shelves last month. This latest iteration really is lightyears ________ of its competitors. With its ______-of-the-_____ design it truly is a ______ to behold. That being said, what really makes it stand ______ ______ the crowd is how easy it is to use. It really is a piece of _______, and you’ll be savouring that cake sooner than you think.

Simply scroll through the different preset menus, select the one that ________ your eye, add the ingredients and let thermomix take _____ _____ the rest. It’s ______-screen menus and e________ controls are so user-_________ that you’ll master them in no time at all. It enables you to make quick, ________-watering meals at the _______ of a ________. Though its competitors may come with all sorts of _______ and whistles, there’s a reason Thermomix has _________ the kitchen robot market: elegance, ease of use, and efficiency. It’s not _________ science!

Sell, sell, sell!

Choose one of these gadgets, write a short pitch to sell it to your classmates.

Posted in Exam Preparation Class, Vocabulary Classes, Writing Classes

CAE Review – Phrase Sheet

Follow me on twitter @RobbioDobbio

This is essentially the same as my CPE sheet but with the title and word limit changed. Download it here:

cae-review

CAE Review

Register: Informal/neutralUse: all your colourful vocabulary:

Phrasal verbs/idioms/impressive collocations.

Forms and conventions:Title: for films/books/restaurants use the name/title or if think up an imaginative title using an idiom/expression.
Planning, 6 step system:1.        Read task, underline content points.

2.        Divide content points into paragraphs: Intro, décor, ambiance, service, food, recommendation.

3.        WHAT do you want to say? Add your notes to each paragraph in simple form.

4.        HOW are you going to say that? Brainstorm advanced grammar and vocabulary for each note.

5.        Forms and conventions: Title paragraph titles, fixed introduction.

6.        Write! Remember word limit is: 220-260

Introduction:Personal anecdote to grab attention. Introduce name of book/film, restaurant + location, course, TV show etc.

Seldom do I find the time to…, however when I do take time out of my hectic schedule, I like nothing more than…

Being a bit of a film buff/book worm/foody, the news that … had opened a new restaurant/released a new film/book had me itching to try/see/read it. So last week I popped down with a friend to check it out.

Having never seen/read/tried… before I approached … with a sense of trepidation, not knowing what to expect. Soon however, all my fears were allayed.

Book reviews:Vocab to describe the book in general:

a page-turner / a white-knuckle ride / a tearjerker / a laugh a minute / I couldn’t put it down.

Vocab to describe specific parts:

a slow start / a gentle introduction /gripping climax / nail-biting conclusion / cliff-hanger ending/ a shocking twist in the tail

Setting:

The book is set in _______(place/time)

The action takes place in ______ (place/time)

the present day (now)

an alternate reality where vampires / wizards walk the earth

a sleepy village in the USA

the bustling city of New York

Plot:

The plot centres around / focuses on (the adventures / lives of _________)

The plot follows the adventures of _________(character name)

Characters:

Villain / hero / heroine / anti-hero / main character / protagonist

The characters are believable / well-crafted / a bit 2 dimensional.

Film/TV reviews:General:

An all-star cast

heavily influenced by the films of..

glowing reviews

startling originality

suspense builds up

a polished performance

a bold experiment

an accomplished actor

an unmitigated disaster (bad film)

a dazzling display of his/her talents

made a lasting impression on me.

Brought a tear to my eye

Like watching paint dry (boring)

I was on the edge of my seat (exciting)

A blockbuster (big commercial film eg Superman)

… sets off an amazing chain of events

Gripping film (exciting)

The director/author evoked a magical atmosphere

… awakened my interest in…

Hold my attention

Capture the audience’s imagination.

Spectacular set-pieces (main action scenes)

… is cast in the role of…

… is miscast in the role of…

…gives a(n) (un)convincing performance as…

The film is let down by a clichéd script.

Restaurant review:

Hearty mealWholesome food

Piping-hot

Succulent/juicy (meat)

Creamy

With a kick (spicy)

Crunchy/crispy

Well-seasoned

Packed with flavour

A steaming plate of..

Hungry/starving/ravenous/famished

Bustling eatery(restaurant)

Lively atmosphere

Service with a smile

A plate piled high with..Mouth-watering

To die for

Heavenly

To lick your lips in anticipation

Roast

Pan-fried

Grilled

Steamed

Freshly-baked

Restaurants cont.Make a pig of one’s self

To feast/gorge on (eat a lot of)

To eat/drink to your heart’s content

Devour/gobble up

Savour

Nibble

Bite

Lick

Aromas wafting from the kitchen

Cheap – economical/reasonably-priced

Expensive – pricey/costs an arm and a leg

€20 a head (per person)

Killer Lines:Were I to sum up … in one word, it would be…

… left a lot to be desired (wasn’t good enough)

…more than lives up to the hype (is as good as everyone says it is)

… is by far and away the best … you’re likely to … this year

… really raises the bar (sets a higher standard)

… sets the benchmark for other (others will be judges against how good it is)

… ticks all the right boxes

… holds up well in comparison with …

…comes off badly in comparison with …

Grammar check listHave you included?

·         An inversion (not only/no sooner/seldom)

·         An inverted conditional (Were we to…)

·         A participle clause (Being…/Having gone…)

·         A double comparative (The more we… the more)

·         A cleft sentence (What is most crucial is…)

·         Idioms

·         Phrasal verbs

Posted in Writing Classes

CPE Review

This is a handout with as much language and advice possible for approaching the CPE writing part 2 review tasks. I made it for my December candidates, fingers crossed they actually read it! I only had time to add language for film, book and restaurant reviews, in return for using my lesson plan please be so kind as to answer me the following question:

What other types or review have you come across in CPE exams? Let me know and I’ll endeavour to add language for them to this phrase list.

You can download the handout here: CPE Review (formatting looks better in word than on wordpress!)

CPE Review

Register: Informal/neutral

Use: all your colourful vocabulary:

Phrasal verbs/idioms/impressive collocations.

Forms and conventions:

Title: for films/books/restaurants use the name/title or if think up an imaginative title using an idiom/expression.

Planning, 6 step system:

1.        Read task, underline content points.

2.        Divide content points into paragraphs: Intro, décor, ambiance, service, food, recommendation.

3.        WHAT do you want to say? Add your notes to each paragraph in simple form.

4.        HOW are you going to say that? Brainstorm advanced grammar and vocabulary for each note.

5.        Forms and conventions: Title paragraph titles, fixed introduction.

6.        Write! Remember word limit is: 280-320

Introduction:

Personal anecdote to grab attention. Introduce name of book/film, restaurant + location, course, TV show etc.

Seldom do I find the time to…, however when I do take time out of my hectic schedule, I like nothing more than…

Being a bit of a film buff/book worm/foody, the news that … had opened a new restaurant/released a new film/book had me itching to try/see/read it. So last week I popped down with a friend to check it out.

Having never seen/read/tried… before I approached … with a sense of trepidation, not knowing what to expect. Soon however, all my fears were allayed.

Book reviews:

Vocab to describe the book in general:

a page-turner / a white-knuckle ride / a tearjerker / a laugh a minute / I couldn’t put it down.

Vocab to describe specific parts:

a slow start / a gentle introduction /gripping climax / nail-biting conclusion / cliff-hanger ending/ a shocking twist in the tail

Setting:

The book is set in _______(place/time)

The action takes place in ______ (place/time)

the present day (now)

an alternate reality where vampires / wizards walk the earth

a sleepy village in the USA

the bustling city of New York

Plot:

The plot centres around / focuses on (the adventures / lives of _________)

The plot follows the adventures of _________(character name)

Characters:

Villain / hero / heroine / anti-hero / main character / protagonist

The characters are believable / well-crafted / a bit 2 dimensional.

Film/TV reviews:

General:

An all-star cast

heavily influenced by the films of..

glowing reviews

startling originality

suspense builds up

a polished performance

a bold experiment

an accomplished actor

an unmitigated disaster (bad film)

a dazzling display of his/her talents

made a lasting impression on me.

Brought a tear to my eye

Like watching paint dry (boring)

I was on the edge of my seat (exciting)

A blockbuster (big commercial film eg Superman)

… sets off an amazing chain of events

Gripping film (exciting)

The director/author evoked a magical atmosphere

… awakened my interest in…

Hold my attention

Capture the audience’s imagination.

Spectacular set-pieces (main action scenes)

… is cast in the role of…

… is miscast in the role of…

…gives a(n) (un)convincing performance as…

The film is let down by a clichéd script.

Restaurant review:

Hearty meal

Wholesome food

Piping-hot

Succulent/juicy (meat)

Creamy

With a kick (spicy)

Crunchy/crispy

Well-seasoned

Packed with flavour

A steaming plate of..

Hungry/starving/ravenous/famished

Bustling eatery(restaurant)

Lively atmosphere

Service with a smile

A plate piled high with..

Mouth-watering

To die for

Heavenly

To lick your lips in anticipation

Roast

Pan-fried

Grilled

Steamed

Freshly-baked

Restaurants cont.

Make a pig of one’s self

To feast/gorge on (eat a lot of)

To eat/drink to your heart’s content

Devour/gobble up

Savour

Nibble

Bite

Lick

Aromas wafting from the kitchen

Cheap – economical/reasonably-priced

Expensive – pricey/costs an arm and a leg

€20 a head (per person)

Killer Lines:

Were I to sum up … in one word, it would be…

… left a lot to be desired (wasn’t good enough)

…more than lives up to the hype (is as good as everyone says it is)

… is by far and away the best … you’re likely to … this year

… really raises the bar (sets a higher standard)

… sets the benchmark for other (others will be judges against how good it is)

… ticks all the right boxes

… holds up well in comparison with …

…comes off badly in comparison with …

Grammar check list

Have you included?

·         An inversion (not only/no sooner/seldom)

·         An inverted conditional (Were we to…)

·         A participle clause (Being…/Having gone…)

·         A double comparative (The more we… the more)

·         A cleft sentence (What is most crucial is…)

·         Idioms

·         Phrasal verbs

Posted in Exam Preparation Class, Writing Classes

CAE writing a book review

book review

Before you use these materials, why not check out our new podcast for learners and teachers alike? It’s called 2Ts in a Pod, have a listen here:

 

This is a lesson plan to set up students for the review writing task in part 2 of the CAE writing paper.

To begin with go through the following conversation questions either as a class or split into small groups.

Did you enjoy reading when you were growing up?

Which book made the biggest impression on you when you were younger?

Where / When did the events of the book take place?

Describe the plot.

Describe the characters.

Why did you enjoy the book so much?

Have you reread the book now that you are older? What did you think?

Will people still be reading books in 50 years?

How do you think reading culture will change?

 

Ask students for the titles of some of their favourite books, put them on the board and brainstorm the plot, characters etc.

Tell students that for home work this week they are going to write a review of a book which had a profound affect on them when they were growing up. It could be a children’s book or a book they read when they were a teenager. A review is always in part 2 of the writing paper so the word limit is 220 – 260 words. Their review should include:

  • a brief description of the story / plot
  • the reasons why they enjoyed it / why it had such an impact on them
  • who they would recommend it to

Here is a link to my prezi which will talk the students through how to go about it.

http://prezi.com/tvjva9mynbsj/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share

Here is a link to the handout that goes with the prezi:

https://skydrive.live.com/redir?resid=79CFF252BEEA0A7D!423&authkey=!AAw6I4WaWW6ghR0

The prezi contains references to the text book I am using with my students: Spotlight on CAE.