Posted in Conversation Classes

Lance Armstrong: Cheating conversation plan


This is a conversation lesson plan for B1 upwards based around disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong and the topic of cheating.

Download the powerpoint here:!303&authkey=!ALG8a95Emk_-Qk4

Lesson plan:

Show slide 2, put the students in groups and have them tell Lance’s story, encourage them to use all the vocabulary on the screen.

Show slide 3, here you have lots of different quotes on the subject of cheating, have the students discuss each one in pairs. Here are the quotes:

•“If everyone else is cheating, it’s stupid not to.”
•“When you cheat, the only person you’re cheating is yourself.”
•“Winning is all that matters.”
•“It’s the taking part that counts.”
•“All cheats deserve lifetime bans.”
•“If there were no controls or punishments, everyone would cheat.”
•“You aren’t sorry you cheated, you’re sorry you got caught.”
•“Cheats never prosper.”
•“All performance enhancing drugs should be legalised, then we could see what the human body is really capable of.”
•“Being a good cheat is a positive quality in today’s society.”
•“ If you cheat in an exam you should receive a zero.”
•“Cheating is human nature.”
•“Some of the most influential people in today’s society cheated and robbed their way to the top.”
•“Cheating is a growing problem in sport.”
Encourage them to use different language of agreement and disagreement. Download my handout on this language here:
Show slide 3. This slide conatins a series of “what if” situations, have the students discuss them in groups saying what they would do.
1.You are playing football. It is the 90th minute of the match. Your team win a corner, the ball comes in, you try to head it but it hits your head and then your hand and flies into the goal. Nobody sees that it hit your hand, your teammates run over to congratulate you.
2.2 days before your final exam a classmate comes to you with a copy of the exam paper. He offers it to you for €50. He says that all of your other classmates have bought a copy except one.
3.You go to a charity event to raise money for food for hungry children in Africa. At the event they have a raffle. You bump into someone by accident and you both drop your tickets on the floor. The tickets are accidently swapped. You win a 5 star Caribbean holiday in the raffle but on your way to collect your prize you realise that it is not your ticket.
4.You are a professional cyclist. Last year you finished 10th in the tour de France, the year before 11th and the year before that 15th. A doctor comes to your gym one day saying that he has developed a new performance enhancing drug that cannot be detected by any type of doping test. He wants 50% of any future prize money you make in exchange for the drug.
5.You are a tennis player. 2 weeks before a big match at the US open you get a call from an umpire. He says that he is going to be the umpire for your match, he insinuates that if you pay him a bribe he will “help” you during the match.
Feedback session with whole class based on their responses to the situations.
Wrap up:
Who was the most honest / dishonest in your group?
Who was the biggest cheat?
Posted in Writing Classes

Follow up: Homework composition about travelling


This is a homework activity written to follow my previous lesson plan about holidays and traveling here is the link to the original lesson plan:

Here is a link to download the handout for homework:!300&authkey=!AMJLj8z2NbQgFFI

A travel magazine is running a competition for travel articles about different types of holidays / ways to travel for young people.

Choose 1 type of holiday / way to travel from the class handout and write an article about why it’s good for young people. Include:

  • An interesting introduction to catch the reader’s attention. Include direct questions.
  • Pros and cons of your chosen subject.
  • Reasons why you recommend it to other young people.
  • You can include (invented) anecdotes.


Posted in Conversation Classes

Ice breaking activity: My life star


Thanks to my Spanish teacher Montse for this activity.

This is a good activity for the first class of a course to break the ice. The students learn a bit about their teacher and then about each other.

It is suitable for levels A2 – C2.

You will need this handout:!297&authkey=!AOyUfMWbXMGz2Uw


Draw or project the star from the handout on to the board. Write a different word or phrase related to your life at each point of the star. For example, you could write your partner’s name, your pet’s name, your favourite band etc.

Lesson plan:

Tell the students that each point represents something important from your life. Put them in small groups, they then have to discuss what each word or phrase represents. Encourage them to use modal verbs of deduction:

“Fido” could / might be his dog’s name. It can’t be his wife’s name.

When they have finish have them put forward their ideas, tell them if they are right or wrong and explain a little about each subject.

Put the students in pairs or threes and give out the handout. Give them 5 minutes to write something at each point. Students then ask and answer questions about each others lives and share information to get to know each other. Tell them to try and remember as much information as possible.

Students change partners or groups. They must then tell their new group as much information about their old groups as the can remember. This is a good way for the students (and the teacher) to use and remember all the other students names.

Wrap up:

At the end of the class have the students recall as much of the information they learned about you as possible. Put them in groups, give them a star they have to remember all your points.

Posted in Exam Preparation Class

CAE Study Guide


This post will give students who are about to sit the CAE exam a rough guide of what to study and links to helpful online tools.

Vocabulary sets for CIC 607 CAE students:

Here you have a link to sets of flashcards I have made on the website There are 39 different sets focusing on various different parts of the use of English section:

Here are individual links to different quizlet sets that will help you prepare for the use of English paper, use the flashcards to study then try clicking on “learn” or “test” at the top, you can also play the games “scatter” and “gravity”: – verbs with prepositions. – Inversions – Letter of complaint – Gerund or infinitive – 82 different key word transformations – more key word transformations – even more key word transformations – use of English revision – word formation – reporting verb patterns – phrasal verbs – more phrasal verbs – word formation


Other useful websites include:

You can also download the CAE handbook here, it contains 2 test papers with the answers.

Where there are online tests and loads of other useful features.

Use of English

There are Use of English papers you can use to practice here:

There are 3 different papers, do 1 a day, make notes on your mistakes and redo the same paper, it helps to make the information stick.

Part 1: Multiple choice cloze

Study Quizlet sets on Collocations, verbs / adjectives with prepositions etc. Then try a practice paper from flo-joe.

Part 2: Open Cloze

Past papers on flo-joe or go back over your notes. Quizlet sets on verbs / adjectives with prepositions and collocations also help.

Part 3: Word formation

There are lots of sets on quizlet for word formation. Also you can download a word formation list here:!190&authkey=!ACS0L7Fi2v-suyo

Then do past papers on flo-joe.

Part 4: Key word transformations

There are lots of key word transformation sets and phrasal verb sets on quizlet and past papers on flo-joe.

Also check flo-joe’s daily word bank for new vocabulary:

Here is a link to quizlet set of 82 Key Word Transformations:

Extra resources:

Collocations practice:!194&authkey=!AIDza1OWzb6yBCc

Or lexical phrase list from here:!197&authkey=!AH-GLrI0X_c_wGs

Exam practice collocations:


Here is an exhaustive collection of useful phrases for writing tasks:

CAE Writing (useful language) (1)

Download the examples of each different writing task and check out the page on the my wiki called CAE writing text types explained.

Examples of each task type:

Explanation of task types:

Remember part 1 is compulsory and it will be a formal essay. In part 2 you can choose from 3 different options. The possible options are: a letter (formal or informal), a report, a proposal and a review.

Also check out flo-joe’s writing class:

There are lots of activities for linking words and expressions, formal / informal language etc.


There’s only 1 Reading paper on flo-joe but it’s better than nothing.


If you want to practice listening you can use this website:

There are a lot of different listening exercises with comprehension questions and vocabulary questions. Try some.

Posted in Exam Preparation Class, Vocabulary Classes

CAE Gapped sentences practice

confused student

The gapped sentences exercise appears in the use of English section of the CAE, and is a part that many students tend to struggle with. Each correct answer in this section is worth 2 points so they make up a considerable part of the final mark. This class will try to present ways to practice and prepare for this exercise.

Here is a link to quizlet set of flashcards for this exercise:

In the gapped sentences exercise students are presented with 3 sentences with a word missing in each. The same word completes all three sentences.


Gillian decided it was time to turn over a new _______ and forget her past mistakes.

Why don’t you take a _______ out of Simon’s book and start helping.

Autumn came suddenly and the first _______ had fallen before August had even ended.

Answer: leaf

The exercise tests the students vocabulary: their knowledge of collocations, phrasal verbs and expressions. As you can see from the example above the uses of the word can be very different.

Lesson plan:

Put the above example on the board, or print it out and hand it out to the students to complete in pairs. If needed explain the two expressions with leaf:

to turn over a new leaf – to make a resolution to change for the better.

to take a leaf out of someone’s book – to copy someone or try to be more like someone.

Load up and ask students to volunteer words to look for. Alternatively you can search for a typical words that often come up in this exercise. These are often words that require no transformation from verb to noun. For example “mark” or “place”. The idea is to give the students an idea as to the number or different uses each word has.

Class Exercise:

Put students in pairs and give each pair a word from the following list:

A: couple
B: place
C: stood
D: show
E: care
F: left
G: fell
H: mark
I: right

Give each pair a dictionary or allow them to use word reference on their smartphones. Tell them that they have to make a gapped sentence set for the rest of the class to complete. Encourage them to use more difficult meanings of the word. While they work go around and aid with sentence construction. Collect in the gapped sentences and put them on the board. The whole class then completes all the exercises.


Students create another set of gapped sentences at home. Encourage them to use word reference or a good dictionary to find more obscure uses of different words. Tell them to make them as difficult as possible.

The following class you can take them in, correct them and then print them out for class or homework, or post them online for the students to complete.

Here are some examples made by my CAE exam class:

1. He can usually be contacted at his……………….. of work.
2. Excuse me I seem to have lost my……………………… on the course.
3. I’ve saved you a ……………………., come and sit here.

1. We all………………….. around in the corridor waiting.
2. We …………………..up in order to get a better view.
3. The house …………………….. empty for a long time.

1. She wants to ………………… her friends her new pair of heels.
2. He will ……………………… off during the football match.
3. The play will be on …………………….. at 10pm tonight.

1. The girl knows more than she would ………………….. to admit.
2. You don’t mean anything to me, I don’t …………………… what you think.
3. He doesn’t take ……………………. of Jack.

1. My eyes ………………………. before his steady gaze.
2. The city ………………………… to the enemy.
3. After 3 years his shoes ………………………….. apart.

1.The cup left a ………………….. on the table.
2. The temperature hit the forty degree ……………………..
3. They shook hands as a ………………………. of respect.

Here is a link to a set of gapped sentence examples on

9/3/13 Title was amended as gapped sentences is no long part of the CPE exam.

Posted in Writing Classes

Composition: Short story, Nighthawks by Edward Hopper


This is a homework exercise to practice past narrative tenses for intermediate to advanced students (B1-C1) based on the picture above. Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.

Download the handout here:!294&authkey=!AJdNI7pP–88YxQ

Composition short story

Write a short story (120-150 words) based on this picture.

  • Who are these people?
  • Where is the story set? When is it set?
  • What are they doing?
  • What has happened before this moment?
  • What happens next? (think of an exciting ending)

Generally stories are written in the past so use a selection of past tenses:

  • Past continuous to describe the scene, “The couple were sat at the bar talking and drinking.”
  • Past simple to describe actions in sequence: “The man paid his bill, put on his jacket and left the bar.”
  • Past perfect to describe actions that happened before this moment: “The man had been drinking in another bar before”
  • Mixture of past tenses to describe different actions: “As the man was putting on his jacket, the phone rang…..”


Open to teachers or students. If you are a teacher send your best student’s story, or if you are a student your story to me at: and I’ll post it to my page for all to see!

Posted in Conversation Classes, Reading Classes

Proficiency book club, lesson 1: The Destructors by Graham Greene

short stories

This is the first in a series of lesson plans for proficiency level students based around short stories from the book:

The Oxford Book of English Short Stories edited by A. S. Byatt.

Short stories are perfect for the ESL classroom because as the name suggests they are short. They are also an excellent way to introduce students to a wide range of authors and literature. This particular collection contains works from some of the greatest English writers. Including Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Virginia Woolf and the author with which I’m going to start this series Graham Greene.

The hope is that by introducing students to these authors in this short format (some of the stories run to only 4 or 5 pages) their interest will be piqued and they will go on to attempt the longer, more well-know works. Even if they don’t these stories are a fantastic way to introduce vocabulary and stir discussion.

Class structure

This series works, as the title suggests, like a typical book club: Each week you set a different story for homework to discuss the following week. The majority of the stories can easily be read in under half an hour

The Destructors

If you haven’t bought the book don’t worry because somebody has helpfully posted  a pdf of the story:

Click to access destructors.pdf

I chose to start with Graham Greene’s “The Destructors” for the simple reason that he is one of my favourite authors. It is also a story which stirs a lot of opinions. The main theme is the mental scars left on the survivors of the the London blitz during the second world war.

A good analytical essay of the story can be found here:

The essay: “The effects of war in The Destructors, by Graham Greene” by Holly Huffstutler gives a good analysis of the socio-political background of the story. Here is a link to a copy with some key parts underlined:!284&authkey=!ANvo-Ct70jFmtb0

Lesson Plan

The students will have read the story for homework so start the class by asking for any queries on vocabulary. Some examples of things that might come up are listed below:

  • (pg 311) Ignoble
  • (pg312) crippled, lav – toilet, to pinch – to steal, to be in a bleeding funk – to be stressed or angry)
  • (pg 313) bribe, to draw lots.

Then put the students into groups and give out the following discussion questions:!285&authkey=!AD2MBt2sCAB27pQ

  • What was your initial reaction to the story?
  • What’s the story about? What happens?
  • Describe the different characters.
  • Where and when does the story take place?
  • What are your feelings about the boys at the end of the story?
  • What good qualities do the delinquents have?
  • Explain Blackie’s motivations for re-joining the gang after losing the leadership.
  • What does Mr. Thomas (Old Misery) represent in the story?
  • Why are the boys suspicious of Mr. Thomas’ generosity with the smarties?
  • What are Trevor’s reasons for wanting to destroy Mr. Thomas’ house?
  • How do you explain the burning of the money and the way they treat Mr. Thomas?
  • What is the importance in the ending of “The Destructors”?
  • Does “The Destructors” portray a world without hope?
  • In what ways are the boys in “The Destructors” by Graham Greene isolated?
  • Is destruction a form of creation?

After the discussion have a feedback session so students can share their opinions. You may want to explain a little about the London Blitz:

You might like to point out that the story features in the film “Donnie Darko” in one of the first English class scenes. You could show a clip of the scene to the students and see if they agree with the main character’s assessment of the story.

Next week: Solid Objects by Virginia Woolf





Posted in Conversation Classes

Complaining in English


Just a quick note…

Before you use these materials… We’ve created a new podcast aimed at B2+ level English students and teachers alike. You can listen for free at our SoundCloud page below. You can download teacher’s notes to accompany them from our Facebook page or from this blog. All comments and feedback welcome! Give us a like and a share 😉

Complaining in English

In this class students will learn some useful phrases for making complaints, discuss complaining and practice the language in a role-play.

You will need:

The handout with phrases for complaining:

Complaining in English (language)

Complaining discussion questions handout:

complaining discussion

Complaining role-plays handout:

Complaining roleplay


Put “to complain” and “to make a complaint” on the board. Ensure that students understand them both.

Put students in small groups (3-4)

Tell them to think of a time when they made a complaint. Tell them to tell their classmates the story:

  • Where were you?
  • Why did you complain?
  • How did you complain?
  • What was the result?

Tell students to listen carefully to their classmate’s story because after they are going to tell the rest of the class the same story.

Give the class 5-10 minutes to swap stories. When they have finished each group takes it in turns to tell the rest of the class each complaining story. This helps to recycle the language, also people love telling stories about complaining! Especially if they got some good freebies out of it!

Hand out discussion questions

Put students in pairs (A + B). Students ask and answer discussion questions.

Brief feedback to the rest of the class.

STUDENT A’s QUESTIONS (Do not show to Student B)

1) What springs to mind when you hear the word ‘complain’?
2) Are you a complainer?
3) Who do you usually complain to?
4) What complaints do you have at the moment?
5) Have you ever complained in a restaurant, hotel, airplane or train?
6) How often do people complain to you?
7) How often do people complain about you?
8) Do you have any complaints about English?
9) What are your biggest complaints about your friends?
10) Do men or women complain more?

STUDENT B’s QUESTIONS (Do not show to Student A)

1) What kinds of things do you complain about?
2) When was the last time you complained about something?
3) Have you ever written a letter or e-mail of complaint?
4) Do you like complaining?
5) What is your complaining style – polite or aggressive?
6) How often do you complain to yourself in public?
7) Do you think complaining relieves stress?
8) Do you like to watch when other people complain?
9) Have you ever got a better service after you’ve complained?
10) Why might people complain about you?

Hand out Complaining in English

Tell students to read through the sheet briefly in pairs.

Then go through and clear up any vocabulary problems and emphasise the cultural note.

Cultural note

It is important to remember that English is not as direct as other languages. It is important to be polite and follow rules for socially acceptable behaviour. For example, it is normal, when making a complaint, to start by saying “sorry” or “excuse me”, even though you haven’t done anything wrong. Being polite will help you get what you want.


In a shop

You’re in a shop and the assistant gives you the wrong change.

Excuse me, I think you’ve given me the wrong change.”


Sorry, I think this change is wrong, I gave you £10 not £5.”

In a hotel


Excuse me, but there’s a problem with the heating in my room”

Sorry to bother you, but I think there’s something wrong with the air-conditioning.”

I’m afraid I have to make a complaint. Some money has gone missing from my room.”

I’m afraid there’s a slight problem with my room – the bed hasn’t been made.”

Hotel worker

Normally the worker will apologise deeply for the problem and promise some immediate action.

I’m so sorry sir / madam, I’ll send someone up to look at it immediately.”

I’m sorry to hear that, I’ll get someone to check it for you.”

Hand out role-play cards

There are two complaining role-plays so each student has a go at being the customer and the worker. Encourage students to use as much language from the previous handout as possible.

Complaining roleplay:

Student A: You are staying in a 5 star hotel, there is a famous rock band staying in the room next door, it is 3am and they are having a wild party, throwing televisions out the window and keeping you awake. You have an important business meeting at 9am.

Student B: You are the receptionist in a 5 star hotel, it is 3am a guest has come to complain about noise, there is a famous rock group staying in the hotel, they have paid €1million to have a party in their room. The hotel is full.

Student A: You are checking out of your hotel. When the receptionist gives you the bill it is very high, you have been charged for 2 bottles of don perignon Champagne from the mini bar and 2 “adult” movies on the TV, you didn’t drink any champagne and you didn’t watch the movies.

Student B: You are a hotel receptionist, student A is coming to complain about his / her bill.

Wrap up:

Who was the best complainer?

Which role was easier in the role-play?

Posted in Conversation Classes

Christmas conversation lesson


This is a topical lesson plan for the festive season based on comparisons between a traditional British Christmas and Christmas celebrations in the student’s countries.

You will need:

The lesson plan:!278&authkey=!AOWfTUkqHy7AtDc

The discussion questions handout:!279&authkey=!ACygXSBVrDDA5H4

The Christmas in England powerpoint:!127&authkey=!APSM9pHn8j56pvg

The cracker jokes handout:!130&authkey=!AN8mCLV6wHxpSuQ

Brainstorm Xmas traditions in (the country you’re teaching in) in small groups.

Feedback traditions and put on board.

In pairs or small groups students discuss the following:

How many of these traditions do you follow?

Describe and compare your normal Christmas with your partner.

What do you do on Christmas eve? Christmas day? Boxing day? Kings Day?

If you have children what traditions do you follow? Father Christmas? Caga Tio (a Catalan Xmas tradition)?

When do you give presents?

What do you give?

What did you used to do when you were a child?

Do you still follow the same traditions your parents did?

Who in your family is the most difficult to buy presents for? Who is the easiest?

How have other cultures influenced Christmas celebrations in your country?


Christmas is too commercial.

But the statement above on the board, split the class into two teams and assign “for” or “against” to each team. They then have 5 minutes to brainstorm their arguments. Then give them 5-10 minutes to debate the topic. Debate structure should be:

  • 2 minutes for each team to present their argument, the other team mustn’t interrupt, they should make notes ready for the 2nd phase.
  • 2nd phase 5 minutes open debate. Students attack the oppositions arguments and try to defend their own.
  • 1 minute each for a closing statement. Why each team thinks they have won the debate.

Teacher decides which team wins, but as it’s Christmas a draw is probably the fairest result!


British Christmas

Ask students to brainstorm a British Christmas.

Tell students that they are going to watch a presentation about Christmas in England. They have to watch and try to memorise as much as possible.

Show presentation “Christmas in England”

In groups students try to remember as much as they can, in the correct order.

Cracker Jokes

If students hadn’t heard of them before the presentation will have introduced them to Christmas Crackers. Hand out copies of the cracker jokes and have the students tell them to each other. They will get some fairly easily but some might need a little explaining.

Posted in Games

Adventure Game 2

Game board

This is an adventure game that works best with kids or low level adults.

Download the game board and instructions here you will also need 2 dice:

Game board:!275&authkey=!ANCVAjV4J-oSn9g

Game instructions:!276&authkey=!AFCw3ws1u4W1-Zk

The game is a simple problem solving task using a board based on the cult game “Angband”. Letters and other symbols represent different monsters and characters that the students encounter. For example, a “V” is a vampire, whereas a “D” is a dragon. These boards are easy to make, just use Microsoft paint and children really enjoy the adventures. Most importantly they learn new vocabulary and practice it thoroughly.

In each room students are presented with a different scenario and must work out the solution in order to continue the adventure.

Here is the solution to the adventure:

Dungeon game instructions

Students start game in room one (top left corner), they each have 10 hit points.

Room 1

Question monster – What is the capital of Germany?

1st chest contains special soft shoes for sneaking.

2nd chest contains a delicious hamburger.

Room 2

Contains 4 sleeping vampires and a closed window, it is sunny outside.

Solution: Put on special shoes and sneak past vampires to open window which lets the sunlight in and kills them all. Students must roll higher on the dice than the teacher. If they roll lower the vampires wake up and bite them -1 hit point

Room 3

Contains a very fat man and a locked door.

Solution: Give hamburger to Fat man, fat man gives you a gold key, unlock door.

Room 4

Contains a pit full of snakes and a rope.

Chest contains 2 gold coins.

Solution: Use rope to swing over pit of snakes, students must beat the teachers roll on a dice. If they roll lower snake bites them -1 hit point.

Room 5

Contains 2 question monsters and a shop. Shop keeper has a gun with 6 silver bullets and a big block of ice, they cost 1 gold coin each.


Who is the fastest man in the world? Usain Bolt

What is 24 X 4?   96

Solution: Answer questions and buy gun and ice with coins.

Room 6

Contains a huge fire breathing dragon! There are lots of bones on the floor.

Solution: Give the dragon the block of ice to cool his fire. SS must roll higher than teacher.

Room 7

Contains 3 Werewolves!

Solution: Shoot the werewolves with the silver bullets. Students must roll higher than teacher three times. If they run out of bullets they must go and ask the shop keeper for more.

Room 8

Contains lots of small hungry dogs, If students try to enter the dogs bite them, and a big treasure chest.

Solution: Go back to room 6 and collect the bones, give them to the dogs. Stusents open the treasure chest and get lots of treasure, congratulations.

Teaching ideas:

Depending on the level of the class you can present the adventure in different ways. For example you can start by teaching the vocabulary the students are going to need in the adventure:

verbs: sneak, open, shoot, put on, give, buy, etc.

nouns: bones, treasure chest, gun, bullet, rope, window, shoes, coins, bones, ice, snakes, etc.

For higher level students I also had them retell the adventure in the past once they had completed it. “In this room we sneaked past the vampires and opened the window.”

Follow up:

Children make their own adventure games in small groups. They can draw the easily on paper with letters representing different monsters. Alternatively if you have access to computers they could create them on MS paint. Then they swap maps and complete each others, or the whole class plays each group’s map.