Posted in Exam Preparation Class, Writing Classes

CAE Informal Letter of Recommendation

Image credit:theodysseyonline.com

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This is phrase sheet for CAE students to help them tackle informal letters of recommendation, which sometimes come up in part 2 of the writing paper. Download the handout below:

Informal Recommendation Letter

Handout

A possible letter task in the CAE is an informal letter to a friend recommending (or not) a course/activity/holiday you have been on. Below is an example:

You have recently been on a two week adventure holiday in a foreign country. A good friend writes to you because they are thinking about booking a holiday with the same company. You should describe the highlights of the holiday and any problems you encountered and state if you would recommend the experience to your friend.

Informal greetings

Hello mate! How’s it going?
What’re you up to nowadays? Lovely to hear from you.
It’s been ages since we last saw each other. I hope all’s well.

Mixing good with bad

In the task you have to tell your friend about both the positive and negative sides of the activity. What I don’t want you to do is write one paragraph of good points and one of bad because who writes a letter like that? I want you to mix the good with the bad.

Despite/In spite of + noun Despite/In spite of + the fact that + clause
In spite of the dreadful weather (bad), we had a wonderful time. (good) Despite the fact that it poured with rain all week (bad), we had a wonderful time. (good)
Although/Even though + clause Apart from + noun + relative clause
Even though the instructor didn’t speak English (bad), we still managed to pick up the basics. (good) Apart from the first day when it poured, we had clear blue skies every day.

 

Apart from the taxi driver who tried to rip us off, all the people were lovely.

2nd Conditionals

If you did decide to go, I could lend you…../I might come with you. If I were you, I’d………..
If I were in your shoes, I’d………………  

3rd Conditionals

It would have been better if there had been………… I would have been better if I had/hadn’t………………
If I had/hadn’t……………., we could have………….  

Not only

Not only did we ….(do 1 activity), but also …….(another activity) Not only did we learn how to ……….., but also ……………
Not only did we see lions and elephants, but also giraffes and monkeys.  

 

Phrasal verbs

To take up a hobby – to start doing a hobby

I have just taken up snowboarding.

To make up for – to compensate

The excellent food more than made up for the awful weather.

To pick up new skills – to acquire

I picked up some useful skills, such as……..

To get a lot out of something – to take benefit from something. (enjoyment, knowledge, etc.)

I got a lot out of the training sessions.

To catch up with someone – to share the latest news about your life with someone.

We should meet for a coffee and catch up.

To come across – to find unexpectedly (not people)

We were walking through the jungle when we came across some old ruined buildings.

To get on/along with someone – to like and be friendly with someone.

We got along with everyone in our group.

To keep/carry on doing something – to continue

We kept on walking all night.

Look/watch out for – be vigilant for

Look out for pickpockets on the metro system.

Sort out a problem – resolve a problem

The manager came and sorted out the problem.

Posted in Games, Writing Classes

Circle Stories

Image credit: www.thekettle.ca

Follow me on twitter @RobbioDobbio

This is a lesson plan designed for lower-level (A2-B1) teenagers. It is designed to help students write short stories using different narrative tenses, sequences and discourse markers.

Preparation

All you need is plenty of paper and a pen for each student.

Procedure

Sit students in a circle and give them each a pen and piece of paper. Tell them that they are going to write stories together; if you have 8 student, at the end of the class they will have written 8 stories.

Write on the board:

Once, there was a man/woman called ……. who….

Tell students to copy the sentence onto their piece of paper, decide if the character is a man or a woman and give them a name.

Students then pass the piece of paper to the left; they must then complete the first sentence, for example:

Once, there was a man called Jimmy who lived under a bridge.

Students then pass the paper again, and copy down and complete the following:

One day ….. was …..ing….

For example:

One day Jimmy was walking down the street

Students pass again and complete the following:

when…+ past simple

One day Jimmy was walking down the street when he saw a police car driving towards him.

Continue the process but now start to introduce different words to begin the sentences, the whole writing process will look like this:

 

  1. Once there was a man/woman called …who…
  2. Complete sentence 1.
  3. One day …. was….ing
  4. Complete sentence 3: when…..
  5. Suddenly….
  6. Fortunately….
  7. Unfortunately….
  8. And in the end….
  9. And the moral of the story is….

While students are writing try to monitor and help them with vocab and narrative tenses. When they have all finished have them read out their stories one by one and then vote on their favourite one.

Follow up

Students write another story using the same basic structure for homework.

Posted in Exam Preparation Class, Vocabulary Classes, Writing Classes

CAE Review – Phrase Sheet

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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

CAE Writing Part 1: A Formal Essay

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Photo Credit: http://ozgekaraoglu.edublogs.org/2015/04/01/how-to-get-a-good-essay-written-by-writers/

This is a lesson plan to help students approach and complete the new formal essay task in the CAE writing paper.

You will need the handout and teacher’s key:

CAE Writing Part 1 handout

CAE Writing key

Task Type

The new CAE writing part 1 is a formal essay based on a talk/lecture that the student has recently attended. There are always 3 bullet points that the lecture discussed, of which the candidate must only address two. There are also some quotes from other attendees/surveyed people that can be used. The final part of the task will include a question that the essay MUST answer.

essay shopping

Credit: Spotlight on Advanced – Cengage Learning and National Geographic.

Planning

Make enough copies of the 2nd page of the hand out for one between two. Cut the hand out up, give the slips of paper with the different planning steps to the students and have them put them in order. My suggested order is as follows:

  1. Read task carefully. Underline most important parts; focus on the question that your essay MUST
  2. Brainstorm ideas based on the 3 bullet points.
  3. Choose the 2 bullet point you have the most ideas about.
  4. Brainstorm ways to express your ideas and the quotes in the task using advanced grammar:
  • Inversions: Not only is/do…..but also… Rarely/seldom do people….
  • Double comparatives: The cheaper the…., the more popular…
  • Participle clauses: Being a keen shopper myself,… Having bought many products online,….
  • Advanced linkers: Despite the fact that…., ….. due to the fact that = because
  1. Plan your introduction:
  • An interesting way to introduce the topic.
  • Formal questions that the essay will answer.
  1. Plan your conclusion: Focus on answering the question you underlined in step 1.
  2. Write
  3. Reread carefully checking for:
  • Repetition of words/structures.
  • Contractions
  • Boring/informal vocabulary.
  • Also Furthermore/moreover. Because due/owing to the fact that. Although In spite of the fact that. However nonetheless/nevertheless.
  • Have you answered the question completely?

Have students complete step 1 in pairs:

essay shopping underlined

Have students complete step 2 as a CAE speaking part 3 task. Draw a spider diagram on the board. In the middle write: What influences where/how people shop? On the 3 spokes write the three bullet points: Convenience, cost and enjoyment. Briefly recap some language for speaking tasks and have students discuss the topic for 3 minutes.

Hold a plenary session and board all the students ideas in note form. Then put them in pairs to complete the next step: Brainstorming impressive grammar structures to use.

When shopping online not only do you avoid paying parking fees, but also crowds of people.

Having shopped both online and in stores, I would say that….

Linkers activity

Give out 1 copy of the third page of the handout to each student and have them complete it in pairs.

Pimp my paragraph

Either hand out the paragraph upgrade sheet out or project it on to the board. Students must upgrade the language in the paragraph to make it more impressive and more formal.

Introduction Phrases:

I got these great phrases from another handout I found on the internet:

More and more families are choosing to have only one child.

The trend nowadays is towards having smaller families.

Over the past ten years or so the media have frequently carried reports of ……………

Recent research indicates that the number of teenagers who smoke is increasing.

Hardly a week goes by without another report of …………….. appearing in the media.

This raises the issue of whether ……………..

Although most people would generally agree that …………… few would deny that …………….

I hope you find these activities useful in developing your students’ writing abilities, I appreciate any feedback or constructive criticism in the comments section.

Posted in Exam Preparation Class

CPE Study Guide

Here are some materials to help students prepare for the Cambridge CPE exam.

Cambridge CPE Handbook

Download the latest version of the CPE handbook here:

http://www.cambridgeenglish.org/images/168194-cambridge-english-proficiency-teachers-handbook.pdf

It contains explanations of each part of the exam and practice tests with answers.

Quizlet sets:

Here are loads of different quizlet sets on different parts of the exam:

http://quizlet.com/20934139/cpe-use-of-english-2-open-cloze-flash-cards/

http://quizlet.com/15560940/cae-cpe-inversion-transformations-flash-cards/

http://quizlet.com/56144162/cpe-describing-feelings-flash-cards/

http://quizlet.com/16987300/cae-cpe-use-of-english-practice-part-5-flash-cards/

http://quizlet.com/2150978/cpe-idioms-flash-cards/

Join this class for more:

http://quizlet.com/join/gkF6yKCg8

Recommended websites:

These websites have great materials for self-study:

http://www.flo-joe.com/cpe/students/

http://www.examenglish.com/cpe/ – old exam format but still useful.

http://www.cambridgeenglish.org/exams/proficiency/how-to-prepare/

Writing Handouts

Here are a selection of documents to help prepare students for the writing paper:

CPE Writing part 1 (2)

CAE CPE Writing part 2 plan handout

cae-writing-useful-language-1

CPE Report

CPE Review

CPE speaking writing phrases

CPE writing essay 2nd plan

CPE Writing Part 1 walkthrough

Letter of Complaint tim

Narrative Letter

Paragraph Structure

Writing Expressions

Prezis

Here are links to various prezis on types of writing and grammar points:

Relative clauses: 

http://prezi.com/inqmfkuikbbt/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

Inversion: 

http://prezi.com/wxy3-yvm3osw/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

Inversion 2: 

http://prezi.com/mhabu89gv8-7/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

Conditionals: 

http://prezi.com/r8peruvmq8nf/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

Academic Writing: 

http://prezi.com/x1qhxvkwahez/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

Report: 

http://prezi.com/cc55ukdsa3rk/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

Planning Writing:

http://prezi.com/vmxjibrjz3lt/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

Narrative/Descriptive writing: 

http://prezi.com/zvhgk3raimei/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

Letter of Complaint: 

http://prezi.com/dxsaxacxoquv/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

Book review: 

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

Proposal: 

http://prezi.com/faz_7zanfvvb/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

Article: 

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

Letter of application: 

http://prezi.com/dmwaid3cj4ql/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share

Speaking Materials:

Agreeingand disagreeing

CPE Speaking part 1

CPE long turn examples

Speaking Long Turn (1)

CAE Speaking Part 2 speculation

CAE Speaking Part 2

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