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What stage are you at?

Further to the CPD log post I made here http://wp.me/s2RmnE-cpd , here are the British Council stages of teaching. A couple of points:

  • You don’t have to fit entirely in to one stage – in fact, you’re probably between two.
  • Admitting to some of the “improvement areas” doesn’t make you a bad teacher. The whole point is that everyone can develop and improve.
  • Set yourself realistic goals and sensible time limits. For example: I’ve set myself a 6 month goal of becoming an accredited teacher trainer as part of my stage 5 development.

Take a look – I think they’re really helpful.

Simon

Stage 1 Teachers

Stage 2 Teachers (1)

Stage 3 Teachers

Stage 4 Teachers

Stage 5 Teachers_0

Stage 6 Teachers

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Present Simple – Regular actions / routine

An introduction to the Present Simple (Lesson 1)

What do you do every day?

Routine

These things make up your everyday routine. When we talk about these things, and other things that we do more than once, we use the Present Simple.

Now read the text below. What examples of routine actions can you find?

My Simple Life

I get up at about 7:30 and have a quick shower. I usually make my dinner to take to work, but sometimes I can’t get out of bed! At work, I often stay late to do a bit more, but I sometimes feel really tired and then I go home at about 3 o’clock. I always eat my tea late and it ALWAYS contains meat! Later, I usually work out and I occasionally eat again afterwards. I rarely do anything on week nights (except play Sport) but I’m often in bed quite late because I like to do a lot of non-work things to relax after a long day’s teaching!

How many routine actions did you find? Take another look…

I get up at about 7:30 and have a quick shower. I usually make my dinner to take to work, but sometimes I can’t get out of bed! At work, I often stay late to do a bit more, but I sometimes feel really tired and then I go home at about 3 o’clock. I always eat my tea late and it ALWAYS contains meat! Later, I usually work out and I occasionally eat again afterwards. I rarely do anything on week nights (except play Sport) but I’m often in bed quite late because I  do a lot of non-work things to relax after a long day’s teaching!

The examples all use the Present Simple. You make this by using Subject (I, you, he, she, it, we, they) + verb 1 (remember to +s for he/she/it – I work –> He works / I read –> He reads / I go –> She goes

There is some extra information. Can you find the words that give us information about how often I do these things? How many are in the picture below? These are called adverbs.

Adverbs of Frequency

So, if I say always, this is a routine that never changes! For example: I always have a shower in the morning. Look at how the % information comes after the subject and before the verb. Can you make a list from my text similar to the picture above?

Answer

I get up / have a quick shower / do a lot of non-work things (like always – but with no adverb)
I always eat my tea late / it ALWAYS contains meat (100%)
I usually eat my dinner / I usually work out (80%)
I often stay late / I’m often in bed quite late (70%)
Sometimes I can’t get out of bed / I sometimes feel really tired (50%)
I occasionally eat again (30%)
I rarely do anything (10%)

So, we can see that I work out more often (80%) than I eat again (30%).

Can you complete these sentences to make them true for you?

1. I ___________ go to the cinema.

2. I ___________ go shopping.

3. I ___________ eat vegetables at mealtimes.

4. I ___________ visit my friends’ houses.

5. I ___________ phone / Skype my family.

Now write a paragraph about your routine! Use my example to help you.

More Information (Lesson 2)

1. How can I use don’t ?

Do you say “I don’t usually eat breakfast before work” or “I usually don’t eat breakfast before work”?

Good news! You can say both! Take a look at the picture below. If you see (don’t), you can use it there in a sentence.

I (don’t) always eat breakfast beforework
I (don’t) usually (don’t) eat breakfast before work
I (don’t) often (don’t) eat breakfast before work
I sometimes (don’t) eat breakfast before work
I occasionally (don’t) eat breakfast before work
I rarely (don’t) eat breakfast before work
I never eat breakfast before work –> use positive and always!

So you see, in general, more than 50% = don’t before adverb. Less than 50% = don’t after adverb.

How can I make questions?

Example: Do you usually go to the cinema at weekends? Do you always play Football on Mondays?

So, adverb before verb, but after subject.

cinema

How often do you….?

If you want to say specifically how often you do something, then don’t use an adverb. Try one of these phrases instead:

I go to the cinema once a week. –> Once =  one time
She eats meat at dinner twice a month. –> Twice = two times 
They play Football every month. –> Every month = once a month
We see my family three times a year. 

You’re done! Now you can:

  • Ask questions about people’s routines
  • Talk about frequency of actions
  • Write a paragraph about your daily routines

Now try this practice exercise to revise word order!

Present Simple Exercises

Simon

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Placement Testing

Background

As part of my studies on assessing and developing critical thinking skills in the language classroom, I’ve devised and trialled a new kind of placement test for older teenagers and adults. The objectives are as follows:

  • To more accurately gauge a learner’s ability to apply, analyse, evaluate and create – rather than merely understand and remember.
  • To use the placement test to divide classes of the same level, not than by minute and discrete “levels”, but by level of ability to engage with critical questions.

The idea behind the above, in brief, is that classes where learners have a similar “level” of engagement (critically) are grouped together, ensuring that a common situation in which a very creative and analytical student is stifled within a class of other learners who have not developed these skills yet.  Secondly, a focus on critical thinking skills represents a more “western” learning model, and could be beneficial to learners who, culturally, have had very little exposure to this learning style and might therefore initially struggle to complete this placement test.

The Test

The placement test consists of the following elements:

  • A “general” test divided in to four parts – remembering (a multiple choice grammar section), understanding (a reading summary activity), applying (a set of rules for asking interview questions followed by a chance to apply these rules) and evaluating (a list of items in order of importance). The test is designed, critically speaking, to get harder (move further up the critical thinking pyramid).
  • A speaking test, consisting of two parts. Some general “level determiner” questions, followed by an analysing task – placing a series of pictures in to two columns and giving reasons for categorisation.
  • A writing task – creating – in which students have a choice of two questions.

Logistically speaking, the general test should take 35 minutes, the writing 25 minutes and the speaking 5 minutes (max) per student. The speaking can run in conjunction with the two paper-based tasks, meaning that the goal is to take an hour to get the tests finished.

Recording

During marking, a student front-sheet is filled out. This is copied and given to teachers ahead of their new students arriving in class. The front sheet includes areas for “notes” which are there to give new teachers an early idea of what their new students will need to work on. There is also space to comment on their traditional, “linguistic” performance.

Results

  • I trialled this test on a random group of adults, who had already been placed using a different test. CEFR-speaking, the test matched their class levels with a reliability of just over 90%.
  • With the teen classes, the placement test was used in three continuous enrolment summer schools as the only method of placement. In situations where multiple classes of the same level were required, students were grouped by critical thinking abilities. The feedback from staff was that students interacted well within their classes and were able to respond to exercises on a similar level, showing that the test had “filtered” learners well.
  • Student feedback was at a very high positive level, with less than 10% of students across the three sites expressing dissatisfaction with their placed level.
  • Students completed the placement test upon arrival and then repeated it on departure. Of those who did so, every single student scored higher on critical thinking exercises, showing that teachers had not only addressed critical thinking exercises such as those outlined on other pages on this site, but also that students had responded positively.

I’ve attached the placement test, student front sheet and procedure notes. As always, please get in touch with me on my Email if you want to ask anything / share an experience, positive or negative, of using this test.

BLOOMS Answer Sheet

General Test BLOOMS

Oral Placement Test BLOOMS

Procedure Notes

Student Front Sheet

Writing BLOOMS

Thanks

 

Simon

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“Ghost” Observations – An Idea for Schools

“It’s time for a round of peer observations”

Why is it that this extremely helpful sentence always sounds like anything but? Sadly, mentoring, buddying, peer reviewing  – whatever your school calls it, often has the appearance of adding an extra layer of stress and scrutiny to an already stressful and scrutinised job. Well, it doesn’t have to be this way…

Initially designed for busy times when there is no cover available for your classes, the Ghost observation allows you to be… well, a ghost. Yes, this is an observation during which your class is not observed by anyone.

Strange.

However, there are some really interesting and positive twists on a regular observation here. In brief:

  • The forms involved encourage and directly prompt reflection, but the pre-lesson form also allows for the teacher to think about the class itself before it has happened – meaning that a greater degree of objectivity can be achieved before thoughts are (often) distorted by the way that the class has gone.
  • No observer = a “normal” class. That phrase “They were far quieter / less communicative etc… because you were in the room” has no place in a ghost observation.
  • Feedback is objective – the “observer” hasn’t observed anything, so they only have your own thoughts to go on, rather than a prior knowledge of student behaviour from having taught / met them before.

Sound interesting? On to the procedure….

  1. The teacher completes this form Pre-Obs Form and gives a copy to the “ghost” observer
  2. The teacher teaches the class
  3. The teacher completes this form Post-Obs Form and gives a copy to the “ghost” observer
  4. The “ghost” observer reads both forms and organises a time to sit down and discuss these with the teacher. In the discussion – as with conventional lesson feedback – advice, tips, frustrations, joy and completely unrelated things(!) can be discussed.
  5. Everybody is happy.

With the exception of number 5, this should run like clockwork. Having had a go at this, I can say that I got an awful lot out of it – which wasn’t exactly what I expected. I strongly urge you to have a go – or talk to your manager about having a go. If you do, then please let me know how it goes!

Simon

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An Introduction to Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning

What is Bloom’s Taxonomy?

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a classification of educational objectives, separated in to cognitive, affective and psychomotor – as below.

Bloom's Rose

(See http://iteachu.uaf.edu/develop-courses/planning-a-course/outcomes-evidence/ for more charts)

The chairman of the group of educators that conceived it was called Benjamin Bloom. The simplified pyramid below refers to the cognitive skills, and demonstrates the progression of thinking skills from lower order (remembering, understanding) to higher order (applying, analysing, evaluating, creating).

Bloom's New Pyramid

Looking at a range of controlled practice activities (eg gap fills) or reading / listening comprehension activities, they tend to focus more on remembering and understanding, which is a good start. However, if you progress directly to a creative activity, you may have jumped too far, too quickly. The pyramid provides you with the opportunity to take a step-by-step approach in the classroom, as well as clearly see areas where students excel or lack.

Example questions, based on a class about apples:

Remembering: What are the health benefits of eating apples? (Recalling facts, exhibiting knowledge)
Understanding: Compare the health benefits of eating apples v eating oranges. (Demonstrate understanding by comparing or interpreting)
Applying: What kinds of apples are best for baking a pie, and why? (Applying knowledge and facts)
Analysing: List four ways of serving foods made with apples and explain which ones have the highest health benefits. Provide references to support your statements. (Inferring, finding evidence and supporting generalisations)
Evaluating: Do you feel that serving apple pie for an after school snack for children is healthy? (Present and defend opinions)
Creating: Convert an “unhealthy” recipe for apple pie to a “healthy” recipe by replacing your choice of ingredients. Explain the health benefits of using the ingredients you chose vs. the original ones. (Remodel and combine existing information / learning to make something new)

How can I teach this in the classroom?

Through questioning. You can use and adapt the questions that you will find on the staff room wall. Through open questions, students are required to communicate, express themselves and exhibit a higher level of understanding and interaction with the language.

  • Add some critical thinking questions to your lessons after students have displayed initial comprehension, work on their responses and then give them the chance to respond again to these questions in their progress tests.
  • Differentiate your classes by responding to students that finish a task quickly with a question one ‘step’ further up the pyramid. Refer to the poster directly and record their achievement on the student achievement sheet.
  • Get some discussion going, by setting up debates, organising groupwork, looking at some problems, or using some ideas from this toolkit Challenge Toolkit– some of which are elaborated on more on this site.

I have been undertaking some studies on students’ responses to activities such as these in classrooms – have a look at some of the other links on the site for more information.

Simon

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Professional Development – CPD Log

This will no doubt cause irritation. CPD logs are becoming the norm. Schools have already started using them as part of appraisal programmes and are now starting to expect teachers to have existing logs.

Obviously, if you are extremely active on the development front, this will be time-consuming. On the other hand, you’re probably the kind of person who will do it. It may give you an advantage as the industry moves to heighten its standards and differentiate between part-timers and those looking to further themselves and build a career.

The log consists of:

  1. Professional development courses I have attended
  2. Conferences / workshops I have attended
  3. Journal articles I have read
  4. Books I have read
  5. Internet resources I have found useful
  6. Thoughts and ideas from colleagues and peers
  7. Reflection – my thoughts and ideas on my own teaching
  8. Action research projects
  9. Talks / workshops I have given
  10. Papers / books I intend to write

I’m not saying that employers are going to disregard you for not having been to a conference or for not planning to write a book, but keeping an active log of your professional development could well help you.

You can find the log here: CPD Log

I’m doing mine now!

Simon

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Applying for Jobs – Part 1 (CV and cover letter)

I must be out of touch. In my day, CVs didn’t have photos or opening paragraphs resembling quotes about the person whose CV it is I’m reading. They weren’t written in continuous prose, poorly formatted or in Comic Sans MS. Cover letters were tailored to the specific job being applied for and addressed to the correct person, with no sense of Ctrl+C / Ctrl+V about them.

Somewhere along the way, there has been a cock-up. Or I’m out of touch. I must be – hundreds of applicants can’t be wrong… can they?

Let me tell you something that is clear AND definite. At my company, I am now the employer. It hasn’t taken me long to see an enormous range of CVs and cover letters in a massive diversity of styles. It also hasn’t taken me long to develop pet hates. Some of these are blindingly obvious, and yet they wouldn’t have become pet hates had I not received them again. And again. And again. Others may simply not occur. Either way, here are a few shoulds and shouldn’ts (from the perspective of myself, and others I have spoken to)

CV

What was this job for again, innit?

CVs

1. Don’t make spelling mistakes!

You know that job you’re applying for? The one where you have to have a complete mastery of the language? Make a spelling mistake in your cover letter / CV and you can guarantee not getting an interview.

My favourite: Under “skills”, someone wrote “atention to detail”. Priceless.

2. Pictures on CVs

The general consensus in my office is that they are a bad idea. Imagine a scenario in which, before a potential employer has even read your CV, they’ve called a mate over with the sentence “You’ve got to see this! This guy looks exactly like…..”. Laughter ensues, but not in a good way. The attention has been drawn.  If you feel you simply have to do it, at least follow these instructions:

  • Blank background
  • Professional attire
  • NORMAL smile
  • No props
  • Not huge
  • Black and white

My favourite: A young lady whose CV photo was her, in a pub, holding a pint.

3. The “introductory paragraph”

I say scrap it, personally. It should be on your cover letter and tailored, so that the comments about your personality directly correspond to the skillset required for the job. Because of this, I’ll return to it in the cover letter section (below)

Note: I have been told that some people do like this, but the above points still apply. Third-person commentary and flowery vagueries are not welcome – you should check the job description and then write this part.

My favourite: Somebody who had created a column especially for quotes about themselves. The CV looked like a holiday brochure. Ultimately, I want a teacher, not a person I can “stay in” (so to speak)

4. Formatting

Don’t go over the top. Everybody knows where the “format” button is.

  • Choose a sensible font like Arial or Verdana.
  • Bear in mind that offices all have different versions of Word, so put your CV in a .pdf so that it doesn’t look any different on another person’s screen. Dont send .odt, .jpg, .gif, .png or .IDIOT versions of your CV.
  • Use bolded headings and bullet points – they make it very easy for reference purposes
  • 2 pages! A third could be acceptable if it’s reference info or interests

My favourite: I was sent a CV a few weeks ago in an Excel spreadsheet. Yes, that’s right. An Excel spreadsheet. Just in case you’re still pinching yourself, here’s a picture of an Excel spreadsheet:

Excel

I have a degree in Call of Duty

5. Content

It’s pretty standard. Let’s go for four sections:

  • Personal info – Name, address, phone number, Email. You DON’T need your facebook ID. Yes, that’s right. A world where facebook is absolutely unnecessary.
  • Educational Background – most recent first. Include dates (months), institution names and grades. You don’t need to list your GCSEs. Just “10 GCSEs A-C” will do.
  • Employment History – again, most recent first. List key duties and avoid rambling by using bullet points and starting each sentence with a verb. The key here is to be concise. I personally HATE continuous prose on CVs. Also, don’t include useless stuff. If you worked in an ice cream parlour 10 years ago, I frankly don’t care. I want to know what you have done as a teacher. Next time you apply for a customer service job, plonk the ice cream parlour back on there. Until then, either leave it out or merely reference it to avoid gaps in employment. You don’t need to list your duties. A teaching example might be:

April 2011 – July 2012, Teacher, Roger’s Naughty Little Boys School of English, London

  • Taught A1-C2 general English, IELTS exam preparation and Cambridge Exam classes to multinational classes
  • Helped students with self-study
  • Delivered an INSET on pronunciation
  • Was observed regularly both by peers and management
  • Delivered skills-based classes
  • Assisted with and led extra-curricular activities

You don’t need to write about obvious stuff. Every school has registers – I don’t need to know that you can fill one in!

  • Additional Skills / Hobbies – Clean driving license? Black belt in Origami? Extra qualifications,  no matter what they are, show discipline. If you can use a computer, be specific. “Can use a computer” is not as good as “Proficient with Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint”. If you play Football, put it down. If you go out and drink 25 Jagerbombs every weekend, DON’T put that down.

My favourite: Under “Skills”, somebody put “No tattoos”. I have three. I am still insulted.

Unskilled Workers

David Beckham – An unskilled worker

A final note about CVs

CVs are not colloquial. Exclamation marks, phrases such as “which I really enjoyed” and emoticons (Yes, REALLY) have no place on a CV. Trust me, you aren’t getting an interview.

And another thing… (I sound like my Mother) – put an Email address for your referees, if you are attaching their contact info. Most employers will have a form to send them.

On to…. The Cover Letter

I get the sense that guidance hasn’t been provided. Let’s go for a rough guide:

  • One page is enough – I’m talking Arial, 12pt, 1.5 line spacing. Any more and you run the risk of sounding pompous / making me eat the paper out of boredom.
  • Employers are NOT idiots – I receive hundreds of these things. If you’ve cut and pasted the format of a cover letter online, someone else has too and I WILL NOTICE.

As an extension to the above, here’s the rough format of a cover letter that I’ve seen several times of late:

“Blah blah blah my Cv / resume blah blah native / near-native speaker blah blah blah Thank you for blah blah CV / resume”

If you happen to see this before applying to me, take this as a warning: If I see this, I will press “DELETE”

  • Read the job spec – If there is a name at the bottom and you send your “old faithful” cover letter starting with”Dear Sir / Madam”, then you’re asking for trouble.
  • Refer to the actual job – mention the company name. Actually do a little bit of research. The clicky-clicky-sendy AND REPEAT method of applying for jobs in bulk will get you nowhere.

Content

Here’s a good idea of what should go in your cover letter:

  • A brief introduction – why are you applying? Why should I read beyond this sentence?
  • Overview of experience – NOT the time to mention that ice cream parlour job. Relate your experience directly to the role. Write about 200 words.
  • Your personal approach – do you believe in task-based learning? Does your school take the communicative approach? Are you well-organised? Do you believe that communicating with students outside the classroom lowers the affective filter inside the classroom, thus facilitating more effective learning? PUT IT. Again, 200 words is enough.
  • BYE BYE! – Thank me for reading your letter, state that you would like to arrange an interview to discuss the role further, and then sign off (using the correct sign-off – “Sincerely” if you used my name at the start, “Faithfully” if not.)

My favourite: “Dear Sir / Madam, I am most interested in working for your company and have attached my impressive CV. Please read it and let me know how many weeks’ work you are going to give me. Sincerely, X”. Whoever you are, if you read this, for shame.

Feel free to contact me / comment on this. I’m particularly interested in people between the ages of 18 and 23 who have received input at school / university on CV and cover letter writing and can recall what that input was. As I say, I am clearly out of touch.

Next week: Phone / Skype Interviews: An interviewer’s nightmare.

Simon

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English Lessons / Proofreading Service

Would you like a little bit extra?

Sometimes students find that they don’t get the benefit of one-to-one help in the classroom, if they are in large groups.  With a one-to-one class, you have the chance to choose exactly what you want and how you want it. You also have a teacher who is only focussing on you and what you need.

If you would like to receive some one-to-one lessons from me, then there are two options:

  • Skype lessons

Materials can be Emailed and the lesson works like a regular English lesson. See the price list: Skype Price List 2013

  • Face to Face

At the moment, I am based in Oxford and can visit you at your home to give one to one / small group lessons. Prices: Face to Face Lessons

Are you at university? I also offer a proofreading service – checking grammar, vocabulary and layout. Prices: Proofreading Price List 2013

Interested? Contact me at simonrichardsonenglish@gmail.com

Simon

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Accents – For Higher Level Students

Like any other country, England is a country of many accents. If you study in London and decide to go and visit other areas, you might be surprised!

Have a go at listening to some of these:

Liverpool http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9pY08Jt_-E

Newcastle: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhHLmhchLrU

London (East): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VosbyJa-JMs

Norfolk: mms://audio.bl.uk/media/learning/sounds/contemporarydialects/england/northelmham.wma

Yorkshire: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ScELaXMCVis

Manchester: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJZQjmLYfi8

Devonshire: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1jZCde9pvE

And from Scotland:

Glasgow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91Tj7eezFJ8

Edinburgh: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rG3ezQUodao

And Wales:

Enjoy listening to some of these – which do you find the most difficult to follow?

Simon

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A Phrasal Verb Story

Here’s a story I made with a few phrasal verbs in it. It’s intended for higher levels, but depending on the activity, could work with Intermediate students. I devised it not only to teach a bit of new vocab, but as a vehicle for looking at phrasal verbs with regards to idiomaticity, pronunciation and form (separability). This is what I did:

1) Warmer – Students asked if they have seen any fights or violent behaviour. Asked what the common reasons / locations for violent behaviour are in their countries / England.

2) Reading for comprehension – students can read to answer the question “How is the main character doing now / Where is he now?”

3) Students go through text and underline phrasal verbs

4) Students categorise them in to three columns (don’t give them titles, ask them to sort them as they wish)

5) Groups rationalise their choices

6) Look at phrasal verbs in terms of pronunciation rules, separability and levels of idiomaticity (I believe that each of these three categories can be split in to three columns – for more information see my essay: 

Teaching Phrasal Verbs to Lower Learners (particularly pages 3-7)

Drill, answer questions etc.

7) Gap fill / other controlled practice activity

8) Get them speaking – role play, or writing a story.

As a follow up to this lesson, I gave students the following muddled up version of the original story. NB: This is difficult, but my class were all CAE / CPE students, and coped well.

Phrasal Verb Story Muddle

Enjoy!

Simon

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Idioms – Market Traders

I often get students asking “What does…….mean?” after trips to markets. The fact is that not everyone can be expected to grade their language. This is particularly true of markets, where traders strive to represent their area of the country as much linguistically as anything else. With that in mind, I created this for a high level class.

Steps:

1) Cut up conversation and students can order it in groups

2) Have a look at meaning, form and pronunciation – particularly focusing on London accent variations. I’ve found that students love having a go both understanding these phrases when said rapidly and saying them themselves.

3) Role play!

Enjoy 🙂

Students – can you find any “strange” language in the text below? Do you know what it means?

Market Traders

 

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IELTS Speaking – Can you answer these questions?

Students: Have a look at the list below. Can you answer these questions? Can you see which questions might come up in Part I, Part II or Part III? I’ll post this again in a few days with the questions in categories to show you.

Remember: Use AND, SO and BECAUSE to make your answers longer.

IELTS Speaking Topics and Questions

Simon

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Speaking – Having a Discussion (Useful for FCE / CAE Students + Teachers)

In this post, I want to have a little look at how we interact with each other when we have discussions. Below, I have written a transcript of a conversation between three people at work.

Key: Red, Blue and Black are three speakers. Words in brackets () show when two people are speaking at the same time.

So, I thought that the meeting the other day was… (a bit rubbish)

…totally rubbish! Me too! And I was sure I was going to fall asleep y’know…

Yeah yeah me too! It was horrible! And I’d prepared some stuff to er… to talk about… and I didn’t… in the end I just couldn’t stay awake enough…

…so you’re saying you had things to say? I didn’t even have anything to…

…wait a minute, what was the meeting about?

Erm… about the way the new budget increase will… (be split)

…be split, and it was totally pointless erm… all the managers had already decided where…

Well hang on, I’m not sure about if…

They totally had and I…(thought it…)

Can I finish?

Yeah sorry, go on…

I’m not sure they’ve already decided that the money would go on resources for the training project…

No yeah, totally…

…and maybe saying something would actually help them get an idea…

Hahaha well maybe you’re right there, but anyway…

 

How many kinds of interruption can you see? Are they all polite or are some of them impolite?

Interruption Types:

  • Finishing sentences – anticipation – a bit rubbish / totally rubbish
  • Emphatic agreement – Yeah yeah me too / No yeah totally…
  • Disagreement – Well hang on
  • Clarification Request – So you’re saying… / Wait a minute

Can you see that when we agree, we often follow our agreement phrase with the word “And”?

Eg: Yeah no totally, and… / It was, wasn’t it? And… / Me too, and…

This makes sure that we keep our turn and can continue speaking. However, when we disagree we often use phrases that mean “Wait”

Eg: Hang on a sec / Wait a minute / Hold on / Well just a minute

We can also ask questions. This shows that we are paying attention and encourages the speaker. We often use the word “So” when we are going to ask a question. Phrases include:

So you’re saying that… / Wait a minute, so…

The other thing that we often do is finish each other’s sentences, anticipating what the other person is going to say. This shows that we know the person, and are comfortable in their company.

Next time you have a discussion, do you notice that other students are using this? Does your teacher use any of these phrases when you’re talking to him / her?

Simon

Teacher’s Notes:

It is useful to get a few of these phrases more automatised, so students could benefit from some drilling with a lot of these. Repetitive drilling, call and answer drills and backchained drills could all be effective.

As a practice, you could either use the Cambridge Exam speaking section where two students have to discuss a set of pictures, or you could play a game where students have to try to successfully interrupt each other in a topic-based discussion, with points gained for natural / polite interruptions. You could also use a game where one student is trying to tell a story and the other students are preventing them from being able to finish by using some of these phrases to slow them down.

You could use the model above as an analysis tool in the middle of a task-based lesson.

 

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IELTS Writing – Organising Your Essay (Part III – Conclusion)

Now you have your introduction and body (see Introduction lesson: http://wp.me/p2RmnE-4J and Body lesson http://wp.me/p2RmnE-4P ) you are ready to write your conclusion. First, some things to remember:

  • Your conclusion should not make any new points
  • It should include a short summary of the main points
  • It should include your final opinion
  • It should directly answer the question

The conclusion is only about 30-40 words, so don’t worry about it. Just make sure that you DO write a conclusion, even if it means you don’t finish your body. It is very important that the examiners see your final opinion.

OK, here are the question and the essay so far from the end of lesson 2:

Many newspapers and magazines feature stories about the private lives of famous people. We know what they eat, where they buy their clothes and who they love. We also often see pictures of them in private situations.

Is it appropriate for a magazine or newspaper to give this kind of private information about people?

Over the past two decades, interest in celebrity life has increased to the point where every aspect of their lives is examined, documented and published in the media. Clearly, this raises questions about whether it is right to deny a person the right to privacy. Not only that, but it would appear that these stories that are being printed are not useful in any way.

It is a basic human right to be entitled to one’s own privacy, and for good reason. Being forced to constantly live in the public eye can lead to immense stress on an individual, causing illness, stress and paranoia. It is doubtful that those who actively pursue celebrities day and night would themselves enjoy the same kind of scrutiny, making it a hypocritical activity. Furthermore, it could be argued that printing pictures, stories and gossip about a particular person without their express permission to do so constitutes a crime in itself. For these reasons, it is extremely important that tougher laws are put in place to protect famous people.

Secondly, it seems that the stories printed about celebrities are becoming more and more banal, leading to a decline in the quality of the country’s media. Articles about a person’s clothes, hair or diet are not newsworthy, and encourage an unhealthily aesthetic approach to life. Such a focus does not provide a good example to children and could lead to them growing up with a set of values that disregard sociopolitical issues, respect and empathy. Bearing this in mind, it is important that the media takes on the responsibility of carefully monitoring the levels of this content within their publications.

If you look above, I have highlighted the main points in black. You can see that they are found in the first and last sentences of the body paragraphs. Now we need to begin our conclusion with a few words that show the examiner that this is the final paragraph. Here are a few possibilities:

  • In summary, 
  • In conclusion,
  • To sum up,

All of these are followed by a full sentence starting with a subject.

Here is my example conclusion for the above essay:

In conclusion, I believe that it is inappropriate for the media to publish intimate stories about celebrities due to concerns over privacy and content. Because of this, it is important that the police and the media work together closely to regulate content more strictly.

My conclusion contains my opinion and repetition of the points and conclusions from the body that connect to my opinion. That is ALL you need to write in your conclusion.

Now, can you write a second body paragraph and a conclusion for the other essay from lessons 1 and 2? (Question, Introduction and Body paragraph 1 below)

Some people feel that certain workers like nurses, doctors and teachers are undervalued and should be paid more, especially when other people like film actors or company bosses are paid huge sums of money that are out of proportion to the importance of the work that they do.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the above statement?

Recently, there has been considerable concern over unfair pay rates for key workers when compared with seemingly over-inflated salaries for business figures and celebrities, which have been leading children to view these jobs as undesirable or less important. As a result, it has been widely suggested that pay should reflect the usefulness of a job to society.

Underpaying people such as teachers and nurses has a negative effect on young people. In an increasingly materialistic society, children have become more focused on the value of money and are therefore less likely to want to do lower-paid jobs. Furthermore, they may come to associate celebrities with positive role models because they represent a life that they desire, more than those who do work that is truly important to our countries. This could lead to a severe shortage of key workers in the future, leading to a decline in the quality of education and healthcare. Therefore, it is important that the divide between salaries is closed significantly in order to provide incentive for future generations.

If you would like to contact me about these lessons or with some of your answers to these questions, please do so at simonrichardsonenglish@gmail.com

Happy New Year everyone!

Simon

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IELTS Writing – Organising Your Essay (Part II – Body)

OK, so here is the question that finished the previous post (http://wp.me/p2RmnE-4J ):

Some people feel that certain workers like nurses, doctors and teachers are undervalued and should be paid more, especially when other people like film actors or company bosses are paid huge sums of money that are out of proportion to the importance of the work that they do.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the above statement?

Here is my sample introduction:

Recently, there has been considerable concern over unfair pay rates for key workers when compared with seemingly over-inflated salaries for business figures and celebrities, which have been leading children to view these jobs as undesirable or less important. As a result, it has been widely suggested that pay should reflect the usefulness of a job to society.

Now we have the introduction, we can start the body. From my introduction I have decided to write about image and usefulness.

Writing the Body

When you are writing the body, it is important to remember that each paragraph you write is like a small essay; it needs an introduction, a body and a conclusion.

  • Introduction sentence – make a statement / give an opinion
  • Body sentences – support / give reasons for that opinion
  • Conclusion sentence – So……

Here is an example paragraph. The introduction is in red, the body is in blue and the conclusion is in black.

Underpaying people such as teachers and nurses has a negative effect on young people.

This is my introduction sentence: my statement. I now need to explain it in the body:

In an increasingly materialistic society, children have become more focused on the value of money and are therefore less likely to want to do lower-paid jobs. Furthermore, they may come to associate celebrities with positive role models because they represent a life that they desire, more than those who do work that is truly important to our countries. This could lead to a severe shortage of key workers in the future, leading to a decline in the quality of education and healthcare.

I have given reasons for my introduction statement. I have also explained what the results of the reasons could be in the final sentence. I now need a conclusion sentence to finish my paragraph:

Therefore, it is important that the divide between salaries is closed significantly in order to provide incentive for future generations.

Now, I can move on to my next paragraph and do the same again.

Can you write a paragraph about usefulness?

Before I finish this section, have a look below at my sample answer so far (introduction and body) for the question from my post about introductions http://wp.me/p2RmnE-4J:

Many newspapers and magazines feature stories about the private lives of famous people. We know what they eat, where they buy their clothes and who they love. We also often see pictures of them in private situations.

Is it appropriate for a magazine or newspaper to give this kind of private information about people?

Over the past two decades, interest in celebrity life has increased to the point where every aspect of their lives is examined, documented and published in the media. Clearly, this raises questions about whether it is right to deny a person the right to privacy. Not only that, but it would appear that these stories that are being printed are not useful in any way.

It is a basic human right to be entitled to one’s own privacy, and for good reason. Being forced to constantly live in the public eye can lead to immense stress on an individual, causing illness, stress and paranoia. It is doubtful that those who actively pursue celebrities day and night would themselves enjoy the same kind of scrutiny, making it a hypocritical activity. Furthermore, it could be argued that printing pictures, stories and gossip about a particular person without their express permission to do so constitutes a crime in itself. For these reasons, it is extremely important that tougher laws are put in place to protect famous people.

Secondly, it seems that the stories printed about celebrities are becoming more and more banal, leading to a decline in the quality of the country’s media. Articles about a person’s clothes, hair or diet are not newsworthy, and encourage an unhealthily aesthetic approach to life. Such a focus does not provide a good example to children and could lead to them growing up with a set of values that disregard sociopolitical issues, respect and empathy. Bearing this in mind, it is important that the media takes on the responsibility of carefully monitoring the levels of this content within their publications.

The third part of this series of posts – Part III – Conclusion, will be published soon.

Simon

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IELTS Writing – Organising your essay (Part II – Introduction)

For part two, when you first see the question how do you feel? Nervous? Confused? Panicked? Timing is a problem, but if you have a clear picture of what your essay will look like, this could help you relax a bit. This page is going to give a few tips on how to do that.

OK, let’s look at an example:

Many newspapers and magazines feature stories about the private lives of famous people. We know what they eat, where they buy their clothes and who they love. We also often see pictures of them in private situations.

Is it appropriate for a magazine or newspaper to give this kind of private information about people?

Step 1 is obviously reading the question, checking understanding and finding the question. I get a lot of students who give up before they start because they read the question and there is a word they don’t understand. Don’t panic! Try and look at the word in the sentence and if you still can’t understand it, just delete the word. It’s only confusing you and if you can’t see it, then it won’t any more.

For example: Maybe you don’t know the words feature and appropriate above. So, let’s delete them and see what we have:

Many newspapers and magazines ______ stories about the private lives of famous people. We know

what they eat, where they buy their clothes and who they love. We also often see pictures of them in private situations.

Is it __________ for a magazine or newspaper to give this kind of private information about people?

Less confusing? This is the question for you to answer. Don’t worry about the words we have deleted.

Now let’s split the question in to two parts: background and question.

Background: 

Many newspapers and magazines ______ stories about the private lives of famous people. We know what they eat, where they buy their clothes and who they love. We also often see pictures of them in private situations.

Question:

Is it __________ for a magazine or newspaper to give this kind of private information about people?

So, for our introduction, we need to think about two things:

1) Writing a sentence or two about the background. This is very much like in part I, where you are copying the idea from the title, but using your own words.

2) Preparing the examiner for what we are going to write about. In this sentence, you should think about what your main ideas are, but not write any argument.

For this, 40 words is enough and you definitely don’t want to write more than 65. Here’s an example:

Sentence 1) – Background:

Over the past two decades, interest in celebrity life has increased to the point where every aspect of their lives is examined, documented and published in the media.

Sentence 2) – What am I going to write about?

Clearly, this raises questions about whether it is right to deny a person the right to privacy. Not only that, but it would appear that these stories that are being printed are not useful in any way.

Now the examiner knows that I am going to write about two things:

1) Is it right to deny the person a right to privacy?

2) These stories are not useful in any way.

These will be the titles of my two body paragraphs, and it is really important that you write about the subjects from the second part of your introduction – not something else!

Now you try with this question:

Some people feel that certain workers like nurses, doctors and teachers are undervalued and should be paid more, especially when other people like film actors or company bosses are paid huge sums of money that are out of proportion to the importance of the work that they do.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the above statement?

The second part of this lesson looks at an example introduction and how to organise the main body. You can find it here: http://wp.me/p2RmnE-4P

Enjoy!

Simon