Archive for August, 2009

More from the talk…

August 30, 2009 Leave a comment

The other activities mentioned in the talk are:

Five senses – Oral exam questions such as ‘describe’ and ‘compare’ naturally lead candidates to say ‘In the picture I can see….’ . Candidates do not often use the other senses and thinking about them and pictures can help fill the minute of so that candidates are required to talk. It also helps make what they have to say more colourful and therefore more likely to impress. Therefore when asking students to describe a picture, ask them to think about what they can ‘hear, smell, taste and touch’ along with ‘see’.  To take this even further encourage the students to consider what the picture reminds them of (e.g.. school trips to farms) and what they might like or dislike about the picture (e.g. I don’t like farms because they smell)

Back-story – This helps students with their imagination and gives them extra things to talk about.  By back-story, I mean what is the person like outside of what you can see in the picture?  For example in slide 20 from the talk, there is a woman on a farm. How old is she? Does she live on the farm?  Is she married? Is she a farmer? If students learn to think outside the box they automatically have more to talk about and can be more descriptive e.g. the difference between “In the picture I can see a woman with a lamb’ compared to ‘In this picture I can see a woman who looks about 25 years old, she is probably a farmer as she is feeding a lamb.  This is similar to ‘Who, what, why, where, when, how’ from the talk, this is where I encourage students to internally think of questions about the picture which they then answer aloud. For practice in class challenge the students to come up with as many questions about a picture as possible (remember the aim of this exercises is not accurate question production so don’t get carried away correcting any ‘wrong’ questions or the focus of the lesson will change from speaking to grammar). Students then share their questions trying to answer as many of them as possible.

Categories: Conference, Teaching

Find the similarities

August 28, 2009 Leave a comment

These are the instructions for the ‘find the similarities’ exercise mentioned in my talk – I’ll add the others over the weekend.

Find the similarities.

It is easier to do than ‘find the differences’; as it can be applied to any picture whereas ‘find the differences’ needs pictures that are similar to start with (and then probably more work from you to doctor them to be different). Quickest way to do this is ask sts to open their coursebooks at random, and use the first picture they see, keeping the page and picture a secret from their colleague, (there is of course the small chance that they may choose the same picture but they won’t know this immediately). Put the students in pairs and tell them they have to find X number of similarities per picture (you can up the number for quicker finishers), they then have to ask each other questions to find things similar (e.g. Do you have people in your picture? Are there any buildings?, What kind of buildings? ). Once they have finished, ask them to recap what they found as this further practices language needed for the exam.

This is a useful task for picture description and the compare tasks that are in many oral examinations (and it needs no preparation :-))

Categories: Conference, Teaching

Slides from my conference talk

August 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Greetings All,

Thank you for visiting my blog, I hope that you found my talk interesting, please find the slides below and I’ll add the activity instructions later today. Of course you may not have been at one of the conferences this week so the powerpoint slides might not make sense to you. I was talking  about the skills needed by candidates in speaking exams –  my main focus was on the Czech Maturita exam for which I am an external consultant but what i say in the slides is applicable to most oral exams. If you have a question about anything on the slides then please email me. ( – please note the extracts from OUP coursebooks are used with permission for my ppt but please respect copyright if you download the slides.

The main point of the talk is that to prepare  teens (people) for exams we need to focus on the skills they need (i.e. listening, turn taking etc ) and that we can give confidence by teaching appropriate strategies and encourage speaking all the time rather than in specified ‘exam focus’ lessons. It also highlights  that you can adequately prepare people without too many ‘fancy’ materials.

You can download the talk by clicking on this link here:

Conference talk – Olomouc&Prague August 2009

If you use slideshare you can find it here

Categories: Conference, Teaching Tags: , ,

Second email

August 21, 2009 Leave a comment

Dear All,

Sorry it’s been a couple of weeks, I was away in Germany for two weeks and then got very busy setting up and starting a teacher training course. Anyway, how are your holidays going? Hot today so hope you are ‘in the nature’ enjoying it. I have some good news for you, I have agreed to at least start teaching you again next year., although I have to question why I am such a glutton for punishment;-)

I used the phrase ‘glutton for punishment’ if you’re not sure what it means you can click on it and it’ll take you to a dictionary.  The dictionary is a good online students dictionary .Speaking of dictionaries the article here is about new words entering an american dictionary. As a contrast a newspaper in the Uk ran an article on words poets don’t like which is quite interesting and can be found here

In Britain the summer period is referred to as the ‘silly season’ in the media, so called because a rule there is less ‘serious’ news in the summer so media outlets have to fill their programmes etc with ‘silly’ stories. It seems that this year will be no exception with the silly season kicking off in fine style with this. and if you would listen to the story, here it is on youtube – bloody ridiculous (Sorry Irena, you probably think it is great :-))

So there’s some links to keep you going,

Enjoy the heat and more soon,


Categories: Teaching Tags: ,

Class emails

August 19, 2009 Leave a comment

Over the summer break I have been sending my class (yes I only have one, lucky me) emails with links to articles etc in. Since some other people have asked me for the links, I am going to post one or two of them on my new blog site i.e. here

This is the first one sent in July:

Hi Folks,

Since I am off to work in Germany for a week from tomorrow, I thought I’d send you an email before I go.  I hope everyone’s summer got off to a good start and the somewhat tropical storms aren’t putting a damper on things (note the pun on ‘damper’ – what a wit eh). The rain certainly made biking a little difficult see photo below  –  the path should be on the left!

So for some things English for you to peruse….

This week’s news stories that interested me – this one called “I’m a pedant and proud”  – the title attracted me as I am definitely a pedant. It’s very vocabulary rich so I think a good text for you word people :-).

Being the gadget lover and I big ipod fan this was an interesting story and much easier to read.

For a bit of brain fun then I found these free brain games by chance – the first one is a vocab game that I found a bit addictive  – if you play it don’t panic some of the letter combinations really had me stumped as well.

Two weeks ago we looked at inversion in English – this website has a list of references for further study and some links to online practice, so you can go and test yourselves 🙂

Finally let’s go to you tube, following on from last week’s lesson, comments about styles of English (no I won’t forget it Olga!!!) and the two ronnies clip…’s a clip from an awful  movie but this scene is very funny ‘English pronunciation’ which reminded me of a scene from a czech movie

If you haven’t worked it out yet, I have made links in the email so click on the blue bits and they’ll take you to the relevant websites.

Hope you enjoy  the things I have chosen and of course email if you need any help with understanding, words or just want to say hi.



What happened to the cycle path?

What happened to the cycle path?

Categories: Teaching Tags: , , ,