Help your students with their speaking tests

If you ask your students how they feel about their speaking tests, the answer is usually “terrified”.

Apart from constant class practice, students need to prepare on their own or with other classmates or speakers of English. This is the list of resources I elaborated for my B2 students this year:

  • Watch these videos of students taking their English exams, revise the teachers’ notes and try to improve your skills.
  • Watch these videos by the British Council, they give you advice about what to do and what not to do during your speaking test.
  • Saro Rosales, a teacher at EOI Las Palmas GC wrote an article for her students giving advice for the speaking test, don’t miss it.
  • Would you like to do a language exchange? Here you have a list of sites where you can do them.
  • Intercambio de idiomas, a website where you can find out about places to practise English with other learners and native speakers. People gather together to practise while having a drink.
  • Here you are a list of the topics you might be asked about during your exams.
  • Finally, here you have a list I wrote for my students back in 2009,

Finally, this is the list of topics they should work with if they want to succeed.

Click on the picture to enlarge it.

topics for speaking test


A Tribute to Madiba

The world is grieving for the loss of Nelson Mandela. Our role as ESL teachers is not only teaching language, but culture, so we think it is necessary to mention this event in our lessons.

Here we offer two different ideas.

First, we think we can talk about his figure and his words using this slideshow presentation we found on slideshare. We can use it in different ways, as prompts for speaking or writing, or as a reading comprenhension activity.


Secondly, one of the members of our group, Carmela Vaamonde, from Escuela Oficial de Idiomas A Coruña, shared with us this wonderful listening activity about Playing the Enemy, the book that was later used as a basis for the film Invictus.

You can find the audio for the activity here.

And you can dowload the pdf with the questions and the key here:  JohnCarlin_PlayingTheEnemy

Writing a blogpost with B2 students

This article was originally published on my blog “Esl Classroom activities and more“.
20131209-121105.jpgThis is a rather long lesson plan for B2 students, though it can be adapted for B1 and higher levels. It is the result of two objectives I had in mind: first, writing an article, and second, doing some collaborative work on a blog.


TIME: 1 hour

SKILLS: writing

MATERIALS: printed model article, some slideshows (shown below), projector, pc and whitescreen



Students revise a model article, they have to work on its structure, cohesion and coherence, vocabulary, etc. Once they have shared their discoveries, the teacher has to help them find out other discourse markers, topic sentences, etc. I used one found on NEF Advanced, Oxford.


The teacher shows the first two slideshows you can find on this article. With the help of the teacher, they have to relate what they have seen in the model text with what they are seeing at the moment.


The teacher explains the use of wordpress with the last slideshow (it’s in Spanish as I had prepared it for a session with teachers of several languages) of the same post as before. We have to expect some negative reactions as most of them have never used wordpress, our mission here is to reassure them and motivate them to try. It’s important that we provide them with a channel to express their doubts and questions, we are using our facebook group, and there they do not only get my help, but other classmates’. Anyway, I’ve promised I will publish myself the blogposts of those who try and can’t manage to publish their posts.


Explain their task.

Your task

  • Select a topic you can talk about. Some ideas might be: your job, studies, hobbies, a place you have visited or you would like to visit, etc.
  • Write a blog post of about 250 words (don’t copy from Wikipedia or similar) using your own words.
  • Add at least one related image, link and video. Slideshow presentations or audio using soundcloud are optional.
  • Send me an email when you have sent it for revision. I will revise it and publish (you can not do it on your own).
  • If you have problems with media resources (video, images, etc.), leave them as a link and I will solve it for you.
  • When you see your mates’ works, please comment all of them, say your opinion, if you like them or not. There will be time for this (until Christmas holidays).
  • The deadline is the 12th of December.
  • After this deadline there will be time to use the comments section to ask and answer and create some interaction among them.


Now you have to invite them as “contributors” to your blog, thus, they will be able to write and add links, but not to publish posts. This way you can revise what they produce and make any necessary changes.

The deadline for the articles is still open today (December, 9th 2013), but here you can see what they’ve written so far and what other students have done previously.


The Great Fire of London

It’s been a long long time since we last published something here. Today I’m sharing a listening activity about The Great Fire of London. The main objective is not that the answer all questions correct, but that they get to know some of London’s history.

The acitvity is suitable for B1+ and B2 students. You just need to give students the questions and play the video. You can even let them see the video without the questions first.

Finally, as follow up or just for fun, you can show them or share with them this other article which includes a video created by some De Montfort University students with a recreation of London before The Great Fire.

The Image Conference, a summary

Last Saturday I attended The Image Conference with other three colleagues and friends and we learnt and shared lots of things with other fellow-teachers. As I collected lots of information and links I’m going to post what I kept and what I remember here, in a post. As a matter of fact, after reading what was going on on twitter during the conference following the hashtag #imageconference, it’s a pity we couldn’t clone ourselves to attend all the activities.

Let’s start from the very beginning.

Visual literacy in ELT, by Jamie Keddie

This was a great start. If you have never heard of Jamie Keddie, I just recommend you to visit his website and to see any of the videos of his Youtube Channel, where you can see him in action.

He also surprised us with a storytelling activity based on a hot issue this week, the riots in Turkey.

The police throw tear gas to a lady in Turkey.

The message Jamie Keddie left, or the one I kept for me is that images don’t tell one story, but an infinite number of them.

And here you are a video where he repeats the riots’ activity. Click here for the lesson plan. 

Short and Sweet: Using short films to promote creativity and communication, by Kieran Donaghy

Kieran was our great discovery of the venue. We already knew his work through his website, Film-English, but seeing him in action really was a real pleasure.

He delighted us with several videos you can see in his website, where you can even download full lesson plans with lots of motivating ideas for your lessons. I leave you the links of the ones I remember.

Your Secret

The Adventures of a Cardboard Box

29 Ways to Stay Creative


Photo Opportunities, by Ian James

Ian James’ participation was made up by a neverending list of web based resources and mobile apps enhance the way you use photographs in class. You can find them all here, in his blog, Tefltecher. Luckily, he has written a couple of posts with some of the materials he showed and how he uses them in class, you can read them here, where he talks about how to use collages in class, and here, where he explains how to remove background of pictures and how to use them.

Among others, he mentioned these resources, just click on them to discover what you can do with them: Narrable, Fotobabble, Voicethread, Educreations, Audioboo, Tackk, Tripline, Woices, and Dear Photograph.

Professional development and gamification, by Paul Braddock

After lunch, we had Paul Braddock from the British Council. He is the web manager of the site Teaching English, a ‘must’ for any teacher of English. You can also see his blog under this link.

His contribution to the conference was this site, The School, where he suggests gamification to encourage teacher learning.

Telly Learning, by Steve Muir

Among othrer interesting activities, Steve Muir gave a twist using some not-so-serious videos taken from Britain’s Got Talent, and its American and Australian versions. Yes, your guilty pleasures can have a space in your lessons, why not.

Steve promised a leaflet with his resources that you in his blog, Allatac, a treasure for advanced level teachers. And you can follow him on Twitter here.

You can download the handout here.

Using images and video to change perspectives, by Gerard McLoughlin

Gerard’s participation was marked by a final discussion full of interesting points of view. But before that, he showed us some videos and images that he uses to make students get involved in their learning.

The resources we mentioned include the video called “7 billion”, by The National Geographic, the latest campain by Dove, where women are told not to appreciate their real beauty, videos from Disabled Access Friendly, with resources for Elt teachers, or The Guardian’s Site for the Top100 Women.

The Moving Image: A history of video in ELT, by Ben Goldstein

Ben Goldstein was a perfect end for a day full of motivating and inspiring ideas. His bringing “Follow Me” by the BBC brought me lots of memories and was in fact a piece of evidence that shows how the teaching of English has evolved over the last 30 years.

He gave us lots of ideas, among which I would highlight these links: EdTED, 1 Second Daily Cam and some more I don’t remember now. 🙂

In his blog you can find materials of his previous talks.

As you can see, our bags are full of ideas, and mostly inspiration for the upcoming academic year. And well, I can’t forget mentioning the location of the venue, Casa Convalescència in Barcelona, a unique building as you’ll see from the pictures.

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And of course, I can’t finish this post without thanking the organization for a perfect day.