Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

Posts tagged ‘Cambridge First’

Some things from the IH Torun Teacher Training Day 2018

Torun - Copernicus

A wise man in Torun

Saturday 21st April 2018 was the annual teacher training day at our sister school, International House Torun. I attended sessions by Lisko MacMillan, Matthew Siegal, Rachel Hunter and John Hughes, and presented on Making the most of blogs. Here are few of the things I got out of the day:

  • Although I hated drama at school, and did my best to avoid it, I really ought to embrace activities borrowed from improvisation. They make great warmers and energisers, and there are lots of opportunities for revision there.
  • I wish I’d been relaxed enough to enjoy drama at school, because it’s a lot more fun now that I don’t care about appearances as much!
  • It might be a good idea to swap your writing with another teacher and mark each other’s when possible to avoid the bias you get when you know your students.
  • One way to make feedback on Cambridge writing much faster is to give students a copy of the mark scheme with the relevant sentences for their work highlighted. Obviously you need to explain what it means, but the more they see it, the more they know what is expected of them.
  • gw = good word, ag = advanced grammar, are possible additions to a writing code that focus on positives. Although I haven’t used a writing code for a long time, this was a useful reminder.
  • To encourage students to engage with writing criteria and to kill two birds with one stone, turn the criteria into a Use of English open cloze exercise.
  • An activity to make students plan before writing: you plan your partner’s answer. They only get to see the plan, not the question, and write the answer. Then show the question and they get rid of what they didn’t need.
  • Give students a list of things they can when proofreading their text. They should do as many as they have time for. For example:
    • Task completion and paragraphs
    • Spelling and vocabulary repetition
    • Grammar accuracy
    • Grammar range
    • Linking words
  • Art is an interesting alternative to photos, and lends itself to a lot of the same classroom activities.
  • There are loads of activities you could do with a single picture, like The Bedroom by Van Gogh. Try asking ‘If you lived in a room like this, what would you change?’ Show the picture, then hide it and ask students to remember as much detail as possible. What isn’t in the picture? Whose room is it? Be art critics. Give them half a picture each and make it an information gap.
  • With pictures of people, make the person the subject of an interview. If there are a lot of people, recreate the image by making a tableau vivante. Imagine the relationships between the people or describe their personalities.
  • If you want students to describe and draw, why not given them something like a Picasso or a Dali, and do it as a head drawing exercise (with their paper on their heads)? It’s already an odd picture, so they won’t feel as bad if they can’t reproduce it!
  • There is a blog by a Polish teacher in Polish about teaching English written by Beata Topolska. If you can recommend any other good blogs which are about teaching English but not written in English, please let me know!
  • Problems with teenage students are often due to rapport. Get to class early and get chatting to find out more about them.
  • Watch out for being too shallow or deep with personalisation – it’s a fine line. Try using Speak/Pass/Nominate, so students can choose whether they want to answer (Speak), don’t answer (Pass) or choose somebody else (Nominate).
  • To help students engage with a word bank of photos (e.g. types of food), try getting them to engage using sentences like:
    • I really like ______, but I don’t like _______.
    • I often eat ______ for breakfast, but I never eat _______.
    • I’ve never tried to cook _______ but one day I’d like to.
  • When you give students a list of topics, encourage them to find things in common. This is more authentic, as it’s what we try to do during small talk. You could give them a simple Venn diagram (you/both/me) to frame the discussion. For example, see ‘making connections’ in John Hughes’ post about personalisation.
  • With teens, try asking ‘What do you really hate/dislike?’ rather than ‘Which do you prefer?’ They’re more likely to respond.

All in all, this was a great local conference, and I walked away with loads of ideas for my classes. Thanks to Glenn Standish and IH Torun for organising it!

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Cambridge Exams: The Writing Paper (IH Bydgoszcz Cambridge methodology day 2016)

Today I had the pleasure of taking parting in the IH Bydgoszcz Cambridge methodology day. I presented a range of activities to help teachers prepare students for the Cambridge First and Cambridge Advanced writing exams.

The slides from the presentation and all of the resources can be found below. You can download everything from slideshare, for which you will need to create a free account. The links in the presentation are clickable. You’ll find full details of all of the activities in the notes which accompany each slide, which you’ll be able to see when you download the presentation.

Potato talks was taken from Thinking in the EFL Class by Tessa Woodward (published by Heibling Languages – affiliate link)

FCE essay to put in order (via Pavla Milerski):

For more on linking words of contrast, please see my Contrast Linkers post.

Telescopic Text is a way to get your students to play with language and experiment with writing longer stretches of text. Here’s the example I shared.

The other links I shared were my Useful FCE websites page, flo-joe, Cambridge Write and Improve and my student’s guide to Quizlet, including the link to my B2/FCE Quizlet group. While the last link may not seem so connected to writing, a) it’s amazing, and b) it’s great for practising spelling as well as expanding the range of vocabulary students know.

Cambridge exam writing IH Bydgoszcz Sandy Millin 13th February 2016 (presentation title slide)

I’d like to thank David Petrie and Pavla Milerski for activities which they allowed me to incorporate into the presentation, and Anna Ermolenko and Tim Julian for other ideas which didn’t make it in in the end. If you’d like more ideas, you can watch David’s webinar on writing skills for exam practice. Being connected to a network of such helpful teachers is so useful. Thank you!

Useful FCE websites

Here are all of the useful websites I can find to help students preparing for the Cambridge First Certificate exam. Please let me know if there are any broken links, or if you find something you think I should add.

General

www.flo-joe.com/fce/

Great website, full of tips, especially for Reading, Use of English and Writing. I’d definitely recommend students look at the word bank every day, and that teachers try to make use of those words in their classes to motivate students to use it! There is also a bank of writing showcasing all of the different text types, including teacher feedback.

http://www.cambridgeesol.org/exams/fce/index.html

The official Cambridge FCE website, with information about the length of the papers and the task types, as well as some free materials to download.

http://www.fceexam.com/

http://firstcertificate.wordpress.com/

http://www.fcepass.com

Three sites aimed at students. All include information, tips and exercises covering all parts of the exam.

http://tefltastic.wordpress.com/worksheets/exams/cambridge-exams/fce/

Alex Case’s excellent collection of FCE worksheets.

FCE Result (affiliate link – I will earn money from Amazon if you buy anything after clicking this link), the OUP coursebook, has online exercises for each unit of the book. (via Anna Yermolenko)

And finally, these are the activities tagged ‘FCE’ on my own blog, including ones for speaking and use of English.

Practice exams

Two sets of Reading, Writing and Use of English practise exercises

A free practice test, not including speaking

Vocabulary

http://quizlet.com/group/114523/

http://quizlet.com/subject/fce/

Two places to find online flashcards to play games with on the Quizlet website, to download onto smartphones or to print off and use in class. If you’ve never used Quizlet, here’s my guide.

Oxford Word Skills Intermediate and Advanced (affiliate links) can also help you to build your vocabulary, and they have online exercises too. (via Anna Yermolenko)

Grammar

Oxford Practice Grammar Intermediate and Advanced (affiliate links) have a test you can use to assess your level, along with practice exercises online. (via Anna Yermolenko)

Photo taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by @yearinthelifeof, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

Photo taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by @yearinthelifeof, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

The rest of the links are organised by paper. The links above also include some information for each paper, and there doesn’t seem to be anything specific for Paper 1: Reading that isn’t just a practice test.

Paper 2: Writing

General guidelines for the whole exam and for each part of the writing, including useful language

Flo-joe writing class, including a task every week, writing makeovers, and exercises on proofreading

First Certificate Writing is full of examples and tips, plus information about common mistakes.

A seminar for teachers from the IATEFL Birmingham 2016 conference, with Anette Capel sharing tips to help you prepare students for First.

Teaching students how to organise extended writing, with templates for essays and reports

Informal email

http://www.cristinacabal.com/?p=8947

Review

http://languagesint.blogspot.com/2010/05/fce-advice-how-to-write-review.html

Article

http://languagesint.blogspot.com/2010/05/fce-tips-how-to-write-article.html

Report

http://languagesint.blogspot.com/2010/05/written-by-languages-international.html

Story

http://languagesint.blogspot.com/2010/05/12-top-fce-story-tips.html

Essay

Tips on how to write essays of opinion or argumentative essays, including useful language

A sheet based on an opinion essay about sport

An exercise to practise the structure of an essay by putting missing phrases into an essay about computers

Essay writing checklist

Two fun interactive tools for planning essays, via British Council Las Rozas

Paper 3: Use of English

http://www.ihbristol.com/learn-online/exercise-esol.php

Lots of Use of English exercises.

http://www.imparareinglese.co.uk/esercizi_inglese.htm

Use of English exercises (under the ‘Intermediate’ heading)

http://practiseenglish.blogspot.com/2009/03/fce-key-word-transformation-practice-3.html

72 key word transformation sentences, but no key.

http://www.autoenglish.org/FCEUse/FCEUsePart4.htm

This link will take you to Use of English part 4 Key Word Transformation information and exercises. At the top of the page you can also find links to Reading and the other Use of English sections.

http://quizlet.com/8782322/fce-sentence-transformations-1-20-flash-cards/

http://quizlet.com/8782817/fce-sentence-transformations-21-40-flash-cards/

http://quizlet.com/8782986/fce-sentence-transformations-41-60-flash-cards/

Key word transformations on quizlet. Students can play games to help them practise the forms.

http://www.usingenglish.com/files/pdf/cambridge-first-certificate-fce-use-of-english-part-4-sentence-transformation-hangman.pdf

http://www.usingenglish.com/files/pdf/cambridge-first-certificate-fce-making-use-of-english-part-four-questions.pdf

http://www.usingenglish.com/files/pdf/cambridge-first-certificate-fce-use-of-english-part-four-sentence-transformation-tasks.pdf

Key word transformations activities from Alex Case (plus tips for the teacher to show you how to deal with them in the classroom)

Paper 4: Listening

Listening practice from the British Council

Tips for teaching every section of the listening paper

Paper 5: Speaking

http://www.britishcouncil.org/professionals-exams-fce-speaking-intro.htm
Speaking practice from the British Council.

http://www.splendid-speaking.com/exams/fce_speaking.html
Tips and example questions to help students prepare for the Speaking Paper (Paper 5)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=LxCoEdFUcBw
A video showing two students doing part 1 of the Speaking paper. Once you have watched the video, click on the links to the right to take you to the next section. All four sections are available.

http://www.usingenglish.com/articles/how-to-teach-cambridge-first-certificate-fce-speaking-part-two.html
A very comprehensive guide to language students need for FCE speaking part two (comparing pictures), in order of priority, along with ideas on how to teach it.

In the classroom

Andy Scott presented a webinar entitled ‘FCE: the musical’ for the International House Live Online Workshops. It was an hour of useful and fun activities to prepare students for the exam.

A Hive of Activities has a range of great FCE activities, covering various papers, with more being added all the time.

Alex Case has many very useful activities for FCE on http://www.usingenglish.com. This example is a selection of activities for speaking part 3 phrases: presentation, practice and games. There is also a key word guessing game for speaking 2.

Nicola Prentis has written Teach First Certificate, a beginners guide for teachers showing how to approach the exam, available on Amazon as a paperback or ebook [affiliate links].

Update

Here is another directory of links from teflgeek.

An amazing video of tips for FCE students from students at IH Santa Clara.

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