Proficiency class idea (CPE exam revised for 2013)

I just wanted to quickly write about a class I did on Monday with my proficiency group.

We are currently in-between books, so I am trying to use authentic texts and other supplementary material before we crack on with the exam preparation.

In the previous lesson, I introduced my students to TED talks – and showed them one of my favourite talks –  Birth of a word by Deb Roy. A must for anyone who is interested in linguistics or general language learning/acquisition.

I went through the website and its functions and also pointed out the subtitle feature and generally praised it as a very useful learning tool.

I left them with a piece of homework. They had to explore the site, find a video of interest and then plan a 2 minute introduction and summary of the talk itself. This would work as good practice for part 3 of the CPE speaking exam. I asked the students to email the videos before the class so I could watch them and be prepared with any related materials and follow-up questions.

Of the three students present (class of four) one of them emailed me their chosen video. It was a short presentation on how You Tube works together with copyright holders to create a win win situation for all involved.

After watching the video I searched for some articles that were related to the same theme or in a similar vein. I got lucky and found an article in the Guardian newspaper that pretty much went hand in hand with what the video was talking about but further extended the example of music videos. –

I then went on to find another article in the Guardian related to Youtube, but this article went in an altogether different direction. It spoke about the dangers facing children who used Youtube and how they were just “3 clicks from explicit material.”

I went into the class with just the video, two articles and a vague idea of where I wanted the class to go. Luckily, one of the other students had found a TED talk he wanted to watch and by chance it was loosely related to the You Tube talk. It was entitled, Tracking the trackers.

I asked the student to introduce the video and we then spoke briefly about internet security and how one search on the internet can lead to a multitude of advertisements for related websites and offers popping up on your websites.

We watched the video and spoke about what was said, whether the programme was a good idea and the pros and cons of the internet as a whole. This built up some nice vocabulary and worked well as a warmer, getting the students focused on thinking about the internet and so on.

I asked the next student to introduce her video. She did this by practising part 3 of the CPE speaking exam. A two-minute talk to introduce and summarise what we were about to watch. I asked a few questions about YouTube, how often they use it, what do they normally watch and we spoke about how videos can go viral and I showed them the latest craze, the Harlem shake.

After the video, we discussed some of the language that came up and talked about the general theme of the video and who was affected by it. We then moved on to the first text.

Before the class, I took the first article and cut the paragraphs out and made a simple text jumble exercise. This simulated part 6 of the new Reading and Use of English exam for the CPE. If I had had time, I would have written an extra paragraph that didn´t fit into the text, but seeing as the text was quite long anyway, I focussed on getting the students to concentrate on the reference words and ordering the information.

This proved to be quite difficult but it got the students working and they were pointing out why each paragraph went where and giving reasons, and it proved to be a good workout for them. I gave them the original article and they checked their work and then I asked them to read the article, highlighting collocations and any language they wanted to ask about. At the end of the reading I asked them to discuss who they thought really benefitted from the copyright agreement.

After feedback we moved onto the next text. I had written the title of the text on the board and left out the last two words and asked the students to discuss what they thought the article might be referring to. Eventually they worked it out and we talked about the dangers of the internet and who was most at risk and how this could be prevented.

Before the class, I had gone through the text and tippexed out some of the phrasal verbs and important collocations (part 2 of the Reading and U of E exam) and asked the students to read through, complete the gaps and then discuss who was responsible for what children can and cannot see on the internet.

We now had two texts, which were kind of connected. I split the class into pairs and gave each pair one of the texts. I asked them to look for the main points of each article, no more than three, and then to summarise the article into one paragraph. The results are below;

With the arrival of the internet and websites such as YouTube, the music business has changed. Streaming accounts for a bigger slice of the cake than buying records through downloading . Therefore, labels and musicians need to rely on advertising. This is a new relationship between the music industry, advertising agencies and streaming providers. the ultimate aim is to generate revenue for all the stakeholders involved.

Children surfing on the internet are surprisingly close to explicit material. For instance, on YouTube a child can easily end up watching pornographic or violent content from the innocent act of watching a sesame street video due to the “suggested videos” feature. Even though these platforms have their own systems to prevent these baleful consequences they admit they´re defenceless against this situation.

However, the bright side of the story is that great strides have been taken during the last year in order to provide children with a safer internet experience.

We now had two summary paragraphs and all we needed was a question to tie them both together and complete the writing task and the students homework.

I asked them to look in a copy of the new course book and see how the authors had written out the part 3 speaking exam questions and then to work together to come up with their own question. After some debate as to what the focus of the question and corresponding exam response should be, they finally came up with this;

“Which is more important? Our children’s safety or the interests of the You Tube stakeholders?”

I was really happy with this lesson and the way that it developed, as well as the way the students responded to working without the course book. I made sure that they were aware we were still working towards the exam and continuously referred to the part of the exam that each task was testing or going to test.

If I had the chance, I think I would exploit both of the texts more and perhaps have a few more structured speaking activities to really milk the topic, but the lesson flowed well and it was very natural. The timing worked well too, as the 3hr class finished just after the exam question was put on the board.

Now I’m just waiting for the student’s responses and I will be interested to see if the fact that they themselves created the task will have any bearing on the quality of their writing and the answer they provide in their essay’s.


My Blue Valentine

I thought I would come out of my self-imposed exile to write about something that happened a couple of weeks ago.

I had chosen a film to watch with my girlfriend. My Blue Valentine, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. See the trailer here – 

It´s a brilliant film. A great portrayal of how even the best relationships, no matter how much in love the couple are, can suffer from the slow erosion of daily life. A great script, combined with great acting allowed the film to have the appropriate effect on the viewer. My girlfriend was in tears and I was left feeling angry at the two main characters, for not being able to see the problems and deal with it in an adult way.

Don´t worry, I haven´t hijacked this blog to start writing film reviews. I wanted to write about one of the scenes that really stuck with me after the film had ended, which was a short piece of dialogue between the two main characters, Cindy and Dean.


I’d like to see you have a job where you

didn’t have to start drinking at 8

o’clock in the morning to go to it.


No, I have a job that I can drink at 8

o’clock in the morning. What a luxury,

you know. I get up for work, I have a

beer, I go to work, I paint somebody’s

house, they’re excited about it. I come

home, I get to be with you. That’s

like… this is the dream!


It doesn’t ever disappoint you?


Why? Why would it disappoint me?


Because you have all this potential.


So what! Why do you have to make money

off your potential?


Look, I’m not even saying you have to

make money off it. Don’t you miss it?


What does potential even mean? What does

that mean, potential? Potential for what?

To turn it into what?

Okay. I´m not about to admit that I´m drinking at work, but I instantly associated this way of thinking/feeling to my current teaching year. At first, I was going to say that you should replace the drinking for a coursebook and that would be that. But the more I thought about it the more I realised that I was being unfair towards coursebooks. Undoubtedly, the drinking/coursebook takes the edge of. It makes life easier and keeps you cocooned in your comfort zone.

It was this part that hit home;


It doesn’t ever disappoint you?


Why? Why would it disappoint me?


Because you have all this potential.

Then I knew I was stuck in a rut, content in my comfort zone and happy just to make it to the weekend. It made me look at everything I had done this year or should I say, haven´t done. I´ve ghosted through the year, telling myself that I deserved a break from the previous year`s exertions.Yet, deep down I´m bored. Bored of the coursebook, bored with not challenging myself or my students.

I feel that it´s time to get back out there, integrate myself back into the amazing PLN I built up during last year´s teaching. I´ve missed the interactions on twitter, the blog comments, the conferences and generally being part of something awesome. I owe it to myself to push the boundaries and to simply see what happens. (And of course blog about it) I owe it to my students to make them realise that there isn´t just one way to do something, be it learn, read, write or speak.

Comeback is a good word, man. Mickey Rourke