Tag Archives: A2

The Article in English: Explanation, Exercises and a Challenging Quiz

Although the use of the article in English seems a priori an easy subject to teach, the truth is that some students struggle with the use and omission of it.

What can you find in this post?

  • Intermediate level:
  1. Animated video with some rules on the use and omission of the articles “the, a/an”
  2. Some links to exercises from around the web to consolidate knowledge.
  • Advanced Level:
  1. An engaging quiz with feedback notes featuring some difficult cases related to the use and omission of articles.

 

Grammar. Watch the presentation. Pause it as often as necessary to understand and assimilate the rules.

Exercises: Links to interactive exercises  from around the web to consolidate knowledge.

 


The quiz

 

The Writing Process and 13 Tips to Raise your Essay Score

Writing is a process. For some students it might seem like a daunting task, but if you look at it as a succession of small steps to follow instead of looking at it as the big final product, writing can be fun and easy.

Useful Links:


Part 1. The Writing Process


Brainstorm for ideas

  • Write down all the ideas you can think of. You can try mind mapping your ideas. It is a good technique to generate ideas and expand on them. You can begin by writing a big bubble in the middle of the page with the topic and then use arrows to draw new bubbles with ideas and again arrows with more specific points or observations about this idea.
  • At this stage, don’t worry about spelling or grammar mistakes.

Organise your ideas

  • Decide which ideas to keep.
  • Group similar ideas together.
  • Organise your ideas according to the writing task.

Focus on language 

  • Think of words and expressions you will need in your work.

Write a draft

  • Write quickly. Don’t worry about things such as accuracy or neatness.
  • Use a pencil so that it is easier to make corrections and erase things.
  • If you are writing your draft by hand, leave a wide margin for notes and space between the lines for additions and corrections.
  • If you can’t think of a word in English, write it in your own language. You can look it up in a dictionary later.
  • If you don’t know the spelling of a word, write it anyway you can. You can look it up in a dictionary later.

Improve your draft

  • Do it slowly and conscientiously.
  • Check spellings in the dictionary and look up any word you felt unsure of. Here’s a very useful post Six Amazing Websites that Make your Writing Stronger.
  • Use a checklist to improve your work. See the one my students use here.
  • Read your draft aloud. Circle the things that need to be improved, reworded or clarified.
  • Take a break from writing and reread your draft after 30 minutes. Does everything sound right?

Write a final draft

  • Copy your corrected work neatly on a clean sheet of paper.
  • Make sure your paragraphs are clearly indicated.

Adapted from Burlington Books


 Part 2. Writing an Essay


An essay consists of several paragraphs about a topic. Although there are many different kinds of essays, they all have the same basic structure.

Opening

It is the general presentation of the topic. Try to get the reader interested in your essay. How can you do that? For example, by beginning

  • With a surprising fact.

Humans usually imitate the speech of someone with a strong accent due to empathy and to create a bond and assimilate with them.

  • With a short anecdote.

If you could interview anybody in the world, who would you choose?” asked the teacher. “Nelson Mandela”, I replied.

  • With a question.

Did you know that there is an island in Japan that has more than 450 people living above the age of 100?

 The Body.

The body can have one or more paragraphs which develop the topic. The first paragraph should contain the strongest argument or example. The second paragraph the second strongest argument and the third the weakest.

A paragraph consists of several sentences about a certain topic. It has the following parts:

  • A topic sentence, i.e. an idea.
  • One or several supporting sentences to expand on the idea.
  • A concluding sentence.

The parts should flow logically and the ideas should be easy to understand.

  • Go from general to specific. Give a general idea and then expand it.
  • Avoid unnecessary repetition by using pronouns to refer back to nouns already mentioned.
  • Use connector to join sentences and show the connection between ideas.

 The Closing

It is the paragraph that summarizes the main idea or presents a conclusion, depending on the kind of essay you need to write. Some things to bear in mind:

  • It should not bring new ideas.
  • It shouldn’t be very long.
  • It can be similar to the opening, but presented in different words.

 


13 Tips to Raise your Essay Score


  1. Read the assignment thoroughly, several times if necessary and underline anything relevant. Sometimes there is a question or several. Make sure you cover all of them. Focus on the purpose of the composition, on the tone and the style required and also on the length requirements.
  1. Plan your writing. You need to dedicate several minutes to planning what you are going to say and how you are going to say. It makes a big difference.
  1. Write a first draft. Use pencil, if possible, to erase or correct errors.
  1. Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence and then write some supporting sentences about this topic sentence. 1 idea= 1 paragraph.
  1. Use a variety of vocabulary and grammar structures. Avoid repeating the same words over and over again. Use synonyms or paraphrase. A thesaurus or a lexicon is useful as a source of alternative words. Use a range of grammar, sentence structure should be varied and clear.
  1. Use connectors to join ideas. They also play an important part in stringing together sentences and paragraphs.
  1. Time management. Organize the time you are given to write the essay. If you have one hour to complete the task, dedicate 10 minutes to planning and organizing your ideas and allow about 10 minutes at the end to proofread your essay before giving it to the teacher. You will still have 40 minutes left to write and develop your ideas.
  1. Keep to the topic. Don’t write about things that have nothing to do with the assignment.
  1. Sound natural. Just because you know lots of connectors, it doesn’t mean you have to use all of them.
  1. Punctuation. Pay attention to punctuation, especially to the correct use of commas and periods. Your text can be confusing if you don’t use them adequately.
  1. Style. Think about the purpose of the assignment and the audience it addresses and use the correct style and tone. If it’s informal, you can use colloquial language, simple and shorter sentences, contractions, abbreviations and emotional language. On the contrary if it’s a formal assignment, you will need to use more complex sentences, avoid contractions and abbreviations and you should definitely avoid emotional language or colloquial expressions.
  1. Proofread your essay. Have a coffee or go for a walk. Come back, take your essay and reread it aloud. Does it sound “right”? Then, it’s ready!
  1. Read a lot and try to write about anything for 30 minutes every day. You’ll soon get better.

Thanks for reading!

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Spinning the Wheel: an Engaging and Productive Speaking Activity.

This is a very simple communicative activity that works wonders because it is highly engaging, students love it and it is very productive. It takes 2 minutes to create and it is adaptable to any topic of discussion and suitable for all levels.

 

Aim: activating new vocabulary through discussion questions.

Levels: all

PROCEDURE.

  1. Easy peasy! Just go to wheeldecide.com and fill in one wheel with the target vocabulary and another one with the questions you want your students to discuss.
  2. Students in pairs
  3. Spin the wheel containing the questions and then, the wheel containing the word/ expression you want your students to use when answering the question.
  4. Student A has 2 minutes to talk about the question and use the target vocabulary. If he does, he scores a point.
  5. Spin the wheels again. It’s student B’s turn.

NOTE: When creating the wheel, go to the advanced section to choose colour and whether you want the option to be removed after it is landed on or not.

 

 

If you are a student and you’re preparing for exams or studying on your own, you probably have your own studying strategies, but I invite you to try this new one. I’m sure you’ll find it engaging and productive.

I ‘d like to thank Cristina Serafim for bringing wheeldecide to my attention.

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Getting-to-know-you Bingo with a Fun Twist

I can’t believe summer is coming to an end and well, here we are again. Another school year is about to begin and once again, as every year for the past 25, butterflies are beginning to gather in my stomach. It’s a nice sensation and one I welcome ‘cause it means that even after 26 years dedicated to teaching English I still feel like a newbie aiming to impress my students.

Now, be honest! Wouldn’t it be nice to start the course with a fun activity? A getting-to-know-your-classmates activity after which, students leave the class with a smile on their face and chatting animatedly with their peers?

This is the aim of this fun human bingo ice breaker designed to get students talking to each other about themselves while having a nice laugh.

The game is easy to customize, so feel free to edit the cards to include or exclude prompts

  • Materials: bingo cards, pens or pencils and a small object to grab: for example, a rubber.
  • Optional online tool:  Osric
  • Time: about 30 minutes
  • Level: A2 and above

BEFORE THE CLASS

  • Prepare 25 prompts for the students to talk about
  • Prepare a Bingo card (5x5grid) for each student with the prompts (see mine below).

There are lots of bingo card generators online which will randomly generate as many cards as you wish once you provide the desired input. Osric is the one I used for this activity.

  • Cut up all the 25 different prompts and put them inside a bag or a box.

PROCEDURE:

  1. Explain that they are going to play a human bingo to get to know each other. To win the game they will need to mark off the prompts on their cards as they are drawn randomly by a caller. The winner will be the first person to mark off five squares in a vertical or horizontal row.
  2. Give each student a Bingo card and a pen/pencil. Allow them one minute to read the 25 prompts on their bingo cards and decide on their strategy.
  3. Explain that although this is a whole-class activity, students will be playing in pairs and they will need to sit together or put their desks together.
  4. Ask each pair to place a rubber (or any other small object ) on the table. Explain that to win the game they will only need a bit of luck and quick hands.

How do you get to mark off your square?

Tell them that you’ll draw a prompt from the bag and read it out. Students listen and if it is true for them, they quickly pick the rubber on the table. Only the student who has the rubber will get the chance to mark off the square. To do so, they will need to talk about the prompt  for one minute or do as the prompt says.

Who wins the game?

The first student to fill five squares across or down shouts BINGO! and the game is over.

The winning card is checked to make sure the student has not made a mistake

Rounding off the activity. Check that the winner has marked correctly all the squares by asking him to read the cards he has marked on the winning row. Ask him to talk about one of the things in the card and then choosing another prompt, challenge another student to talk about it for one minute.

 These are the prompts I have used

  1. Is an only child
  2. Was born in another country
  3. Speaks 3 languages
  4. Has lived in another city
  5. Can sing a song in English
  6. Can cook
  7. Plays a musical instrument
  8. Has a sports trophy
  9. Has a tattoo
  10. Has a dog
  11. Has done sth cool this summer
  12. Belongs to a sports club
  13. Has a celebrity autograph
  14. Prefers books to ebooks
  15. Has been in three continents
  16. Has had a big argument with a friend
  17. Doesn’t like English
  18. Can tell a joke in English
  19. Has been on holiday recently
  20. Can pronounce 13 and 30
  21. Knows how to pronounce “bear” and “beer”
  22. Knows how to say “gallina” in English
  23. Knows how to say 345,768
  24. Has slept in a tent
  25. Can write the past/past part of “to fly”

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Four Excellent Sites for Online Dictations

Oh boy. Does it bring back memories!
Dictations! To be completely honest with you, I have mixed feeling as regards dictations. I remember back in primary school when the language teacher gave us lots of dictations like a well- deserved break after a tough grammar lesson; and then, this feeling of “I don’t want to ever hear the word dictation again” that I got from my classes at university where the teacher gave us one-page-long dictations so quickly that when he finished, he was panting for breath and we were seeing red.

Although doing dictations is somewhat regarded as an old-fashioned technique, it is undeniable that a lot of benefits can be derived from doing this exercise. In fact, it is an integrative activity requiring the use of various skills like listening, writing and reading -when you read the passage you have written, looking for grammar or spelling mistakes. You might even add speaking if the dictation is used as a prompt to encourage discussion of the passage.

In case you are not fully convinced that dictations also have their place in the twenty-first century classroom, here are some more benefits you might want to consider:
• It improves spelling.
• It improves recognition of grammatically correct sentences.
• It helps students distinguish sounds in continuous speech.
• It improves students’ awareness of punctuation.
• It gives students practice in comprehending and helps them gain fluency in writing.

If I have managed to convince you, here are some links to online dictations you might want to try or if you are a teacher, heartily recommend to your students.

Dictations  Online.

This site specializes in dictations and although it is free, you can sign in to do more dictations or keep track of your score  and view your score history. They are graded from elementary to advanced.

The students hear the dictation four times

  • The first time, the whole passage is read at normal speed to listen for gist.
  • The  second time, each phrase is read slowly twice, with punctuation.
  • Then the whole passage is read again to check your work.
  • And finally, the written text is shown  for you to see  your mistakes.

Englishclub.

I like the site. It is very user-friendly. The dictations are graded going from Elementary, with short recordings of one or two phrases, to Advanced with recordings of one or two paragraphs.

Learn English free

This site features two levels: elementary and intermediate. It has a very clean interface where you’ll see two recording of the same dictation. One recorded at a normal speed and the other one at a slow speed with pauses to give you time to write down what you hear. You only need to follow the instructions.

ESL: English as a Second Language

Aimed at Intermediate and Upper-intermediate students, this site offers an amazing numbers of dictations

Do you like these sites or would you rather create your own dictations? Here are two online free tools to convert text to speech.

VOKI

SLIDETALK

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Five Different Ways to Practise your Listening Skills.

I won’t spend much time introducing this post, mainly because today is one of these days when the muse has decided to leave me.

Perhaps you’re wondering what else you can do to pass your listening test with  flying colours apart from doing every single listening comprehension exercise in your student’s book and all the ones in the workbook. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel, but here are a few things you might want to try.

1.Read a few tips and put them into practice. Students often complain that despite grasping the main information content of the recorded material, they sometimes seem to be unable to provide the right answer and this leads to frustration.

Getting a high mark in a listening comprehension exercise requires practice, lots, and also knowing a few tips. The most common types of listening exercises are Blank Filling and Multiple Choice and there are a few handy hints on how best to deal with them that you might want to read. The tips below aim at teaching students to listen effectively to enable them to select the information they require from what they hear.

 2.The obvious. Find a good listening site with plenty of listening exercises to choose from.

One of the sites I have been recommending my students lately to practise Listening is Ingles en Aviles, a fantastic blog aimed at B2 (upper-intermediate) and C1 (advanced students) where you’ll find lots of listening comprehension exercises to choose from.

Can I also suggest my own Listening section? 

3. Listening to Vaughan radio

Vaughan Radio is a live radio station broadcasting from Madrid, Spain that provides listeners the chance to improve English language skills. So while you’re at home, maybe cleaning or ironing and bored to death, you might want to give it a try. From time to time you’ll hear some Spanish words to help Spanish listeners, but most of the time the show is in English and really worth listening to.

Here’s the link to listen on the computer. Alternatively, you can download the app on your smart phone. Type Radio Vaughan in the search box to download the app. My favourite programme? “The show with no name”.

4. Watching series.

Here, I would recommend ororo.tv. What can ororo.tv do to help you improve your English? What will you find on this website? An amazing number of TV shows and films in their original versions and with subtitles in English. Right now, I am hooked on the Big Bang Theory, an American sitcom about four young scientists, but surely you’ll find attractive alternatives here to suit every taste and mood.

5. A new web tool: Youglish.

A very interesting tool to help you with your pronunciation and your listening is Youglish.  In the search box, type the word or expression you want to hear in context. Youglish provides you with videos, from You Tube, where the word/expression is spoken by real people and in context.


In case you’re wondering, this is not a sponsored post. It’s just a few recommendations from a humble teacher trying to help students by sharing some useful links.

Thanks for reading!

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Word of the Day: to Suggest and How to Make Suggestions

Would you agree with me if I said one of the trickiest verbs in English is ” suggest“?

This is one of the most common mistakes students make with this verb. Do you have this mistake?

My  mother suggested me to learn English

The sentence above is wrong  because “suggest” is not followed by object+infinitive. 

Below you’ll find some of the most common structures with “suggest”:

 

  • Suggest+that clause:  We can use present, past, should+infinitive and subjunctive in the that clause. That  can be omitted in informal style.

My mother suggested (that) I should learn English.

I suggest (that) you study a bit more

  •  Suggest+-ing

I suggest eating in that Italian restaurant.

  • Suggest+ Wh-word (when, where, who, how..etc)

Can you suggest where we  can have a nice meal?

  • Suggest+ noun

He suggested  the new restaurant in town for the wedding.

If we need to mention the person who receives the suggestion, we use a to-construction.

He suggested a new restaurant to me.

     He suggested me a new restaurant.

MAKING SUGGESTIONS

And now that we are on the subject, do you know how to make suggestions in English?

Click “play” on the interactive mind map below to study the different ways we can suggest in English and then see the video to do some practice.

Mapa Mental creado con GoConqr por cristina.cabal

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Tools used: Goconqr and Picovico

Most Common Pronunciation Mistakes Heard in Oral Exams

Even for the most confident students  taking an oral exam can be quite stressful. Twice a year, in June and September,  I  assess students’ speaking abilities acting  as both an interlocutor asking questions and interacting with students, or an assessor listening to students’ performance.

It was while acting as an assessor that I  decided to write down the most common pronunciation  mistakes students make  with the intention of  going over them ,with my own students, at the very beginning of the course.

I  have created a quiz with, what I hope, will be the last I see of these pronunciation mistakes. I hope you find it useful!

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In Exam Mode? Check Out These Two Sites for Listening and Reading

Yes, we are all in exam mode. Classes are finished and it’s time for a final effort.

In this post I want to  … Hold on!!… Noo, it’s more like  I need to share these two sites with you. You see, I say” I need” because I really want all of you to pass your exams. There is nothing less frustrating for a teacher than having to fail a student  who has been attending classes all throughout the year.

And this  is the reason  why I am posting at 11.00 pm, after having just arrived from work. ( you can bring me flowers once you’ve passed with flying colours)

♥LISTENING.The first link is for practising Listening and it was kindly shared with me by one of my students. Thanks a lot Maite!

 

Englishaula.com offers different exercises to practise all  four skills, though I especially recommend it to do Listening Comprehension. On the right you’ll need to choose your level.

Choose KET for A1/2

Choose PET for B1

Choose FCE fo B1+ /B2

Choose CAE for B2/B2+

♥READING. This second website  Easy Reading is run by the British Council and it offers articles to read at three levels A2, B1 and B2 and interactive exercises to check your comprehension.

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