Tag Archives: food

Step by Step: How I train my students to pass Part 2 (the pictures) of the standardized speaking exams. Part 1.

Alright, alright!

I know this is the third time I’ve posted this week. It seems I’m full of energy after the Christmas break. I really needed that break, didn’t you? Anyway, happy to go back to teaching, but hanging ominously over my head like a black cloud about to burst is the pressing necessity to start training my students to take their standardized speaking exams which will allow them to promote to the C1 (advanced level).

For those of you who are not familiar with the exam, let me explain how it goes. You might find you can apply it to your own classes, even though it’s not exactly the same kind of exam.

There are two tasks in the speaking exam.

  • Part 1: examiner-led conversation. The examiner asks questions about a topic and the students give full answers.
  • Part 2: the monologue, where the students are given a set of pictures (normally two or three).

About Part 2

In this second part, the one this whole post is built upon, the student is offered two or three colour photographs. Normally, the photos are in contrast or represent different options of the same issue.  Also, there is a title or a statement which suggests the topic of the monologue. After some thinking time, normally a couple of minutes, the student is given the opportunity to speak for about 4-5 minutes without interruption.

At this level, students are expected to talk about the topic using a wide range of vocabulary and grammar structures and they will have to compare and contrast the pictures talking about the most important issues related to the topic.

Students face different fears when preparing for the oral exams. Some of them are:

  • Do I know enough specific vocabulary?
  • Will I be able to use a variety of structures or will I stick to the simple subj+verb+complement structure?
  • Now,  the topic is “food”?  3 or 4 minutes talking about food? Seriously?  For heaven’s sake, I cannot even talk for one minute, let alone three or four!

Vocabulary and ideas. Keywords here.

How I train my students. Topic: Food

This is how I help them step by step. Bear in mind this is the first post of a series of posts dedicated to training students to pass the oral exam. As students gain confidence, guidance will be less necessary and some of these steps will be either unnecessary or done by students as part of their learning process.

1. Brainstorming vocabulary. Learning progresses through prior knowledge, so tapping into students’ prior knowledge is an essential part of learning.

On the board, we brainstorm the vocabulary they already know. This is an important step because it helps students reinforce and bring to life the vocabulary studied in previous courses.

Then, I ask them some very simple questions where they can activate this vocabulary: What’s your favourite food? What is the most expensive restaurant that you have ever been to? What did you eat there?

2.Acquiring new vocabulary. We work on new vocabulary using a number of written and oral exercises. (Any good course book provides enough vocabulary input, at least to get started). It’s important to emphasize here the importance of learning words in chunks. Surely, you can teach the word “ obesity” on its own, but there some other words you really want to teach in collocations like, for example, “eating disorders” or to “be obsessed with”. Also important, essential I should say, is pronunciation.

3.  Getting Ideas. Reading and Speaking. More often than not students find it hard to think on their feet. They find it difficult to come up with ideas that will fill in the 3 or 4 minutes allowed for this part.

You might disagree with me here, but I always tell them that oral exams are like the rest of the exams they might take. They need to prepare. They need to study.

Lack of preparation might result in something I’ve seen very often when assessing oral exams; students might talk for one minute and then, suddenly, stop. Now, you might wait patiently for them to come up with something else but the truth is that very often, when prompted to continue, they just repeat the same ideas they have already used. Why? most of the times due to lack of preparation. They mistakenly think that they don’t need to study for oral exams. They do.

So, listen up dear students! You need to study for oral exams.


Reading about different issues related to the topic not only reinforces the vocabulary they have learnt and gives them a chance to see it used in context but also gives them ideas of what they can talk about when doing the real task.

I normally use short extracts from The Pais in EnglishHere’s my choice of extracts for the topic of food. This how we do it:

  • We read the extracts in class or set the reading task as homework.
  • We underline relevant vocabulary.
  • Students discuss the questions in pairs, followed by class discussion.


4. The pictures. I am lucky to have a computer and an overhead projector in my class, so I normally display a collage with two or three related pictures on the board. You can see the ones I have used for this topic here and here.

Together we read the title and brainstorm ideas to fill in these 3 or 4 minutes. This step should be easy now as we have previously discussed some ideas in the previous task. Some ideas could be:

Together, we brainstorm vocabulary

  • Pesticides
  • Label
  • To be obsessed with
  • Bulimia
  • Fats
  • Proteins
  • Carbs
  • …etc

  1. Tips.
  • Look at the pictures and the title if there is one. It will hint at what you need to talk about.
  • If you are given some thinking time, use it.
  • Remember that you are not asked to describe in detail what you can see in the pictures. You are asked to compare and contrast the pictures talking about the topic.
  • Focus on three or four ideas and develop them as much as you can without repeating yourself. Start with a short introduction about the topic, talk about the first idea, develop it; start with the second idea and repeat procedure.
  • Don’t forget to use specific vocabulary and a variety of structures.
  • Essential: practise a lot and record yourself taking the exam.

6. Homework. Further practice. Collaboratively writing on a Padlet.

This follow-up task has two main aims:

  • to reinforce acquired knowledge and strategies
  • to share ideas. By asking students to write on a  collaborative Padlet, they benefit from each other and see other ideas which might help them improve their own performance.

All the Padlets created for this purpose will then be shared in a single one where students, at a glance, can decide what topic to revise.

In the next post, we will move from writing to speaking on a Padlet.

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Ready-Made Lesson: Food and eating

Lesson on Food and Eating at Intermediate Level.

  • Vocabulary
  • Listening Comprehension
  • Picture description
  • Questions for discussion
  • Writing

STEP 1. VOCABULARY. You can download the pdf here.

To talk, you need words. These are  the words I think my intermediate students will probably need.


  • fresh fish
  • frozen lasagne
  • low-fat /high fat cheese
  • raw fish
  • spicy chicken
  • takeaway pizza
  • tinned meatballs
  • ready-made dish
  • delicious /nice taste
  • it’s nice/ it’s disgusting
  • fizzy drinks
  • healthy/unhealthy food
  • fatty food



  • to eat out
  • to eat sensibly
  • to cut down on sugar
  • to cut out sugar
  • to be on a diet
  • to lose weight
  • to put on weight
  • to order food
  • to take vitamins
  • to take food supplements
  • to try new food
  • to contain vitamins and minerals
  • to have a balanced diet


  • (food that is high/low in) carbohydrates “carbs”
  • (rich/high – low/poor in) proteins
  • (high in ) sugar
  • eating habits
  • a nutritionist
  • fats


  • At this level, students know what a “vegetarian” is. So write the word VEGETARIAN on the whiteboard and ask students if they know any vegetarians and if they do,   what it is like for them when they eat out. Write the word “veggie” and explain that it is another term for vegetarian.  Play the listening below, just for fun! It only lasts 36 seconds and it is worth every second of it!

The word “vegetarian” is a blanket term used to describe somebody who does not eat meat, poultry, fish or seafood. But then, within this term there exist different sub-groups. Ask students if they know any of these sub-groups and if they think a diet without meat is better than a diet with it.

  • Tell students they are going to do a listening comprehension about the different types of vegetarians.


STEP 3. SPEAKING. You can download the pdf here

  • Picture description: Students describe the pictures talking about the topic  suggested .



  • Interaction. Students in pairs or in threes talk about the questions elaborating on the answers.
  1. Is there any food or drink that you couldn’t live without? How often do you drink/eat it?
  2. Is there any food that you dislike? Which is it?
  3. What was your favourite food when you were a child?
  4. Do you eat healthily? Explain
  5. Do you ever have…
  •  ready-made food?
  •   takeaway food?
  1. Do you prefer to eat at restaurants or at home?
  2. What’s the best restaurant you have been to?
  3. Is a vegetarian diet better than a diet that includes meat? Why?
  4. What kind of diet would you recommend to a friend?
  5. Eating habits have changed a lot in Spain . Do you agree?
  6. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” Do you agree with this proverb?


Write an opinion essay on  :

Eating meat can cause serious health problems so the best option is to become a vegetarian. To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Check out how to write a for and against essay in my Writing Section  here

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Word of the Day: Roast and Baked

Hope you are having a great week!! I can’t complain!! Apart from a visit to the hospital and another one to the doctor to have my wrist bandaged I can say that , all in all , it’s been a great week so far.

I understand  you might be a bit tired of reading about food , but that’s what I am teaching and that’s where my  brain is focused right now. In fact, I have just found a video in youtube to add to the growing list of food related posts. Keep poted !!

Today I just want to point out the difference between these two words which are very similar and therefore raise doubts

♥Both are adjectives

♥Both  mean cooked in the oven

Baked is used for bread, cakes and most sweet things, and also fruit and vegetables.

♥Roast  means cooked with fat, and is used especially for meat and potatoes.

Listening: What is a vegetarian ?

I want to start this week with a positive thought. It is something I’ve read recently and that has been going around for some days inside my head.

Happiness is not getting what you want . It’s wanting what you have.

I should say that I am normally a glass-full type of person but sometimes, only sometimes,  I need to remind myself.

Well, today I want to share with you this amazing site which has a lot of potential. Educaplay is a platform to create embeddable multimedia teaching activities . You can create interactive engaging activities  like crosswords, matching exercises, dialogues, presentations, tests, dictations , interactive maps, word search puzzles and many more… but what I really like about this website is the possibility of creating  a video quiz  as the one I have posted below .

The structure of the activity, is defined by sequences that are composed of a video, or part of it, and a question that will be the end of the sequence.

To define the sequences, we go through three phases:

  • Video election: We can use the search engine, or if we know, insert its URL directly.
  • Sequence election to be held on the question.
  • Definition of the question: Each question can be configured to ask for the answer in any of the following methods;

              ♥In a written form, by selecting one answer from various options or by  selecting         several answers from various options.

Another important feature is that it is entirely web based so you don’t need to download anything  and … it is free, you only need to register.

And now, have a look at this videoquiz answering the question WHAT IS A VEGETARIAN?


What is a Vegetarian?

What is a “veggie”?

Well, I don’t know what I am, that’s why I have dedicated some time to finding an answer to what I am or rather to what I eat or don’t eat. For me,one of the most tiring things about not eating what everybody around me eats is having to hide the fact that I just eat differently and having everybody around me worried about what they might offer me; so, when my friends and I go to a party or birthday or whatever occasion where food is involved I ask them not to attract attention to my eating habits. I can tell you it’s not fun struggling to make people understand that I won’t eat anything cooked with meat and what is worst, trying to explain that even though they remove the chicken or the meat I still won’t eat it.
The word “vegetarian” is a blanket term used to describe somebody who does not eat meat, poultry, fish or seafood. But then, within this term there exist different sub-groups.
VEGAN . This person doesn’t eat any animal products or by products and this includes cheese, milk… some of them don’t even wear leather or wool.
LACTO-VEGETARIAN : The same as vegans but they eat dairy products
OVO- VEGETARIAN : The same as vegans but they eat eggs
OVOLACTO VEGETARIANS are by far the largest group of vegetarians
SEMI-VEGETARIAN are not vegetarians strictly-speaking as they may eat fish but not meat or the other way round.

Silly things people say to vegetarians ….. when given the chance. I no longer do.
•So what do you eat? A lot of salad?
•Can’t you just pick out the bits of meat in (insert name of dish here) and eat the rest of it?
•You should feel bad about the pain and suffering you’re causing all those plants you’re eating.
•What did you say gelatin was made of? You’re joking.

Speaking: Describing a Dish

Happy New Year to everybody! I am back!!! Hard to get started once again after this longish holiday. It’s been eight days now since we have let 2014 in and it is time we get down to some serious work, don’t you think?

Talking in class about food related things after some huge binge eating and drinking is not precisely what appeals to me most, but unfortunately I cannot choose.
This is an activity I am going to do with my Elementary students after some serious work practising food vocabulary.

The activity is simple. The students are sitting in pairs, one student facing the board and the other with his back to the board. Using the OHP, a picture of a popular dish is displayed. Now, the person seeing the picture has to describe it in as much detail as possible, talking about its ingredients and the way it is cooked and the other person has to guess the dish. Allow them two or three minutes and then display another picture for the other student to do the same. Below are some slides with the  dishes that I am going to use.

Some useful vocab they are likely to use

Nouns: pan, cinnamon, olives, tuna, blood sausage,

Verbs: to beat eggs, to fry, to boil, to add,  to stir with a spoon,to slice (apples)

Traditional Recipes from Asturias

.”Better late than never” or so they say.
This booklet with Traditional Recipes from Asturias was written with lots of love by my former students from the bilingual stream at IES Cesar Rodríguez and with great memories of these amazing students I fulfill my promise . I only hope you are still reading this blog, one year later!

I have used the highly recommendable tool issuu . Click to enlarge.

Word of the Day: to Lose Weight

Never have  I seen so many people around me trying to lose some weight . Spring must be the season when we realize there is no way we will be able to  hide our love handles (excess fat around the hips and buttocks, sometimes also called saddle bags– I imagine they are called  this way  when they are  big and ugly) .

Anyway, when it is not summertime and you’re not looking your best, you can always use this funny tool  to make you look thinner, even though you haven’t bothered to go on a diet to lose a bit of weight or go to the gym to sweat off your excess of baggage in the treadmill.

The tool I was telling you about is called slimpic.com and with only a few clicks, you can make yourself or someone in your pictures gain or lose weight (the point  here is losing weight, we don’t need to go to the Internet searching for tools to make us look uglier, do we?).

Me, before and with 10kgs less! if only it were so easy!

Good table manners help dieting

If only I had known first I’d have paid more attention to my mother when she persistently tried to teach me and my siblings good table manners, but when you are a child you can’t see the point of not getting a bit of fun out of flinging crusts of bread, making a mashed potato snowman or getting my brother and sisters’ hair red with tomato sauce (my mother would have never allowed ketchup to enter her kitchen).  

My mother was educated in a nun’s school. It was a time when subjects such as Maths or Languages were not as important as knowing how to knit or embroider. In a way it wasn’t as different as the education received by the female characters depicted in “Jane Eyre” by Charlote Brontë or in “Pride and Prejudice”  by my very much admired Jane Austen.

One of the things my mother was taught was good table manners and since me and my siblings were very young we were insistently reminded of  things such as keeping elbows off the table, eating small bites, sitting straight, placing the napkin on our laps and …. a long etc I’m not going to bore you to death with.
What I didn’t know and have just found out is that good table manners can help you lose weight so as I’m a bit on the plumpish side my mother might not have taught me so well.
That’s why I have paid careful attention to this video where Jill, Duchess of Hamilton, an Australian and an etiquette expert, explains how good table manners can help you lose weight.
Watch the video here and do the activity

If you are interested in this theme, Click here to see a whole lesson plan I have prepared for my pre-intermediate students on Restaurants and Food.

Related Posts:

What’s a “veggie”?

…a pescatarian

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