Tag Archives: picture description

Oral Exam: Monologue Based on One or More Pictures. Some Tips and Ideas to Get Started

In the intermediate and more advanced exam you will be presented with one, two or more pictures about the same topic but in clear contrast. It’s important to remember that you are not supposed to give a detailed description of everything that is happening in the picture(s). On the contrary, what is important is that you talk about the topic or idea suggested in the picture(s). If you are given  for example 3 minutes to talk, use just one minute of this time to describe in general, using appropriate language and structures; the rest of the time should be dedicated to talking about the topic and giving your opinion.

BEFORE THE EXAM

  • Make a list of the most common topics asked in the exam.
  • Brainstorm vocabulary you can use related to this topic. Mind mapping works perfect here. I use the free site Goconqr.

Mapa Mental creado con GoConqr por Cristina Cabal

  • Practise using sets of pictures in contrast. You can use my own selection here. (Scroll down)
  • If your problem is that you never know what to say, I suggest you have a look at some conversation questions you might be asked about the given topic. It will probably help you get started. Have a look at some common topics with questions here.
  • Listen to other students taking the exam (for example here) or read some examples here (fashion, global warming, jobs, new technologies and food)
  • Time yourself to control the time it takes you to develop your ideas.
  • Record yourself and then listen to the recording and see how you can improve it. You can use the app Soundcloud, which allows you to stop the recording and write comments.

(You can write a comment on a track through the text box below the waveform that says ‘Write a comment…’ and press your return or enter key to send. The comment will appear at the point on the waveform where you first started typing. Alternatively, you can click any free space in the comment section to leave a comment at that specific point)

  • The day before the exam, revise all the topics and the vocabulary you can use.
  • Half an hour before the exam, don’t speak your mother tongue. Spend the time listening, doing some silent reading or pronunciation exercises in English.

DURING THE EXAM

Before you start speaking:

  • If you are allowed 1 minute to organise your ideas, use that minute. I have often seen candidates not taking this minute and making a mess of the exam just because they didn’t take the time to organise their ideas.
  • Scan the pictures and identify the topic. Sometimes there is a title or a heading that helps you.
  • Try to come up with three ideas about the topic suggested by the pictures. Expand on these ideas.

Taking the exam:

  • Begin by giving an overall idea of what the pictures are about, using a variety of structures, modals to indicate possibility and the useful “look” or “seem”.
  • Talk about the topic. It’s easier if you relate it to yourself, but if you don’t have this experience, talk about a friend’s or just lie. This is an English exam, not a lie detector.

via GIPHY

 

  • Develop your ideas. Try to use linkers to connect your ideas.
  • Don’t give too complicated explanations. I’m sorry to say, you’ll probably make mistakes.
  • Give your opinion. Say which one you prefer and why.

Some expressions you can use:

Remember it’s better if you start by giving a general idea of what the pictures are about.  Don’t start like this:

In the first picture I can see

Start like this:

  • In this worksheet there are two photos. They both show different ways of (shopping).
  • These photos are clearly both connected to the topic of (science)… but in two quite different contexts. In the first one… In contrast, the second picture shows…
  • The photo/picture shows …
  • The first thing that strikes me about this picture is…

 

Remember that you are describing a picture, so you cannot be 100% sure of what is happening. Use language that suggests this:

  •  I think…
  • Maybe / Perhaps…
  • I guess they are…
  •  Modal verbs of deduction: she must / can’t /
  • Modal verbs of possibility: could, may, might
  •  She looks/seems… (tired)/ She looks like … (a teacher). It looks/seems as if (it’s raining)

PRACTICE.

Go to http://www.cristinacabal.com/?page_id=4906  and scroll down to the section SET OF PICTURES FOR PRACTICE and just “practise”. “A  lot!” 🙂

 

Lesson Plan: the 44th and 45th USA Presidents

As I was browsing the Teaching English- British Council facebook page (posts from visitors) I came across a lesson by Sean Banville, the owner of some popular sites like Breakingnewsenglish.com and Famous People lessons.com.

Mr Banville has put together a very timely lesson about Donald Trump and it got me thinking how I could best use it with my students. Fortunately, this prolific writer had also published a lesson about Barack Obama. So, I had everything I needed to tweak his lessons and adjust it to the way I teach. I just needed to ask for his permission, which he kindly gave me.


Level: Upper-Intermediate

Aim: This timely lesson aims at offering students the opportunity to discuss a current event and therefore boost their motivation to learn English. Students will get listening practice, learn new vocabulary and improve their communicative skills.

Materials:

 


STEP 1.Warm up.

Predicting. Write the following words on the board and ask students to guess what the activity is going to be about.

politician, businessman, wealthy, Republican, Democratic, controversial

Speaking

  • Show the picture of Donald Trump and ask students in pairs to share any information they have about the new president of the USA.
  • Slide the juxtapose, (that’s how the sliding picture below is called) and show the image of Barack Obama. Again, ask students to share what they know about the former president of the USA.

 


STEP 2. Listening

Divide the class into As and Bs. Tell As they are going to listen to some information about Barack Obama. Tell Bs  they are going to listen to some information about Donald Trump.

Give student A a photocopy containing Obama’s exercises for Listening Gap Fill and Synonym Match  and give student B a photocopy containing Trump’s exercises for Listening Gap Fill and Synonym Match. (see links above)

Procedure: Play Obama once and ask student A to fill in the gaps with the words they hear. Play Trump once and ask students to do the same. Play each part one or twice more, depending on the level of your students. Correct both exercises, teach any vocabulary they don’t know and drill pronunciation.


STEP 3.Working on Vocabulary

Ask students to do the Synonym Match exercise in their photocopies. Point out that this exercise is very important as they will need to use some of this vocabulary in the next exercise.


STEP 4. Building a word cloud with students’ suggestions.

Tell students that they will now have to read their part several times as the next step will be retelling their text in as much detail as possible. As they read, ask them to underline any key words that might help them retell their biography.

Open Wordle (it works better on Firefox) and ask students A to help you feed the word cloud with the words they have underlined. Open a new tab and do the same with student B.

Alternatively you can use mine 😉

OBAMA

 

TRUMP


Step 5. Retelling

Pair up student A and student B. Display the word cloud for Obama and ask student A to retell Obama’s biography in as much detail as possible and using the prompts in the cloud. Repeat procedure for student B.


Step 6. Homework

Check out the creative suggestions Sean gives for homework.


Hope you have enjoyed the lesson!

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Revising Simple Past,Used to and Would with some Engaging Activities

This lesson has been designed as a next-day revision activity for B2 (Intermediate +) students.

Aim: to consolidate the use of Past Simple, Used to and Would for past habits and routines.

Level: B2 (Intermediate+)

In this lesson you will find.

  • Grammar and exercises
  • Speaking: Picture discussion in pairs
  • Speaking: an advert from a popular drink comparing past and present
  • Writing: a fun writing game
  • Speaking: bits of your childhood

STEP 1. Grammar.

The use of these three verb forms to express past habits and routines can be a bit confusing for students, so in this class I am aiming at some revision to clarify concepts. Assuming students have already studied formation rules, the focus is now on use.

PDF with exercises here.

STEP 2.Picture description. Speaking.

Display the picture of a family in the past and ask students, in pairs, to discuss the differences they can see and the differences they can guess exist between the family shown in the picture and their own family.  Encourage students to use the targeted grammar.

Get feedback

STEP3. The video. Speaking.

  • Tell students they are going to watch a video. Explain there will be no comprehension questions as there is no dialogue.
  • Ask students to give you a brief description of what they have seen.
  • Explain that the advert is called “Grandpa” and it tries to show that the lifestyle enjoyed by our grandparents — moving more, eating well, taking it easy — can be beneficial.
  • Students will see the video twice more and  their task is to write down any differences they can see between the man today and his grandfather.
  • Once students have completed this task, ask them to work in pairs commenting on the differences they have seen in the video encouraging them,once again,to use the targeted grammar point: the use of simple past, would and used to to talk about past habits and routines.
  • Encourage discussion of the following points
  1. healthy eating
  2. stress
  3. working conditions
  4. means of transport
  5. relationships
  6. habits

STEP 4. Writing game: I have retired

Target language: Used To, Would and Simple Past Tense to describe past habits, states and routines

Preparation: none

Procedure:

Set the context: tell students they have to imagine they are 70 and retired. They are happier in retirement than when they were working but there are some things that they still miss.

Students, in pairs or in threes, choose the job they used to have.

Students will need to produce four sentences using the targeted language, giving clues for the other groups to guess their job.

  • sentences can be positive or negative
  • the first sentence will contain the clue most difficult to guess
  • the last sentence will contain the easiest clue
  • The first sentence will be awarded 4 points and the last one 1 point

Each group will name a spokesperson who will read out the clues. It’s important, at this stage, to ask students to speak up and clearly. Some rules:

  • The spokesperson will read the first sentence and the other groups will raise a hand if they think they know the answer.
  • Only one guess is allowed for each clue
  • If the answer is correct, they will be awarded the four points, if it is not, the second clue will be read for three points.

Example

  • 4 points. I would work with a lot of people
  • 3 points. I worked after “work”, mainly at home.
  • 2 points. I used my voice a lot
  • 1 point. I used to work with children

How many clues did you need to hear??  Yes, the answer is TEACHER

STEP 5. Bits of your childhood. Speaking in small groups.

Ask students to think about their life at the age of 10.

Give students a list of things they might want to talk about.

Ask students to think about what they will say and the language they will need. Allow some minutes for preparation.

  • Where did you use to live?
  • Did your life use to be very different to how it is now?
  • Where did you use to go to school? Do you remember any of your teachers? Did you have any favourite teachers?
  • Did you use to get good marks? Did you have a favourite subject?
  • What did you use to do after school?
  • Where did you use to play? Do you remember who your friends were? Did you have a best friend?
  • Can you remember your favourite game?
  • At lunchtime, did you use to like the food? Did you use to eat with your parents?
  • What was your greatest wish? Can you remember?

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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.

Adjectives

  • 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

 

Verbs

  • 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

Nouns

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

STEP 2. LISTENING COMPREHENSION 

  • 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 .

EATING OUT IS NEVER A HEALTHY OPTION. Do you agree?

 

  • 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?

STEP 4. WRITING

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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Picture Description Intermediate: New Technologies and Food

Once again I thank my students for  kindly contributing to this blog. These  two examples of Picture Description have been sent by Noelia and Carmen from the Intermediate Level.

Thank you girls! Well done!

FOOD by Carmen Gayol

These pictures are clearly both connected with the topic of food.

The picture on the left shows two women who are cooking in a kitchen. One of them is younger than the other, but they seem to  get on well; I’d say that they have a lot in common, they could  be mother and daughter or have  a close relationship.

In the picture on the right, we can see a young couple eating. I think they are in a restaurant, an oriental restaurant because the decoration that can be seen in the background.

 We all need to eat to live, but It‘s clear that the food, in our society, is something more than nutrition. Nowadays, we all use the meals to socialize. We have family meals, business meal, and we all enjoy eating with friends.

Sometimes we prefer eating at home, like in the photo on the left, but other times, we eat out.

However, the main problem isn’t where, but what we eat. In my view, today people tend to eat fast food because they don’t have enough time to prepare a meal and they are always in a hurry. This food isn`t   always healthy, it is many times junk food which contains many calories and carbohydrates and there is a good chance  people will get overweight.

If I had to choose one of the photos, I’m sure I’d choose the first, because it makes me remember old times with my mother , and in addition, I believe that it’s a good way to enjoy eating and cooking.

INTERNET AND THE NEW TECHNOLOGIES by Noelia Espinosa

These two pictures show a connection with the topic of new technologies ,especially with the  internet.

In the first photo there is a woman sitting behind  a desktop and she has a tablet between her hands; probably she is in an office, maybe her workplace. In the second one, a little girl looks as if  she is surfing the internet and she  seems very interested in what she is seeing.  Although I can´t be sure ,I think  she is at home.

Nowadays, both pictures are very common in daily life, although in different ways. The first one shows a typical day at work in all the offices in the world.It is generally accepted that today no company would be operative without the  internet and the  new technologies because they would be unconnected and inefficient. And in the second one, children tend to be connected to the internet every day. When I was child, there was no internet, mobiles or computers, only some privileged people could afford them, but I was very happy playing traditional games with my friends in the street, for example with a  ball,  my dolls …

In my opinion, internet is very important in our lives, I couldn´t live without my mobile, my laptop etc… everybody surfs the net, everybody knows Facebook and even some people work vía Internet. However, I believe sometimes it could be dangerous especially in teenagers and children because there are parents who don´t control what their children are uploading or downloading onto the web and who their children are in  touch with.

You might also find  this section interesting. Check it out!

SPEAKING:PICTURE DESCRIPTION

 

 

Picture Description: Speculating

Picture Description is an important part of the Oral Exam and it needs to be practised. Two weeks ago, I published a post containing Some Useful Guidelines and Techniques for Picture Description that you might want to read.

One of the things that you need to take into account when describing a picture is that you cannot be 100% sure what is happening in the picture. Therefore, you need to use appropriate language to show you  are guessing. You have to speculate about the pictures For example: He is likely to / she’ll probably find it quite tough… etc

Some structures you can use:

  • Look as if + sentence/ Seem as if + sentence : he looks as if / seems as if he is looking for something
  • Seem + to infinitive: he seems to be tired/ he seems to be having a great time
  • Look/ Seem + adjective: They look/ seem quite tired
  • Appear + to infinitive : She doesn’t  appear to be concentrated on what she’s doing

Some modal verbs  you can use.

  • Must : for positive deduction. He must be happy because he’s smiling. The photo must have been taken in summer.
  • Can’t : for negative deduction. He can’t be going to school because he is not carrying books.
  • May/ Might/Could : for posibility. He could be telling her something she doesn’t like. The photo might have been taken in winter as they are wearing winter clothes.

Words like : perhaps, maybe…

Let’s listen to an example now.

You’ll hear a girl called Magda practising this part of the Speaking test

 

Source: Complete First Certificate  by Cambridge

Preparing for the Oral Exam? Some Useful Guidelines and Techniques for Describing Pictures

For better or for worse the course is coming to an end and exams are just here. I can almost see them beckoning me and you. I am ready, the question is … are you?

In the oral exam you’ll have to  demonstrate your speaking skills as well as your ability to communicate and for this, it is essential that you practise… a lot. 

Here are some Guidelines and Techniques  to help you score a high mark in the Picture Description  Part of the exam. I hope they are helpful!!

Click here to download the pdf

Click here to see the Slideshare 

♥Click here to see the presentation mode of the Infographic below

 

 

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Picture Description: Homes 2

In this post you’ll find some  material to practise describing two pictures about Houses/Rooms in a House. There is some useful vocabulary  and expressions as well as  two different sets of pictures  with some questions that might give you some ideas of what you need to talk about in this part of the exam. Remember that you’ll  need to practise describing , comparing and giving opinion . Download the pdf here

To see an example of two students doing this exercise, go to Pictures Description Homes : Part 1

For further practice, visit the Picture Description Section in this blog.

Step1. Study this vocabulary and expressions before you start describing.   Useful Expressions:

  • It is too expensive for me to rent/buy a house
  • decorate in my own taste
  • a place of my own
  • live on my own
  • can’t afford to rent
  •  crowded with furniture
  • the room is airy and light

Special Attention to Prepositions:

  • live in a city/the country
  • live on the outskirts of a city
  • live on the north coast
  • live on the second floor

Types of Houses

  • a detached house
  • a semidetached house
  • terraced houses
  • cottage
  • bungalo
  • block of flats
  • a motor house
  • skyscraper
  • a mansion
  • a house boat

Step 2. Practice 1: Describe, compare and give opinion Some ideas to help you:

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of living in a house or a flat?
  • How many different homes have you lived in? Which did you prefer?
  • What do you think about people keeping big dogs in flats?
  • What is your relationship with your neighbours?
  • What is your general feeling about the architecture in your local area?

  Step 2. Practice 2: Describe, compare and give opinion   Some ideas to help you:

  • Do you have a lot of decorations in your home or is it bare?
  • What would you say the decoration style of your home is?
  • What would your ideal house or apartment look like?
  • Is your home clean? Are you a very organized person?

 

Picture Description: Homes 1

Resting on your laurels? No way!  Finals are fast approaching!! Time to give your English a final push!

Here you have another example of picture description. This time the theme is Houses.

Remember that in the  Oral Exam you’ll be shown two ( sometimes three) theme-related photographs ( eg types of houses). You’ll be asked to describe and compare them and to talk about them in relation to yourself for a short time (approx 3 min.)

More examples and practise here

 

 

Source: Premium B2

 

 

 

 

Lesson Plan : Money

Level: Intermediate

Step 1.  Warm up

A: Students watch the video. Unless they beg for more, I would just play  the first  15 seconds, enough for students to focus on the pronunciation of the word “money”  which  they tend to mispronounce, and on the  chorus  Money makes the World Go Round, which students will later need to discuss.

B: This second warm up is a great one. I got it straight from George Chilton‘s blog Designer Lessons  I copy/paste from him- , which I highly recommend.

Ask your students how they would spend a day in their city/town/village without spending any money. What activities could they do? They’re not allowed to stay at home, they have to be out of the house for the whole day.

Put them in small groups and get them to come up with a plan of the day – from 10am until 8pm. Conditions – They are allowed to drink water from city water fountains and any food that they find. They should present their plans at the end of this activity.

Step 2. A Bit of Fun with Translation.

Previous to this exercise students have  studied  Vocabulary related  to money, so now it’s their time to show what they have learned.

Students work in  pairs or in threes. To make things easier for me, I’ll provide them with slips of paper so that when the time’s up they can raise it up and I can have a quick check. Sentences with mistakes will be automatically discarded and the correct translations will get one point. Time limit: 90 seconds.

 

Step 3. Speaking. Speed Dating Technique.

♥Photo and explanation of the  here 

♥Money Questions here

 

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