Tag Archives: tips

Five Steps to Writing an Excellent Opinion Essay

Doesn’t the title itself already encourage you to start writing straight away? Just kidding! I guess you need a  stronger push than just a title.  Well, I can provide this little push in the form of real examples of my students’ essays after following all these 5 steps. Just skip to Step 4 if you don’t believe me and bear in mind when you read their essays, they are B1 (intermediate) students.


Step 1. The difference between an opinion essay and a persuasive essay.

Opinion essay: in an opinion essay the writer states his opinion and supports it with facts, evidence and examples but he doesn’t try to convince the reader.

Persuasive essay: in a persuasive essay the writer tries to convince the reader to agree with his opinion. The author uses logic and facts, definitions and examples in order to persuade the reader to share his point of view.


Step 2. Top tips for writing an opinion essay

1 Basic do’s when writing an opinion essay

  • Introduce each paragraph with a topic sentence, outlining the main ideas.
  • Do not write about advantages or disadvantages or points for or against.
  • Write in formal style.

2. Basic don’ts when writing an opinion essay

  • Don’t use colloquial expressions.
  • Don’t use short forms.
  • Don’t use emotive vocabulary.

3. Decide whether you agree or disagree with the title. Try to think of at least two or three good reasons to support your opinion, including examples of why you think the alternative point of view is wrong.

4. Organise your essay into clear paragraphs.

  • Introduction: Introduce the topic and give your opinion. Say whether you agree or disagree with the statement.
  • Body: 2 or 3 paragraphs. For each paragraph give a reason to support your opinion.
  • Conclusion: Summarize your ideas and repeat your opinion using different words.

5.  There is a process to writing. Try to follow it. It will help you a lot


Step 3. Useful expressions and linkers

 

Download the pdf here


Step 4. Examples of opinion essays written by B1 students

Three essays written by B1 students to help you get started.


Step 5.  22 opinion essays to choose from

Your turn!  Choose from one of the options and write an opinion essay.

Plan your content and organise it in four or five paragraphs (introduction, reasons and conclusion).

Tips and Links to Prepare for the Oral Exam at Home

I love trying new tools and today I’m trying Wideo, which is a tool which lets you create beautiful animated video content in a very easy way. Although I’ll write about some of  its pros and cons below, the reason why I’ve chosen Wideo today is because I needed a tool that allowed me to insert interactive buttons in an easy way and Wideo is perfect for this.

So, here’s the video: Tips and Links to Prepare for the Oral Exam at Home

Play the video. It will stop where interactive buttons are provided (last two slides). Click to resume the video.

What I like about this tool:

  • it’s free, easy to use and very intuitive.
  • It provides free video hosting
  • Lots of professionally-designed templates to choose from
  • You can upload your own picture, music and background images
  • You can add interactive elements (clickable buttons and contact forms)
  • It provided a unique url and an embed code
  • You can switch from video mode to presentation mode for slide-by-slide presentation.

 What I don’t like:
    • Time limit: on a free plan, the length of the videos is restricted to 3o seconds.
    • You have to pay to download your video

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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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What Type of Learner are you?

Have you ever asked yourself how you revise for an exam or how you learned English irregular verbs? Read through the traits and identify the kind of learner you are and  the kind of activities that will help you best in your learning process.

Every learner has one primary learning mode. Your learning mode or learning style is just the way you learn best. People learn using a variety of these modes depending on the task, but there is one  that is normally predominant. Therefore, identifying it as soon as possible is important to help you learn better and faster.

There are three main learning modes and there are traits for each type of learner.

  • The visual learner prefers learning by seeing and watching
  • The auditory learner prefers learning by hearing
  • The kinaesthetic learner prefers learning by doing, touching and interacting

Which type of learner are you? Read through the traits and identify the kind of learner you are and the kind of activities that will help you best in your learning process.

Auditory learners:

  • You like traditional teaching techniques
  • You like to learn things by hearing them or saying them.
  • You prefer listening to a book on tape to reading it
  • You prefer telling stories to writing or acting them out
  • You like drilling and pronunciation practice
  • You like listening tasks
  • You like music
  • You love discussions
  • You talk better than you write
  • You like giving speeches and oral reports

If you fall into this category, then doing the following will help you learn more easily

  • Pay attention in class
  • Make recordings of learning material
  • Repeat facts with your eyes closed
  • Ask questions
  • Explain the subject matter to another student
  • Record lectures
  • Participate in group discussions
  • Study in a quiet place

Visual learners:

  • You learn by seeing and watching
  • You like infographics, pictures, diagrams, films
  • You are well organised
  • You are quiet and observant
  • You need an overall view and purpose
  • You may have some difficulties with verbal instructions
  • You like to read and  write stories more than telling them or acting them out.

If you fall into this category, then doing the following will help you learn more easily

  • Copying from the board
  • Writing down everything the teacher says
  • Highlighting key information in the textbook
  • Keeping a lexical notebook
  • Making mind maps
  • Using flashcards
  • Watching videos
  • You can also learn easily from infographics, posters, charts, maps, and photographs.
  • The best way for you to study is by looking at flash cards or some sort of paper that has the information written on it

Kinaesthetic learners:

  • You learn things by doing, touching, feeling, experimenting, moving
  • You learn by trial and error
  • You like to memorize things by acting them out or doing them
  • You prefer playing some kind of game to reading or listening to a book
  • You like sequencing tasks
  • You respond to physical rewards
  • You point when reading
  • You make gestures when you are learning
  • You like action-oriented books

If you fall into this category, then doing the following will help you learn more easily

  • Direct involvement
  • Hands-on activities
  • Demonstrations
  • Using realia
  • Doing pair/group work
  • Doing role-plays
  • Team games and competitions
  • Working with Cuisenaire rods
  • Mimicking to guess  vocabulary
  • Standing up and moving around

As teachers, we need to bear in mind that in our classes there are different kinds of learners. Therefore, we need to incorporate different teaching strategies to reach every one of them.

What I hear, I forget.

What I hear and see, I remember a little.

What I hear, see, and ask questions about or discuss with someone else, I begin to understand.

What I hear, see, discuss, and do, I acquire knowledge and skill.

What I teach to another, I master. (Silberman, 1996)

The more actively engaged a learner is with the content, the better she learns and the more she remembers.

Thanks for reading!

References:

  • Schunk, D. H. & Zimmerman, B. J.. Self-Regulated Learning: From Teaching to Self-Reflective Practice. Guilford Press.
  • Silberman, M. Active Learning: 101 Strategies to Teach Any Subject. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

 

Hints on Blank Filling Listening Comprehensions+ 2 Listening Activities

In this kind of listenings  you don’t need to write  a full sentence to give the correct answer.
Normally there is a maximum of three  words to complete notes, statements or questions.

In these exercises it is very helpful to:

And don’t forget to read the completed sentences to make sure the words fit grammatically  🙂

PRACTICE 1

 

Source: Cambridge FC Practice Tests
PRACTICE 2
Source: Cambridge Complete First Certificate

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Preparing for Listening: Focus on Distractors.

In a Multiple Choice Listening  you need a bit of attention. In this kind of listening exercises there are always words and expressions which are designed to distract students from the correct answer. If you don’t know about these distractors, you are likely to be misled by them and choose the wrong answer.

The most important thing in this kind of listening exercises is to read the questions carefully. You are always given some time to read  through questions and answers, use that time. Listen very carefully to the details and make sure the answer you choose really matches what the question has asked you. It’s important to concentrate on understanding in detail .

♥Let’s look at an example

How long has Liz been snowboarding?

a. One year          b. five years            c. every year since she was a child.

The underlined words in the transcript  all appear in the possible answers a, b or c, but only one answer is correct. The other words are distractors.

♥Read the transcript, choose the right answer and say why the other are not correct

I first did it when I was on holiday with my parents- When I was younger I used to go skiing every year with them and then one year I tried snowboarding and I haven’t skied since then. That was 5 years ago.

These extracts have been taken from Listening Comprehensions. The distractors are in bold. Read them and then answer the questions

A. My brother was so scared he couldn’t watch the film whereas I didn’t find it at all frightening. ♥Is the speaker frightened by the film?

B. Although most critics agreed that the film was her best ever , I was rather disappointed by her performance.  ♥ Did the speaker love the film?

C. Although snow is now unlikely, we can expect a certain amount of rain later on.   ♥ Does the speaker think it will rain or snow?

D. My daughter wanted me to help her with her homework but I told her to ask her mother.   ♥ Did the speaker help his daughter?

E. Whereas in most of her other film she plays the “baddie”  in this one he’s definitely the good guy. ♥ Does the speaker say the actor is the villain or the hero in the film?

Answers: A. no   B. no   C. rain   D.no   E. the hero

Now, let’s do some practice.

You will hear  people talking in 8 different situations. For each question, choose the best answer.

 

 

Source: Ready for First Certificate and Cambridge FC Practice Tests 1

Conversation Fillers: Give Yourself Some Time to Think!

In class, my students do a lot of mock speaking exams.

Picture description is fairly easy for the student to control as he is on his own, with no interference from the teacher and he can, to a certain extent,  know in advance how he is going to structure his description. No worries here!

(See some useful guidelines and techniques for Picture Description here)

The Interaction between the teacher and the student is the part of the exam that causes more stress and anxiety. The student doesn’t know what he’s going to be asked about and sometimes students find it difficult to get started and gather their thoughts. Some students are very clever and very quick at  organising  the answer in their minds; I would say it comes naturally to them, while other students need more time to think of a coherent argument. Unfortunately, most students fall into the second category and they need all the advice we can offer them.

There are some  techniques you can use to give yourself some time to think about what you are going to say, but I would advise you to use them in a sensible way and make sure you don’t answer  every question with a filler, as you will certainly run the risk of sounding  very unnatural.

♥Use the typical filler sounds:

-ah, mm, um, uh,

Repeat the question:

-” Umm … What would be my ideal job??? Well…”

Pretend you haven’t understood the question:

-” Could you repeat the question, please?”

-“Sorry, I didn’t hear what you said. Could you repeat the question?”

Express a lack of opinion:

“I’m afraid I don’t know much about it!”

-“It’s difficult to say!”

-“I have never really thought about it!”

-“Well, I don’t know, but I think /people say…”

Hope it helps you!! And remember USE WITH CAUTION!

If you are studying, yes, “studying ” for the oral test, you might be interested in this other post. Tips to Score High in the Oral Test 

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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