25 BBC Podcasts for Advanced English Learners

See on Scoop.itDavid Bradshaw ESOL

When my high-level students tell me they want to improve their listening skills, I always tell them to listen to PODCASTS! Podcasts are a fantastic way to improve your understanding of spoken English.

David Bradshaw‘s insight:

For high-level students it is vital that they have access to authentic English texts, both written and spoken, so this is great for them.

Picture dictations

Day five of the Five days five posts series, and unfortunately this is just post four. I’m writing this on the train bound for Córdoba, where I am giving a workshop on speaking activities for teenagers at the XIV Jornadas CETA (Córdoba English Teachers Association).

For this post I’m moving away from working with video, and focusing on one of the activities I’m going to use in my workshop this afternoon. In the PET speaking exam, students are given a photograph and asked to describe it. Many candidates simply give a list of things that come in the photograph, but stronger candidates distinguish themselves by organizing their descriptions in a more orderly way. This activity is a simple way of helping them to achieve a more organized way of describing a scene.

I begin this activity by revising prepositions of place and ways of describing position in a picture – at the top, at the bottom, in the top right corner, etc. then we describe a photograph together as a class, to make sure they are using the vocabulary correctly.

Then the students are seated in pairs, back to back. One of them is given a photograph and is asked to describe it to their partner. The partner has to draw the picture as it is being described. The student describing the picture has their back to the other student so that s/he cannot make adjustment to the picture which is being drawn. The other student only has their partner’s words to guide them as they draw. If they are unclear about a detail, they can ask for clarification, and in that way they help their partner to structure a description in a more logical way. Once the description is finished, they compare their pictures with the original photograph. Then they change places and the exercise is repeated.

The pictures can be of anything, so it is a good idea to tie them in with the topic which you are covering in class at the time (a good source of free pictures is www.eltpics.com). If possible, I like to project the photograph on the IWB, which means that everyone is describing the same picture at the same time, as this allows them to compare their drawings not only with the original but also with those of their classmates, and this can be quite motivating. If this is not possible, photographs cut from colour magazines work just as well, and the students can be asked to bring the photos in themselves, which saves on preparation time. A good tip is to keep any photos they bring in in an envelope in class, so that fast finishers can repeat the exercise in future classes.

Let’s Share: Teaching Writing to Young Learners | Oxford University Press

Here’s a link to another post about teaching writing, this time a webinar about teaching writing for young learners:

child writing


Margaret Thatcher ESOL / Critical Thinking Activity: Lesson plan

margaret-thatcher-photoLEVEL: Upper-Intermediate – Advanced (B2 – C2)

TYPES OF ACTIVITY: Speaking; Debate; Compare and Contrast; Essay writing.

OBJECTIVES: The principal objective of this lesson is to help students to develop critical thinking skills while comparing and contrasting two important world leaders. The activity models a structured approach to developing ideas for a writing task or for a class debate

To begin the class, write the following statement on the board:

‘For a leader, it is more important to be strong than to be liked’

Allow the students a couple of minutes’ thinking time, then have them discuss this statement in pairs, focusing on the personal qualities which they consider a leader should have. Once they have done this, join the pairs into groups of four and have them share their ideas. Then each group should report to the class, and an opportunity given to respond and comment. Possible lines of discussion to explore could be the difference between totalitarian and elected leaders, or the difference between being admired and being liked.

Tell the students they are going to read a short biography of a famous leader, and they have to make notes on the main points of the person’s life and decide what qualities they had as a leader. Give half of the class Worksheet A: Margaret Thatcher, and the other half of the class Worksheet B: Mahatma Gandhi. (Here is a link to the worksheets.)

Allow the students to compare their notes with another student working on the same worksheet. Then place the students in pairs with someone who worked on the other worksheet.

First, each student explains the main points of the biography of their leader, and suggests which personal qualities that leader had. Then the students work together to find differences and similarities between the two leaders, recording their answers on a graphic organizer such as a Venn diagram. They should focus on the personal qualities that make each leader different and which personal qualities they have in common, as well as the differences and similarities in their political and social situations.

Once the differences and similarities have been identified, each pair of students must decide which of these can be considered significant in the development of the leader, and draw conclusions about leadership from these significant similarities and differences.

There are different possibilities for a final task to this activity. One possibility would be to ask the students to write an opinion essay with the title ‘What makes a leader great?’ The students would use their notes and ideas from the discussion phase to illustrate their ideas, and to inform their analysis of different leadership styles.

Another possibility is for each pair of students to prepare an oral presentation on the two leaders, focusing on the similarities and differences in their personal qualities. For the presentations, the students should be encouraged to find further information about the personalities and political and social contexts of the two leaders, including recordings of them speaking about their ideas and policies.

Advanced English Interviews

One of the things which many exam candidates find difficult to do is to acknowledge their partner’s contributions in the collaborative task before launching into their own idea. Here is a resource to help them to improve this area.

Speech bubbles


Multiple choice listening – Wuhan University -Dominic Cole’s IELTS and Beyond

One of the important skills our exam students need to develop is the ability to identify and avoid the distractors which are included in listening tests. In this post, Dominic Cole explains how to develop this skill:

science of listening