Monthly Archives: November 2011

C1 – CAE Writing – Feedback on texts written in class on 23rd November 2011

On Wednesday last week you spent most of the class writing articles and competition entries.  CAE/Cambridge Advanced texts for which the imagined audience would be a magazine reader.

Having read the texts you wrote I was very impressed by the content of the pieces.  You all made some insightful and interesting observations about the topics you wrote about.

The three options were as follows:

  • A competition entry saying why the printed book will never die despite the rise of the ebook (3 of you chose this option)
  • An article about the type of secondary education young people need (broad v specalist) (the most popular choice – 4 of you wrote about this)
  • A competition entry/article about the impact on people of the amount of information we receive and process on a daily basis with particular attention paid to the availability of the news (2 of you chose this one)

In class today you will receive some individual feedback on the texts you wrote.  These will offer some comments on the strengths of your texts as well as some suggested areas to work on.

If you agree, I would like you to treat the original text as a first draft of the final piece rather than the final, finished product itself.

This is, after all, how articles would be treated in their natural environment of newspaper and magazine offices.  Writers would compose their piece before setting about tidying it up, rephrasing certain points, getting feedback from editors etc.  Things you didn’t have time to do in class.

So, based on the feedback I give you and your own thoughts on re-reading your work, I think it would be valuable to revisit the texts and produce a second-improved version.

Vocabulary focus:

One of the strengths of the texts overall was the range of topic related vocabulary.  However, that’s not to say we couldn’t widen the range even further.  Here are some words or phrases that might fit into the texts.

Classify them according to the three options above.

  • wall-to-wall / rolling / 24 hour news coverage
  • to land (get) a job
  • prime-time TV
  • overload (noun)
  • a thirst for knowledge
  • available at the touch of button
  • a news bulletin / update
  • current affairs
  • life-skills
  • academic background
  • under threat of extinction
  • saturation (noun)
  • meet the demands of the jobs market
  • live up to the expectations of employers
  • there’s something special about the touch/feel/smell/texture etc. of a ?

Reading/Listening/Watching around the topics:

A few links that may generate a few more ideas…

Feel free to post anything you come across on the web that might be relevant to these topics.


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Travel videos – pick a destination

Following up on one of the CAE Writing tasks we looked at in class this term, a contribution to a tourist guide, here are some potential sources for building up some words, expressions, collocations that could be used in texts of these kinds.

In the ‘My City’ series of videos from The Guardian newspaper, residents of various cities give you a guided tour of their favourite spots.  They are basically doing what you did in your ‘Coimbra – Off the beaten track’ texts.

Choose a destination, make a note of any interesting phrases you hear, post them back as comments so other people can check out the phrases you found.


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Filed under C1 / CAE Writing, C1+ Vocabulary, Topic - Travel

C1 Vocabulary / CAE Use of English Part 4 – More expressions with “head”

An earlier post included a look at the expression ‘off the top of my head‘ to talk about an idea or answer that you think of spontaneously or cannot give because you need to investigate the information.  Here are some examples:

  • How many times has Mourinho won a national league title?  I’m not sure, I’d have to check but off the top of my head I’d say at least 5.
  • I don’t know the total population of Portugal off the top of my head, I’ll have to look it up.
  • Off the top of my head I couldn’t tell you which athlete holds the most Olympic gold medals, I’ll take a guess and say Carl Lewis?
  • I haven’t thought about this too much, but off the top of my head, here are my top 5 music videos of all time…
  • My Five Favorite Songs about Los Angeles (off the top of my head.)
Each of the examples suggest this idea of spontaneity and because we might feel we are exposed to making a mistake, there is an idea of concession in this expression.  It’s like saying…”I’m not 100% sure.”  “Off the top of my head” is often used as a kind of protection mechanism against the idea that our answer might be wrong or that our memory might have let us down and failed to remember an important point.
So, there is a logical link here between “head” in the expression and the mind and the memory.  Here are some more expressions with “head.”  Which seem to suggest some idea of the mind/memory/brain/mental ability?  Check your ideas with my thoughts below.
  1. She’s fallen head over heels in love.
  2. We need to put our heads together and find a solution to this problem.
  3. She has a good head for business.
  4. I can’t work it out in my head – I need a calculator.
  5. Who has been putting such strange ideas into your head?
  6. Try to get some sleep and put the exams out of your head for a few hours.
  7. I could not make head nor tail of what she was saying.
  8. There was no way I could make him see my point of view.  It was like banging my head against a brick wall.
  9. Don’t worry so much about him, I’m sure he’ll do the right thing.  He has a good head on his shoulders.
I would suggest that examples 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 have a direct link to the idea of brains, minds, memories and mental capacity.  Do you agree with my conclusions?
  • Example 2 suggests that getting together as a group to discuss something would be a good idea.  Not only is “heads” a reference to the people being in the same space to discuss something but it is also communicates an idea of thinking about an issue together.
  • Example 3 communicates an idea of mental ability or talent for something.  You might have a good head for business or numbers.
  • Example 4 also links the idea of “head” with the brain power and is most often used to talk about mental arithmetic.  If you can do maths “in your head,” you don’t need the help of a calculator.
  •  “Head” in example 5 is similar to “mind.”  Who has been suggesting ideas to you that make you think this way?  Who has been “putting these ideas into your head?”
  • In example 6, “head” is more like “memory” or “thoughts” – if you can “put something out of your head,” you can forget about it for a while.
  • Finally, for example 7, “head” is part of an expression which means “understand” and can therefore be linked to the idea of a brain trying to interpret information.
Identifying the whole expression
  • Put something out of your head
  • Put an idea/thought into someone’s head
Can you identify the words around “head” in the examples above that make the complete expression?  Put the grammatical words in brackets ( ) in the correct place to make full expressions and then compare your answers to the examples.
  1. To fall head heels love (over/in)
  2. To put heads (our (or their, or your etc.)/together
  3. head business/numbers etc.  (have/a/good/for)
  4. To work something head (out/in/your)
  5. To make head tail something (not/nor/of)
Expressions 1, 8 and 9
(1)  To fall head over heels in love (8)  to bang your head against a brick wall  (9)  to have a good head on your shoulders
Match the meaning and context of the above expressions in the original list with the words below?
(a)  “frustrating.”
(b)  “sensible.”
(c)  “madly, passionately.”
(d)  “infuriating”
(e)  “besotted”
(f)  “without success”
Can you add any other words to this list?
Can you think of ways to paraphrase the expressions in this post?  e.g.  “put the exams out of your head” – “stop stressing out about the exams.”
Leave comments below!

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Filed under C1+ Vocabulary, C1/CAE - Use of English

FCE Dec – Writing – Part 1 – A few ways of starting a letter…

A quick video post based around some work we did today in a FCE Writing tutorial.  We were focussing on Part 1 of the writing paper in which candidates write a letter or email.  This video looks at ways of opening these text types.  Just click the link to watch the video and read the text that the student came up with.

Opening letters and emails

Hope it’s useful.


Filed under B2.2 - FCE Writing

FCE Dec – Writing – Part 1 – Formal letters / indirect questions

A quick video post to revise aspects of indirect ways of asking questions – a key aspect of successfully getting a formal style into letters for FCE Writing Part One.

Click the link to watch the video:  FCE Writing Feedback Nov 22nd 2011

There is also a good, clear summary here:  tinyteflteacher

For more on this language feature, check out this post:

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A1 – Interview about Birmingham (12/11/11)

A record of our “text conversation” in class from 12th November 2011.

Your questions to me about my home town (Birmingham) with the answers I gave.

Is there a river in Birmingham?

No, there isn’t but Birmingham has a lot of canals.

Where is the best hotel in Birmingham?

I have no idea about hotels in the city centre but there is a famous hotel on the outskirts of the city which has a golf course used for important competitions.

Are there any Portuguese restaurants in Birmingham?

Um, I can’t remember but there are probably one or two.

Is Birmingham famous for any special dishes?

There are a few dishes which are famous but nothing really typical…today Birmingham is famous for curry because there are many Indian restaurants in the city.

Are there any Portuguese footballers in Birmingham?

Erm…I’m not sure.  There are three clubs in the city.  Birmingham City, Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion.  José Dominguez played for Birmingham and Filipe Teixeira played for West Brom.

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B2.2 – FCE Use of English – Part 2 (open-cloze)

This week in Portugal:  An American surfer claims that he rode a wave bigger than any previously surfed wave in history.

Check out the video by clicking here and then complete the transcript with the word that best fits each gap.  There is an example at the beginning (0).

When you have finished, play the video again and check your answers.

Example:  (0)  a

With an offshore submerged canyon, (0) ___ small fishing town 70 miles north of Lisbon produces (1) ______ of the biggest waves on earth.

And it’s to this terrifying place that the big wave riders come, towed into position (2) _____ jet skis.

Garret MacNamara travels the world (3)_____ search of waves like this but this particular (4) ____ just kept on growing behind him.

He’s totally engulfed by the breaking wave.  It looks (5)_____ he must be knocked off but, amazingly, he emerges unscathed.

“This wave is very mysterious and very magical…and…it’s just (6) _____ a mystery…you never know what you’re going to get out there.”

(7) ____ is difficult to measure the height of a wave but this particular one was estimated at 90 feet high.  The previous record for a wave (8) _____ was surfed was a mere 77 feet.

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