Wednesday, 23 November 2011

B1 or not B1 and other Speaking Issues

B1 or not B1

How do we know what is really B1? The CEFR descriptors are long and complicated, the Maturita criteria are confusing so how can we judge what is B1?

Here are some on the CEFR descriptors for speaking that I believe are best suited to what we are looking for.

And here is my opinion of what B1 is

  • Not perfect – will make mistakes but will be understandable
  • Will be reasonably easy to listen to
  • Will be able to negotiate meaning
  • Will be able to interact with other speakers.
  • Go here for more details -

The link above will take you to a website with speaking samples, it is a nice way to practise getting used to the different levels.

Listen to your students not your student’s mistakes.

4 reasons not to over-correct your students

· students will become demotivated and fear making a mistake

· communicative accuracy is as important as linguistic accuracy.

· being listened to and getting a message across is motivating

· errors can be learning steps, we don’t want to make students think making mistakes is wrong.

4 Reasons to correct your students.

  • if mistakes are learning steps then error correction and coaching is important to help students see the problem and improve.
  • students perceive the teacher’s job is to correct, they will feel like they are learning if they correct.
  • students are passed the natural age for learning language so coaching and correction are important to help the students develop.
  • it is a way to deal with language the students would like to be able to use but can’t. (emerging language)

Golden Rules of Error Correction

  • Don’t correct all the time.
  • Remember what is being said is as important as how.
  • Echo rather than overtly correct.
  • Don’t interrupt… go back to correct.
  • If error causes breakdown in communication negotiate meaning don’t correct.
  • Use errors to help you plan
  • Think about the needs of your students, are they confident, can they handle correction.

This will make the students more confident so they speak more. So they will make more mistakes.

Helping our students make better mistakes.

My tips for helping students make better mistakes

  • The more they speak … the more mistakes they make.
  • Give time to prepare and plan.
  • Encourage a friendly, supportive environment.
  • Allow for lots of variety.
  • Allow chance to repeat the activity.
  • Favour pair and group work rather than whole class.
  • Pick topics that will interest and won’t embarrass.
  • Don’t make them do what they don’t want to.

Making Speaking Fun

Some principles for making speaking fun

  • Make sure there is a task.
  • Make sure the students know what they are doing.
  • Give students freedom to express themselves.
  • Make sure there is a reason to speak and to listen.


  • B1 isn’t Picasso
  • Errors are learning steps
  • Error correction needs to be supportive
  • Students need to feel like they are being listened to
  • Variety is the spice of life.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Speaking Samples

I've been running a teacher training session around the Czech Republic called B1 or not B1.
In it we listened to the 2 of the 3 recordings on this page and discussed if they were CEFR A2 B1 or B2 based on a truncated version of the CEFR descriptors found here.

Please could you listen to the records and comment on them in the comments below saying what you think the level of the student is?
Thank you
Boy 1
Facebook boy1 by @reasons4

Girl 1
Facebook girl1 by @reasons4

Boy 2
Facebook boy2 by @reasons4

Friday, 11 November 2011

Sing and Your're Winning Plzen and Zlin


          Songs are fun, lively ways to present and practise new language.

          Don’t only use a song once, use them frequently for lesson warm ups or endings to help students remember the language.

Warmer – Song titles

          Think of all the songs you can with _____ in the title.

        a girl’s name

        Day of the week

        A colour

Or whatever the topic of your lesson is.


·         Respond to the song - Play two or three songs ask if students would, turn up, or turn off radio, why? 

·         Respond to the song 1 – ask students to do certain action when they hear words that are in a specific category.

·         Respond to the song 2 – ask students to do mines when they hear words that can have mimes.

·         Singing the song  - always great to get students to sing the songs, try taking out words each time they sing it or try singing in rounds, one group starts singing The next group joins in after the first line etc.

·         correcting the mistake – give the students the lyric of the song with some mistakes, they listen and correct the mistakes, a nice way to reuse gapfills.

·         draw the song – students draw the meaning of the song and describe their pictures to their partners.

·         Grab Game / Bingo write words from the song on pieces of paper. Listen to the song and when you hear the words on the paper try to grab  the piece of paper. The person with the most pieces of paper at the end of the game is the winner. Or Draw a bingo grid, students write in words. Play song, students cross off words they hear.

·         Respond to the song - Listen to the song and imagine...The group who is singing, how many, male or female, ages etc. How are they feeling? This can lead to a ‘book ‘ project or a ‘poster’ project about their imagined band.

·         Respond to the song - Listen to the song and think about what advert / film it comes from. A Again this can lead to a poster or project  work.

·         Matching  songs and pictures – find some pictures and display them, play some songs and ask students to match the song to the picture. You could use countryside scenes, towns, people etc etc etc.

·         News Song – a homework task, ask students to find sings that go with news stories in the news at the moment. get them to devise a radio station running order, summary of news then song then another news point then song.  

Plzen - Use adapt extend


  • Dictogloss – read part of the text at normal speed, ask students to write down key words. Compare with a partner, repeat if necessary, ask students to reconstruct the text. (It does not have to be word perfect just get the same meaning.) This shows students how they can reconstruct meaning from key words. Use the information in the text to predict what comes next and then get students to read the rest.  
  • Running dictation – put lines from the text around the room. Students read the text and come back to their partner to dictate it, they then swap roles. Once they have all the lines they try to put them in order to recreate the text. This helps students to thing of the order of the text. Use the information in the text to predict what comes next and then get students to read the rest.  
  • Correct the errors – revisit the text in a future lesson by reading a part of it with mistakes the students need to correct the mistakes. Ask students to put their hands up when they hear a mistake and award a point for the one who can correct it first. If you want you can ask the person who put their hand up if they want to answer themselves or nominate someone else to answer from a different team.


  • What do you know? –Before students listen (or read) ask them to read the comprehension questions and work out what they already know about the text from the information contained in the questions.

§  What questions would you ask? – Before the students listen (or read) ask them to write their own questions they would like answered.

  • Stop  - during the listening allow students to ask you to stop the recording when they feel a but lost. Stop it, give them a minute in pairs and then start again.
  • Sentence Finishing – have the ame first clause 5 times but each time end it with a different conjunction, although, however, so etc. Ask students to finish the sentence.
  • Text language – use mobile phone speak in your lessons. Have students work out what the sentences mean and then rewrite them in proper English.


The idea of twitter in the classroom interests me. 140 character or fewer is quite challenging. IT makes students really think about how to say something clearly and concisely. Try it.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Gareth's Speaking CEFR A2 B1 B2


  • Can initiate discourse, take turns when appropriate and end conversation when he/she needs to, though he/she may not always do this elegantly.
  • Shows a relatively high degree of grammatical control. Does not make mistakes which lead to misunderstanding.
  • Can correct most of his/her mistakes
  • Has a sufficient range of language to be able to give clear descriptions, express viewpoints and develop arguments without much conspicuous searching for words, using some complex sentence forms to do so.
  • Has a good range of vocabulary for matters connected to his field and most general topics
  • Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without imposing strain on either party.
  • Can pass on detailed information reliably


  • Communicates with reasonable accuracy in familiar contexts; … Errors occur, but it is clear what he/she is trying to express.
  • Can initiate, maintain and close simple face-to-face conversation on topics that are familiar or of personal interest.
  • Has enough language to get by, with sufficient vocabulary to express him/herself with some hesitation and circumlocutions
  • Can keep going comprehensibly, even though pausing for grammatical and lexical planning and repair is very evident.
  • Knows enough vocabulary to talk about family, hobbies and interests, work, travel, news and current events.
  • Can make the other person understand the points that are most important.
  • Can correct mix-ups with tenses or expressions which lead to misunderstandings provided the interlocutor indicates there is a problem.


  • Knows enough vocabulary for familiar everyday situations and topics, but need to search for the words and sometimes must simplify what is said.
  • Has a limited repertoire of short memorised phrases covering predictable survival situations; frequent breakdowns and misunderstandings occur in non-routine situations.
  • Uses some simple structures correctly, but still systematically makes basic mistakes - for example tends to mix up tenses and forget to mark agreement; nevertheless, it is usually clear what he/she is trying to say.
  • Can use simple techniques to start, maintain, or end a short conversation.
  • Can construct phrases on familiar topics with sufficient ease to handle short exchanges, despite very noticeable hesitation and false starts.
  • Has sufficient vocabulary to conduct routine, everyday transactions involving familiar situations and topics.
  • Can communicate what he/she wants to say in a simple and direct exchange of limited information on familiar and routine matters, but in other situations he/she generally has to compromise the message.