What’s behind the curtain: Use of English/Part I by Laura Monteiro and Eunice Pais

The following post was written as a summary of the session with the same name which took place at IH Portugal's training day, led by Carol Crombie from IH Viseu.

This session, as the title suggests, focused on identifying helpful materials to use in class for any given preparation exam. However, if well thought out and planned, some materials can be valuable in General English classes or Business English.

This post will provide an overview of some activities carried out by Carol: identifying which Cambridge exam different parts of use of English were taken from; multiple choice (cloze); completing expressions by watching a video; word formation and checking synonyms.

Identifying the exam

At the beginning of the session 19 pieces of paper were laid on the floor. Teachers were asked to identify which exam the pieces of paper were taken from. The options were: PET, FCE, CAE and CPE.

The activity raised the issue of awareness concerning the English we expect students to produce as much as the English we teach for the specific exam. Unfortunately, in the session I attended nobody could correctly identify all the extracts.

Here are some examples:

Part 2

For questions 1-6, read the text below and think if the word which best fits each space. Use only one word in each space. There is an example at the beginning (0). Write you answers IN CAPITAL LETTERS on the separate answer sheet.

Example: : 0 ____of___

Men and women are often considered to be completely at odds with each other, in terms (0)  ____their attitudes and behaviour. Not so when they are in love, new research has discovered. As far as their hormone levels are (1)____, when men and women are in love, they are more similar to each other (2)____  at any other time.

It has (3)____  been known that love can (4)____  havoc with hormone levels. For example the hormone cortisol, (5)____  is known for its calming effect on the body, dips dramatically when one person is attracted to (6)____ , putting the love-struck on a par with sufferers of obsessive compulsive disorder.

For questions 1-5, complete the second sentence so that it has a similar meaning to the first sentence, using the word given. Do not change the word given Here is an example:

0.   You must do exactly what the teacher tells you.

carry

You must carry out the teacher’s  instructions exactly.

1.   So that Susan would be fit for the skiing, she went to the gym three times a week.

order

Susan went to the gym three times a week_______   fit for the skiing.

2.   It’s not worth inviting her to the party. She will never come.

point

There________   in inviting her to the party. She will never come.

3.   She had to finish her homework before she went out.

until

She had to stay in_______   her homework.

4.   Jo had not expected the film to be so good.

better

The film ____________  had expected.

5.   If Patrick does not arrange some more lessons, he will never pass his driving test.

does

Patrick will never pass his driving test_______   some more lessons.

For questions 26-29, read the text below and decide which answer (A, B, C or D) best fits each gap.

There is an example at the beginning (0).

0-     A hope   B-decide   C-want   D-expect

Answer: A

Whatever you (0) ……A…… for from a visit to San Francisco in the USA, you won’t be disappointed. The hills are just as steep as you imagined they would be, and the Golden Gate Bridge is just as spectacular. It’s no (26) ………… then that the city is among the world’s (27) ………… tourist destinations. (28) ………… many people live there, San Francisco (29)………… more like a small town than a city of more than 4 million people.

26  A guess 
      B excuse        C question            D surprise

27  A complete 
B top
            C proper
              D full

28  A Although  B Besides        C Unless
             D Despite

29  A shows 
     B fits               C seems
              D makes

Multiple Choice (cloze)

Following the first activity, each part of Use of English was explained with different activities that can help students to build vocabulary and develop language accuracy.

For the multiple choice (cloze) part of the exam, the following activity was conducted:

  • Teachers were separated into groups of four;
  • Four words were written on the board and each group picked one. The words were either similar in significance or structure, i.e., participles, gerunds, nouns;
  • Then, a sentence had to be created using the word chosen;
  • Points were given according sentence complexity.

Here is an example:

-telling : ‘ There is no telling how she will react.’

-saying: ‘ I was just saying the other day how expensive fish is.’

-talking: ‘ Susan was talking to John when Sue showed up.’

-writing: ‘She made a decent living from writing.’

Advantages:

  • Teachers can get students to understand that this part of the exam requires studying and preparation in parts of language such a: collocations, phrasal verbs and fixed expressions.
  • Teachers can motivate students by doing the activity at different stages of the course, increasing its difficulty, so that students obtain evidence of their own development.
  • Students can practise and perfect an array of expressions they hear in different media platforms.
  • This activity can be adapted for any level of English and be tailored for different types classes, including Business English and private classes.
  • This activity also brought the teachers attentions to what to teach for this part: collocations, phrasal verbs, phrases, expressions and linking words.

Gap filling – Video Activity

As a way of showing us that the Use of English involves a variety of activities, Carol introduced an activity which included a video called “Francis”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9xX6lQ_gdY

However, there was a sequence of exercises to be done prior to its display in order to give it a context. Before we could watch it, we were given a worksheet with a range of expressions with some gaps to fill in.

_____________________ without

seeing ____________________

____________________ skies

reckless ____________________

____________________ path

break ____________________

drift ____________________

fall into a ____________________

____________________ stretched out

____________________ feverishly

on the verge of ____________________

heavy ____________________

tricked herself into ____________________

____________________ decisions

lower ____________________

frantic ____________________

The idea was to fill in with words/expressions that we found suitable, in order to practise collocations and understand that these can be part of any spoken or written text – a music, a video, a conversation… At the end of the task, Carol showed us the video mentioned above to compare the different examples of collocations.

Word Building

Moving on to another important part of the exam preparation – word formation – , a set of words were displayed in a large piece of paper and put on the floor. All words were taken from a listening exercise, which is a good way of showing to the students that resources can be exploited differently to prepare them for the exam.

pressure relation law high
warm resign advert person
weight instruct special basic
injury word style individual
improve habit help wide
vary medicine analysis life
advice laugh important appreciate
love complain establish health
visit persuade sale free

The activity worked as follows:

  • The group was divided into teams;
  • Each group was assigned with a colour;
  • Teachers had 30 seconds to choose four words from the piece of paper and then one person, from each group, had to go to the paper to circle the words selected;
  • Each group had four post-its, where they had to write three words formed from the main one;
  • As soon as they filled in the post-its, one teacher had to stick them on the board;
  • The first team won the game;
  • Fast-finishers choose another word.

Synonym Snap

The last activity aimed at finding synonyms for different words and expressions. Each group of three was given a set of word/expression cards. We then had to divide the set between the three and play synonym snap – each one had to flip the cards, one at a time, until we found a pair of synonyms. It is important to mention that the expressions were taken from sentence transformation exercises, specifically Advanced level.

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