Famous Paintings Class Discussion Slideshow – with Banksy


Here’s a famous painting discussion class you can use as a warmer, cooler, filler or a springboard for art/ research projects with your EFL or ESOL class.

Download the PowerPoint show here Famous paintings or click the picture.

famous paintings

There are lots of ways to run the lesson and it will work with almost all levels. You’ll differentiate by student response.

1.Straightforward PowerPoint show.

Pair your students and have them read the first two questions. They should ask and answer the same questions for every slide. Walk round and listen to them as they chat.

2. Art Gallery Lesson.

Print off the pictures and stick them up around the classroom. Pair students and get them to walk round the pictures together, asking and answering the same questions from the first slide. Ask them to rank the pictures from the ones they like least to the ones they like most

3. The Research project

After doing the PowerPoint presentation, give students, in pairs, a copy of one of the paintings. Get them to find out as much as they can about both the artist and the picture using the internet. There are stories behind all of these famous pictures that are as important as the pictures themselves. Why is Andy Warhol’s picture of soup cans so important? So what about the Mona Lisa’s smile? Knowing more about these pictures will help your students appreciate them.

Please leave us a comment if you use the lesson.





IELTS Study Partners. Why you need one.


Why do I need a study partner, I like working alone.

For lots of people studying should be done alone in a quiet room with a book, at a desk and with a pen and paper. This view is fine, but in order to maximise your study time, sometimes working with a partner or group will allow you to remember and focus on a much wider range of material and be exposed to a different vocabulary and techniques.

Why should I choose to work with someone else?

We bounce our ideas off other people, we live and work with other people and we share our ideas with other people. They look at things in different ways and can often show us ways of doing things that we didn’t realise. It might just be that your study partner shows you something you need on your IELTS exam, this could be how to answer an essay in a certain way or a language structure to use.

Who should I choose to work with?

Anyone who you get on well with do just fine, even if their English isn’t as good as yours. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you won’t learn English properly if you work with someone who doesn’t speak perfect English. Lots and lots of English learners spend all of their time listening to ‘perfect’ English and they still make lots of mistakes. A word of warning however, don’t study with your friends, these are the people who make you laugh and you enjoy being with, if you try to use them as a study partner the chance are that you’ll just do what you always do with them – have a good time.

What tasks could we do together?

  • Take one section of a reading exam (like one from the back of this book) and do it together in 20 minutes. Then compare and discuss your answers before you check the answers together.
  • Both (or all of you) do the same reading exam on your own then meet up to discuss it. Make sure you talk about what you thought was right and wrong before you check them.
  • Do different exam papers and get your study partner or partners to correct it for you using the answers, while you do the same for them. Don’t forget to talk about why the answers are right or wrong.

Any more tips?

Yes. Set a regular time and day to study together. Study in a place where you feel comfortable and can talk without distractions. If this is a café or a bar then that’s fine, remember that libraries are good places to study on your own, they don’t always allow you to have conversations. Make sure you both have clear goals about what you want to achieve. Be supportive and remind others to be supportive as well. Explain what parts of the exam you are worried about.

I still don’t think it’s a good idea…

Working with other people will make you more motivated because you won’t want to let them (or yourself) down. Hopefully this will help you study faster and with a greater focus which should result in a better result in your IELTS reading test – which is what you wanted in the first place.


How do deal with words you don’t understand. IELTS reading


Here’s the first verse in a very famous English poem called ‘Jabberwocky’ by Lewis Carroll. It’s a children’s poem and uses words that the author made up himself.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
      And the mome raths outgrabe.

The words are meant to be nonsense and have no meaning in English, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t answer basic linguistic questions about them.

How could you describe a tove? It’s slithy

What things do toves do? They gyre and gimble.

What did the borogroves look like? They were mimsy.

Often in the IELTS reading exam, the subject matter will ‘look’ very complex. For example you might read an article about plants or chemicals you have never heard of before, or parts of a machine, anything difficult. Crucially, you don’t need to understand what these terms mean to answer the questions correctly. IELTS exam papers test your English and not what you know about the world.

For more help with the IELTS exam – check out Richard L King’s excellent book, Teach yourself IELTS: Reading



IELTS / Academic Reading skills – Survival Guide


Here’s a lesson to help your IELTS / TOEFL / ESOL level 2 students get more practice in reading skills.

  1. Before students watch the  Bear Grylls video, have them discuss these questions in pairs.”Have you ever been to the desert? Where? When?” “What would you do if your car broke down in the desert fifty miles from anywhere?” Elicit their answers when they finish.

2. Explain that you are going to give students a top ten survival guide that they can put in their wallets and carry around with them. Print out a copy of 10 Survival Tips You Should Put In Your Wallet For Any Situation from toolbox.com by clicking the picture below. Survival guide

3. Put students into pairs, A and B. Explain that they are going to write some academic questions about the content. Have students A read section 1-5 and get students B to read 6-10. Give them ten minutes and each student must come up with questions for their content. Explain that  3 questions should be easy, 3 should be reasonably hard and 4 should be difficult. They should write:

  • 5 true / false / not given questions
  • 5 questions that can be answered in three words or less.

4. Get students to answer each other’s questions and then check the answers with each other.

5. IMPORTANT PART: Discuss with students how they found it when writing the questions – was it easy? Did they struggle to make them simple or tough? Did it help them understand how academic style tasks are written?

Apart from being a good academic reading task, the 10 survival reading tips are very interesting and are designed to fit into your wallet in case there is an apocalypse or something… they might come in handy one day…

For more help with IELTS reading, check out Richard L King’s epic, Teach Yourself IELTS reading here







The top ten idioms in English – IELTS speaking!




I’ve done no research on this and so, there is no way  I can be sure that these are the top ten idioms used in English.

Adding idioms to your spoken language will make you sound more natural and more like a native speaker. But PLEASE DON’T use them all the time!

Choose two or three idioms that you like and remember them. Use them at the right time and don’t try to force them into every sentence.

idioms chris speck3



1.g 2.j 3.a 4.i 5.b 6.h 7.c 8.d 9. f 10.e

Check out Richard King’s book for more help with your IELTS exams!


10 computer shortcuts to save you time.


Use these shortcuts to save yourself 5 minutes a day.

That’s about 30 minutes a week (if you use your computer at the weekend.)

That’s two hours a month.

And that’s six hours a year.

Right click                                              

Right click will provide you a short cut to almost anything.

CTRL + A   

Use this to select a whole document.

CTRL + C    

Use this to copy something you have selected.


The shortcut for past, very useful


Go to start and then search. Type in the name or keyword of the document you want a find from your files.

Instantly make fonts bigger or smaller  

Select the text you want. Now hit CTRL + either [or] and watch the text grow or shrink.


Hit PRT SCRN at the top right of your keyboard and the computer will take a snapshot of your whole computer screen. This is really useful for copying pictures.


Push these buttons at the same time and you can lock your computer.

Hold CTRL spin the mouse wheel          

You can zoom in or out.


You can use ‘cut’ to copy as you delete. It will save you time.

Text message abbreviations and emoticons. A lesson with a worksheet for your pre intermediate English students

Can’t be bothered to read the post and just want to see if the worksheet might be something you could use? Click here for the word document: Emoticons and text messages
Do you hate people writing ‘u’ instead of ‘you’ or ‘B4’ instead of ‘before’? Lots of people do. Is it normal to feel that in some way, the language you learn, love and use is being cheapened by it being abbreviated?
As someome who teaches and writes an awful lot, I couldn’t really care less how people spell. As long as they get their message across in the right way, then what’s the problem. You wouldn’t want students to use text message abbreviations in an exam, but in the same way you wouldn’t expect them to use long winded phrases in a text message.
Here’s a lesson that gets students to think about where emoticons come from and also teaches them the most common text and web speak abbreviations.
Here’s the link Emoticons and text messages

If you like it and use, please get in touch and tell us how it went!


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