CAE Inexpert: Show you care

[created by inspirobot]

I’m not normally the type to go for motivational quotations or trite exhortations to remember that the kids are our future and need nurturing etc. etc. Writing the subheading ‘show you care’ above made the ever-present cynic inside me cringe, roll eyes and decide to start this post with a half-apology for even writing it in the first place.

What if I sound too earnest? What if my readers think I’m full of crap? Who’s reading this anyway? Worrying like this makes me much closer to my adolescent students than I’d like to think I am. All that fear of how we look in public – that’s all way behind us, isn’t it? Apparently not…

So, why ‘show you care’? Well, this is about Lesson 2 – the one after the needs analysis I collected from the class with info on their favourite websites and all that stuff. On occasion these needs analysis questionnaires can feel a little perfunctory. Especially in a class with younger learners – they have little idea about what they want and look to the school and the teacher to tell them what they need. They can also feel perfunctory in a class based around preparation for an exam – the students have no say in the exam content and neither does the teacher. Sometimes the students have little knowledge of what’s involved in said exam. Sometimes the teacher doesn’t, but that’s another story…

So in situations like this where course content is fairly restricted, I think it’s important to show that you empathise with the poor sods who have to trudge through it.

To this end, one of the most powerful things about a needs analysis is coming back to the class and presenting/sharing the results and finding a way forward. With last week’s info on interests I wanted to create an infographic showing class interests and concerns. After more than a few wasted moments finding the right template I end up with a powerpoint mind-map that’s unlikely to win me any media awards. Nonetheless, it captures quite nicely what my class are “in to” (I believe the kids still say this). Here it is:

Here it is:

I put this up on the class noticeboard as a reminder to the class and myself.

What we did next.

Being that this is an exam class, a big part of the target situation is being able to do the exam. For the school and many parents, this is in fact the whole of the target situation. Knowledge of what said exam involves drives teacher decisions about class content.

On one hand, this is something of an issue if you have issues with the exam content. On the other, it’s an easy instant goal to be aiming for and designing lessons around. I have both of these hands so decide to try and work with this for the second lesson.

If you’re unfamiliar with the format, in the CAE exam they have to do a writing paper, and one option is to write a proposal. The coursebook we’re using (or rather, the coursebook that has been assigned and they will buy) comes with the usual big drawbacks. It’s written for a global market of everybody (and hence actually written for nobody). It’s certainly not written for 16- to 18 year-olds who have no business being as good at English as they already are. Just before the lesson, a little concerned for how I’ll keep them engaged for three hours, I hit upon the idea of having them write a proposal to the coursebook publishers giving recommendations about how to improve the book. This follows the usual CAE rubric and we run the thing as a genre/process writing task.

The coursebook itself comes very much in handy here – being the object of scrutiny and also providing a model proposal to work with in the classic back-of-the-book writing-bank fashion. Pairs of students plan and write small sections of the proposal together, pass them to their partners after five minutes and then review and add/correct. Once all five sections have done the rounds, I collect them in, do a quick bit of correction coding and make a Frankenstein scan to put on the class Edmodo as a draft to work with for their homework. If you fancy a look at their efforts, here’s a copy:

All in all, it was a worthwhile exercise and something I’ll try to do more of in future.

They enjoyed:

  • the collaborative element
  • the ‘real-life’ reason to use the language – i.e. in order to have their say,

They learnt:

  • how to structure the exam writing task
  • some incidental structure and lexis
  • more about how their interests as a class align and differ

I enjoyed:

  • doing a process writing sequence for the first time in years
  • seeing them engage with the task

I learnt:

  • More about their linguistic strengths and weaknesses
  • More about task types they engage with
  • More about topics that interest them






…and for the sharp-eyed exams teacher:

You might have noticed two extra criteria in the report-writing task (planning and revision). These were adopted from a talk I saw recently by Graham Ward. You can find a good blog post on this here:


4 thoughts on “CAE Inexpert: Show you care

  1. Sharp-eyed exam teachers or teachers who attended that day.

    The whole idea looks very interesting and engaging, I’m sure they really liked it, I would have!

    I didn’t have a chance to tell you but, since he also spoke of the importance of feedback, arguably where learning happens, there is a more “digital” way of doing it, using screen recording software and manipulating the text as you speak.

    The idea isn’t mine, obviously, but I’ve found it to be quite effective in terms of engagement and it also saves paper and time deciphering their hand writing.


  2. Hi, thanks for the post, in particular I’m sure I’ll find the write & improve site useful.
    I was wondering what you meant by Frankenstein scan? Is it a bit of work from each student?
    Also I wondered if you have any tips for grading the revision part. I have done this in the past but found playing spot the mistake rather time consuming. Highlight changes? Write double spaced and hand in the same document with changes? (The production they were revising in this case was a CV so didn’t lend itself really to either of these).


  3. Hi Sarah, sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Yes, the Frankenstein scan is a bit of the proposal from each student digitally stitched together as a model text.
    With the revisions, I get them to highlight the changes with numbers or asterisks, but I’m sure there are many ways of going about this.
    Thanks for stopping by.
    All the best.


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