After writing my C1 to C2 blog post it got me thinking about my other students. Most of them are quite comfortably in the middle of their levels. They do well in all of their lessons but seem to learn new vocabulary or refresh their grammar in every lesson, or, if we’re not learning from the book we might be improving their spoken or written English. But, what I’m trying to say is that I don’t feel as though they know, one hundred percent, everything that is in their books. And that’s good! It means that they’re at the right level.
However, I’m not one for simply sticking to the book. I want my students to read and listen to all sorts of English. From the news to gossip magazines, BBC ideas to Shakespeare and more.
In my opinion, finishing a B2 book doesn’t automatically mean you have a B2 level of English (or any language). Especially these days with the use of dictionaries, translators and so on. It’s far easier to answer textbook questions than it is to communicate in the real world, and I think that’s the most important thing.
So, two of my lovely students decided to join forces and have a lesson together. They’re friends, but have separate lessons throughout the week as they have slightly different goals. They’re B2+ and C1 and both work full time in an English speaking environment, so their general understanding of English is quite high, they have great listening and speaking skills and are able to communicate quite naturally.
What’s our focus, then? With one student I have really been focusing on developing her range of vocabulary – and it’s wonderful how much she has learnt and remembered! And the other lady needs to develop all of her skills for an FCE / CAE style test in her home country.
I have actually found some of the B2 level texts and listening activities quite dull, and too easy for my student. So for this grouped lesson, instead of doing grammar again, I decided to challenge them a little.
I headed over to Linguahouse to see what they may have had in store for me and found a C1/C2 level text on Joe Biden’s recent victory (link here if you’re a member). Now, I’m not a fan of politics at all. I have never liked or enjoyed learning about it, and especially not talking about it. However, when I came back to England and found that’s all people like to discuss, I frequently felt like an idiot and realised I needed to be a little more aware of our government.
My own experience led me to think about my students, as they are working with numerous people who probably want to discuss politics too. That’s why I decided to pick this topic for their lesson. Also! I did clarify with them first that they were happy to discuss the topic.
In all honesty, I was surprised. These ladies are hard-working, determined and capable of taking charge of their own language learning outside of classes but I was worried that this might be a jump for them. They took it in their stride and pleasantly surprised me with how much vocabulary they were able to draw out and points they were able to discuss.
We had an hour for the joint lesson, and they each had an hour lesson individually in the following days. Usually I like to keep my joint and individual lesson topics separate, but as they’d done so well, but not finished this lesson, I decided to carry on in each of their own lessons.
My C1 student was great, but the level of the video and vocabulary was much closer to her own level. I think it was easier for her to pick up the points made in the video and reflect on them, but vocabulary is her weaker point and her synonym / vocabulary gap fill was slightly trickier.
My B2 student was equally as fab, but she is more confident whether she understands a topic or not. She’s not afraid to guess words or phrases and often follows the latest news in magazines or on Twitter. Even though she has little interest in politics, she had a good understanding of what was going on in the elections and that in turn helped her to understand the context of the video.
Overall, I’m both surprised and pleased with how well these lessons went. I had extra material prepared in case of an emergency (boredom, too difficult, etc) but we didn’t touch it. Since this lesson I have started to look for more authentic materials to include in my lessons and really wish I had made more of an effort to do this sooner, as I usually only save authentic materials for C1 and C2 students.