English conversation class - Wednesday 9:15

Would you like to join the conversation classes? There are a limited number of spaces available. Send an email to to arrange a trial lesson. Below you can find out about the topics we discuss.

May to July 2022

18 May - a Zoom lesson again. Please watch this video about public speaking. As you are watching, think about what the speaker does well. As extra homework, check out the definitions of some of the words we discussed in the 11 May lesson. Words and phrases such as breathtaking, inductive and deductive, shade and shadow, satisfactory and satisfying, vice squad, remark and much.

11 May - an interesting article from one of my other classes. This time it was one of the students who found the article. Can you also choose three things you learned in today's lesson that you can present to your classmates next week. We'll meet in person at my house rather than the usual Zoom lesson.



Exam prep

4 May

Our attentions spans - are they being stolen (The Guardian)

Destination - page 30 &31 A - E

11 May

How we lost our sensory connection (The Guardian)

Destination - page 32 G and 33 J

18 May

How to speak so that people want to listen byJulian Treasure (TED Talk)

Destination - page 36 A and B.

25 May

The dangers of being on Scottish mountains. (The Guardian)

Page 37 C,D and E.

1 June

Ask Philippa - I am so jealous of everyone (The Guardian) and a similar discussion about whether we should mute real-life friends on social media. (The Guardian)

8 June

A photographer's best picture. (The Guardian)

15 June

Molly Wright TED Talk (she's 7) as recommended by Sandra,

22 June

29 June

6 July

13 July

Which topic shall we discuss next? Click on this link to get some ideas about future topics or send me your own suggestions.

Previous topics

4 May - looking forward to seeing you all again. We're going to start with a bit of revision. Let's re-read one of the longer articles from last semester and continue our discussion about the topics raised in it. Are our attention spans being stolen and if so, what can we do about it? Before reading the article see how much you can remember from it. I can recall the I-pads at Graceland and I also remember the author's important conclusion.

You might also want to get into the habit of listening to podcasts. If so, check out my latest blog post where I list some of my favourite ones.

13 April - no lesson this week but I'm looking forward to seeing you all after the holidays. Need some holiday homework? Simply re-read some of the articles we've discussed. You'll have forgotten a lot of the vocabulary that we talked about in class but reading it again in the articles will help you to retain it.

6 April - Something quite different again. This time it's a podcast about a miscarriage of justice. Forensic linguistics has been instrumental in quashing a number of convictions where the police were found to have fabricated evidence. Find out more by listening to the podcast.

30 March - I was in England when this week's article first appeared. I think there were three named storms during my five-day visit. It was quite unpleasant weather. The reason I chose this article was because of the authentic spoken language, the smattering of idioms and the typical British understatement 'a bit of a struggle' when people are confronted by dreadful situations such as having no running water.

23 March - time for something completely different. How much do you know about ancient history and Scotland? Let's find out by discussing stone age culture. Do you also want to join in with the second conditional challenge? I'd like you to write 5 sentences a day using the second conditional. Add some of your sentences to my Instagram post (don't be shy) or bring them to the lesson next week. Read this post on second conditionals to find out how they are formed.

16 March - psychology and modern life combine in this engaging read about our attention spans. I wonder if you'll be able to read the whole article without getting distracted. If time allows, I suggest you read it a second time, paying attention to the use of the #pastperfect. This tense can be tricky for English learners to produce but I assume that you'll all be able to understand it passively. In order to deepen your knowledge try to analyse why the author has used it.

9 March - we'll practice Part 6 again by trying the equivalent exercise at advanced level. The link is in the box above. For conversation, we'll talk about the environment and skiing.

2 March - continuing our 'my life as a ....' series of recent articles, this time we'll read an article about a New York based court artist. Here is the link to it.

We'll also continue practising for the Cambridge proficiency exam. This time, I'd like you to have a go at doing Part 6 - The fog catcher's forest. Enjoy the holidays and see you all again soon.

9 February - time for a language lesson. Just language. I'd like you to read this article in The Guardian from a subeditor about grammar and some common mistakes that journalists make when writing. More interesting than the article are the comments that follow it. They should keep you busy for quite a while.

We'll also continue with exam practice for the proficiency exam, this time using the Destination book. We'll look at page 20 exercises A and B.

2 February 2022 - over the Christmas and new year period there were many articles in The Guardian about big changes that writers had made in their lives. One of the articles I enjoyed reading the most was this one, written by a journalist who had spent a lot of his life in prison. He talked about why he didn't mind being in prison much of the time and also about the reason that he changed his mind. It's quite an intriguing read with sophisticated vocabulary. I think it will make a good topic for discussion.

We'll also continue with exam practice for the proficiency exam. Please have a look at the sample test reading and use of English part 4.

26 January - we finished today's lesson by talking about the present perfect (I've lived in...) and the present perfect continuous (I've been living in...). As luck would have it, the next article I read contained an example of each of these so that's our choice for next week's lesson. The article is short but packed with lots of interesting vocabulary and it will give you an insight into being British. Hopefully you'll like it.

We'll also continue with exam practice for the proficiency exam. Please have a look at the sample test reading and use of English part 3.

The link for the article is here.

19 January - let's do something easy this week. Let's discuss the topic of money and kids. Read this article from The Guardian and think about your experiences with money as you were growing up. If you want something more challenging you can listen to the Desert Island Discs episode again, this time on full speed!

12 January - this week I'd like you to do some listening. Can you listen to a recent episode from Desert Island Discs, a popular radio show where guests are hypothetically cast away to a desert island and have to choose the music that they would take with them. As well as explaining their choices, they also reminisce about their lives. It's a good opportunity to listen to spoken English. Pay attention to how often the castaway, Richard Osman, uses the word 'would' when talking about his childhood. See if you can also notice the difference in the regional accent of the presenter, Lauren Laverne, and her guest. By the way, both Lauren and Richard speaks rather quickly. If it is too fast for you, try playing it back at a speed of 0.8. Also, it's about 30 minutes long but you don't need to listen to it all.

I would also like to start doing some exam preparation training in this class for the #Cambridgeproficiency exam. I think you'll all enjoy it and will benefit from it. Please download the sample papers from the Cambridge website and have a go at doing the reading and use of English Test 1, part 1. This should only take about 10- 15 minutes. We'll then discuss it in class.

Finally, in answer to the topic that Sandra raised about #adjectives and #adverbs, there is a quick explanation from the Grammarly website. Check out these two pages.

Adjective and verb placement

Linking verbs

5 January - Christmas is a time to watch the telly so for the first lesson back after the Christmas break I thought we could discuss The Repair Shop. It's a piece of feel good television that I occasionally watch. In this opinion piece in The Guardian, you can find out more about the programme and you can also watch a trailer for it here on Youtube. You might notice a couple of people saying "I'm liking it" in the trailer. The reason I mention this is that teachers might tell you that 'like' is a state verb and shouldn't be used in the continuous form. When you listen to native speakers though, you realise that many people use language flexibly.

15 December - it's the final week before Christmas so we'll do something simple. Can you read this interview with Rod Stewart. This time it is the fans who are asking the questions rather than a journalist. If you have time, read some of the comments below the article. They will give you an insight into 'authentic' British English.

8 December - this week we'll have a slight grammar focus on using would for past habits. There are a few authentic examples of past habit would in this interview with Paul McCartney in which he talks about meeting Linda Eastman, the photos she took and the things they used to do together. It's possible that one of you might have done this article already but it's almost 2 years since we did it so I don't think you'll remember much of it!

1 December - this week it is a 25-minute podcast from The Why Factor about why grandparents are important. Don't worry if you don't have enough time to listen to all of it, you'll still be able to discuss this interesting topic.

24 November - health and science this week! We'll be talking about wine, coffee and chocolate and whether they are healthy or not. Please read this article from The Guardian before Wednesday's lesson.

17 November - this time it is quite a short article from the Pass Notes series in The Guardian. There is quite a light-hearted tone to these articles. This particular article is about red kites attacking the people of Henley-on-Thames. As you are reading the article, try to imagine the characters described.

10 November - another upbeat topic. Please read this article about an influential teacher.

3 November - time for something completely different. I'd like you to read this article about making your home more beautiful. Some of the author's tips are quite practical, others probably less so but overall I enjoyed reading the article and it has inspired me to buy some more pictures and hang them lower on the walls! I hope you enjoy it too! Remember to look at our shared document where you can read the recent chats and add some of your writing.

27 October - at a lesson in one of my other groups we were talking about when people came up with their best ideas, is it when they are young and unconstrained by convention or when they are older and wiser? That reminded me of this fairly long interview with clinical psychologist, Richard Bentall. Please read it before our next lesson. Don't forget about our document where you can do a bit of homework and read the chats from recent lessons. Enjoy the holidays!!!

Click here to see the topics we've talked about previously.

Do you want to read about some grammar topics? Click here and here for a bit of revision!