Monthly Archives: July 2014

Summer Writing Ideas 2014: an Article and an Essay

This is the second post in our series of writing tasks for our students to try out over the summer.  (Click here for the first post).

This post sets up two writing tasks based on some survey results about important modern inventions.  In a recent survey, British people were asked to which inventions or gadgets had most changed their lives.  You can read the results of the survey by clicking this link:  ipad, washing machine and toaster named as life-changing gadgets

Do you agree with the results?  Was there anything you consider to be important that was missing?  Which of the technological gadgets do you find most useful and why?

If you’re interested in this topic, why not try out one or even both of the writing tasks below…

Task 1:  An Article

An English magazine for students is publishing a series of articles on technology called…

Life-changing gadgets I couldn’t live without

Write an article about one or two inventions that play a key role in your life.  In your article you should explain:

  • why it/they are so important to you
  • how often you use it/them
  • what you use it/them for
  • what life would be like without this piece/these pieces of technology


Task 2:  An Essay

You’ve recently been discussing modern technology in your English class.  Your teacher has now asked you to write an essay about a gadget or invention which has profoundly influenced people’s lives for both the better and the worse.

To complete this task you need to:

  1. Choose an invention which has brought both advantages and disadvantages to our lives
  2. Talk about ways in which it has influenced life for the better
  3. Talk about ways in which it has influenced life for the worse

Interested in giving one of these tasks a go?  If so, get writing!  If you’re an International House Santa Clara student, you can send your text(s) to us by email: and we will write back with feedback on your text.  We’ll also publish the best texts on our blog!

Notes for learners on writing Articles and Essays

Candidates taking Cambridge English:  First, Advanced (up until Dec ’14 but not from Jan ’15) or Proficiency could be asked to write Articles in Part 2 of the Writing paper.

Essays will be the compulsory Part 1 Writing task at Cambridge First from Jan ’15 and a possible option in the Part 2 section until Dec ’14.  They are also the compulsory text type for Advanced (from Jan ’15) and Proficiency.

For details of the Advanced exam Writing paper from 2015, check out this video from flo-joe:



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Filed under B2 - Articles, B2 - Cambridge English: First, B2 - Cambridge First Writing, C1 - Advanced, C2 - Cambridge English: Proficiency

Nobody believed me until… Teens Summer: Story Writing

Stories written by our 3 A2+ students on our Teens Summer Course at International House Santa Clara in July 2014…

It happened about three years ago.  I was having a picnic with a group of friends in Central Park, New York when I saw someone sitting on a towel who looked just like Barack Obama.  I couldn’t see him very well but I was certain it was him.  My friends weren’t so sure.  They didn’t believe me and started laughing at me.

While I was waiting for the other people to finish eating, the person who I thought was Barack Obama stood up.  I saw his face and it was really him.  I stood up to ask him for his autograph.  He was very friendly and chatted to me for a long time.  When I said good bye, my friends ran to me to tell me they were sorry because they hadn’t believed me.


It happened two months ago.  I was shopping when I saw Britney Spears.  I couldn’t believe it!

I didn’t want to miss this opportunity to get her autograph so I went up to her and asked her for her signature.  Unfortunately, she told me she didn’t give autographs but she said she would take a selfie with me.

When I arrived home, I explained why I was late to my parents and they said I was crazy.  Finally, I showed them the selfie and they were very surprised.


It happened last year.  I was having lunch with my cousin in an Italian pizzeria when I saw someone at the corner table who looked just like Jared Leto.

I couldn’t see him very well because there were some people between us.  However, during the meal he turned around to talk to two other people and I saw they were Shannon and Tomo, the other members of Thirty Seconds to Mars.  I saw his face and I knew it was Jared.  Wonderful!  I told my cousin but he asked me if I was feeling sick!

I went to the table and I asked if they could sign my T-shirt and I took a lot of photos of them.  Even more incredibly, Jared gave me his necklace with the symbol of Thirty Seconds to Mars.  When I showed my cousin, he was so surprised he fainted.


Jared gave me his necklace with the symbol of Thirty Seconds to Mars.

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Filed under Stories, Teens Summer - A2+ 2014

Summer Writing Ideas 2014: A Review

This is the first of a new series of blog posts with some ideas which students at International House Santa Clara can try out to practise their writing skills over the summer.

This post sets up a REVIEW writing task based on a feature we came across in a British newspaper about books that visitors to Portugal should read on their holidays here:  Books about Portugal:  holiday reading guide (  Click the link to read the article.  How many of the books mentioned there have you read?  Is your favourite Portugal related book there?  Is there anything on the list that you’d be interested in reading?  What’s missing from the list?

Want to make your own suggestions?  Here’s a writing task that allows you to do just that…

A travel magazine is asking for reviews of books that might interest visitors to Portugal…

Books about Portugal:  a guide for visitors

We will be running a series of reviews in our magazine which will give visitors to Portugal suggestions of books they should read which are related to that country. Therefore, we would like you to send us a review of one or two books which you would think visitors to Portugal might enjoy.  The book(s) you choose to write about can be…

  • works of fiction or non-fiction (e.g. about travel, food, history, culture, sport etc.)
  • written by Portuguese writers or foreign people writing about Portugal
  • written for adult or younger readers

Send us your review which should include the following information:

  • a brief description of what the book is about
  • who it would appeal to (e.g. adults, young people, food lovers etc.)
  • why you think it would appeal to people interested in Portuguese culture
  • what you liked about the book

Write your review and send it to us.  The best reviews will be published in our magazine.

Interested in giving this task a go?  If so, get writing!  If you’re an International House Santa Clara student, you can send your review to us by email: and we will write back with feedback on your text.  We’ll also publish the best texts on our blog!

Notes for students about writing reviews:

You may be asked to write a REVIEW in Part 2 of the writing paper for Cambridge First, Cambridge Advanced and Cambridge Proficiency.

REVIEW tasks in the exam may not necessarily be book reviews.  You might be asked to review things such as concerts, films, plays, computer games, restaurants etc.

Here are some tips for Cambridge First Review writing from Sofia, a student at International House Porto:

Here are details of the word counts for Part 2 Writing tasks for each exam:


  • December 2014 format:  120-180 words.
  • Post January 2015 format:  140-190 words.


  • December 2014 format:  220-260 words.
  • Post January 2015 format:  22o-260 words.


  • 280-320 words.


To read some sample reviews written by students with teacher feedback, visit  Advanced Writing makeover 9

Some general advice for writing for Cambridge English exams from Cambridge English:


Filed under B2 - Cambridge English: First, B2 - Cambridge First Writing, C1 - Advanced, C1 - Cambridge English: Advanced, C1 - Cambridge English: Advanced, C2 - Cambridge English: Proficiency, Reviews

The best films to watch this summer

Are you looking for a good film to watch during the summer holidays?  Maria, Carla and Joana from our Summer A2+ course share their reviews of films worth watching this summer…

The Fault In Our Stars

My favourite film is The Fault In Our Stars, a romantic film.  It’s a fantastic film but it’s sad too!  The stars of this film are Sharlene Woodley and Ansel Elgort.

The film is set in Pittsburgh and Amsterdam.  Hazel Grace is a teenage girl, who is sixteen-years old, and is trying to accept a health problem.  She has lung cancer and so does her friend, Augustus, who comes to be her boyfriend.  The film tells the story of their relationship, how they try to live with cancer and a trip they take to visit a writer that Hazel loves.

This film is based on a book by John Green.  The book is also fabulous and the film is faithful to the book.  The soundtrack is very good.  The music is relaxing and this makes the film more interesting.

So, if you like romantic films which make you cry, go to the cinema and see it.

By Maria

Now You See Me

My favourite film is Now You See Me.  It’s a crime story/thriller which is full of suspense.  It’s an extraordinary film with an excellent cast.  The leading actors are Jesse Eisenburg, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco.

The film is about four magicians who rob a bank using magic.  The magicians join up because each of them mysteriously receives a card with a different symbol on it.  One day the four magicians, who have never met before, come together at the same meeting place.  The plot is about how they learn how to rob a bank and then give the money to the audience at their show.

I love this film because the actors are amazing and the story is fantastic.

By Carla

The Mortal Instruments:  City of Bones

My favourite film is City of Bones, a film which is both a fantasy and a romantic movie.  It’s a fantastic film.  It stars Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Kevin Zegers, Godfrey Gao and other famous actors.

The film is set in America.  Clary Fray is a typical teenager and lives with her mother Jocelyn.  One night she goes to a disco with her best friend, Simon and she meets the Shadowhunters:  Jace, Alex and Izzy (Isabelle).  Two days after that night, her mother goes missing and she finds out that her mother was a Shadowhunter and that she is too.  She starts to believe in vampires and ware wolves and other magic people.  She also discovers that her father is alive and that he is the worst and most famous person in the magic world.  It’s a teenage love story, drama and a comedy, all in one film.

City of Bones was made in 2013.  It was written by Jessica Paquette and directed by Harald Zwart.

I love watching this film because the story is great.

By Joana

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Filed under Reviews, Teens Summer - A2+ 2014

Summer Speaking Skills Course (July ’14) – Language for giving advice

Upper-Intermediate students on our July ’14 Speaking Skills course have been studying phrases for giving advice and tips.  To consolidate some of the language they’ve been using in class to offer recommendations and make suggestions, some of them wrote the following dialogues, in which two people discuss a problem, containing some of the phrases we’ve looked at on the course so far (in bold)…

Dialogue 1

A:  I don’t know how to save money.  I spend all the money I have.  Can you help me please?

B:  Yes, sure I can.  Start by making a list of the things you definitely need.  The things that aren’t on that list, you should stop buying…

A:  Yeah, okay… I can do that.  I also spend a lot of money on the car…

B:  Well, take every opportunity to travel with some friends that work with you.  Sometimes you go in your car and other times you go in their cars.

A:  That’s a really good idea!  I’ll do that…

B:  …And in the house, you can cut down on the water and gas you use…

A:  I’ve already done that!

B:  That’s good.  So, remember you have to resist the temptation to buy useless things.  Avoid going to work on your own and make sure you continue cutting down on the water and gas you use at home…

A:  Okay, I will.  Thanks a lot!

Teacher’s notes:

When you talk about travelling to work with colleagues you could talk about a “car sharing scheme”.  You could also use “share” as a verb to talk about sharing the fuel/petrol costs.  A shorter way to say “go with someone else in your car” is “to give someone a lift” e.g.:  “You could set up a car sharing scheme…  Some days you’ll give someone a lift and on other days they’ll take you to work.  This’ll help everyone by sharing the cost of petrol.”

Dialogue 2:

Mary:  Hi, how are you?

Me:  I’m fine, thanks.  And you?  Long time no see.

Mary:  It’s true!  Well, I have a big problem in my life.  I’m really not feeling well.  I need to lose weight.  Can you give me any advice?

Me:  Yes, of course.  Start by doing some exercise like walking and running.  You should try to do it at least three times a week.

Mary:  Well, I agree with you but I don’t have any time!

Me:  It’s important to establish a timetable.

Mary:  Okay.  I’ll try to do that.  Do you have any other ideas?

Me:  Resist the temptation to eat sweets and too much fast food… Have healthy food and drink a lot of water.

Mary:  How many times should I eat during the day?

Me:  Five or six times.  And avoid eating a lot for your main meals.

Mary:  Thanks a lot.  I’m going to follow all of your advice.

Me:  You’re welcome.  Tell me how it goes.  See you…

Mary:  …I will.  Bye.  See you soon.

Teacher’s notes:  The phrase “long time no see” is a natural, informal way to say that it has been a long time since you last saw somebody.  Other phrases that do this are:

  • I haven’t seen you for ages!
  • It’s been ages!  (‘s = has)

Notice how the two examples above both use have/has + past participle (Present Perfect) to comment on the time that has passed since the two people last saw each other.

I changed a phrase at the end of the dialogue from “I’ll wait your news” to “Tell me how it goes” because I thought it sounded more natural.  Other phrases that could be used to close a topic in conversation and express the idea of wanting to know what happens next include:

  • Let me know / Tell me how it goes / went.
  • Let me know how you get / got on.
  • Can’t wait to hear how it goes / went.




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