Learning English on Skype with us: All students have different reasons for wanting to improve or practise their English. In the English Skype Room we design the lesson to suit your particular needs. Each lesson is different. Some students need more grammar practice, some need to listen to a native speaker and practice conversation while others need practice for IELTS or business meetings.
Have a look at a sample lesson for a student who was facing the IELTS speaking test and asked to practise talking about a book:
Conversation Class: Book Review
Please prepare the lesson before talking with your tutor
Read this passage out loud to your tutor
Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie: a Book Review
Death in the Clouds is a kind of locked room mystery, only this time the ‘locked room’ is a plane on a flight from Paris to Croydon, in which Hercule Poirot is one of the passengers.
In mid-air, Madame Giselle, is found dead in her seat. It appears at first that she has died as a result of a wasp sting (a wasp was flying around in the cabin) but when Poirot discovers a thorn with a discoloured tip it seems that she was killed by a poisoned dart, aimed by a blowpipe.
At the inquest the jury’s verdict is that the murderer is Poirot! However the coroner refuses to accept this and finds that the cause of death was poison with insufficient evidence to show who had administered the poison. All the other passengers and flight attendants are suspects and Poirot together with Inspector Japp, studies the passenger list with details of their belongings. There is a helpful plan of the cabin at the front of the book showing who sat where, including a crime fiction writer, a flute-playing Harley Street doctor, two French archaeologists, a dentist, a hairdresser, a Countess (formerly an actress), a woman who is a compulsive gambler, a crime writer and a businessman.
Apart from the ingenious mystery, which the coroner describes as the most astonishing and incredible case he had ever dealt with, there were other things I enjoyed in reading this book. First of all the ‘psychological moments’ in which people don’t notice what is happening in front of them because their attention is diverted. Then there is the way Christie makes fun of crime fiction writers and readers.
Looking back through the book, all the clues were there, of course, but so cleverly concealed that in most cases I had overlooked them or not realised their significance. A most enjoyable book!
- What is a coroner?
- How did Madame Giselle die?
- What did the writer particularly enjoy about the book?
- Did the writer guess who had committed the murder?
Important tip: much is always used together with an uncountable noun (like ‘oil’ or ‘water’) while many is always used with nouns that are countable (like ‘table’ or ‘computer’)
It’s also good to know that ‘too’ means that you don’t like the situation, for example, “There is too much food on my plate” means that you’re not happy about it.
- 1. Jack always gives too ___ bad advice, you shouldn’t trust him!
- 2. Tokyo is very crowded, there’s just too ___ people!
- 3. Some people have too ___ money and too much time. What do they do with it all?
- 4. Venice in summer has too ___ tourists that visit each year.
- 5. My city has too ___ traffic during rush hour.
- 6. There are just too ___ cars on the road!
- 7. In my opinion Windows Vista had too ___ problems. I prefer Windows 7.
- 8. Parts of Africa have too ___ heat and sunshine, especially in summer.
- 9. I’m so busy! I have too ___ things to do today!
- 10. My friend Lily is addicted to too ___ videogames. She can play for hours sometimes!
You can put quantifiers in front of ‘much’ or ‘many’…… too much / too many = (you are not happy) / very much /very many = (strengthens it – you are really happy).
I like this book very much because the characters are realistic.
Agatha Christie uses very many characters in her stories.
There is another phrase you can use instead of much/many and that is ‘a lot of’ or ‘lots of’
Use “a lot of” and “lots of” for both countable and uncountable nouns. Use “is/was” for uncountable and “are/were” for countable nouns.
I have …………things to do today.
You’ll be in ………….trouble if you get caught.
There is ………….crime in Manhattan.
There are ………….cars on the road at this hour.
There is …………. pollution in the city than in the country.
There are ……….people now than last week.
For more practice
They function like comparatives and hold a relative position on a scale of increase or decrease.
INCREASE From 0% to 100%
With plural countable nouns:
With uncountable nouns:
DECREASE From 100% to 0%
With plural countable nouns:
With uncountable nouns:
- There are many people in England, more in India, but the most people live in China.
- Much time and money is spent on education, more on health services but the most is spent on national defence.
- Few rivers in Europe are not polluted.
- Fewer people die young now than in the seventeenth century.
- The country with the fewest people per square kilometre must be Australia.
- Scientists have little hope of finding a complete cure for cancer before the year 2,000.
- She had less time to study than Paul but had better results.
- Give that dog the least opportunity and it will bite you.
Writing a book review
Follow these steps to write a book review.
Remember and take notes of the plot of the story. What impression did it produce on you?
- Introduction: give the title and author of the book.
1. Summarize the plot in a few sentences.
2. Mention the setting: the place and time of the plot.
3. Say something about the main characters.
4. Say something about the content.
1. Comment on the book or film.
2. Let others know whether or not you liked the book/film.
3. Why do you like it? Why don’t you like it?
4. Is the author’s style good or bad, is the book interesting or boring etc.
5. Do you want to recommend the book?
The book is written by …
The author is famous /well known for …….
The action takes place in … (setting)
The story takes place in…
Characters and Plot
The main characters are …
The story is about ….
The novel tells the story of …
In the course of the novel the action develops dramatically.
The novel begins with…
The novel has an unexpected ending.
The end of … is …
I was impressed by
I think ….
The book is terribly / beautifully written
The film is terrible / exciting.
What surprised me was …
What I liked was…
What I didn’t like was…
I liked/didn’t like the novel because …
Try to use some of the words and expressions from this text in your IELTS practice talk about your favourite book or novel.
- 1. Answer these questions
Which country do you come from and where do you live now?
Tell me about your family?
Have you got any hobbies?
What is your work like?
2. Talk for 1-2 minutes
You have 1 minute to plan and you may bring in notes to help you.
Describe your favourite book.
- Who wrote the book?
- What happens in it?
- Why do you like it?
3. Your tutor will ask questions to expand on your answers.
Your tutor will mark your Speaking test using the IELTS Mark Scheme and give you the feedback
Plenary at the end of the course
What have you learnt during the course?
What would you like to improve on if you had more lessons?
How could it be improved?
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