Helping learners to make sense of proposals for the C1 Advanced

Teaching exam classes is quite challenging for teachers, as some of the tasks candidates need to deal with are unlikely to reflect their everyday lives.   Take any writing task and think of ways you can make it meaningful for your students. Let’s consider proposals, for example. According to *Cambridge English Advanced handbook for teachers, a proposal:

“may be written for a peer group (such as colleagues or club members), or for a supervisor (such as a boss or a college principal). Candidates will be expected to make one or more suggestions, supported by factual information and evaluation, in order to persuade the reader of a course of action. Students should work on functional language for evaluating and for making suggestions, and will need to be able to use a range of persuasive language.” (p. 32)

Considering this, today’s post is about helping teenage learners develop a sense of purpose when preparing for this writing task. How can we do this? The answer to this question is twofold.  First, we must provide our students with the language they need to write a proposal: polite recommendations and persuasive language. Second, we must relate the writing task to their lives. And one thing a lot of teenagers would love to do is hack their school curriculum so that they can choose what to study.  Here’s how I do it in eight steps:

1 I prod my teenage students to reflect on the subjects they are currently learning at school;

2 I ask them to consider adding one subject that could teach them important life skills and jot down their ideas. How about a course on communication skills or one on money management?

3 Together, we brainstorm some possible classes considering the following elements:

Name of the subject;

Why it is relevant for students;

What grade should be taught;

Teacher’s qualifications;


Course length;

Instructional materials;


School facilities (a classroom, a lab, or any other place available at school).

(You may change the elements above or choose only some of them).

4 I invite them to share their ideas either in pairs or in groups, depending on the size of the class;

5 I tell them they are going to prepare a presentation in order to persuade their peers of the relevance of the subjects they have chosen;

6 But in order to be successful, I tell the students they will need to familiarize themselves with the language used for giving factual information, persuading, and making suggestions. I always have a list of handy phrases for them to use in their presentations;

7 Next, students present their ideas and then debate on the importance of those school subjects giving reasons for their choices;

8 I introduce the proposal genre as a way to persuade the reader to take course of action. We discuss the importance of its organization and persuasive language so that they can write a proposal for their school principal in order to include their chosen subject in their school curriculum.

Of course, not every teacher will have enough time to go through so many steps, but if that’s possible, it pays off to give learners the time and the language resources they need to practice both their speaking and writing skills in a truly engaging activity in which they make their voices heard.

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Teresa Carvalho

Teresa holds a Master's Degree in Language Studies from PUC-Rio, a B.A. in Linguistics from USP, and Delta Modules 1 and 2 Certificates. She has been teaching for over 30 years and has presented at webinars and at both local and international Conferences, including ABCI, IATEFL, and the Image Conference. She also holds a Specialization degree in English Language from PUC-Rio. She is interested in Systemic-Functional Linguistics, identity studies, visual literacy, and in language development for teachers of English as a foreign language.

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