(eng) ‘And the Oscar Goes to… IDA’ – EFL Ideas at B2 Based on Review from The Guardian

Wow! They did! They made it to the top! Watching such moments on TV, I do feel proud of being Polish. As H. Ford once said: “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Anyhow, the only tribute I can give myself to the wonderful people standing behind this worldwide success of Ida as the Best Foreign Language Film according to the American Academy is a teacher’s tribute. The superb performance of Agata Kulesza in the film and the unrivalled directing of Paweł Pawlikowski  have inspired me to have still another look at a fascinatingly written review from The Guardian (25 September 2014). Agata Kulesza is one of my favourite actresses. With her charisma, style and professional competence, she has always been modestly bound to succeed in life. I do think that the words of D. Frost may  accurately describe the actress: “Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally.” As natural as Ms Kulesza is, I, as her fan,  have just the flowers above to offer her.

Success inspires and hopefully some teachers may inspire their students by letting them follow their dreams and live their life full of passion and personal fulfillment.  The text around which I’ve created some EFL tasks should incite and motivate students; there is a collection of adjectives praising Ida, the words to be adopted and cherished and used in many other contexts and situations. In spite of the obviously difficult and serious theme undertaken in the film, treat the review as Peter Bradshaw’s appreciation of the contemporary picture of Polish cinematography as a well written text to use in the classroom.

The tasks are for secondary school students and adult learners. They are aimed at B2-C1 and combine integrated skills taking advantage of the text and exploring it thanks to pre-, in- and post-reading exercises. I’ve divided the tasks into three parts, namely [1] reading comprehension tasks; [2] lexis-based tasks (use of English); [3] text and information organization tasks. It’s up to the teacher how to work with the text as well as, or foremost, with the tasks I offer. Autonomy is more than welcome. The tasks may be used selectively depending on time constraints, students’ involvement, etc. There are two different attachments below:

  1. Text of the review from The Guardian – divided into paragraphs and with five gaps for one of the lexis-based tasks; word list at the end of the text – extracted expressions divided into syntactic categories;
  2. Review-based tasks – all twenty tasks are in the file as some aren’t present below because of their graphics.


A.    Choose the correct option when answering the following questions on the contents of the review from The Guardian:

1. “Ida (…) pulls off the remarkable trick” means that ________ . [a] the film may deceive the viewer; [b] the film is about tricksters; [c] the film is no surprise to the viewer

2.The phrase “freezer burn” refers to Ida, ________ .[a] which freezes the viewer in its cold message; [b] which offers warm feelings first and then moves on to show the cold ones; [c] which has been constructed on contrasts

3. When describing the film, Bradshaw makes a reference to _______ . [a] an architect; [b] a sculptor; [c] a painter

4. Ida, the female protagonist, __________ .  [a] is visited by hear aunt; [b] meets her aunt in the street; [c] visits her aunt

5.With the end of WW2, ________ . [a] past problems are forgotten; [b] some problems are still around; [c] people create a new youth culture

B.     Decide whether the following sentences are T(true) or F (false). Correct them when you think they are false by finding appropriate information in the text:

1. Ida is mentioned as an incredible film together with three others recently released.

2. The novice nun is hard to classify.

3. Ida knows barely nothing of her past.

4. Wanda has been looking forward to meeting Ida.

5. The roles of the people Wanda meets were fairly obvious in the wartime.

C.    Looking at the text, guess the meaning of the following fragments and write it in your words (or in your mother tongue):

1. “feels more like a restored and rediscovered classic than a new movie”

2. “a gentleman caller makes his exit off-camera”

3. “to discover what became of Ida’s parents”

4. “her girlish, almost childlike demeanour”

5. “a compelling film”

D.    In the text of the review, you may see five gaps. Fill them in with the correct phrases from the options present below:

1. [a] a smell of; [b] its own kind; [c] to be put in a

2. [a] whose; [b] to whom; [c] which

3. [a] stops to; [b] is made to; [c] is about to

4. [a] around; [b] sightseeing; [c] into the heart of

5. [a] during time; [b] through the horrors; [c] never capable

E.     Present your opinion on the following. Limit yourself to 2-3 sentences:

1. Why does Bradshaw call Ida “an eerily beautiful road movie”?

2. Bradshaw says: “literally nothing has happened in her life.” Speaking of Ida, what does he actually mean?

3. “Before she makes the irrevocable decision” – what decision is it in the protagonist’s life?

4. Bradshaw repeats “dreading” in reference to Wanda. Why is the verb so important?

5. “Ida (…) achieves a great deal” – what might Bradshaw be thinking of saying this?


A.    Give prefixes in order to build antonyms to the following words:

1. _____passivity

2. _____revocable

3. _____bridgeable

4. _____scrutability

5. _____known

B.     Give your own definitions of the following phrases taken from the text. Which of the following expressions are multi-word phrasal verbs?

1. to be on general release

2. to face up to one’s memories

3. lightly

4. to conceal one’s reaction to something

5. to stir up the past

C.    In the text, there are some church-related words. Match the words in the left column with their definitions in the right column: (pdf file)

D.    Below you will find some words to which there are synonyms present in the text. The words appear in the same order as the words you’re expected to find:

1. extraordinary, outstanding:

2. notable, easily remembered:

3. attack, assault:

4. judicial officer:

5. a feeling of self-satisfaction; a sense of personal security:

E.     In the sentences below, there are some missing words. In the brackets, you have the word out of which you build your missing word. The word in brackets is directly taken in its form from the text.

1. They usually admire  both the unique _______________ (ambient) of the restaurant and its staff.

2. Victorian children lived in _______________ (orphan) when their parents had passed away or had lost any means to support them.

3. They can’t see eye to eye on this issue because there’s an obvious _________________ (ambiguous) in the document they’re analyzing.

4. What are your ________________ (conclusions) remarks on your presentation? It’s time you gave floor to your colleague.

5. This is a ___________________ (decision) moment in my life. So, it’s now or never!          

F.     There are some vowels missing in the following words. Write the missing letters and then decide what parts of speech are represented by the words (adjectives, adverbs or nouns)? Make sure you know the meaning of the words.


G.    Homonyms – some words (spelt the same, pronounced the same) have more than one meaning. Each word below comes from the text. Which meaning is used in the review?

1. superior – [a] excellent, first-rate; [b] someone at the head

2. release – [a] publishing, showing to the public; [b] liberating from prison

3. touches – [a] elements, feelings; [b] abilities and skills

4. habit – [a] custom; [b] outfit

5. repeat – [a] duplicate; [b] broadcasting or watching a programme again

H.    Use the following verbs in the sentences below. Remember to change their forms:


  1. No one should _______________ before carefully scrutinizing all the pros and cons.
  2. John did his best to __________________ to the news he’d just heard. His girlfriend would’ve passed out otherwise.
  3. Rita has always been sensible but lately she ________________ her friend from childhood. “Love comes when & where you least expect it!” as they say.
  4. Francesco will finally decide whether to take his driving license examination or not when he _________________ next August.
  5. Karl ________________ his life so aimlessly for twenty years now and he still doesn’t know what he wants to do or where he wants to settle down.

I.       In the questions below, you will find short vocabulary-related tasks. Choose the correct option from the ones given:

1. When you show a fondness for something, you _______ . [a] like it; [b] are indifferent to it; [c] dislike it

2. When a room is draughty, ________ . [a] it’s all covered in dust; [b] currents of cold and unpleasant air are coming in; [c] it’s hard to breathe inside

3. “Journey” is both a noun and a verb. Which two options below have nouns which are similar to their verbs? [a] export; [b] believe; [c] respect

4. Which of the following words is not a synonym of “zealot”?  [a] bigot;  [b] someone doing something reluctantly; [c] someone who is fanatical

5. When the generational gap is unbridgeable, it’s _________ . [a] easy for the people to get on with each other; [b] difficult for the people to get on with each other; [c] no sense talking about the gap at all

J.      Complete the crossword puzzle (pdf file) with the words taken from the text. What’s your definition of the word which goes down? For the words across, use the following clues:

1. sensations, inner feelings

2. important and significant in the long run

3. contrary to, on the other hand

4. trusting and innocent, not behaving like an adult

5. provoke someone by questions or irritate someone by asking questions

6. cold and freezing


A.    Background information: Before reading the text, make sure you are able to answer the following questions:

  1. What’s a road movie? Give some examples.
  2. What comes to your mind when you hear: “Poland”; “the early 60s”?
  3. What’s “the Holocaust” and what does the term “anti-Semitism” refer to?
  4. What’s the “the Pax-Sovietica”?
  5. What are some essential elements of a drama in cinematography?

B.     Scanning: Scan the text and find answers to the following questions:

  1. Who’s the director of Ida?
  2. How old is the novice nun?
  3. When does the action take place?
  4. What’s Wanda’s job?
  5. Who was kept in hiding in the wartime?

C.    The review is divided into six paragraphs. Summarize each paragraph in two-three sentences.

  1. Paragraph 1
  2. Paragraph 2
  3. Paragraph 3
  4. Paragraph 4
  5. Paragraph 5
  6. Paragraph 6

D.    Bradshaw uses a lot of adjectives of opinion describing the film, its action, setting, actors, etc. Give five different adjectives (on the left) and their reference (on the right). (pdf file)
E.     The article is a review. Answer the following questions which focus on the form and  layout:

  1. What phrases and forms are used to express the author’s personal opinion about the film? Find three examples.
  2. What tense does the writer use to present the storyline?
  3. How does Bradshaw show the contrast between the niece and her aunt? Give three examples.
  4. As the film is based on contrasts, give an example of the oxymoron from the text. What’s its function?
  5. Peter Bradshaw goes from the general to the specific. Give three examples to show this maneuvre.


And so on and so forth…. The sky is the limit if you start exploring any article. Teachers are often limited, though, by time, their students’ being or not being interested in the subject, their syllabus to follow religiously. What I offered here is an appetizer to a very good review which might be used as a teaching material in the classroom. Generating my own exercises is always fun and here my fun was reinforced, i.e. I was inspired by the film and its global success and my other inspiration came from Dutch manuals (and coursebooks) used at schools here for English classes. As reading, combined with other skills, dominates the EFL approach in the Netherlands, I scrutinized the techniques used in the classroom setting. Sometimes, with some questions, students may be asked to give an answer in L1, the subject I focused on when discussing the use of L1 in the EFL in one of my previous entries.

The EFL coursebooks here use a lot of techniques to check reading comprehension through and with lexical items. Let me list the techniques:

1.      Filling in gaps with missing words (prepositions, verbs, nouns, etc);
2.      Matching words with their definitions;
3.      Confusing words or similar words – multiple-choice tasks;
4.      Crossword puzzles;
5.      Spelling tasks – missing vowels, consonants in adjectives (and other words) with ambiguous endings;
6.      Translating between L1 and L2 – hybrid sentences with target words or expressions to fill in;
7.      Making / building own sentences with target lexis;
8.      Word formation in sentences or tables;
9.      Filling in sentences with verbs in their correct forms;
10.  Finding synonyms and antonyms;
11.  Paraphrasing sentences, sentence fragments;
12.  Homonyms and homographs;
13.  Word jumbles;
14.  Finishing sentences by defining target lexis;
15.  Practising binominals, collocations and fixed expressions – within and beyond texts;
16.  Abbreviations and acronyms – within and beyond text: matching technique;
17.  Grouping words;
18.  Diagrams and mind maps;
19.  Finding reference words (pronouns or determiners);
20.  Combining lexis with CLIL elements – cross-curricular teaching of vocabulary.

Apart from their detailed focus on lexis, the authors of Dutch EFL books try to show to their EFL students here both text and information organization. Naturally, the form and layout of written texts are absolutely important to the teacher and her / his students. As articles for the EFL books have originally been taken from the quality press, they are authentic. When checking their students’ comprehension and text modality, the authors use the following techniques:

1.      Multiple-choice tasks;
2.      True and False tasks;
3.      Open questions, in which at times answers are given in L1;
4.      Words and expressions to define;
5.      Summarising paragraphs;
6.      Summarising authors’ general opinion;
7.      Gapped sentences in text to check the use of language flow, discourse linkers, etc;
8.      Diagrams, tables and mind maps for text organization;
9.      Style and register tasks: ss see the difference between registers, point at euphemisms and find their equivalents, see irony and various shades of narrative techniques;
10.  Background information reinforces understanding and bridges subjects, relying on ss’ previous knowledge;
11.  Scanning and skimming texts;
12.  Predicting and speculating – titles and headings; key words and topic sentences;
13.  Finding linking words, distinguishing them and seeing paragraph interdependencies;
14.  Paraphrasing text-related aspects – going beyond text with target lexis;
15.  Matching paragraphs with their summaries.

All things considered, such coursebooks are an endless source of inspiration. Accompanied by such books together with up-to-date press releases, I may happily work on still another series of tasks. Give me a lovely theme and I will do my best to treat it as a springboard for the EFL classroom. This is my advice (through the words of S. Vivekananda) to my friends, language teachers: “Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.” This idea is your spark! So, make it into a shower of original sparks when teaching!



  • Text:

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/sep/25/ida-pawel-pawlikowski-nun-road-movie; DOA 22.02.2015

  • Dutch EFL coursebooks:

Alquin series – havo and vwo examination training: textbooks and workbooks

(2010-2011) (2013-2014)