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Growing up: Reading Practice

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growing upWelcome to our free lesson growing up to give you practise for the IGCSE ESL exam. This is just one of the many lessons available to reinforce your learning so you feel confident when the IGCSE ESL exam day arrives. Our lessons are centred around common themes featured in the reading, writing, speaking and listening parts of the exam.

Growing up: Reading Practice

reading practiceIn this lesson, we will practice our reading skills by looking at the topic of growing up. Watch our video that will guide you through the lesson. You will be asked to pause the video to complete the activities in the tabs below.

Exercise 1Exercise 2Exercise 3Word List
Welcome to the world of Lucius Popidius Secundus, a 17-year old living in Rome in 73 AD. His life is a typical one of arranged marriages, coming-of-age festivals, and communal baths. Take a look at the life of a typical Roman teenager two thousand years ago.

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It’s March the 17th in A.D. 73. We’re visiting ancient Rome to watch the Liberalia, an annual festival that celebrates the liberty of Rome’s citizens.

We’re looking in at a 17-year-old named Lucius Popidius Secundus. He’s not from a poor family, but he lives in the region known as the Subura, a poorer neighbourhood in Rome, yet close to the centre of the city.

The tenants of these apartments are crammed in, which poses considerable risk. Fires are frequent and the smell of ash and smoke in the morning is not uncommon.

Lucius, who awoke at dawn, has family duties to perform today. His 15-year-old brother is coming of age. Half the children in ancient Rome die before they reach adulthood, so this is a particularly important milestone.

Lucius watches his brother stand in his new toga before the household shrine with its protective deities, as he places his bulla, a protective amulet, in the shrine with a prayer of thanks. The bulla had worked. It had protected him.

Unlike many others, he had survived to become an adult. At 17, Lucius has almost completed his education. He has learned to speak well, make public speeches, and how to read and write both Latin and Greek. His father has taught him the types of things you can’t learn in the classroom: how to run, how to swim, and how to fight.

Lucius could choose, at 17, to become a military tribune and command soldiers on the edge of the Empire. But in other ways, Lucius is still a child. He’s not trusted to arrange business deals. His father will take care of that until he is 25. And Dad will arrange Lucius’ marriage to a girl 10 years younger. His dad has his eye on a family with a 7-year-old daughter.

Back to the Liberalia. As Lucius leaves with his family, the shops are open as the population goes about its business. The streets are full of itinerant traders selling trinkets and people bustling from place to place. Large wagons are not allowed in the city until after the ninth hour but the streets are still crowded.

Fathers and uncles take the kids to the Forum Augustus to see statues of Rome’s famous warriors like Aeneas, who led Rome’s ancestors, the Trojans, to Italy. And Romulus, Rome’s founder. And all the great generals of the Republic from more than 100 years earlier. Lovingly, we can imagine fathers and guardians with their now-adult children remembering stories of Rome’s glory and re-telling the good deeds and sayings of the great men of the past: lessons on how to live well, and to overcome the follies of youth. There is a sense of history in this place, relevant to their present. Romans made an empire without end in time and space.

Rome was destined to be eternal through warfare. Wars were a fact of life, even in A.D. 73. There are campaigns in the north of England and into Scotland, to the north of the River Danube into Romania, and on the frontier between Syria and Iraq to the east.

It’s now the eighth hour — time to head for the baths. Lucius and his family head up the Via Lata, the wide street, to the Campus Martius, and the enormous Baths of Agrippa. The family members leave the clients and freedmen outside, and enter the baths with their peer group.
Baths would change from dark, steamy rooms to light ones. The Romans had perfected window glass. Everyone moves from the cold rooms to the tepid room and to the very hot room.
More than an hour later, the bathers leave massaged, oiled, and have been scraped down with a strigil to remove the remaining dirt.

At the ninth hour, seven hours after they left home, the men return for a celebratory dinner. Dinner is an intimate affair, with nine people reclining around the low table. Slaves attend to their every need if the diners, through gestures, demand more food and wine. As the day closes, we can hear the rumble of wagons outside. The clients and freedmen, with a meal of robust — if inferior — food inside them, shuffle off to the now tepid baths before returning to their apartment blocks.

Back at Lucius’ house, the drinking continues into the night. Lucius and his stepbrother don’t look too well. A slave stands by in case either of them needs to vomit.

With hindsight, we know Lucius’ future. In 20 years’ time, the Emperor Vespasian’s youngest son, Domitian, as emperor, will enact a reign of terror.

Will Lucius survive?

Read the text below about growing up.  Choose the statements which are correct about the people.

Lucy is ten and feels nobody takes her seriously. Whether she wants to do something, or doesn't want to do something, she is told that she is just a kid. Her sister, who is twelve, is allowed to do many more things, because she is considered to be older, and therefore more grown up. This is particularly so when it comes to boys, who see her as much younger than she really is, and don't take her as seriously as they do her sister. Luckily she has a friend called Michael, who is not a boyfriend, but they spend a lot of time together. She has asked her parents for a dog, but has been told that she is not ready to look after a pet, and feels this is so unfair.

John is twelve and his main problem is that he doesn't have as much control over his body as he would like, because of puberty, which can be frightening. He complains of getting pimples, and his voice is changing, which makes him feel very self-conscious. This age brings more responsibilities than before, and he spends more time away from his family than he would like. This means he has to look after himself, which is not easy, although his friends seem to know what they're doing, and this makes him feel very lonely and left out.

Darren is thirteen, and the amount of schoolwork he has stresses him out. There is always homework, and tests, and this frightens him because he realises that what he does at this age can seriously affect the rest of his life. When he doesn't know what to do, there is very little help available, and girls make him feel embarrassed and self-conscious. What is even worse is that everybody talks about going out with them all the time, and sometimes he feels he is the only one who doesn't know what to do when he's around girls.

Linda is fourteen and spends a lot of time with girls her own age. She has to make an effort to fit in, even though she doesn't really agree with many things they say and do. Otherwise, they make her feel out of place. Her biggest problem is boys, because all her friends have boyfriends, and she doesn't, because many of the boys she knows are so stupid. She would love to be able to talk about these things with somebody, but the only people she knows are her age and they won't admit that they have the same problems. She has problems with bullies, and most of the time has too much school work to do. Then, when she feels unhappy and frustrated, she has arguments with her brothers and sisters, and sometimes this leads to her getting in trouble with her parents.


Download here.

Read the study about teenagers and then decide if the statements are true or false.

Adapted from an exercise from Breaking News English.

Here are the keywords and phrases covered in this lesson:

  • apartment
  • arguments
  • arranged marriage
  • considerable
  • coming-of-age festival
  • communal baths
  • engage
  • feel embarrassed
  • follies of youth
  • getting in trouble
  • liberty
  • previous
  • protective deities
  • reign of terror
  • shrine
  • strategy
  • with hindsight
We add activities and exercises regularly on various themes, so why not bookmark our site, so you can come back to practice anywhere or at any time of the day.

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Here you will find exercise to practice for the reading and writing section of IGCSE ESL examination for either the core or extended papers.

Exercise 1 (Questions 1 -4) - Short answer exercises

Exercise 2 - (Question 5) Gap-filled exercises

Exercise 3 - Matching

Exercise 4 - Multiple Choice

The more words you encounter and understand, the broader your day-to-day vocabulary will become. So, our IGCSE ESL Word searches are an excellent way to help to reinforce spellings. Word puzzles require not just a good vocabulary and a knack for spelling, but the ability to think logically and strategically. In the case of puzzles like our IGCSE Crosswords, it’s crucial to spell linked words correctly to be able to complete the task.
Learning English requires not just a good vocabulary, but a strong foundation of all skills to communicate well. Here we provide activities for the IGCSE ESL for all the skills required to be successful in this examination.
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