16th September 2019
Tonight’s class is a ‘mixed bag‘: the abilities of the students vary greatly, and this causes a lot of problems and frustrations for the teacher. A lot of the assigned work will simply be over the heads of most of the students. The solution is to simplify the lesson, an ‘unplugged‘ version if you like. I also want the students speaking as much as possible.
A lot of Vietnamese, especially at a low level, are very passive. Several times I have asked students questions, and their response is to point at themselves and laugh, as if to say, “You’re asking ME ?”
Another major annoyance is students arriving late. This simply means that I can’t start a lesson for fifteen or twenty minutes. To fill the time I need an activity that is quite fun but also prepares the students for tonight’s grammar – the past tense (simple, continuous and perfect).
Warm Up: My Saturday. I’ll show the students some pictures and they have to construct a story about my day. I will stress that it is all in the past, and hopefully they will correct each other if they make a mistake in grammar.
For reference, last Saturday saw horrendous flooding in the late afternoon. Let’s start my day around 3.30pm when I came to school:
My class ………… (start) at 4.15, so I spent my time …..
Then my class ……….. (begin): However, my students ………( be) terrible !
After twenty minutes, I …….. (feel) ……………………………….
Finally, the lesson calmed down, and I …….. (read) …………
And then the rain …….. (begin), “The jolly old rain,” and I …… (have) to go home:
As I have no motorbike, I ………. (book) Grabbike. However, the water ……. (be) too deep and we …….. (have) to walk. Finally, I ………. (give) up and ……..
But, when I ……. (arrive) home, my iPhone …… (be) …..
Activity 1: Finding information.
I will make a short presentation about Vietnam:
The facts include the capital, the population, the weather in HCM, the language spoken and reasons why the country is famous:
I will then put the class in four groups (they can select a playing card, face-down, ace to four, so as to prevent the same people always working together). I will assign a country to each group: Egypt, South Korea, Canada and Brazil. Around the room, they will find information sheets. Once they have gathered the basic facts, they have to make a presentation to the class, using the class computer to enhance the experience.
I will probably need to be very hands-on during this activity, especially as they have to use discourse markers in order to link the sentences together.
Activity 2: Introductions. I will give each student a short paper with some information. In their groups, they have to read them, one at a time, while the others write down the information. I will board some appropriate language:
I’m sorry, could you repeat that, please ?
Could you spell that, please ?
I didn’t catch the phone number
Could you please speak a little slower ?
As this is done in groups, the students should feel less shy. Furthermore, as they are reading from a sheet, they don’t have to think of what to say.
Listening: The book work is generally too advanced for this class, thus leading to boredom and frustration, leading to talking, using mobile phones, sleeping etc. Instead, I’ll start with a beginner’s conversation from our school database, or from this website:
This website uses very slow and clear diction, as well as introducing new vocabulary. Furthermore, it is a piece of world news about which my students may not be so familiar.
I shall try the book work listening, but it if appears to be falling on stony ground, I’ll abort the mission.
The grammar, past tense, should be easier (Vietnamese students seem to be better at grammar than their speaking would indicate, probably as they are taught this at school at the expense of actually speaking English).
A simple way of clarifying the past perfect is to use a time line:
And a good interlude game is to board some irregular verbs and have the students shout out the past tense:
buy // teach // sleep // jump // study // write // read // fly
I shall reduce the reading to one section, a story which is still a sore point with English people; Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ goal:
The final section of the lesson is speaking but again, I feel the book work is asking too much of the students. Rather, I’ll have the students work in pairs. They have to speak for one minute on a basic subject. I will board some tips:
Buy time – that’s an interesting subject … // how can I put it ?
Give reasons – because …
Use adjectives – iPhone X is good – The iPhone X is good as well as very modern and attractive.
Give examples – two or three will not only make your point more interesting, it will encourage you to speak for a longer time.
Discourse markers – to link ideas together or start sentences.
EXAMPLE: What mobile phone do you have or want ?
Oh, that’s an interesting question because my phone has just died. Yes, it was destroyed in the flood last weekend. Therefore, I’m looking for a new one. In the past, I have had phone by Samsung and LG, both famous multi-national Korean companies. I was very disappointed by the camera on the Samsung because it wasn’t very advanced. Additionally, it was terrible in bright sunlight. The LG, on the other hand, was fantastic as it had many manual settings such as focus, filters and zoom. However, one day it simply stopped working. I took it to a shop but they said it was totally broken. Apple is my favourite; I’ve had my iPhone for many years and, until the flood, I never had a single problem with it. Well, maybe it’s time for an update … yes, let’s look on the bright side. I think Apple are already talking about iPhone 11. Unfortunately, this is far too expensive for me. Even the iPhone X is out of my budget. Possibly I will be looking for a 6 or 7 or, if the price is right, maybe an 8. I only really use my phone for the camera, as I love taking photos and making short film clips, as well as internet apps such as Viber, online banking and, of course, Grabbike. Still, you never know … maybe I will find a great bargain and buy a different make this time.
Subjects will be:
Music // Vietnamese food // shopping // having pets // living with family // learning English//
And hopefully, after the lesson, everyone will have spoken a lot and learnt many new words and expressions which will now be a part of their vocabulary