Adult Class Level 1: Waiting for Frodo.

5th March 2019

Tomorrow night is the last of the four-week series of lessons with one of my favourite classes. Next week they have a test, so a lot of the lesson will be taken up with review work, some reading and grammar. Very important, but can be a tad dry. I want to get the students speaking English as much as possible yet this, I regret to say, can sometimes be a challenge.

I’ll write another blog specifically about the issues I’ve faced trying to motivate my Vietnamese students but, for now, the lesson plan.

The main theme is the actor Sir Ian McKellen. Immediately, we have two interesting points about his name, namely, what does ‘Sir’ mean and why is his name spelt ‘McK …’ ?

‘Sir’ (‘Dame’ for a lady) is an award given by the Monarch (king or queen) for services to the country. It replaces ‘Mr’ so instead of Mr McKellen, he is now called Sir Ian. The ceremony can be viewed here (Ringo Starr of The Beatles is being knighted by Prince William):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeqYxSVziyI

As for the ‘McK’, Mc is Gaelic (Irish & Scottish) for Mac or son of. Therefore McKellen means ‘son of Kellen’.

Sir Ian has had a long and distinguished career, in both theatre and film. I was lucky enough to see him on stage in London in a play by the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett, ‘Waiting for Godot’, but he is surely more famous, worldwide, for being in some Hollywood blockbusters.

Sir Ian Mckellen, with Sir Patrick Stewart, in ‘Waiting For Godot’.

So first, to warm up, a word bomb game. I’ll board the word ‘cinema’ and see how many words, phrases and names can be elicited from the class.

Then we’ll move into a quick Present Perfect review. I’ll write:

I have see many films.

What is the error here ? What would be the contraction of ‘I have’ ? How would the negative be formed ? How could this be turned into a question ?

The present perfect is formed by subject + have or has + past participle (verb 3). Thus, I have seen, not ‘see’. The contraction is ‘I’ve’, the negative becomes ‘I haven’t seen ‘ while the question form is ‘Have you seen ?’ After this modelling, A few exercises for the students.

I have (meet) Sir Ian

You have (read) ‘Lord of the Rings.’

We have (study) a lot of expressions

She has (go) to the cinema many times.

The students have to give the three forms of these short sentences. Now we’ll turn to Sir Ian. Some students may recognise his face, but I’m sure all of them will know him from at least one of these films: This clip is nearly ten-minutes long, so I’ll just show the top two films, the ‘X-Men’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (7:19 – end).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adpztzTMcPk

I like using ‘real-life’ videos, as they are great for hearing English being used naturally. The problems in listening can be offset by the benefits in learning new expressions, and many videos actually have subtitles. I often play a short excerpt from a video several times, breaking it down so the students start to recognise the patterns, then practice among themselves.

In the whole clip, I would highlight the following expressions:

We’re counting down

There’s a lot to choose from

Divide(s) opinion

A great opportunity

Stole the film

Then, to practise, match them with these sentences:

Some people love Justin Bieber, some people hate him. He ……..

What food shall we order, ……………

The test is in five days, ……..

Brad Pitt was so good he …………

Going to Australia will be a ……………. to learn more English.

At this point, the book work can commence. They’ll learn about Sir Ian, and read a short interview with him. Questions fall into six categories and he gives succinct answers to each. So now it’s the turn of the students to get up from their chairs (they always need motivating to do that despite my continual promulgations that moving around will create energy and lessen the boredom of a three-hour lesson), speak with different people and practice English. It generally falls on deaf ears. A teacher needs to be patient; it’s part of the job.

The questions will be based on but amended from the interview they have just read:

What Kind of music do you like ?

Can you name any plays by Shakespeare ?

What time do you usually get up ?

How do you relax ?

Can you play a musical instrument ?

What skill(s) would you like to acquire ?

What is the best thing about HCM City ?

What is the best book you’ve read OR the best film you’ve seen ?

One of my favourite films: ‘Chungking Express’, a Hong Kong movie from 1994.

There is a lot of book work tonight, so it’s good to break it up with some games or a complete change of pace. I used this still last night in my IELTS class, where it met with a pretty luke-warm reception. I showed them how to ‘read’ a picture. First, ask what the students think is happening in this shot. What do the characters feel about about each other ? I mentioned the emotions evoked by the use of colour; here dull – blue and grey, but as we get closer to the lady (Faye Wong), the colours turn red – the sauce bottles, the Coke machine. Then look at the symbol of her T-shirt, look where her eyes are staring ….

We could then move onto film genres – make a class survey by dividing the teams in two and assigning one captain to each. They have to collate information such as favourite type of film, Vietnamese or American, how often do they go to the cinema, do they ever stream films at home and with whom do they go to the cinema ?

To end, the Family Fortune game seems very popular, where the students are put into small groups, given a board and marker, and have to come up with four answers to various questions.

Additionally, I could use some photos from an internet search, about Vietnam, and ask the teams to tell me an interesting story. I will encourage them to expand their sentences by employing adjectives, adverbs, idioms and expressions.

Then, to quote Prospero in Shakespeare’s ‘Tempest’

“..and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”

Adult Class Level 1: Can’t get there from here.

26th February 2019

Tomorrow night’s class is heavy on speaking and listening. One theme is travel, focusing on getting to the airport or station. I’ve noticed that students in all classes, of all ages, prefer activities to actual bookwork. Hence, I shall do maybe up to an hour of ‘games’ designed to practise and reinforce vocabulary, introduce new expressions and, mostly, get the students producing English among themselves.

Again, I’ll be able to recycle material from other classes, adapted to the news of these specific students.

Firstly, I’ll introduce some common fixed expressions. Three should be enough at this level:

Long time no ….

At the end of the …

Better luck next ….

‘At the end of the … ‘ is a very common expression, especially used by footballers in post-match interviews. Here is just one example: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIucUjHlMbE

I will play this 2 or 3 times, asking the students what it is about and can they hear the expression (which is said twice).

Next up, a quick review of new vocabulary. I’ll show some definitions and the students have to give me the word or phrase:

What you think of something when you just see it (two words)

Something you want to do or achieve in life – a

Sending a file, picture or music using email –a

An adjective meaning very good – a

Expression meaning you have chosen the best area or shop or office – Y c t t r p.

The third activity is to practise speaking and using new language. Students are put into small groups and take turns speaking. The topic shall be travel, and the students have to use the following:

amazing / attachment / incredibly / predict / first impressions / you’ve come to the right place

With all speaking exercises, it helps if the teacher or a top student models first, so that all the students understand what they have to do. I shall use the same words but my theme shall be food:

On Saturday, I was out shopping and I felt very hungry. I went into a restaurant and my first impression was not encouraging. It looked a bit dirty and I predicted that the food wouldn’t be very exciting. However, they had an interesting menu with vegetarian options, which was amazing ! I ordered some pho and salad and it was incredibly delicious. I thought to myself I’ve come to the right place. I took some photos so I’ll send them to you by attachment on my next email.

The following activity maintains the groups. This activity shows three options for getting downtown from the airport. There are also three pairs of people who arrive at different times and have different requirements. The students must read the information and discuss the merits of each method. Then they must advise the travellers which method is best suited to their needs. This activity can be found on a previous blog, and the link is:

https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2019/02/10/ielts-have-love-will-travel/

While they students work, the teacher shouldn’t interfere unless directly asked, or give too many extra instructions; the students need time to work alone and develop language skills. However, I can listen out for any mistakes in grammar, pronunciation etc. At the end of the exercise I can board these and the class can make corrections. This prevents an individual student becoming embarrassed.

Before the book work (today it’s listening to videos and answering comprehension questions), there is one more exercise from a book. The subject is ‘have you ever done it ?’ and the students are presented with 14 situations. There are given the base verb and have to answer the questions making sure to use both positive and negative answers. For example:

I ………… Star Wars films (see) I have seen all the Star Wars films

I ………. to Thailand (go) I have been to Thailand

Then it’s time for the assigned work. I’ll aim to work and leave about 15 minutes for some informal games. The Family Fortune (FF) game is very popular; here groups are given a board and marker and have to write four answers, some general knowledge, some about me. Examples from last night are:

Four countries in Europe

Four ways to say ‘hello’ except in Viet or English.

Four foods from Italy (here we have a lot of fun with exaggerated pronunciation). What better teacher than Christoph Waltz from ‘Inglorious Basterds’ ?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rq7qm3T3cPE&t=186s

This scene can have two roles. First we compare how a Brit would respond to hearing of someone having an accident (turn our heads, look very sympathetic and say ‘Ahhhhhh, poor you,’). Then we see how Mr Waltz’s character responds (0:54 – 1:34). In the film, a young lady has broken her leg and the German inquires how the accident happened.

The Italian pronunciation scene begins at 2:24.

Inglorious Basterds 2009 (Dir Quentin Tarantino)



We can alternate with some personal questions such as ‘What will I do after work ?’, ‘What are four things I dislike about Vietnam ?’ and what four instruments can I play ?’ (It doesn’t matter if I can only play one, it’s just a test of vocabulary, and it makes me seem much more interesting !)

Adult Class Level 1: Computer World

20th February 2019

Today’s lesson is about the internet, what it’s used for, what vocabulary is associated with it and how men and women spend their time online. The main topic is ‘do men and women use the internet in different ways ?’

As a quick warm-up, the students can shout out different websites that are famous, and how they would be categorised (social media, news, commercial, blog etc).

No doubt ‘YouTube’ will be mentioned and here is a short video which ties in with the theme of a previous lesson (‘What do you want to do with your life?’). Here, 100 children are asked what they want to be. The students have to write down as many jobs as they hear, so they practice listening skills. Additionally, the children are from USA, so their accents differ from mine, exposing the class to a variety of Englishes. Some speak very clearly, other mumble so turning this into a game could be fun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUup841pZrs

Statistics are widely available to show internet usage by region and by gender. One good example may be found here: https://www.statista.com/statistics/491387/gender-distribution-of-internet-users-region/

The chart can be used as an exercise in data reading and use of comparatives for example, where are the highest users of the internet and, conversely, the lowest ? Do more men or women go online ? Then adverbs can be employed to stress the difference.

We can see that, with the exception of the Americas, men use the internet slightly more than woman in their geographic area. Regarding the Americas, the amount of women compared to men is not significantly higher. Over 80% of European men access the net, but less than 20% of African women do so. Asia is often seen as being in the forefront of technology (think of Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong) yet has a surprisingly low percentage of users, less than 40% of women compared to nearly 80% of women in Europe. What could be the reasons for this ?

High-tech Asia, yet less than 40% of Asian Pacific women actually use the internet.

However, this is a level 1 class so we don’t want to delve too deeply into the reasons, we want to get the students up and talking, and one of the best ways is make them conduct a quick survey among their classmates.

Internet Survey 

Question Name Answer

How often do you go online ?







Do you use the internet for work and/or study ? How ?







What social media sites do you use regularly ? How often ?







Have you ever bought or sold anything online ?







What is good about the internet ? What is the worst ?







This is an adult class, so I’m sure someone may refer to dating sites. this will lead us into the next activity, ‘Lonely Hearts’. Here, I’ll show three men and three women, each with a brief biography, stating their likes and what they are looking for in a partner. The class, in small teams or pairs, have to match each man to a woman, then predict what will happen on the date.

This allows the students to be creative, while encouraging the use of opinion phrases and building sentences by giving reasons to support their ideas.

PETER. Age 46. Lawyer. Likes cooking, travelling, wine, driving, tennis. Divorced, 2 children. Looks for quiet lady with no children, to look after the house and him.

JAMES. Age 26. IT worker. Likes music, dancing, going to clubs, beach holidays. Single. Looks for young lady who is loud and fun, likes to party.

David. Age 22. Model. Likes fashion, clothes, cocktail bars, smoking cigars. Looks for a women who is a model so we can look great together. Must be very beautiful and wear expensive clothes.

Jane. Age 22. Likes fashion, clubbing, kittens, holidays in the sun. Looks for a man with a steady job and ‘down-to-earth’. Non-smoker only.

Lisa 28. Banker. Likes quiet restaurants, badminton, travelling. Looks for a mature man with good income for long term relationship. No boys, please !

Emily. 20. Likes dancing, fashion, going out with my friends. Movies. Wants a young, cute boy-friend so we can go to parties together. No boring old men, please !

This exercise can be used to elicit adjectives as well; the students can describe the physical appearances, and what they think the people are really like.

All the time, I’d like to encourage the students to talk more in English, reduce the teacher- student dynamic, have more open-class discussions. One way to facilitate that is to maybe repeat something controversial and see how the class react to the comment. For example, a man may say that women only use the internet for social media and gossip, men use it for important things.

Obviously, my job is to encourage students to speak with each other, to take a back seat or, as we put it, to cut down on ‘teacher-talking time.’ I’m certainly not here to foster my views or disagree with the class. However, if I feel a conversation is in danger of becoming contentious, I can point out that in Europe, USA, Australia (called ‘the west’ for convenience) such views would be unacceptable on the grounds of sexism or racism. We don’t just teach the English language; we introduce students to western culture and norms.

Adult Class Level 1. Cross my palm with silver …

30th January 2019

The theme of tonight’s class ?

It doesn’t take a fortune teller to predict tonight’s lesson is about … fortune telling, predictions and the use of the future tense phrase ‘going to.’ Firstly, I will make some predictions about tonight’s class:

  1. Most students will be late
  2. I shall ask students to work together and speak English; they shall speak in Vietnamese
  3. At least one student will fall asleep
  4. During the reading and listening section, there will be sighs, yawns and clicking of pens
  5. I shall encourage students to get up, move around, speak with different partners; nobody will move.

And now, without further ado, the lesson plan

I’ll show a slide of the above five images and elicit feedback. This will lead into the first speaking activity, where I want to combine the theme with practising ‘going to’, as well as getting the students up and talking. To this end, I’ll prepare a questionnaire. The students have to interview each other.

What are you going to do for Tet Holiday ?




Do you believe in fortune telling ? Why ?




Have you had your fortune told ? Why not ?




Do you have any superstitions ?




Do you think you are going to pass your English test ?




What special things are you going to do at Tet ?




The students must ask two classmates the same question and then record the response. If they need some prompting about special Tet customs, I can show the following webpage and ask them if they agree:

https://www.victoriahotels.asia/blog/10-things-to-know-about-lunar-new-year/

As it’s Tet next week, and this is the last lesson of the short teaching block, I want to make the lesson more entertaining. Tying in with the theme of predicting future actions, I’ll show some funny clips. I’m sure you can guess the task; the students watch a normal situation, then have to predict what happens. What better way to start than with former President G.W. Bush: The clip I want starts at 7:14

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhmdEq3JhoY

Next one is the elephant clip at 1:54

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUVuaja6u0E

The following should please my students as it involves some Chinese (the Vietnamese have certain views on the Chinese, but this is not an appropriate forum to discuss that).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4H4gLEOmWrY

Finally, this clip can start at 0:05

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPyFzLeRYpg

And so … to books. My classes generally focus on the passive activities of reading and listening, hence my desire to promote as much speaking as possible. After the books, there will be some role-playing games where the students will be given some cards (depicting money, travel, luck etc) and they have to ‘read’ their partners fortune. We could see who can make the most outlandish predictions. New vocabulary can be generated by a ‘word bomb’ game, using the word ‘luck’, for example how to form the adjective from the noun and vice versa (success and successful), as well as encouraging the use of adverbs; he will be tremendously successful, she will be incredibly famous, they will marry and be unbelievably happy.

If time allows, I can do an exercise where students practise opinion phrases. I can play some English-language music, maybe three excerpts from three different genres, and ask what they think of them; which are their favourites and why.

After Tet, the students have some English tests. I will offer to help, ask the students if they want to revise any subject, if they want me to go over any grammar. I think we can all predict the answer to that one.

Listening Skills: Tips and links.

Listening Skills

The following websites are good for practicing listening. What are the pros and cons of each one ? What do you like or dislike about them ? How helpful do you find them ?

British Council (learn English teens). Home – skills – listening

http://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/skills/listening-skills-practice

Newsinlevels.com

https://www.newsinlevels.com/

BBC Learning English (for pronunciation)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/features/pronunciation

There are many courses on YouTube. I use:

English Speaking Course Unit 2

Learn English with Emma

https://www.youtube.com/user/EnglishTeacherEmma

Mad English TV

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUeS2Jmgiu0OFaTeRqkuXtw

TOEIC Channel

English Class 101

And … listen to music (with lyrics), films (short clips – 30 seconds to 1 minute) and TV shows with subtitles.

Try these:

Music

Any English song with lyrics (words) will be a great way to learn, and fun as well.

Film ‘King’s Speech’

TV show – ‘Eastenders’

This is a ‘soap opera’ – a TV drama that is shown two or three times a week. Each episode last 30 minutes and has many different characters. This drama is set in eat London, so many people have an accent typical of that area. See how much you understand.

Adult Class Level 1, Lesson 3: Things that go bump in the night !

Wednesday 2nd January 2019

A typical cliche commentators use about football is that it is a game of two halves. This means that the second half is totally different to what happened in the first. For example, maybe Real Madrid score two goals and dominate the first half, but after the break, Barcelona score three goals and are in control. It is like watching two different games. This was a lesson of two halves !

Before the class, I was talking to one of the students about smoking. He wants to quit, but all his colleagues are smokers. even if he stops, he will still be breathing their smoke. This is known as passive smoking.

Some activities involve the student producing – either speaking or writing. These are active, while reading and listening are passive. Tonight’s lesson, even though I thought the subject would be interesting, was too passive. At break I knew I had to change, had to turn it around, get them active.

The subject, as the heading may suggest, was about ghosts, hauntings and old spooky buildings in the UK.

As a warm up, I showed the following pictures to see if they knew them. Three were fictional (from a book or film, not real people) but one was a famous or rather infamous historical figure:

‘Nosferatu’ silent German film from 1922. Max Schreck is the actor playing Count Orlok, a vampire


Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula in a 1931 film
Christopher Lee as Dracula

Vlad III or Vlad the Impalor or Vlad Dracula (1431 – 1476). Born in Romania, east Europe.



I also showed some buildings, this time three were real, one was a film-set:

Bran Castle in Romania – the ‘Dracula’ castle
Orava Castle in Slovakia. This was used in the ‘Nosferatu’ film. See how it is carved out of the mountain.
This is the fake haunted house. Notice the tombstones and graveyard, with the eerie mist and fog.


The reading focused on two accounts of haunted houses in the UK, one in Dumfries, Scotland, the other in Cumbria, north England. I showed a map so the students could locate the places, and also showed a clip from a program about ghost-hunting, called ‘Most Haunted’.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1rzTQWr0M0

And then … the computer crashed !

Spooky ? Eerie ? Mysterious ? A ghost ?

I checked the other classes, and they all had perfect wifi – just my class, watching a ghost video – had a crashed computer.

Despite this appropriate non-scripted event, I could tell the students were getting restless. After the reading, there was listening practice and some grammar. More than one student had the heavy-eye syndrome (i.e. was sleeping) which another, younger, student found somewhat hilarious. Time for action.

After break, I boarded four scenarios. What would you do if:

You invited friends out for a meal … then realised you had no money ?

You found a snake under your bed

Your friend was very drunk but wanted to drive home

You were sleeping then woke up in the middle of the night when you heard a strange sound and strange moaning …. ?

This lead to some good, animated discussions. Solutions were to leave a phone with the restaurant manager (as a deposit) then go home and get the money, taking your friend’s keys, phoning a taxi for him or punching him ! A young lady said that any snake found in her room would end up in a cooking pot ! Meanwhile, nobody seemed scarred about strange noises in the night.

Afterwards there was grammar and speaking practice, in small groups or pairs and soon the lesson was over.

I wished them all Happy New Year … and a quiet, peaceful night without ghosts, ghouls or vampires.

Adult Class Level 1, Lessons 1 & 2

Wednesday 12th & 19th December

The theme of the first class was portrait galleries – what can be seen there, what a portrait was and what other types of painting / photographs there are.

For review, and as a warm-up exercise, I asked the students what types these paintings were:

One is a portrait, one a landscape, the last is called a still life.

Still means not moving – for example, if a policeman shouts, “Stand still !” it means do NOT move. So a still life is a painting of objects (usually fruit or flowers).

What do YOU think of these paintings ? There is no ‘right’ answer – just think about them and give your opinion using expressions:

In my opinion ….. For me ….. I think ….. I feel …….

This is a nice class, about 14 students, evenly split between ladies and men. They are motivated and enthusiastic, which makes the teacher’s job much easier (and then some).

Today I introduced some British history; a young lady sneezed and I said, “Bless you.” The reason we say this goes back to the plague.

People who got this disease would die in five days. One sign that a person was getting the plague was sneezing so when a person sneezed, their friends and family would say, “Bless you,” meaning God protect you.

Today, if someone sneezes, we say, “Bless you,” the reply is then, “Thank you,” and the first person then says, “You’re welcome.”

Football was also a subject as tonight’s theme was ‘A Night To Remember’, and many people will remember last Saturday. Vietnam beat Malaysia and won the AFF Championship. The score was 1 – 0 (one – nil)

Other words tonight were bonus (something extra e.g. a Christmas bonus meaning extra money) and present (a gift at birthdays or Christmas / Tet).

Tonight’s pronunciation included telling the time: It’s nine o’clock = it’s ninea clock. Then the date … today is the 19th so we practised the ‘th’ sound.

For music, we listened to Led Zepplin ‘Whole Lotta Love’ (in standard English ‘A whole lot of love’)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQmmM_qwG4k

The first part of the lesson was book work – a lot of listening (which most students find very difficult), so the second part was totally students producing, practising grammar (past simple) and then asking each other questions, moving around the room, trying to speak to new people.

This helps with speaking and listening skills, as well as the grammar.

Many thanks for my students for helping me with my Tieng Viet, and sorry for continuing to mispronounce their names …. rat xin loi !