IELTS 5 – 6.5. Writing example

15th March 2020

Image result for ielts

As I constantly inform my students, IELTS is not a typical English class … it is IELTS English by which I mean, students have to demonstrate a command of the language that includes a wide range of vocabulary, the confidence to speak fluently, the correct stress and intonation to keep your listener engaged, the ability to form complex sentences and link them with appropriate discourse markers. Additionally, a knowledge of how English is REALLY spoken, to wit, sounding like the student has been interacting with real native-speakers, not merely repeating verbatim from a text book, is a must.

Piece of cake, no ? (an English idiom – you will need to learn some basic expressions, phrases and idioms to make your spoken language more natural and interesting).

OK, let’s break it down. IELTS requires a lot of work, study and practice. Students that come to my class expecting to kick back and be entertained are in for a shock, and then some. As such, I will not be defining the idioms I employ in this blog, e.g. Piece of cake – YOU will have to look them up yourself.

Image result for ielts getting started

Don’t worry, young lady, I’m here to help you. Having said that, if you’ve been on a three-month course and you’ve left it to the last week to study … then you will probably fail, and deservedly so. Yes, life in the IELTS lane is tough, it’s dog eat dog (though ‘devour’ would be a more IELTS-friendly word than ‘eat’).

Where to start ?

OK, IELTS wants what they term ‘low-frequency’ words. Basically, look at your English; replace any basic adjective or verb or indeed noun, with a ‘better’ word, a word that would be used by the higher-educated native speaker. Your best tool here is a thesaurus of which there are many online, or downloadable for free.

Image result for thesaurus

It works thus: Let’s start with a very basic adverb ‘very’. This is too simplistic for IELTS, so type in the word and click enter.

A number of words will appear. As above, the darker-shaded words are what the computer’s algorithm indicate would be more suitable, while giving additional options in lighter shades.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating – so let’s try it: rewrite these sentences using low-frequency words:

I think Bangkok a better destination than Chiang Mai

She bought a cheap bag

The film was good

Stage Two

Linking ideas with discourse markers. I give all my students a print-out of common words and expressions that must be consulted and utilised. I hope that all my students take them home and study them religiously. Conversely they may use the paper to line the bottom of a bird cage. In all reality, the majority of students say, ‘Thank you,” have a glance, put said sheet in their bag and forget all about it. Consequently, several weeks later, the students are still resorting to ‘and’, ‘but’ with a possible ‘however’.

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make the horse drink

Discourse Markers

Image result for discourse markers
I recommend my students learn at least two from each section.

Adverbs are incredibly powerful and so easily inserted into everyday text

I worked at another large and prestigious language centre, and had the pleasure of marking some essays by teenagers. From twelve pieces of ‘writing’, I found only ONE adverb.

Adverbs add information and interest to your language, but my students seem to avoid them like the plague. They may deign to insert a ‘very’ to please me … but it doesn’t ! I expect, nay, DEMAND more.

Without further ado

An example. IELTS will give students a very open-ended subject and then expect a well-constructed piece of writing, or fluent, coherent speech upon said subject, with no deviation, hesitation or repetition. It is a chance for the student to perform a solo, to demonstrate how much they have learnt and studied … or otherwise … generally it is ‘otherwise’.

Image result for reap what you sow

Time for an anecdote. I was teaching one class, and endeavouring to give them ample opportunity to speak and practice English. Nobody spoke. If I selected some students, they would make an appalling act of not having heard the question, or to answer in a single word. Some students even began laughing that teacher was asking the class but nobody was responding. Hilarious … but he who laughs last, laughs longest. I decided this class was a waste of my time (because it WAS a waste of my time) and left them to their fate … CUT TO some weeks later, it’s the day of their speaking test … suddenly, they are running up to me for help, “What should I say ?”, “I don’t know what to do”, “I’m going to fail.” Temptation was to tell them where to go ( that is an expression that does NOT imply direction !), but I gave them what help I could in the minute I could spare. Needless to say … most of the class were disappointed with their score, and no doubt, upon arrival at the family nest, were met were screams and derision. And no doubt they put the blame squarely where it belongs … on the foreign teacher !

The concluding line was an example of irony. I’m not going to tell you what irony is, look it up for yourself ! Do you want a fish or a fishing rod and knowledge of how to catch your own fish ?

Image result for give a man a fish

So now, a fairly run-of-the mill IELTS question:

Tell me about your favourite gadget

This piece is, as one would expect, quite lengthy and jam-packed with information and detail. I don’t expect you to write or speak at this level … but I expect you to TRY.

As you read, look out for:

Low-frequency words

adverbs

adjectives

discourse markers

complex sentences (sentences which coney more than one piece of information)

expressions, phrases and idioms

THEN – practice reading aloud. Not just once and, “Teacher, finished,” but again … and again … and again. Yes, this is not entertainment but it WILL help you get the score you want from IELTS

Image result for kindle fire

My Kindle

One of my favourite electronic devices is my Kindle, an ebook reader, which is small and light. I always take it with me when I travel; I’d be lost without it.

The Kindle is primarily a way to buy, store and read books in electronic format. At first, I wasn’t convinced; I liked reading real books. However, books take up a lot of space and, at least in the UK, are rather expensive. When I saw what a Kindle can do, and that so many books are free, I was hooked ! I had to get one. I bought my device in 2014 and I’m still using it today.

As mentioned, I use my Kindle for reading. Literature, including poetry, is one of my passions. Instead of going to a shop, I just browse the online store, click and wait for it to download. With reasonable wifi, this can just take a minute or so … then I can start reading. It is no surprise that ebooks are ubiquitous in the UK.

Although I read a lot, the Kindle is more than just an ebook. It has wifi so I can access the internet, can play music, write notes and play games.

The wifi is vital, especially when I travel. I can maintain contact with friends and family, watch YouTube if the hotel TV is less than enthralling, or read travel guides such as Trip Advisor. Naturally, I can also book tickets or make reservations and therefore pay significantly less.

I recently travelled to Thailand to meet some friends. I didn’t want to buy a new SIM card, and my friend only had an old phone, so there was a dilemma; how to stay in touch ? Thanks to my Kindle, I had email access, so we could plan when and where to meet. 

I can’t watch Vietnamese TV, due to the language barrier. Consequently, the Kindle plays an even bigger part of my life, as I need some way to relax after toiling away for hours at work.

The choice of books is amazing. In the stores, a single book can cost around £10, but recently I downloaded the entire output of the Russian write Tolstoy for less than £1.50 … incredible !

Kindles come in many shapes and sizes, so before you buy, you need to ascertain how you’ll be using it. For example, do you want a basic ebook reader, just for books, or the latest model with wifi ? This will, naturally, affect the cost. Then you have to decide upon the extras, for example how much storage space do you require, or a super-fast charger or protective case ? All of these bump the price up considerably.

If you’re interested in purchasing one, I have some information for you. I did a quick Google search and saw prices started at under 2 million VND, averaged around 5 million, but some were over 15 million. That, for me, is too extravagant.

In conclusion, my Kindle is very much a part of my life. It accompanies me everywhere. I simply don’t know what I would do without it.

Now … YOUR TURN

Write a piece about YOUR favourite gadget, using the above as a model

Best of British to you

IELTS 5- 6.5: All you need is love … and relative pronouns

25th September 2019

Tonight I want to focus on forming complex sentences in order to boost the speaking prowess of my students. Being able to speak in long sentences, with subordinate clauses and relative pronouns, linked by appropriate discourse markers, will improve their scores in the speaking tests, along with use of stress, intonation, chunking, and a liberal smattering of expressions and vernacular, thereby demonstrating a familiarity with different uses of English.

So, without further ado … complex sentences. Let’s kick off with some basic information about my friend Pete:

Pete (left) with drummer Kenny Jones of The Small Faces & The Who

Pete’s family are Irish. He was born in Kent, south England. He loves music especially Jazz and he can play saxophone, keyboards, guitar and bass. He is 40 years old. He is bald, and wears glasses. Currently he plays bass in a band called ‘The Deep Six’. They have a video on YouTube. In the photo, Pete is with the famous 60s drummer Kenny Jones. He was in The Small Faces. Later he joined The Who after their original drummer died.

Example:

Pete, who was born in Kent in the south of England, is of Irish heritage. Although he is just forty, Pete looks older, probably due to the fact that he is bald, as well as having to wear glasses. His great passion in life is music, especially Jazz, but his interest is not merely passive; he plays several instruments. In addition to saxophone and keyboards, Pete is proficient on guitar. Having said that, he actually plays bass now in a band named The Deep Six, who have a video on YouTube. Pete is seen here with the legendary drummer Kenny Jones who rose to fame in the 60s as drummer for chart-topping band The Small Faces before joining The Who following the death of their original drummer.

And here is said video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-_u-W_3jWk&list=LLfquznE0joCgmA3v1PIQ0CQ&index=6&t=0s

I am sure if you watch the video, give it a ‘thumbs up’ and ‘like’, Pete will be tickled pink.

Now, a quick practice:

This is Wei Minzhi. She was born near Beijing. She was chosen to be in a Chinese film called ‘Not One Less’. She was 13. She played a substitute teacher but had no experience teaching (and no experience acting). The area is very poor. Some of the children have to leave school to work. The film was shown all over Europe, even at special film festivals. She was famous. She did no more acting. She studied in USA. She lives in Hawaii. Wei is married and has two children.

Students have five minutes to reorganise this information into a style more suited to an IELTS student.

Now – a Socratic activity; students are arranged in small groups, selected by choosing a card (Ace, 2 or 3), given a task and have to collate information and present it to the class, utilising the resources available, namely internet for facts, images or videos. Let’s revisit some old friends; first one of my favourite authors, Dr Franz Kafka:

Image result for kafka

Born: 1883 Prague, Czech Republic (at the time, part of the Austro-Hungarian empire) // Died 1924 in Austria. Never married, engaged twice. Had three sisters. Was vegetarian. Difficult relationship with his father. Famous for writing, but only produced three novels, all of which were published after his death. Most famous of these is ‘The Trial’ which has a famous opening line, “Somebody must have made a false accusation against Joseph K., for he was arrested one morning without having done anything wrong.” This book is seen as a warning about totalitarian governments. He lived in Prague which is Czech and Protestant, but he spoke and wrote in German, and he was Jewish. He is one of the most influential writers of the Twentieth Century, and his name has become an adjective, ‘Kafkaesque’ meaning impenetrable, convoluted, mysterious and unsolvable. More information can easily be found online, for example:

https://www.dw.com/en/franz-kafka-the-trial/a-45774582

Now let’s turn to John Lennon, seen here with his Japanese wife, Yoko Ono (also an artist, but more avant-garde).

Image result for john lennon

John was born in Liverpool, during World War II, in 1940. Liverpool was a port, so was a target for German bombers. He grew up very poor. At school he was rebellious, but liked art. When he first heard Rock ‘n’ Roll, he knew he had to be a singer. He formed The Beatles. His guitar playing was enthusiastic but basic. He wrote many songs which have become classics. When The Beatles split up in 1970 he went solo. His most famous solo work is the ‘Imagine’ LP. The title track has the lyric, “Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too.” He protested against the war in Vietnam. He was shot in 1980 outside of his New York apartment. He has two sons, Julian by his first wife, and Sean from Yoko.

The third group will get NO help from me – they shouldn’t need it. Their subject is “the father of the Indo-Chinese people, and his name is Ho Chi Minh.”

Image result for Uncle Ho

This task involves the students working together, assigning tasks, then producing and presenting their report. All members of the team have to speak. Furthermore, they should be encouraged to use English during the preparation stage, only resorting to Vietnamese for clarification or translation of new words.

Quick end game: After the book work, which I have to teach, my hands are tied, we can unwind with some speaking practice.

Using discourse markers: I give teams two words which they have to incorporate into a sentence, for example ‘therefore‘ and ‘subsequently‘.

having said that & furthermore

moreover & consequently

initially & eventually

likewise & specifically

meanwhile & notwithstanding

on the whole & instead

What Difference Does It Make ? : I give students a paper with two words or phrases that are related but different. They have to clarify the distinction, for example

teacher / headmaster

educate / bring up

take an exam / retake an exam

do homework / do housework

quite common / ubiquitous

required subject / optional subject

similarity with / disparity between

skim / extrapolate

And to play us out, let’s go back to John Lennon and his iconic song, ‘Imagine’. The music starts around 0:40:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkgkThdzX-8

Nothing to kill or die for … Peace xx

IELTS 5 – 6.5: Extra activities

10th September for 11th September 2019 pp. 22 – 23

Tonight’s lesson is quite full, focusing on speaking and pronunciation, with extra worksheets to encourage longer sentences and the use of IELTS-preferred language. Subsequently, there is no so much for a teacher to prepare. Having said that, the students generally respond well to more active exercises. As such, I’ve prepared a handful of said items.

Warm Up – students arrive on Viet time, so I always start with a minor exercise. Tonight, we will go over some new vocabulary and then apply in short sentences. Last week, we covered:

disparity // tongue in cheek // consider // extrapolate // significance

And we need to increase the frequency of discourse markers:

subsequently // therefore // consequently

First, elicit the meanings, then decide which words or expressions fill these gaps ?

You must scan the article quickly in order to ……….. the relevant information.

There is a huge ………. between the super rich and the poor in many countries.

Image result for super rich super poor

The students just played with their phones in class. …………. many failed their test.

I need time to …………. your proposal.

What was the ………… of 30th April 1975 ?

He refused to ask directions and …………. was completely lost.

“Vietnam is such a clean, environmentally-friendly country,” John said, ……………..

BONUS POINTS:

What does Thay Paul drink in the morning …?

Tony was busy ……………………………… to his friend (phoning).

What is the name of those three dots (…) in a text ?

Can you think of a good anecdote ? Oh, I can ……………… (remember something)

Next Up: What’s the story.

Here, I board some key words and the students have to try to devise a plot of a film:

China // rural // poverty // teenage teacher // naughty // runaway // search // appeal on TV // subsequently // reunited.

Give the students a few minutes to come up with a plot-line, and listen to their ideas.

Show this clip and see how close (or miles away) they were: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgtEYDc1JW4

NOT ONE LESS, (YI GE DOU BU NENG SHAO), Wei Minzhi, 1999, (c) Sony Pictures Classics

This short trailer is also great for listening as well as learning new vocabulary.

We have a lot to get through tonight, so time to hit the books, and cover the extra speaking activities.

Movin’ on: Speaking practice

I have list of general, small talk questions. The task is to respond in such a way as to impress an IELTS teacher. As always, best to start with an example, so a simple, very open question:

What kind of music do you like ?

One could just list some genres, but that wouldn’t cut it for IELTS. So, to increase sentence length, start with a short introduction, for example:

Music is very important in my life; I listen to some form of music every day. I really couldn’t imagine life without songs.

Then go on to explain in detail. People rarely only like one type of music, so that opens up the scope of the response:

When I was younger, of course I liked pop music such as (list two or three examples), but nowadays, I find myself listening more to (name some different genres).

Then how do you listen to music ? Computer, You Tube, Spotify, MP3 player, on your phone ? Do you buy, stream or download. Do you buy CDs ?

Can you play an instrument ? If so, which one(s). If not, you can still talk about it:

Although I love music, I don’t actually play any instruments, though I have always wanted to learn (the piano, guitar, oboe etc), and, who knows … maybe in the future I will.

Then turn the conversation; is there any music you don’t like ? This will enable the speaker to use an appropriate discourse marker:

Be that as it may // That notwithstanding // Having said that, I absolutely detest (give an example or examples – are there occasions when you are forced to listen to music ?) karaoke, which is so prevalent in Viet Nam, not to mention drunken wedding party ‘singing’.

I have a list of several questions. Students can work in small groups or pairs and choose one question about which they feel most confident. After a short preparation time, they must speak without repetition, hesitation or deviation – their partners can check this.

Finally, as an endgame, I can play some music and the students have to identify the genre from the above list.

Sweet ‘Love is Like Oxygen’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXJ4TZSXtzc

Nirvana ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’

watch?v=hTWKbfoikeg

Chic ‘Good Times’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Er9xGRolrT4

Stray Cats ‘Stray Cat Strut’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbAyj1h9vI0

And on that note … lesson over.

IELTS 5 – 6.5: “I don’t like cricket …”

2nd September for Wednesday 4th September. Listening pp. 20 – 21

Tonight’s focus is on listening, which is perhaps the hardest part of learning English. I often mention the disparity between reading a text and actually hearing said text spoken, with contractions, glottal stops, chunking not to mention accents and accelerated articulation.

Last week, the class were surprisingly lively, and seemed to enjoy some role-playing activities, to practise speaking. I warned them that a listening lesson was coming up, and they were stoical about it, one student even saying that they understand, and it’s not my fault. I have to follow the syllabus, my hands are tied … but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun !

Warm Up: As students are arriving, I’ll start by relating a simple anecdote. The students then have to repeat the important information. The second time, I’ll include more information, and more the third time … and so on. For example:

On Monday, I watched a Korean film called ‘… ing’, which was made in 2003. It’s a romantic drama and is a real tearjerker.

Yesterday, I woke up at 5.50, drank two cups of damn fine coffee, and checked my emails, posted a blog and caught up with friends on Facebook.

Speaking of Facebook, one of my favourite films is ‘The Social Network’ about how the company was founded. It was made in 2010 and based on a book that was published in 2009. I really love this scene in the film which features a song called ‘Dreadlock Holiday’ by the band 10cc (can watch up to 0:45).

Image result for social network caribbean night

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tVYr-a33Bw

BONUS POINTS … at the beginning of the scene, some young Jewish men are speaking about why Jewish guys like Asian girls … what, according to the character Eduardo, is the reason (This is one of my favourite all-time cinema quotes) ?

As with all tonight’s real-life clips, we’ll see if any of the students can repeat the quote, aiming for pronunciation, chunking and a natural rhythm.

Speaking of, apropos of ‘Dreadlock Holiday’, can the students understand the first verse and chorus ? This link has the lyrics, so I can turn off the projector and just have them listen, then listen again with the words.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q659IaXrS3Y

Next up, a version of Chinese Whispers (which is probably a politically incorrect name now). Be that as it may, (and no offence whatsoever to our northern neighbours) the game works like this (assuming that most of the students have arrived, the Vietnamese not being the most punctual of people, and that’s not racist, it’s a fact – they even have a name for it, which translates as ‘rubber-band time’):

Class in two teams. I take the first person of each team outside and give them a separate sentence. They must go back to the class, tell their neighbour and see if the final person is able to repeat the line. Can be repeated depending on class reaction.

A good activity to encourage inter-student communication is to put the class into two or three groups. Each group is handed a paper with some information. One person has to read aloud without showing the paper, and the others have to see how much they can understand. The speaker may be asked to repeat, so it’s also a good way to introduce phrases. A typical card may be:

I’m looking to speak with Ms Nguyen // I’m in the office from 11.00 – 15.00 // I want to discuss the new school building // I work for Vietnam News // Call me on 032 734 9201.

Useful Expressions:

Could you repeat that, please ?

I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your number.

Would you be so kind as to leave your name ?

Let me make a note. Hold the line.

Is there a message I can take ?

[With a small group, this could be done one student at a time, but may be intimidating for some students.]

And then, it’s time to hit the books – it’s high time we hit the books.

End game: To continue the listening, but bringing it alive, I’ll show a couple of evergreen clips. One is from ‘Twin Peaks’, a cult TV show from the 1990s. The main character, like the writer of this blog, loves coffee. The students have to copy the body language and say:

“Wait a minute, wait a minute …. this is, excuse me, a damn fine cup of coffee.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxwcQ1dapw8

Finally, the late, great, Peter O’Toole on the David Letterman chat show. The host is a fast-talking American, the actor, an Irish-born, incredibly charismatic, flamboyant old-time movie star. He is asked to tell an anecdote, and rather than a pedestrian, “Let me see,” he delivers, with perfect timing:

“Oh, I think I can shuffle through my memory.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Fl3bOeXvyI&list=PL97HViQblvdEM3zsauRxnIg1baFTNmsDM&index=25&t=51s

Related image

Listening Tips: I have a plethora of clips and exercises on a previous blog: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2019/01/23/listening-skills-tips-and-links/

IELTS 5 – 6:5: Talking Englishes

28th August 2019 page 13.

Today is a speaking lesson, so hopefully that will be more active and interesting for the students. However, a three-hour lesson means the teacher has to prepare a ‘montage of attractions’ (a connected collection of various activities) to maintain energy and enthusiasm and … most importantly … to help the students acquire and practice the new vocabulary, expressions and pronunciations.

Warm up: As mentioned in just about every blog, students arrive willy-nilly and, for sure, they are coming from work, from school, stuck in traffic but it does interrupt the flow. therefore we need a quick warm up game into which people can jump.

Call My bluff:

Image result for call my bluff

Class in two teams (or sub-divided for larger classes). One team has a list of low-frequency words, followed by three definitions and word class. The object is for them to read out (and hopefully elaborate) the definitions, give examples and trick the opposition into giving a wrong answer. For example, the word ‘obnoxious‘:

  1. Adjective – an unpleasant, horrible person
  2. Noun – science, a gas that becomes a liquid at 50 degrees centigrade
  3. Noun – a small village, usually in north Europe, that doesn’t have a church.

Depending on the English ability (and let’s be honest – the motivation) of the students, this could be an interesting game, as well as increasing their vocabulary. New words can be recycled throughout the lesson. Other words are ‘demeanour’, ‘broadsheet’, ‘mindset’, ‘surreal’, ‘vainglory’, ‘troglodyte’ (believe me, this word perfectly describes a lot of people in my neighbourhood) & ‘excruciating’.

After this, I want to get all the book work under our belts then move on to speaking activities.

Small Talk and keeping conversations going.

This could introduce cultural topics; what is acceptable in one culture is a big ‘no-no’ in another, for example, you can ask a westerner if they are married, but if they say “No,” it is not acceptable to ask WHY (implication – what is WRONG with you ?). For a western, used to ‘Rockin’ in the Free World,’ all politics is off limits … If people want to proclaim, “Communism forever !”, while using the latest iPhone X and getting rides home from their parents in luxury cars, let it go … likewise, hearing that Chairman Mao is a hero … oh well, whatever, never mind. At least in Viet Nam people has access to the internet, so maybe a little Google search with ‘Mao’ & ‘famine’ could be enlightening. So, you see, this digression was to show just precarious small talk can be.

Image result for neil young rockin in the free world

NOT that I’m saying the west is a Utopia of free speech … political correctness, non-disclosure agreements, hate speech, misinformation and downright lies … but that is ANOTHER story. Back to our activity:

There will be a list of ten innocuous questions. The idea is to use back channelling, follow-up questions, tag questions and encouraging elaboration, to make a long discussion. EXAMPLE:

What do you do ? // I’m a student. / Really, where (and what) do you study ? How do you like the classes ? / Have you given any thought to what you want to do after you graduate ?

Other questions are:

Where do you live ? // What are you going to do this weekend ? // Have you ever been abroad ? // Where do you come from ? // How do you like studying English ? //

This activity can also be timed … can they speak for one or two minutes without a break ?

Buying and selling role play

Variaties of English used in purchasing and bargaining. This may seem unnecessarily complicated, but code-switching (changing from language to language or from formal to informal) is a part of (I’m sure) most if not all languages (I haven’t studied enough world languages to state this as a concrete fact – if anyone knows, please correct me, with citations – thanks).

SO .. half my class are sellers, working in either a top department store, a High-Street shop having a sale, or a good old-fashioned street marker.

Image result for harrods seller
This is a salesperson in a high-end department store.

The language here would be RP, standard English, no glottal stops or slang, although some common expression may creep into the dialogue.

Here, we can elicit the type of conversation one would expect, e.g. “Yes, Madam, how may I be of assistance ?”

Related image
A cashier in a High-Street clothes store.

Language would be friendly and probably more informal, though still polite, “Hi, how are you today ? Oh, that really suits you !”

And now, a market trader. This has subtitles, so it a great way to follow the man’s London accent

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sw94R0P2dOs

You may hear questions such as, “Yes, mate, what can I do for you ? What do you fancy ? How about (‘owwbout’) a nice box of (boxa) strawberries ?”

I will give the students some photos of various items (shirts of differing quality, shoes, watches etc). The idea is to buy four items but spend under a certain amount.

As a fun ending, and depending on the energy of students, some could try to imitate the sound of the market trader … not just the vocabulary, but the tones and stresses, the ups and down of the cadences … in a word … the music of everyday speech.

If time allows, we always need some quick games up our sleeves.

One is guess the idiom – I say an idiom and the students have three option from which to choose.

There is also two lies, one truth; I say three facts about me, but only one is true. By asking questions, the students have to deduce the correct one. Then they can repeat in small groups (or sleep or just talk Vietnamese, let’s be realistic here … Vietnamese are not the best students in Asia … but that is another story, for another blog).

IELTS 5 – 6.5: I come from a land down under.

15th August for 21st August 2019. Pages 10 – 12 (Workbook pp 8 – 9)

Lesson focus: Reading; speed reading to extrapolate information in a limited time.

Theme: Culture shock, specifically life in Australia.

Objectives: Review new vocabulary and phrases and give a chance to practise using them. Continue work on Englishes – how written and standard English can seem to bear NO relation to spoken English.

Today’s reading is centred on life in Australia for non-native speakers so, to set the scene, a warm up song from the Australian band (and one-hit wonders) Men At Work and their chart-topping song, ‘Down Under’.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfR9iY5y94s

What stereotypes are displayed in this video ?

Image result for Australian stereotypes

Language review: The first lesson generated many new words and expressions. The following adverbs should be a part of the students’ everyday vocabulary:

always / usually, normally, frequently / sometimes / hardly ever / never

definitely / probably / possibly / unlikely / definitely not

Vocabulary: precious / arrogant / mug (two senses) / lingua franca /

To ask politely: May I …. (May I ask your name ? May I open the window ?)

Discourse Markers: although / despite, despite that / however / on the other hand /additionally / furthermore

Collocations: To practice law or to practice medicine (a lawyer, or a medical professional)

Expressions: Fair exchange is no robbery / If I’m not mistaken

Idiom: To let off steam / time flies (when you’re having fun)

London slang: well knackered (‘well’ is used to mean very and ‘knackered’ can mean very tired, or broken. EXAMPLE – I’m well knackered = I’m extremely tired.

PRACTICE: Try to use as many of the above by commenting on these photos. This is not a writing test; I only want one or two sentences. I’m more concerned with lexical choice AND delivery – how you use stress, intonation and rhythm.

EXAMPLE:

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These young Asian people are letting off steam by singing their hearts out in a Karaoke room, if I am not mistaken. Very probably there are professionals, maybe they practice medicine because they look very stylish and affluent.

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Book work: today we will be developing speed-reading, that is, reading a large amount of text in a limited time, in order to find specific information. Students will have to scan over the text and home in on what they need to know.

As a break, here’s a little clip about Australian slang:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QCgqQdmr0M

What is this news story about ? How much slang did you hear ?

Group work: Prepare a guide to Sai Gon for tourists.

Allow students access to the class computer for Google images if required.

Students, in groups, can organise an itinerary for two of my friends who will be visiting Sai Gon soon. They want to see all the iconic sights and partake of typical Vietnamese activities. Having said that, their interests differ widely.

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Simon loves culture, history and museums as well as being into sports and physical activities. Therefore he wants to see and try as much as possible. He has heard about snake wine and is very curious.

Jenny finds museums unbearably boring and dull. She is a shopaholic, can shop till she drops. Furthermore she can’t take the heat and is also vegetarian. 

Clearly, they will need to compromise … what do you suggest ? Be creative – think outside the box.

Include 

What to see and do // where and what to eat // what to buy //

What they can do for entertainment 

Travel tips

Safety and scams 

Cultural differences – what should people do or NOT do in Vietnam ?

Use of interesting adjectives to describe the city centre.

Groups can then present to the class, with all students taking turns speaking. I shall be listening for relevance, pronunciation and use of expressions and discourse markers. Furthermore, I may learn some interesting tips.

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End activities:

Just a minute: To practice for the speaking tests, give the students a choice of subjects and let them speak for one minute without repeating themselves, deviating from the subject or hesitating.

Call my bluff: Class in two teams. One team reads a low-frequency word and the team give three possible definitions including examples of usage. The other team has to guess which one is the correct answer.

IELTS 5- 6.5: Just like starting over

13th August for Wednesday 14th August. Unit 1 pp 8 – 9.

Lesson focus: Listening skills

Theme: Moving to a new country

Objectives: Improve conversation skills by using discourse markers, better vocabulary and supporting clauses.

Allow students to hear ‘real-life’ native speakers in song and vlogs.

Introduction song – John Lennon ‘Starting Over.’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPfB9KG9rao

Yoko Ono and John Lennon.

Songs are a great way to introduce new vocabulary and expressions, as well as how native speaking pronounce and link words together. Early in the song, we have words such as ‘precious‘ and expressions like ‘we have grown‘ and ‘time flies so quickly.’

Warm up: Mind map – Travel

I start by writing the word ‘travel’ on the board, and see how many avenues spread out from it. Start with the grammar; what type of word is it (noun) but it can be made into a verb (to travel, travelling) and the students should remember how to apply it to a person (traveller).

Then we have expressions such as ‘travel broadens the mind.’

We have this quote which introduces metaphor – the world as a book:

Then more pedestrian aspects of travel; how do we travel (transportation), preparation (booking tickets, hotels, visas etc), what do we bring with us (different clothes, sun cream, currency, sun glasses etc). How about culture shock ?

Next, what are the positive aspects of travelling (new cultures, fun, adventure, relaxation) and conversely, the negatives (delays, waiting in soulless airports, getting ripped off, tourist traps, bad hotels etc)

Pair work: students have to write a short passage using ‘although‘ and ‘despite‘ to encapsulate their travel experiences or wishes.

EXAMPLES: Although I absolutely love travelling, there are many drawbacks. Firstly, there is the cost; it can be incredibly expensive what with plane tickets and hotels not to mention having to eat out in restaurants. Despite these issues, travelling can be so relaxing or exciting, seeing new places and doing new things or simply as a break from our normal lives.

Vietnam has many beautiful towns and places of interest although I have only been to a few of them despite travel being relatively cheap in this country. We can fly everywhere within one or two hours, at very reasonable prices although some cheap airlines, such as Vietjet, are notorious for delays.

I have always wanted to visit Beijing in China which is not excessively far from Sai Gon. Despite that, I haven’t been because I am not sure about the visa and how expensive it would be to visit. Additionally, I hear some negative things such as terrible pollution and many tourist scams. Despite the drawbacks, I really want to see the Great Wall, the Forbidden Palace and all the temples. Although Vietnam and China have a complicated relationship, most Vietnamese would agree that Chinese food is delicious.

These exercises help to increase vocabulary and confidence. Furthermore, the repetition helps to make the target language part of the students’ lexical resources.

As a break from the book work, I’ll show the class a vlog from YouTube, two tourists who come to Sai Gon and what they think of the city. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iw_K-1AmVk

How do the tourists feel about the city ? As residents, do they agree with the review ?

Students can discuss the video using the following language:

I agree totally // I agree to an extent // I disagree // I’m not entirely sure // No way ! They don’t know what they are talking about !

optimistic // uninformed // delusional // open-minded // enthusiastic

Group work: Prepare a guide to Sai Gon for tourists.

Allow students access to the class computer for Google images if required.

Include

What to see and do // where and what to eat // what to buy //

What they can do for entertainment

Travel tips

Safety and scams

Cultural differences – what should people do or NOT do in Vietnam ?

Use of interesting adjectives to describe the city centre.

Groups can then present to the class, with all students taking turns speaking. I shall be listening for relevance, pronunciation and use of expressions and discourse markers. Furthermore, I may learn some interesting tips.