Adult Class Level 3: Sharks and dragons

18th March 2019

Tomorrow night I’m substituting this adult class. I’ve taught them before, so most of the faces should be familiar. I’m not sure they will be over the Moon to see me again; maybe their hearts will sink. So, as a warm up, while students turn up and get settled, a quick review of new and recent expressions. I’ll board five expressions and let the students match with the meaning:

  1. over the moon
  2. complete waste of time
  3. lose your temper
  4. must be a nightmare
  5. my heart sank

Now they have to match with these:

a. A terrible situation or experience

b. to be totally happy

c. to be totally disappointed

d. to become very angry

e. doing something but it produces nothing; it is useless and pointless.

Now practice – which expression would you use here:

He lives above a shop that has open-air karaoke every night.

She got 95% in her test and is incredibly happy.

John was nearly hit by a motorcycle; he was furious.

When the students saw Thay Paul, they were unhappy and disappointed.

Trying to teach physics to dogs is not going to do any good !

Who doesn’t like a cute dog picture ?

Next up, a review of a previous lesson: how to complain. First, I’ll show a short clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dF41XxbFbr8

I’ll ask the students what the woman is complaining about (the woman is complaining about some Asians speaking Korean in a USA coffee shop).

This is also a good chance for the students to hear other accents; the clip is from USA, so the voices will be different to my British. Furthermore, this can promote some new vocabulary. Is the lady being reasonable or unreasonable ? Does she have a fair point ? Is she right to complain ? How would the students feel if this happened to them ?

Following this, we can board some ‘dos and don’ts’ about complaining, then I’ll give a situation or situations. Students have five minutes to prepare a short conversation:

The food in a restaurant is cold and not properly cooked

A new smart phone doesn’t work properly

A hotel room is not as good as expected

A neighbour is having a loud party with karaoke … and it is 11.30pm on a Monday.

Following this, I’ll move onto the book work but with a difference. I’ve noticed how many students’ hearts sink when they have to open their books. After a conversation with a colleague, I hit upon an idea: I will do the book work, but as an activity or game. For example, the first exercise is pronunciation. How to pronounce ten words with correct stress and intonation. Instead of the students working from the book, I’ll say each word three different ways. In small teams, the students must then decide the correct version and say it. By saying it as a group or class, it prevent people from becoming embarrassed. The words include ‘experience’, ‘qualifications’ and ‘apply.’

Another book exercise involved writing questions about someone’s job. I’ll turn this into a questionnaire, students having to get up and ask each other questions. This involves speaking, listening and writing (& reading the questions) so it exercises many skills, as well as getting the students up from their seats (hopefully) and moving around.

This is basically one third of the book work covered without opening the book. But then, we have to finally take out the bad boy, open it up and start reading. Tonight’s reading is quite a chuck of text; the subject is asking rich business people to invest in a new idea. There is a show in the UK called ‘Dragon’s Den’, which features this concept, and apparently the US version is called ‘Shark Tank.’ What do these names suggest ? Into the dragon’s den is a British expression for going into or doing something unpleasant or dangerous.

As with any reading, the teacher must go through the text first and look for any problem words, or highlight useful, everyday expressions. These are then pre-taught.

Still, looking at a page of text can be daunting for a student, especially after a long working day. One way to break it down, is for students to work in pairs. One reads the first paragraph, then paraphrases it to the other. The process is then switched. However, the students may just prefer to read alone.

The last part of the lesson is speaking. Students are given some time to think up an invention of their own (they are given guides, for example, a new type of gadget, or food, or phone app. The point here is to get the students talking, learning how to ‘pitch’, what kind of language and presentation skills are needed. As a quick break, I can show some examples of people pitching ideas … but things don’t go to plan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYSSYm0b2wk

This is from the UK ‘Dragon’s Den’:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4PZywrm6TY

From 0:46, I’ll ask the students what this man’s pitch (idea) is and what is special about it ? Do they think it’s a good idea ? Would they invest in it ?

The last section of the lesson is for winding down, some games, some general speaking, some general questions. And, who knows … maybe some will leave with better English and a great business idea.

Young Learners: Level 1, lesson 5: Parklife !

13th March 2019

These are the notes for my new Level 1 class, early Saturday morning (16th March)

A clip from the ‘Parklife’ video by British band Blur. This shows a typical ice-cream van and terraced houses so common in the UK.

For this lesson, I’d like to try something ‘new’, an idea to really drill grammar at an early age so that it, hopefully, sticks and stays with the students. So first, the lesson objectives:

Theme: parks and nature vocabulary.

What can you see ? I see a flower (singular) I see flowers (plural)

Grammar: the verb ‘to have’

Warm up: Students normally arrive up to fifteen minutes late, so the first ten minutes of a lesson are spent on simple activities that will not be affected by the constant interruptions. At this level, two easy games are ‘Teacher says’ and ‘Musical Statues’.

Class rules: This is my first time with these students, and I need to make a balance between a happy learning environment and a controlled working classroom. Easier said than done ! My experience in Vietnam tells me that this is a long-term goal. That notwithstanding, some basic rules, which the students will hear and repeat are:

English only

No fighting

Listen to teacher and to others when they speak

Raise your hand if you want to speak, leave the room, drink water

Sit nicely in your chair

No shouting

Revision games: After the rules, I’ll do some games with the purpose of reinforcing vocabulary from previous lessons. They have learnt some food words, and to say ‘I like’ or ‘I don’t like.’ I’ll put some flash cards of food around the room, ask for two students, then make them search for a certain card e.g.

“Where is … chicken ?”

They must find the card, then bring it to me, saying:

“Here you are,” to which I reply, “Thank you.”

One activity I like is to make the students ask each other questions in English. Thus, a student can hold up a card and ask, “What is it ?” (Normally the students, who shout their sweet little heads off in Vietnamese, can only manage a hint of a whisper in English). The answer has to be in the form of “It’s a …” and not just the single noun word shouted out, so “It’s a fish,” and not just “Fish !”

The students have to place the card on the whiteboard in one of two columns, either ‘I like it’ or ‘I don’t like it,’ then say it out loud. As you can see, making the students speak in English as much as possible is the aim.

I then need to asses their command of the alphabet. I expect that most will not be able to recite the whole ABC, so we’ll have a run and write game. Depending on the class size, I’ll have two or three teams running to the board and writing a different letter. For example Team one will write ‘A’, Team two ‘B’, Team three ‘C’, then Team one write ‘D’ and so on. this should be a fast game, and every member of the class will have to take part at least once. And then, onto grammar.

Over the decades, English teaching has moved away from grammar-based learning (conjugating verbs ad nauseam) to minimal grammar and more speaking. I’ve noticed that so many students, even after studying for years, STILL make basic mistakes with grammar. Therefore, I’m going old school:

With the TAs help, I’ll drill the verb ‘to have’:

I have
you have
he has
she has
we have
they have

Tôi có / bạn có /  anh ấy có /  Cô bé có  /
chúng ta có / họ có

The verb ‘to have’ is one of the most useful, and after the drilling, we will put it into practice. The class have learnt (and hopefully remembered) some classroom items (ruler, pen, pencil, etc). I’ll give cards to some students and they must say, “I have a ruler, you have a pen.” After, I’ll ask some students to the front. They will hold cards and I will ask, “What does he have ?” and I will drill and repeat until the class is comfortable with “He has a …’ or ‘She has a ….”

The TA here will need to translate the verb ‘does’ as they may not have learnt it. However, by repeating the verb in a short simple question, they should acquire the meaning.

Then onto the book work. There are six words to learn:

flower, tree, rock, river, lake and hill.

After the students have seen the flash cards and repeated them, we need to see if they can name them correctly. After the drilling, a kinetic activity is a good idea, to get them up from their chairs and be lively. Team games are always good. Here, I can board the six flash cards and students have to throw a sticky ball and try to hit the picture. To make it more of a learning experience, the opposing team has to say what picture to hit. Thus, the students are speaking to each other, repeating the key vocabulary and acquiring new verbs (throw, aim) and expressions (well done, bad luck, excellent).

Now it’s the lesson and some culture. Our theme is ‘The Park’ and here is a very famous painting:

‘A Sunday on La Grande Jatte’ by Georges Seurat 1884

We can use this to illustrate plurals. In the painting there are two dogs. I will then stress the key question in this lesson:

What can you see ?

I see a monkey. I see dogs or even I see two dogs. How many boats, how many umbrellas, how many trees, how many lakes ?

And then, as in days of yore, back to grammar and conjugating the verb ‘to have’.

This could be seen as old-fashioned, will probably be seen as boring but, if it works, if students automatically say the correct verb, it will be worth it. We shall see.

Surfin’ Safari level 1: What is it ?

9th March 2019

This is the lesson plan for the Sunday morning class, 10th March.

Lesson seek to teach new vocabulary and pronunciation, while also revising and practising various words from previous classes. Today’s focus is on basic sentence construction, asking and answering: ‘What is it ?’ It’s a ….’


What is it?
Cái gì đó? It’s a đó là ….

Last week, the students learnt some new animals, and that lesson can be found here:

https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2019/03/02/kindergartensurfin-safari-level-1/

We want to get the students speaking as much as possible, and to each other, not just the teacher – student dynamic. So, to kick off, the students will greet each other, saying, “Hello, I’m …. ” I shall first model this with my TAs, so the students can hear and then copy.

Then, to reinforce last week’s drill, we have an ABC song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75p-N9YKqNo

This is a different version to last week, and can be used to drill both the alphabet and different colours.

Then we have a ‘Teacher says’ game, which helps the students with listening skills, and being able to respond to instructions. The commands are based on previously-learnt directions such as ‘sit down’, ‘stand up’, ‘clap’, then I will introduce ‘click your fingers.’ I can demonstrate how, and introduce the word ‘thumb.’ Then we can imitate various animals. After this active game, we move into the target language.

I’ll put some picture cards on the board, basic objects that the children already know (book, ball, car, doll, chair) and ask ‘What is it ?’ Here, I will just get a single word answer (the noun), but I want the answer in the form of a question. Therefore, I will drill ‘It’s a ..’ This takes time, weeks, not minutes, but eventually it becomes natural. Parents can really help the students at home by copying this exercise and insisting on the answer being framed ‘It’s a …’ (of course, some nouns require ‘an’ not ‘a’ but Rome wasn’t built in a day !)

Then, to make it a game, two students have to run to the board and hit the appropriate card. After, they take the card and become ‘thay’ (teacher). They hold the card in front of them and ask the class, ‘What is it ?’ Now, many students at this age are very shy speaking English, so they get a lot of encouragement and praise.

Apart from the new vocabulary learnt from the books, students absorb so much from what the teachers say. Using this I, along with my magnificent TAs, repeat words and expressions designed to increase their vocabulary; excellent, well done, good job, the basic adverb ‘very.’ To get the students used to taking turns, I will point to a pair and say, ‘First John and Anna, then Bella and Tommy.’

Moving on, I want to get the class comfortable with the alphabet, letter order, pronunciation and an introduction to writing. Today I’ll highlight the letter ‘B’. They already know bag, ball, book and the colour blue. The students can share a mini writing board and practice writing the words. Next up, we need a more kinetic activity.

I teach basic prepositions (on, in, under) by a chant with actions and an easy clap pattern. We shall chant and then practice. I’ll put two chairs and a basket in front and ask the students, in pairs, to put a ball either on, in or under one of the aforementioned objects. The chairs will be of different colours, so it’s great to see how they are able to differentiate between them. All the time, I make the students says what is happening. When they are comfortable with the game, the students themselves can take turns giving instructions.

Today’s new vocabulary is related to the main topic of animals and pets. The four new verbs will be jump, walk, fly, swim. To change the pace of the lesson, I’ll show a quick video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsEry8hGFiQ

This video is aimed at older children as the vocabulary is quite sophisticated, but I will be able to use the word ‘high’ and start to use superlatives (highest).

We can mime this actions, and match them to animals, until the students are comfortable with them. Later in the lesson, we shall revisit them to help the students retain the verbs.

And so, to the books, a mixture of listening, following instructions, colouring and pointing to the correct noun.

We will be near the end of the lesson so we want to finish with some fun activities. In a circle, the students will be grouped into rabbits, cats, birds or fish. When I say rabbits, the students in that group must stand up and jump; with birds fly, and so on.

To really drill ‘What is it ?’ the final game will be a student holding a picture card or flash card and asking the name. The answer must be in the form of ‘It’s a ….’

Finally, we say goodbye, see you next week. High fives and goodbyes.

IELTS: Final review

5th March 2019

Before the final speaking test, I’ve prepared a list of some useful vocabulary and expressions that will come in very useful. Furthermore, in response to one of my students, I’ve included an exercise on relative pronouns.

Useful words and expressions

Adjectives

absent-minded / eye-catching / mouth-watering / second-hand

ubiquitous / sky-high / visually stunning / spectacular / 

Adverbs

quite / rather / somewhat

considerably / significantly / remarkably / undeniably 

Discourse Markers 

Additionally / as well as / furthermore / moreover

Therefore / consequently

On the other hand / having said that / although / despite 

Expressions / chunking phrases

At the end of the day / Am I pronouncing that correctly ?

Turn a blind ear / it fell on deaf ears

Friends and family / According to …

Same thing, day in, day out / You get what you pay for / a waste of money

Like / Dislike

Like:I absolutely love … / I’m crazy about … / I (really) like / I’m into / I’m a big fan of …/ I’m quite keen on / I haven’t heard (seen/read) this before, but I think it’s great

No strong opinion:I don’t mind / I have mixed feelings about …. / It’s OK I don’t really have any strong views (feelings) either way

Dislike:      I hate / I detest / I can’t stand / I don’t really like / I think it’s awful / I’m not a big fan of … / I’m not that keen on …

To buy time

That’s a good / an interesting question

Let me think …

Well, I would say …

How can I put it … ?

Sentence building

Use adjectivesto describe nouns

adverbsto describe adjectives and verbs – give more information

opinion phrases: In my opinion / it seems to me / I feel

linking words to connect positive to positive or positive to negative

reasonswhy an action is being done

I like coffee

I like coffee so much because it tastes great and makes me wake up although too much will stop me from sleeping at night but, in my opinion, the benefits far out weigh the disadvantages.

Using Relative Clauses

who For people: This is the man whosold me the fake Rolex ! 

which For things: We tried fish and chips which is delicious.

where For places: Let’s go to the shop where we saw the great bargains.

Whose Possessive: That’s the singer whose record we heard last night.

The car, whose driver was young, won the race.

Exercises

We arrived at a nice beach ______ we could swim and lie in the sun.

A man ______ mobile phone was ringing did not know what to do.

The patient, ______ had a serious disease, was taken to hospital immediately.

Smithsfield is a small village ______ people live a quiet life.

A boy ____ sister is in my class was in the bank at that time.

I know a person ____ can speak seven languages.

We visited the church _____ is in the middle of the square.

It is a protected area of land _____ you can see a lot of interesting wildlife.

This dress is made of silk, _____ is a very expensive and delicate material.

A police officer _____ car was parked at the next corner stopped and arrested them.

Listening Websites: A list with links can be found on this page:

https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2019/01/23/listening-skills-tips-and-links/

Good luck with your tests

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.”