Adult Class, Level 3 (mixed): You practice what I preach.

17th September for 23rd September. AEF 3 pp. 50 – 51

Last week, we covered past tense – simple, continuous and perfect. However, that is a lot to take in, especially for students who are not so confident. Looking at charts and learning the jargon can be daunting and far too theoretical.

This problem has long been identified and addressed; grammar, as theory, reduced to a minimal. Grammar, used in writing and more importantly speaking, maximised.

Therefore, my policy in this block of lessons (four per block) is to reduce book work, simplify the theory and try to allocate at least half the lesson to student-talking time.

Last night’s lesson seemed to work well; the Socratic approach which makes the students collect information and then collate it into a presentation. This was followed by students reading to each other in small groups, with some useful expressions to use … and repeat and repeat and …yeah, you get the idea.

Let’s go to work !

Image result for go to work

But first, back to basics. Some students are not fluent in the three forms of basic verbs:

Grammar – verb practice

Here’s the 15 most common:

infinite \ present // past // past participle (verb 3)

1to bewas werebeen
2to havehadhad
3to dodiddone
4to saysaidsaid
5to gowentgone
6to getgotgot/gotten
7to makemademade
8to knowknewknown
9to thinkthoughtthought
10to taketooktaken
11to seesawseen
12to comecamecome
13to wantwantedwanted
14to useusedused
15to findfoundfound

Regular verbs, just add -‘ed’. However, as you see, in this list only one common verb, ‘want’, is regular.

NOTE: ‘to be’ is different: I am hungry You are hungry She is hungry.

Now, practice: In groups of three or four, they have to ask each other questions in order to feel more natural using the past tense. Lets’s start simply with the simple past:

What did you do today ? PAST SIMPLE

Each student takes turns describing their day. Always give ideas, as some students spent too much time thinking of what to say, whereas the purpose is to speak.

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I will also board: buy / drink / surf the internet / help parents / cook / do homework

To make it more interactive, the students can ask follow-up questions, such as, “What did you eat for lunch ?”, “What time did you start school ?”, “How did you get to work or school ?” etc. Groups can monitor each other to make sure past tense is being used properly.

NEXT: Past Continuous. Subject was doing something in the past ….

Example: Last night I was listening to T-ara:

Image result for T-ar

However, we usually use past continuous to say we were doing something WHEN something new happened.

EXAMPLE: I was listening to T-ara when someone knocked on my door.

The structure is Subject + was or were + verbing, followed by past simple

Try this: dream // alarm clock ring

He was dreaming when the alarm clock rang.

Now – practice: Make a sentence from these pairs of photos:

Image result for reading
Image result for telephone ring
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Image result for rain
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Image result for pulp fiction jules eating
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Finally, the past perfect. Two things happened in the past, one before the other.

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Image result for Berlin 1920

The students ‘met’ Dr Kafka last week.

Dr Franz Kafka had lived all his life in Prague until he moved to Berlin in the 1920s.

Subject + has or had + verb 3 then use past simple.

Try these:

John Lennon – in The Beatles / goes solo in 1970

Image result for john lennon beatles
Image result for john lennon imagine

Dali – paint over 1 500 paintings / dies 1989

Image result for dali
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Bringing it closer to home, Bac Ho (Uncle Ho Chi Minh) – work London / meet these young Germans.

Image result for uncle ho in Paris
Image result for uncle ho in russia

Finally, for presentation, the students can be arranged in four groups (draw playing cards so students work with new partners). I will give them ten minutes to work together and make a short presentation, with all members speaking, about the above four historical figures. Those who draw Ho Chi Minh should have an advantage, so I will be expecting more from them.

Presentations should include:

Date and place of birth.

Why there are famous

Give examples of their most famous works or activities

Where they lived

When and how they died.

ALSO – why we should remember them.

Then, I will turn to the books and hand-outs, before returning to some speaking practice before the end.

Adult Class Level 3 (mixed): Touched by the Hand of God

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:

Image result for arrivingat school

My class ………… (start) at 4.15, so I spent my time …..

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Then my class ……….. (begin): However, my students ………( be) terrible !

Image result for screaming asian kids
Image result for screaming asian kids

After twenty minutes, I …….. (feel) ……………………………….

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Finally, the lesson calmed down, and I …….. (read) …………

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And then the rain …….. (begin), “The jolly old rain,” and I …… (have) to go home:

Image result for Saigon flood

As I have no motorbike, I ………. (book) Grabbike. However, the water ……. (be) too deep and we …….. (have) to walk. Finally, I ………. (give) up and ……..

Image result for Saigon flood

But, when I ……. (arrive) home, my iPhone …… (be) …..

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The dreaded red screen of death

Activity 1: Finding information.

I will make a short presentation about Vietnam:

Image result for vietnam flag

The facts include the capital, the population, the weather in HCM, the language spoken and reasons why the country is famous:

Image result for vietnam ao dài

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:

https://www.newsinlevels.com/products/toxic-water-in-fukushima-level-1/

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.

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Fukishima nuclear plant after the earthquake.

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:

Image result for english past tense grammar timeline

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:

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

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

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.

Young Learners, Level 3: Final Lesson

4th September for 7th September 2019. E Up 3 pp. 40 – 41 Final Lesson 1 – 4 review.

Today is the last lesson, so a lot more writing and work books for the students. There’s also a special Autumn Festival event at the end of the class, so my planning can be quite short. I’d like to make the first part active and interesting, but also reinforcing language and grammar from the recent lessons.

Warm Up: Small groups with boards and markers. Write four things people use for eating (fork, knife, spoon, chopsticks).

Pass around four flashcards (fork, knife, spoon & cup). Student has to say:

“This fork is mine.”

Then pass it on … meanwhile, give the first student a second card:

“This knife is mine.”

Suddenly I say STOP !

I say ‘me’.

The class has to say “This is my spoon – it is mine.”

I will need my TA to explain this procedure . I will board: me – mine / you – yours etc.

I repeat with ‘you’, ‘his’, ‘her’.

Run ‘n’ write: where can I buy a shirt ? Eat soup and salad ? Watch a movie ? Play football ? Students, in pairs, must run to the board and write the word.

Mime: I take a student aside and show a card of an illness. Student then mimes the condition (headache, stomachache, fever, cold). Answer must be in the form of a sentence: “He has a headache“, etc.

Next, to review four countries about which they read last lesson. Mix up the countries:

yektyru // anapj // sirusa // omixce

Bring a globe to the class. Two students must find the four countries. Next, tell me about Vietnam:

Image result for viet flag
Image result for viet students

(Stock photo from Google. NOT my students.)

Follow the pattern in the book and tell me about Vietnam

[We’re from Mexico. This is our flag. It’s ours. It’s green, white and red.]

Now … tell me about Teacher Paul

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He’s from … // This is …… // It’s ….. (possessive) // It’s ….. (colours) .

Finally, role-playing, asking prices and identifying cultural items. Students can decide their own prices. They can work in small groups or in pairs, to make sure everyone has a chance to speak.

Excuse me, how much is this, please ?

Oh, no … that is too much // OK, I’ll take it.

Then they must conclude by saying, “It’s a present for my ….” and I quickly show a family card (grandparents / parents / aunt / uncle / cousin or cousins).

To end on a bum note (or notes) … let’s hear the Russian National Anthem … and then played by an Egyptian orchestra.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOAtz8xWM0w

And now the Egyptian version:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yHbAhFnfrA

And then, time to hit the books. The workbook extends over three pages, so we’ll do a little, then check as a class. A fond farewell to a lovely class. Cam on 🙂

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

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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/

Adult Class, level 3 (class 2): expanding vocabulary.

30th August for 5th September 2019. AEF listening and grammar review.

Last week saw a lot of new vocabulary and some opportunities to practise using then in sentences. Now we need to reinforce these words, make them a part of their everyday lexicon.

From the warm up exercise, we used:

charismatic / contestants / convinced / empty-handed / entrepreneur / I’m out / in return / intimidating / represent / stain

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From ‘The Social Network’.

From watching the Vietnamese beer review, we learnt more expressions:

Let’s dive in = let’s go, let’s start !

more than likely = everyday expression meaning very possible

whatsoever – used to strengthen a sentence (“The beer has no taste whatsoever.”)

head = the white foam on top of a beer

aroma – the smell, usually for wine or coffee

Quick warm up game: use those words in a sentence. Try to use extended sentences including clauses.

For example: As it’s the rainy season, it will more than likely rain tomorrow.

Now for a relative pronoun and supporting clause:

The young blonde entrepreneur, who was convinced his idea was genius, left the meeting empty-handed.

Students can work together to come up with three sentences including one with a supporting clause.

Quick grammar review – there were some concerns about using past simple and present continuous n the same sentence:

Were you wearing the new tie when you met the manager ?

Here, everything is in the past tense (were / met) BUT we use the continuous ‘wearing’ because we were doing something at that time. Furthermore, we only use one past tense verb (here ‘were’ serves as the first past tense verb).

Try these:

Did you go (swim) this morning ?

We ate pancakes and John was (talk) all the time

I saw a film and my girlfriend went (shop)

When did you start (learn) Mandarin ?

Then we covered some personality adjectives in an activity but time was against us, and we’ll carry on at the start of this lesson. I have five friends and the students have to guess their personality and occupation. Naturally, they don’t know them, so they have to use phrases such as:

In my opinion / for me / I feel that / he appears to be / I get the impression that he … / he looks like

Mark
David
Gavin
Richard
Simon

Personality adjectives: Positive – mature / reliable / dependable / confident / life and soul (of the party) / generous

Negative – over -confident (hubris) / aloof / arrogant / mean (nasty or not generous) / awkward / bossy.

Occupations: estate agent

Image result for estate agent

consultant (here the lady, who is of Asian origin, is a recruitment consultant).

Image result for consultant

plumber

Image result for plumber

therapist

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bouncer

Image result for bouncer

Speaking practice. The handout is dialogue used in a coffee shop, which means I get to use one of my favourite clips, from ‘Twin Peaks’ :

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

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Agent Cooper in ‘Twin Peaks’.

To, to set the scene, maybe we need some background ambience. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOdLmxy06H0

Here’s a great chance to use words such as ‘aroma’, atmosphere’, ‘crowded’, ‘comfortable’, ‘free wifi’, and then types of coffee

And them onto today’s set lesson. If time allows, we can use some left-over activities from last week, namely the desert survivial:

Two teams, both have a number of items to help them survive in the desert after a plane crash. From the list of 18, they have to choose just 5. They must learn and practice negotiation language such as:

I see your point

I respectfully disagree

That’s an interesting choice, however …

You’re argument is not without value, having said that …

Activity – small talk. A list of general topics and the students have to try to keep the conversation going as long as possible. As with all speaking exercises, give examples or models first:

What do you do ? // I’m a student . // Really ? Where do you study ? What do you study ? How do you find you class ? What do you like best about your university ? What are the biggest challenges ?

To break up the speaking, we can use so real life listening. One popular clip is the foodie Mark Wiens eating eggs in HCM City: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crPVJ3CXs1g&list=PL97HViQblvdEM3zsauRxnIg1baFTNmsDM&index=20&t=1s

Or how to stay safe in HCM – advise from locals (in English but with accents and some grammatical errors) 

Image result for petty crime in hcm
Back of the bike tours – advise for travellers in Viet Nam

And that more than likely, should be enough work in spades !

Adult Class, Level 3 (class 2): Happy talking, talking ….

29th August 2019

The lesson plans are set in stone, so I have to adhere to them; there will be a grammar review, a double page of listening, and then a handout for the students to practise speaking … but that’s not enough for the three hours, so I’ve decided to make as many speaking activities as possible.

Unfortunately, I’ll also have to show the presentation about classroom rules, as I’ve had some issues with ADULTS … yes, adults, disrupting the class, being disrespectful and basically trying the zen-like patience of the writer of this blog. Said writer has been working every day for nearly three weeks and my patience was never ‘zen-like’ at the best of times.

Image result for classroom rules no chatting

This problem is widespread in Vietnam; I’ve seen it at all centres, and all ages. It is quite hard for a teacher to accept the rudeness and disrespect engendered by such behaviour. So … what to do …

First, a quiet word with the student – to explain what is wrong and WHY.

Secondly, move the student to a new chair. If the student refuses, then it is time for the third move.

Last resort – abandon the lesson. Tell the school office that the student is violating THEIR rules, disrespecting the teacher and other (paying) students and that I will not be able to continue teaching with the student in the class. My feeling is that the Vietnamese will support each other, especially one who is a paying customer, so I will simply leave the room … and everyone will have wasted their time and money. To quote Brad Pitt in ‘Inglorious…’, I might get chewed out, but it won’t be the first time, sure as hell won’t be the last.

Image result for Brad Pitt inglorious

However, this happy pic does lead into a plethora of speaking activities I have planned – idea being, if they’re are speaking English, that won’t have time to speak Vietnamese (yeah, right !)

First Activity – a vocabulary building game. I give students a sheet with several new words and several definitions. They have to match them together, then make sentences from them.

Second Activity – Desert Survival. Two teams, both have a number of items to help them survive in the desert after a plane crash. From the list of 18, they have to choose just 5. They must learn and practice negotiation language such as:

I see your point

I respectfully disagree

That’s an interesting choice, however …

You’re argument is not without value, having said that …

Third Activity – eyewitness. Work in pairs. One student looks at a photo or picture of a man committing a crime. After two minutes, the other students plays the role of a police officer, trying to gather information, for example age-range, clothing, distinctive markings, behaviour etc.

Fourth Activity – small talk. A list of general topics and the students have to try to keep the conversation going as long as possible. As with all speaking exercises, give examples or models first:

What do you do ? // I’m a student . // Really ? Where do you study ? What do you study ? How do you find you class ? What do you like best about your university ? What are the biggest challenges ?

Fifth activity – Friends – I show five male friends and the students has to guess their personalities and occupations. Here I’ll board some new adjectives and jobs, as well as encouraging the students to use opinion phrases – after all, they don’t know my friends – they are basing their answers merely on looks.

To break up the speaking (which some will do, some will half-heartedly attempt, some will ostentatiously NOT do), we can use so real life listening. One popular clip is the foodie Mark Wiens eating eggs in HCM City:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crPVJ3CXs1g&list=PL97HViQblvdEM3zsauRxnIg1baFTNmsDM&index=20&t=1s

Or maybe a review of a local beer ?

Image result for horrible beer face

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKr6Cj-Xr9g

Or how to stay safe in HCM – advise from locals (in English but with accents and some grammatical errors)

Image result for petty crime in hcm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-j0FfVIKJnw

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).

Young Learners, Level 2: Group work and review.

21st August for 25th August 2019. Everybody Up 2, U 7 L2

This is an early morning class, and quite typical; one or two very good girls, one, possibly two good boys. The rest range from those who cannot speak without shouting at the top of their voices (the Vietnamese, bless them, are not the quietest nation on Earth), those who pay attention to anything save the lesson, and those who are so inactive and immobile as to be positively catatonic.

One way to counter this negativity is to make the lessons more kinetic, more active, though the size of the class and the dimensions of the room are not conducive to much activity. It is also important to realise that these are children, ‘forced’ to come to extra school on their weekend, and their motivation levels plummet from, “Please teach me English,” to “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn … I REALLY don’t give a damn.”

We recently had a project activity, cutting out and colouring a room. This proved quite successful, and even those who are permanently seated, chin in hand, yawning thick and fast, were engaged and doing something. So, today, I’m going to mix things up a little. We’ll start by rearranging the chairs into islands of four, as opposed to the traditional horseshoe arrangement.

Warm Up: A quick game. I’ll give each island a board and marker and I’ll review the last lesson, ‘time’. I’ll call out a time and the students have to write it, in figures. This can be extended to cover other lessons, including basic maths (to practise the use of the words ‘plus’, ‘minus’, ‘times’ and ‘divided by’. Also, for general knowledge, do they know any countries where English is spoken (as first language) ? What countries are there in Asia … Africa … South America ? Then look at this picture for 30 seconds. Write down what you remember. I’ll be listening for adjectives as well as nouns, and encourage the use of full sentences, e.g. I see a big white mirror, I see a small green cupboard etc.

Image result for bedroom in anime film

Now I’ll go straight into bookwork, subject ‘meals’. Here, I’ll follow a standard school lesson plan:

Show the four flashcards and review as a class, especially pronunciation, then pass them one by one around. First student (make sure said student is a top cat, or the activity goes down like a lead Zeppelin) takes the card, says the word, then passes to the next … after the third student has spoken, introduce a new card to the first student and so on.

Next, a run ‘n’ write. Two students must run to the board and write one of the new words. For the top cats, they can write two words, or even all four.

There are four pictures, but I prefer to say the words myself rather than play the audio (which is often a monotone, transatlantic drone). Students shout out (this class like shouting, to a fault !) the words.

Grammar structure – focus on the key sentence – have students repeat.

Book work, page 66. Elicit information about the pictures, just try to get the students speaking English as much as … Encourage them to ask each other. Use a top cat to start e.g. “What do you see in picture 2 ?”, “What are they doing here ?”, “What time is it in picture 3 ?” etc.

This should take us up to break time, with drilling and substituting pronouns, noticing how the verb changes i.e. I eat breakfast at 7:00, He eats breakfast at 7:00.

After break, in their gangs of four or threes, I’ve prepared an activity sheet; some questions, some things to do, some information to gather, something that requires the students to listen:

Everybody Up 2  Activity sheet

1) Write five buildings that you find in a city

2) Write three words that begin with th … / ch … / sh … / wh ….

3) On a clock, show:  10.15 / 2.30 /     quarter to five

4) Draw a picture of your bedroom. What do you have in your room ?

5) Tell me three things you like to do after school.

6) Draw a girl wearing a yellow hat, pink coat, green pants and blue boots.

7) Draw a bald man playing guitar wearing an orange jumper and black pants.

8) What does Teacher Paul like ? Write two things ?

9) What are the five senses ?

10) A doctor works in a hospital.    Write a sentence.

Where does a teacher work ? / Where does a cook work ?

11) Look at the picture: Which flag is which country ?

Brazil / South Korea / Canada / Egypt

12) What do you eat for breakfast ?  When do you eat Breakfast ?

13) What did Mr Mark eat for breakfast ? Did he like it ? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crPVJ3CXs1g&list=PL97HViQblvdEM3zsauRxnIg1baFTNmsDM&index=20&t=0s

What words did he use ?  Can you smile like him ?

And then … work books, work sheets and the bell … and only two more classes !

Signs, symbols and icons: information and worksheet

21st August 2019

I actually prepared this for my top students in a Young Learners’ Level 3 (ages from 9 – 11) class; university-level semiotics. While most of the class just do the assigned work – no more, no less – others make no effort at all and are unable or unwilling to answer a question to which I have just given the answer. Then we have the top cats … I’m lucky to have two exceptional students in my class as well as two others who, with some effort, could also reach those Olympian heights.

The following is a very simplified, breakdown of everyday signs, symbols and the modern use of the word ‘icon’ as related to technology. The original categorisation into ‘icon, index & symbol’ was devised by Charles Sanders Peirce, and more information can be found on this Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semiotic_theory_of_Charles_Sanders_Peirce#II._Icon,_index,_symbol

The following I have printed out as a three-page activity worksheet for my top cats (who generally finish bookwork before others have even started).

A sign uses pictures to give information or to tell people what they can or can not do:

What do these signs mean ?     ///   The first sign means no smoking.

The second sign means … /// The third sign means … 

A symbol is a picture or things that represents a place, city or country.

The ao dai and non la are symbols that represent Viet Nam

What do these symbols represent ?

Icons are used on computers and smartphones. For example, this icon:

  represents a dictionary. How about these ?

Draw two more icons from a computer or smartphone.

Draw two signs that could be used in Vietnam

What do these signs from Singapore mean ?

What do you think of these signs ?

Do you agree ? Do you disagree ? Tell me why …