Zoom Classes: A dream or a nightmare ?

21st July 2021

Zoom booking system: Taking your fitness classes online with TeamUp's new  Zoom integration and On Demand feature | TeamUp
Zoom exercise class with a motivated student. This bears absolutely no resemblance to my classes. Taken from Google Images

Part One: “Always look on the bright side of life”

Eric Idle 1979

First, a thank you to a blogger friend in USA, Haoyan Do, who asked me about Zoom classes, and how they differed from the physical classroom or, in plain English, real life. I had already decided to put a positive spin (more neologisms) on the current situation but, in the interests of fairness, I shall also explore the other side of that metaphorical coin in a future blog.

Have a look at Haoyan’s blogs which you may access here: https://haoyando.net/

Now, without further ado, the benefits of teaching on Zoom

“If the rain comes, they go and hide their heads …”

The Beatles ‘Rain’ 1966

Rainy Season in Sai Gon

Not easy to capture a monsoon on a cheap mobile (cellphone) but you can see the grey sky, the clouds and the mournful trees trying to shelter from the storm. So, advantage number 1 …

1: Avoid going out in the rainy season

My IELTS students, not to mention my Top Cats from younger classes, will know the idiom ‘it’s raining cats and dogs,’ and then some ! When it rains here, the heavens open and streets get flooded. I’ve had to wade, knee-high, in swampy rain water to get to my campus. I lost an iPhone in the rain, and nearly get my foot stuck in a pothole in the middle of the main road. Now, I can watch the rain from inside, safe and dry.

Moving on, I haven’t posted many teaching blogs recently, leading to advantage number 2 …

2: No lesson planning

I only have Young Learner classes, students aged from 7 – 11, which are two-hour classes. We work from the set text books, but my manager prepares all the warm up activities, games and vocabulary reviews on ppt slides. I present them and conduct the lesson.

Some students may be rather vocal, and twelve enthusiastic youngsters can be, as we say in London, GBH of the ear’ole, meaning pain from so much noise or excessive talking (GBH stands for grievous bodily harm in English criminal law). Thus, advantage number 3 …

3: MUTE & MUTE ALL buttons

I love these options, the teacher’s friend. A student who is sitting by a blaring TV, a mummy and daddy having a shouting match, someone who wants to disturb the lesson by humming into the mic … just hit the MUTE button … bliss. Furthermore, we have a Waiting Room facility. Any student who is disrespectful or does now meet my standards of behaviour can be kicked out of the class for five minutes. This action can be repeated. I also have the option to permanently remove them from the class (though I have yet to use that feature).

Thay Paul, can you give us an example ?

Can I ? Oh, yeah, in spades ! Just last weekend, I was going through the online class rules, one of which was not to play with the Zoom features, and not to use a Zoom filter background. No sooner said, then one student began playing with Zoom, flashing said background. In my class, that got him a BLACK STAR. Student, typically, denied the accusation, although everyone had seen, and thereafter was in a bad mood, not answering when the TA called and refusing to take part in a game. Therefore, I put the student in the Waiting Room. Upon return, the student began taking part very enthusiastically, even earning stars for good work.

Next advantage is more indirect but ultimately beneficial to us all

4: Environmental

Schools closed, traffic greatly reduced leading to less pollution. Naturally people are using more electricity at home, but in many cases, lights, computers and A/C would be on anyway. Additionally, I spend more on electricity but this is offset by not spending money on petrol (gas) or Grabbike (similar to an Uber service).

So there you have it, four benefits although nothing of real pedagogic value. The Zoom classes are a way of providing some level of education during this lockdown period, to make sure students are exposed to English: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

Teachers need to be extra patient and calm, understanding and compassionate. However, we also have a job to do, and I endeavour to make sure all the students have had an opportunity to practice English, leaving the class having learnt something of lasting value.

Young Learners: Zoom Class Rules

15th July 2021

Should Students Have the Option to Turn Their Cameras Off During Zoom? –  The Rampage
A familiar scene from my ADULT IELTS class – no one switching on their camera. THIS IS FROM GOOGLE IMAGES

Hello everyone

Please have pens, pencils and paper ready.

If you have a project, you will need crayons and colour pencils, an eraser, a ruler.

Furthermore, please have your Student Book and Work Book ready.

SCHOOL RULES:

Listen to teachers

Answer when we call your name

No shouting // No noise // Sit in a quiet place

Do not play with Zoom // White background

Listen when your friends are speaking

Tell Daddy to put a shirt on if he is going to be on camera

Say ‘please,’ and ‘thank you’

5 words: Dear teacher, I am finished

REWARDS

Good work will get you a sticker. Collect stickers for a special prize.

However

If you break the rules and disturb my class, you will get a …

David Bowie - Blackstar - mxdwn Music

Three black stars and you will not get any stickers.

Furthermore, Student Care will phone your parents.

Now let’s go to work and learn some English

The Doom of Zoom classes: Zoom Bingo to keep teaching staff sane.

18th May 2021

Learn the Untold History of Bingo! - Online Bingo
If only my Zoom classes were this sedate and genteel

With heavy heart (and a lighter wage packet) schools in Viet Nam shut down on the 10th May, and will remain closed at least until the end of the month, quite probably longer.

Can you hear the collective moans and groans of despair ?

5 ting du bør vite om Skrik - Munchmuseet

We now enter our third period of online classes and while some teachers, of infinite sense, said, “No way, Jose !” yours truly signed up for nine two-hour sessions.

I know, tell me about it, or rather DON’T … online teaching, for the Admin staff, for the TAs, for the company and its economic stability, not to mention the lowly teachers is:

Getting Angry with Students (Day 30)
Google images, but seems a fair representation

Maybe in another blog, probably after we have to returned to ‘normality’ (which is pretty crazy at the best of times), I’ll write down some highlights of the online experience but for now, here’s a coping mechanism.

Instead of being irritated by various phenomenon, turn them into a game. This is something I can try with the more amenable TAs (who fight tooth and nail to avoid working with me … being assigned to my class is seen as the equivalent to being sent to Siberia, and I can’t say I blame them, poor things).

So let’s dive in: here’s how it’s played

During the course of an online class, one is likely to encounter the following:

A shirtless man, Daddy or Grandfather, wandering into the screen

A sibling entering the picture and making faces into the camera

An irate parent, usually the Daddy, sometimes shirtless, shouting, “Hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello etc …” into the mic

A ‘student’ constantly changing their screen image, adding filters, wearing computer glasses, despite being told several times to keep a plain background and not play with the settings

A ‘student’ turning off their mic and / or camera after being told to turn on their mic and / or camera

‘Student’ saying, “I don’t know,” to every question

‘Student’ giving a stupid answer to a question. Example from last weekend, when shown a picture of a bat, a moody pre-teenage girl said that it was a swan, and I’m supposed to find that humourous and adorable and acceptable and be patient because [insert pathetic excuse here].

‘Student’, with mic muted, unmutes, makes a loud noise into mic, then mutes.

Lesson interrupted by the sound of a family screaming at each other (referred to as normal conversation in Viet Nam)

When these happen, and they will, oh, man, they will, players get points. Breaks down like this:

Shirtless Man (2 points) // Sibling action (2 points) //

Irate parent (5 points) // Filter action (1 point) //

Cam & mic on\off (1 point) // I don’t know (3 points) //

Stupid answer (4 points) // Random noises (2 points) //

Family noise (2 points)

This can be developed for teenagers, and adult classes e.g. ‘students’ saying their cameras aren’t working when we can all see them clearly, (likewise their mic) // refusing to turn on camera and mic despite paying for a speaking class // sitting in the dark and saying that they have no electricity (but wifi, computer, music all seem to work fine // ‘student’ deciding to go to the noisiest place possible for the lesson // ‘student’ thinking that an online lesson is simply TV and that the teacher is here to entertain them for two or three hours etc, etc, etc …

Maybe you, dear reader, have picked up on a certain vibe. Yes, I am lucky to have work, but work like this … is it worth it ?

Pin on Dark

QI part 2. How much is true ?

13th May 2021

A follow up blog, to help wrap up lessons. At the end of an online class, I asked a question about what was inside a camel’s hump (or humps because camels can have one or two humps).

Gel layer inspired by camel fur could keep food and medicines cool | New  Scientist

One young lady was adamant that the answer was water, as her teacher had told her. What do you think ?

What do camels have in their hump(s) ?

Are you ready ?

Dear Singapore Singles, Are You Guilty of These 5 Dating Mistakes? | Lunch  Actually Singapore
Hhhmmmmm … let me think.

The answer

… it’s NOT water. A camel stores fat in the hump(s).

How do Camels survive in desert | Where do Camels store their water |  Online Learning for Kids - YouTube

OK, let’s go ! The answers are at the end of the blog.

First question: A snow leopard is a leopard. An Arctic fox is a fox, but what is a killer whale ?

Moving on to cute cats … 2) How do cats talk to each other ? Do they meow ?

Watch These Cats Carry On the Best Conversation

Let’s go back to snow leopards … 3) How loud is a snow leopard’s roar ?

Staying in the snow … 4) What colour is a polar bear ? Do polar bears play or fight with penguins ?

16 October 2011 'What's wrong with this picture?' - Revealed and new Fall  Festival costume challenge | PolarTREC

Let’s leave the animal kingdom and turn to history …

5) Where were the first boomerangs found ? Do they always return if you throw them correctly ?

Snooping Around: Did You Know...What Makes a Boomerang Come Back ?

6) How long was the 100 Years War in Europe, fought over who would be king of France ?

Finally, you must be getting hungry, so how about some food ? Want to know if you’re going to be lucky ? Try a Chinese fortune cookie … 7) What country invented the Chinese fortune cookie ?

Are Fortune Cookies from China? - Don't Believe That!
Made in China ?

The Answers

1) A killer whale is part of the DOLPHIN family. These dolphins actually work together and kill whales, so they were known as ‘whale killers.’

Read more here: https://www.ripleys.com/weird-news/or-not-killer-whales/

2) By meowing … ? No, cats meow (mostly) to get attention from humans. With other felines, cats use scent and touch, maybe hissing, and body language, but not by meowing.

3) Trick question … a snow leopard CAN’T roar; it can hiss, purr and meow but only makes a non-aggressive sounding ‘chuff’.

4) A polar bear’s skin is black, it is just the fur that is white. Also, polar bears live in the Arctic, the penguins spend their time on ice in the Antarctic, so they only meet in fake pictures.

5) Did you say AUSTRALIA … used by Aborigines ? Boomerangs were invented some time between 25 000 and 50 000 years ago, and used for hunting. The earliest one was found in POLAND, believed to be 20 000 years old. The first boomerangs DID NOT fly back. The Aborigines are thought to have discovered that a boomerang will return if made of curved wood, but these were used for sport, not hunting.

Read more here: http://www.culturequest.us/aboriginal_tools/boomerang.htm#:~:text=The%20boomerang%20was%20invented%20between,used%20for%20hunting%20and%20killing.

6) The War started in 1337 and finally ended in 1453, so a total of 116 years, although there were long periods of truce and peace.

7) Fortune cookies were invented by the Japanese in the C19th, then became popular in California, USA starting first in either San Francisco or L.A. (it is disputed, but the time period would be 1890 – 1918)

Thank you, my Princess (again)

7th May 2021

Last week, the Vietnamese had a two, three or four day break. It was a chance for many to go to their hometown, see family and eat traditional food.

Last night, one lovely student, my Princess, came to class and presented me with the following:

Sweet food from one of the sweetest ladies I’ve ever met. Thank you, my Princess. See you soon

Poems for pronunciation practice.

16th April 2021

I loved the beat generation. Then I realised it has no place for women |  Books | The Guardian
Members of the ‘Beat Generation’ hanging out & chewing the fat in New York, 1950s. Allen Ginsberg, whose poem ‘Howl’ ends this blog, is on the right, smoking a cigarette.

A major issue I encounter with ESL students is pronunciation and associated features such as intonation, stress, rhythm and pacing. Therefore, I decided to select some English-language poems for practice in class, while online students can find a multitude of YouTube videos of poems being recited by professional actors. I shall add some links at the end of the blog.

Now, without further ado, poetry.

Amazon.com: Poetry: Jeong-hie Yun, Da-wit Lee, Hee-ra Kim, Nae-sang Ahn,  Myeong-shin Park, Yong-taek Kim, Hyun Seok Kim, Chang-dong Lee, Hyun Kim,  Dong-ha Lee, Jun-dong Lee, Michel Saint-Jean, Myung-soo Jung, Seung-ho Lee,  Sung-min
Poetry can take many forms, not just writing; poetry in cinema, in dance, in speech … in life.

Let’s take a look at the first poem, ‘Dreams’ from 1922.

Recite the poem slowly and clearly. In the first line, stress ‘fast‘ and ‘dreams‘.

Secondly, listen for the rhyming pattern in lines 2 & 4: ‘die’ rhymes with ‘fly’, while verse 2 rhymes ‘go’ with ‘snow.’

Regarding ‘colour’, which tone of voice to use, decide if this is a positive or negative poem. Discuss in class what you think and give reasons.

Remember, art (painting, cinema, literature etc) is subjective; each person is allowed to have their own opinion. Develop speaking skills to enable you to support your views (give reasons).

Dreams

BY LANGSTON HUGHES

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Read more at: https://www.biography.com/news/langston-hughes-poems

The following poem, from 1938, was featured in the British film ‘Four Weddings and a funeral’ (1994), and may be viewed here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDXWclpGhcg&ab_channel=englishclasspoems

Funeral Blues

By W.H. AUDEN

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

A highly emotional rendition, one person expressing their feelings over a loved-one’s death.

Let’s continue with a nonsense poem by Edward Lear from 1876:

The Akond of Swat

Who, or why, or which, or what, Is the Akond of SWAT?

Is he tall or short, or dark or fair?
Does he sit on a stool or a sofa or a chair,
        or SQUAT,
    The Akond of Swat?

Is he wise or foolish, young or old?
Does he drink his soup and his coffee cold,
        or HOT,
    The Akond of Swat?

Does he sing or whistle, jabber or talk,
And when riding abroad does he gallop or walk
        or TROT,
    The Akond of Swat?

Does he wear a turban, a fez, or a hat?
Does he sleep on a mattress, a bed, or a mat,
        or COT,
    The Akond of Swat?

A great poem to demonstrate rhythm as well as ‘floating opposites’ e.g. young & old, hot & cold, not forgetting synonyms such as talk & jabber. Now, for really advanced beatniks, try the beginning of the famous, indeed infamous, poem ‘Howl’

Howl, Parts I & II

Allen Ginsberg  1926-1997

For Carl Solomon

I

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz, …

The poem, along with a recitation by the poet, may be accessed here:

https://poets.org/poem/howl-parts-i-ii

And now, as promised, some YouTube links of magnificent actors reciting majestic poems.

First up, Richard Burton reading the beginning of fellow Welshman Dylan Thomas’ ‘Under Milk Wood’.

Now Benedict Cumberbatch, who you may know better as Sherlock or Dr Strange, reciting a John Keats poem, ‘Ode to a Nightingale.’

Finally, Amanda Gorman reading her own ‘The Hill we Climb’ from President Biden’s inauguration 2021.

A Princess should speak like a Queen.

30th March 2021

A Thai princess at Wat Benchamabophit Dusitvanaram, Bangkok, 2011

A personal blog for one of my special students, my Princess, but one which will, hopefully, be of use to princesses everywhere.

We like to encourage students to imitate the speech patterns of native-speakers by which I mean the way we link words together, form contractions (‘I’d’ instead of ‘I would’ etc), and use paralinguistics to convey meaning (intonation, stress, body language).

However, students need individual assistance so while my Princess has remarkable lexical resources, as well as the ability to tell an anecdote or two, she could improve aspects of her pronunciation.

Therefore, I have prepared some clips for princesses the world over to use for speaking practice … and so, without further ado, princesses prepare to sound like a Queen

OK, Princess, time to be a Queen. Bangkok, 2011

Clip 1 features the famous British actress Dame Judi Dench who is being interviewed and therefore speaking in her natural voice. The clip has subtitles, and I suggest watching the section from 02:06 – 02:36 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auOpam5y9Co&ab_channel=TheJamesBondVisualArchive

Clip 2 features Angela Rippon, who was the first woman to present the news on the BBC. Interestingly, she is announcing the General Election of 1979 that lead to the first woman Prime Minister in the UK, Margaret Thatcher:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysVzc3hSB50&ab_channel=bbctim123

Clip 3 is for advanced princesses; to speak like a queen, one should listen to the Queen. I present, with subtitles, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2klmuggOElE&ab_channel=BBC

We shall meet again, in the next blog. Until then, farewell, cheerio, toodle pip … goodbye my princesses.

No photo description available.
Bangkok, 2011

Young Learners: Class Rules from Confucius

18th March 2021

Big Thinker: Confucius - The Ethics Centre Article

To help my young learners have a better classroom experience, I have to introduce some basic rules, based on the teaching of the Chinese philosopher Confucius (551 BC – 479 BC).

RESPECT

Your parents

Your grandparents

Your teachers

If your teacher asks you to do something, you must not say, “No.”

You will be sent out of the class and the centre will tell your parents.

Sit nicely. Listen to your teacher.

Write down new words.

Do not shout or disturb the class.

I will give you two warnings. On the third warning, you will be sent out of the class and Student Care will tell your parents.

You will then have to bow to your teacher and the class and say sorry.

Education is one of the most important parts of life

Confucius said,

“Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.”

Confucius said,

“Isn’t it a pleasure to study and practice what you have learned?”

The Analects, Chapter I

From my visit to Ha Noi, 2014.

Students come to this temple, which was built in 1070, to bring good luck and success in exams. The temple, an oasis of calm in the bustling metropolis of the nation’s capital, has been rebuilt and restored several times over the centuries.

No photo description available.
Temple of Literature, Ha Noi.
May be an image of 1 person
Temple of Literature, dedicated to Confucius
May be an image of 4 people and people smiling
Some of my students in Ha Noi 2014

Students hate TO BE corrected, but teachers like TO ADDRESS issues.

9th March 2021

Socrates

Furthermore, she loves to wear Givenchy perfume but I prefer to spend my hard-earned* on Dior.

In the modern parlance, ‘Did you see what I did there ?’ I followed four auxiliary verbs (‘hate,’ ‘love,’ ‘like’ & ‘prefer’) with infinite verbs. I sense that I’ve already lost the interest of 90% of my readers with these grammar terms, but hold your horses and I’ll explain, I’ll ‘cut the crap‘, if you will.

Language bullies, pedants, and grammar nerds who correct people all the  time: Cut it out.

OK, breaks down like this: an auxiliary verb is a ‘helping’ verb; we need more information to understand what the speaker means e.g.

I want … (what do you want ?) // He needs … (what does he need ?) // She loves … // We want … etc

An infinite verb simply means a verb in no tense (past, present or future). It is simply formed thus:

to + base verb

Examples: to eat / to go / to study / to procrastinate

Infinite has no tense, by which I mean it is incorrect to say,

“Last night I to see a film,” (past tense)

“She to go home,” (present) or

“Tomorrow he will to take a test.” (future tense).

We can combine an auxiliary verb with an infinite verb, as demonstrated in the heading and subsequent paragraph.

So what's the problem? - david lynch 1 | Meme Generator

Occasionally, a student may question my use of grammar, or mention that they have been told a different rule, to wit, last night a student informed me that, according to a different teacher, auxiliary verbs such as ‘like,’ ‘love.’ ‘hate,’ HAVE TO BE followed by a continuous verb:

I hate shopping NOT I hate to shop

He loves watching films NOT He loves to watch films

We like drinking wine after work NOT We like to drink wine after work

To Quote Dr Johnson:

PPT - 1. Get Real: An Introduction to Plato PowerPoint Presentation, free  download - ID:2610551

“I refute it thus,” :

I like to play guitar / I hate to hear karaoke / I love to listen to my friend Pete’s online radio show

But don’t take my word for it; here’s a link to an appropriate page on the Cambridge Dictionary site: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/hate-like-love-and-prefer

Hatelikelove and prefer

Grammar > Verbs > Verb patterns > Hatelikelove and preferfrom English Grammar Today

We can use hate, like, love and prefer with an –ing form or with a to-infinitive:

hate to see food being thrown away.

love going to the cinema.

prefer listening to the news on radio than watching it on TV.

He prefers not to wear a tie to work.

In American English, the forms with to-infinitive are much more common than the –ing form.

There is a very small difference in meaning between the two forms. The -ing form emphasises the action or experience. The to-infinitive gives more emphasis to the results of the action or event. We often use the –ing form to suggest enjoyment (or lack of it), and the to-infinitive form to express habits or preferences.

So there you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth.

What can we learn from this ? Well, teachers are only human (mostly) and can make mistakes. Non-native speaker teachers often teach from books that may simplify grammar and may therefore, inadvertently, be incorrect in their assertions. The books may be outdated; they may even be wrong.

Just because something is written in a book, doesn’t mean it’s true.

Check for yourself, be proactive in your learning; if you have internet access, check reputable websites.

Furthermore, even native-speakers can be wrong and I’ll be the first to admit this (even if I don’t have the wisdom of Socrates, not by a long chalk).

And now, a shout-out to a dear friend, the aforementioned Pete, who has a magnificent online radio show entitled ‘Flatwound’s Sounds‘. I listened to his most recent offering as I typed this blog and I’d like to recommend it to y’all: https://www.mixcloud.com/flatwoundssounds/flatwounds-sounds-miscellany-show-19-4th-march-2021/

flatwounds.sounds | Mixcloud
https://www.mixcloud.com/flatwoundssounds/flatwounds-sounds-miscellany-show-19-4th-march-2021/

* hard-earned cash = money or wages from a hard job.

Lockdown Lessons: A respectful reminder.

11th February 2021

Image result for online learning

Firstly, may I wish you all …

Image result for i/en|chuc mung nam moi 2021

Due to the return of COVID to Sai Gon, schools and language centres have been closed down, and online classes have restarted.

A big shout out to the staff at my centre. Instead of taking things easy in the build up to Tet, and enjoying time with their family, they had to work all hours to prepare for the change to distance learning.

To make these lessons work, we need students, and their parents, to follow these simple rules:

Respect your teacher and your teacher will respect you

tôn trọng giáo viên của bạn

You HAVE TO turn on your camera. If your camera is not working, you HAVE TO inform the centre.

Answer your teacher when you are asked a question.

Please control your background noise. No music, computer games or talking. Try to find somewhere quiet for the class.

Let’s work together and make the best of this situation and hopefully, we can all meet at the school in the near future.

Stay safe, stay well