Young Learners, Level 5: Welcome to Athens.

3rd October for 6th October 2019. E Up U6 L1.

An Introduction to Greece: location, history, lifestyle.

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The flag of Greece
Image result for mediterranean map

I shall also bring a globe to the class, as this is more visceral than internet images. The students, in small groups (or else the globe will be destroyed) have to find Greece. Now, to review recent vocabulary, what do the students think of these lifestyles ?

First, the food: Does it look healthy ? What other adjectives can the students add ?

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Some typical Greek food: olives, cheese,vegetables, fish, meat and bread. Also, we have some sweet food:

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Next, lifestyles – what about these photos:

Image result for jogging up the acropolis
Image result for greek man smoking

How about this Greek dance ? Maybe some of the more active students would like to try !

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Now, Greek history and myth. On the island of Crete, there lived the Minotaur, half-man, half-bull. He lived underground in a big maze called the labyrinth. Every year, the King of Athens had to send 14 children for the Minotaur to eat.

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The king had a son called Theseus. He was a hero. He decided to go and kill the Minotaur.

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The King of Crete had a daughter called Ariadne. When she saw Theseus, she decided to help him. She gave Theseus a big ball of string. He tied it to the door of the labyrinth, then used it so he wouldn’t get lost (it would be a good idea to get some string and tie it to the door handle, or at least act out the motion).

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Image result for Theseus with ariadne's string

Theseus found the Minotaur and killed him. Then he sailed back to Athens with Ariadne (I’m being economical with the legend here; the students are aged ten and eleven).

The students will be learning about the Parthenon in the next lessons, so this is a way of introducing them to Greece and its history. I’ll board words such as ‘bull’, ‘labyrinth’, ‘sailed’, ‘hero’ and ‘decided’. Then, after the students have written them down, they can watch this Lego version and tell me what is happening- start at 0:23.

Many children will know superheroes such as Spiderman, Iron Man etc. How does Theseus compare ? Whom do they like best ?

Then, onto the lesson. Today it’s about measurements, so although its important, it will not be as exciting as Theseus and the Minotaur.

The class is rather large, (twenty-one students) the room is rather small, which limits the scope for kinetic activities. Remember, these are still young children, some of whom will not really want to be in class on a weekend, so anything to vary the lesson and maintain their interest is worth trying.

I often put the class into small groups and then hand out a board and marker. The teams race to be first to write a sentence or key words from the lesson.

Another activity is to put two sets of flash cards on the floor and choose two students. They have to walk or hop from card to card, saying the phrase on the card. To make it more challenging, they have to hop with both hands on their heads (or some such variation). Quickly, two more students

Finally, to make the lesson more inter-active, one student per team can ask another student from another team to say what is on a flash-card and the answer has to be within five seconds. Points should be awarded to encourage the competition.

And what better way to end the lesson than with the theme from the film ‘Zorba the Greek’.

Young Learners, Level 3: My town.

11th July for Saturday 13th July 2019. Everybody Up, U 2 L 1

Warm Up: Musical statues

Board write: to review recent lessons. Put class into small teams and give a mini board and marker. Have one of the top students read out the following:

To make an omelet we need ….

To make a smoothie we need …

To make a fruit salad we need …

To make a milkshake we need …

What can you see ? to review ‘be healthy’ show some typical breakfasts. Elicit as much information about the photos as possible:

English breakfast
USA breakfast cereals
Swedish breakfast
Korean breakfast

Student talking time: Students must select which breakfast they like best then interview each other, and say why. What is your favourite breakfast ? Which one do you like ?

New vocabulary:





high sugar

hig fat

Class Vote: Who would like which breakfast ?

Whisper run ‘n’ write: class form into three or four lines. I whisper a word or phrase to the last person, that person whispers it to the nest and so on until we come to the first person who must run and write it on the board. This practices listening, speaking and basic writing.

Lesson lead -in: Our new topic is ‘Around Town’. Let’s elicit some buildings that one would find in a town. In teams, we can do Pictionary – I’ll tell one student per team of a building, they have one minute to draw it and for their team to guess.

(hospital, school, cinema or movie theatre, park, library etc)

Book work: teaching new vocabulary, and practising.

Walk the line: Arrange six new flashcards on the floor in a line. Have two students at opposite ends. They must walk the line, saying the cards. First to finish is the winner.

Group activity: to encourage group work and to review new vocabulary, the students in small teams are given a large sheet of paper. they can design and colour their own town. Special points for the most interesting town. To inspire them I can show Google images of:

Barcelona City, Gaudi architect, Sagrada Familia Temple, spain, sunset
Hong Kong
Tel Aviv, Isreal
Beijing, China

Young Learners, Level 4: Sign of the times …

Friday 21 for Saturday 22nd June (Everybody Up 4, U 8 L 3)

Today we have a listening test which is scheduled to occupy fifteen minutes (five minutes of the actual test, ten minutes getting the students to find pens, sit down and shut up). This helps the teacher, as there is less of a lesson to plan, and so without further ado

We are on the penultimate lesson, so now we’re reviewing and going over recently-learnt vocabulary and grammar. They had a class featuring basic ‘Do Not’ signs … red-edged circles enclosing a black image, struck through by a diagonal red line.

After ascertaining the meaning of the signs in the book ( ‘no photography’ etc), I’ll show then a sign I saw in a bathroom in Indonesia. It contains some rather unusual prohibitions:

Of course, teaching students who are around 10 – 12 years means that I will have to hide the lower frame of the photo.

Then, an activity; the class is still young, and they enjoy drawing and being creative, basically anything that doesn’t involve a text book.

Activity: At our centre, we have a number of prohibitions. We can run through some of them and then the students, in small groups and equipped with a writing board and markers, must design a sign. The signs can be humorous as long as the humour is appropriate. For example, is this behaviour acceptable in class ?

Could they design a ‘no sleeping in class’ sign ?

We could then have a little talk about the meaning of signs in society and how prevalent they are … at shopping malls and stations, computers and phone apps.

Next up – grammar: What are you going to do ?

The class has covered, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up ?’ and, ‘What are you going to do next week ?’

Here, I will board some verbs and some actions. The students must match them. I’ve added two higher-level words, to boost their vocabulary:

EXAMPLE: This is my friend Pete. He wants to be a great musician. Next weeks he’s going to practise bass guitar.

Jane wants to work with animals. Next week she’s going to …

Martin wants to be an actor. Next week he’s going to …

Anna wants to swim in the ocean. Next week, she’s going to …

Tony wants to be a scientist. Next week he’s going to …

The verbs and actions:

purchase (buy) / experiments

visit / Shakespeare

conduct (do) / the zoo

read / snorkel and flippers

If there’s a few minutes before break, then a quick game of Pictionary can be fun. Two teams, each in turn, send one member to the front. I give them a subject to draw and their team has a minute to guess.

The subjects could be: An astronaut / gondola / a kangaroo / a monkey on a motorbike / sleeping student and then they could draw a member of the class.

The final activity before the book work (and if time allows; the great thing about over-planning lessons is that anything that isn’t used can be employed in the following class) reviews travelling and what is needed. I’ll show four English-speaking countries. The students, in four teams, will be assigned one country.

What will they need to bring with them ?

Why do they chose these items ?

What is unusual about these places, or different from Viet Nam ?

What would you do there ?

NEXT – the students have to identify the places:

And so … to book work, work books and … the bell !

Young Learners, Level 4: “Can you hear me, Major Tom ?”

6th June for Saturday 8th June 2019. Everybody Up 4. Unit 7

Today’s lesson is a cross-curicumlum class about space, astronauts and basic science. It is a mighty theme and so, to paraphrase Melville, we need a mighty beginning … for cinema fans, there really is no other choice … the opening of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’.

So what do the students know about the solar system ? I’ll let them tell me, after boarding some key words:

solar system

planet (Earth, gas giant, rock)

moon (the Moon)




I’ll put a flash card of planet Earth on the board, towards the right-hand side. The students can them fill in the gaps … what planets do they know ? How big is the sun relative to the planets ? What exactly is the sun ? Where does light come from in space ? What exists in space ?


The speed of sound is 343 metres per second (usually given as 330 m p s)

The speed of light is 299 792 458 metres per second or approximately 300 000 000 m p s or 300 000 km per second.

Sound cannot travel through a vacuum

To demonstrate the last point, show NOT tell; here’s a good example (start around the 0:24 second mark): An iPhone not making sound in a vacuum.

Group work: Would you like to go to space ?

What would be the pros and cons ? In small groups, discuss the question, trying to use some of the recent vocabulary.

Song time: A British classic, and the first hit for David Bowie, an artist with a deep connection with space. This video has lyrics, but how many words can they recognise ? They can shout them out as they hear them.

‘Space Oddity’. Lyrics start around the 0:30 second mark

Board any new words or phrases such as ignition / made the grade / peculiar /


This is based on the UK children’s show from the 1970. The class will be split into small groups. One member from each has to stand in front of the board. I will read a question and then give three answers. The students have to run to the correct number. They then have three seconds to change their minds.

Who was the first man on the moon ? Buzz Aldrin / Michael Collins / Neil Armstrong

What is the biggest planet ? Jupiter / Saturn / Mars

The sun is a: planet / star / moon

What is faster ? light / sound / Mr Phuc speaking (just give the name of any talkative students, and then elicit the adjective talkative).

In space, people are: heavier / lighter / weigh the same ?

The first animal in space was a: monkey / elephant / dog

(Last one could seem to be a trick question. The answer is Laika, the Russian dog. Monkeys were first put into rockets but they didn’t go high enough to officially enter space).

Bookwork. Today there is a fair amount of reading. I’ll use the passages to show a little grammar, introduce the students to adverbs.

The princess was very beautiful (very = adverb, beautiful is an adjective)

Here, the adverb ‘very‘ goes before the adjective. For concept checking (do the students understand and can use this formula ?) some quick questions:

Correct these sentences:

The very student was clever

Laika, the dog, was scared very

Very David talented is

During the reading, I’ll be asking the students to point out the adjectives and adverbs in the short pieces of text.

Then the students complete a workbook with more concept checking exercises. Those who are fast finishers, rising stars, will get a worksheet, a word-search and comprehension questions about space. Then it’s back down to Earth … and preparing myself mentally for the challenging afternoon class.

Young Learners, Level 4: What does the future hold (and a repeat of ‘The Late Show’).

30th May for 1st June 2019

One of the benefits of over-planning is that the work can be carried over to the next lesson; such is the case now. Also, we have a chance to refine the activities, find ways to improve them and eradicate our (i.e. ‘my’) mistakes.

A common problem I make is to over-estimate creativity in students. Some people find it hard to be imaginative in their native language, let alone in a foreign tongue. To solve this, I shall provide some assistance in the form of notes, taped to the walls.

As a warm up, we learnt colour association last week; have they remembered ?

What emotion or feeling do you associate with







Can they give me a sentence or an example ?

Now … The show must go on

I will use the talk show format as blogged last week but with some amendments.

This is a compilation of clips from David Letterman, who speaks in a very quick, New York style. We can start around 2:41 and play about 30 seconds. Drinking the perfume should amuse my students:

In groups of five, one person can pretend to be famous, either an artist, scientist, sportsperson or actor. The rest of the group have to interview the student, each member asking a question such as:

When did you start (acting, playing sport, learning an instrument, acting) ?

How long did you practice or How many hours a day do you rehearse ?

How old were you when you won your first award or medal ?

Tell us about yourself – where were you born ?

Do you have any brothers or sisters ?

What do you want in the future ?

Who do you like or who inspires you ? Why do you say that ?

Next, we need to create a studio set. We’ll do a ‘word bomb‘ or ‘mind map’ game. Who works on a TV show ?

We have a host and of course, we need a guest.

But we need someone to work the camera (cameraperson), the sound (sound engineer) and a director to shout ‘Action !’ We’re in HCM City, so we need a great backdrop for our show:

To arrange groups, and get a mix of students who don’t usually sit or work together, I will arrange the desks in islands of four or five chairs. Each island has a number. The students must choose a card numbered 1 – 5 and sit at that island. Here my TA will be invaluable in making boys sit with girls, and dealing with all the petty squabbles that WILL ensue.

To prevent paucity of ideas and therefore an excuse to do nothing, I will make information sheets and have them pasted around the room. The students have to gather information, but I will expect them to provide basic information themselves.

However, by putting text on the wall, the students will have to read and transmit the information to their team and arrange it in a proper sentence:


First performance: School play at age 5. Actor forgot the words !

Teacher told student to be an actor because was a bad and noisy student.

Was in a TV advert at age 8 for ice cream

First film at age 9

Next work is a film with Hari Won.

Wants to go to Hollywood and be in a big action film


Got a microscope for birthday present at age 6. Used it every day

Favourite subject at school science, biology and chemistry

Went to Sai Gon Zoo every weekend in summer

Won District 2 science contest when was 7

Has an uncle who works for English medical company

Wants to work with animals in the Asian jungles


Began painting at 2 years old with hands !

Grandmother bought a paint set for birthday at age 4

Always won best painting at Kindergarten and school

At age 6, went to HCM City art gallery

Paints the stage for all school shows

Wants to study art in Paris, France


Began playing table tennis when only 3 on a special small table

Could beat older brothers and sisters when was only 5

Neighbour said join a club. Was best player in 10 weeks.

Won first contest at age 6

Could beat most adults by age 8

At 9, joined the Vietnam national team

Wants to represent Vietnam at the Olympics and win gold medal.

The students will then have to present their work in the form of a TV chat show, with a director, cameraperson and sound boom (a plastic fly swat can easily stand in for a boom, while the director can pretend to have a headset, and shout, “Three, two, one … action !”

To continue the fun, we can have the students drink tea in the ‘British’ fashion – I model the typical way to drink tea, raising the pinkie, and sipping quietly and without a Vietnamese, “AAAHhhhhhhhhh !” after each gulp. Points, naturally, awarded for the best tea-drinker.

Finally, we can watch and imitate one of my favourite actors, Mr Peter O’Toole, also from the Letterman show. The students must copy this line: (0:46 – 0:50)

The line to be recited, along with accompanying body language, is:

“Oh, I’ll shuffle through my memory.”

And then, our little lesson is rounded with a … hopefully not sleep, but spelling tests, book work and general shenanigans.

I shall endeavour to elicit the meaning of new words and to gauge juts how much vocabulary the students are retaining as opposed to forgetting. Place your bets …. the clever money’s on the latter.

Young Learners: Let’s get them speaking !

24th April 2019

This is the plan for my early morning class on Saturday. To set the scene, there are about 19 students, aged around 7 or 8. It’s a standard classroom; chairs with built-in desktops, and there’s not a lot of space for movement or activities. The students, therefore, are mostly confined to their seats for the two-hour session, not conducive to a productive lesson. Add to that loud students, slow students and the (seemingly obligatory) special-needs student(s), and we have a potential catastrophe … but there are ways to mitigate these issues …

Firstly, the assignment of a class captain. I choose the loudest, toughest boy and he becomes proxy teacher. Usually, they love the responsibility, while I’ve turned a problem into an asset.

Secondly, the ‘montage of attractions’, lots of different but related activities to prevent boredom as well as promoting as much participation as possible. To this end, I try to vary the lesson plan (the first hour is activities, the second, devoted to book work where I can also check students individually).

Thirdly, I really want to break the teacher – student dynamic; I want the students talking to each other in English. Sometimes I have the top students act as teacher, ‘Thay’, and address the class, but today I want everyone speaking to their partner in English. To do this, I’ve prepared a short series of questions they have to ask and answer. But first, a review about ‘what can you see ?’ and prepositions.

I’ll show this landscape and then attach various animal flashcards, asking ‘Can you see a frog ? Where is it ?’ and so on …

Now for the speaking interaction: with all speaking exercises, it’s good to model first. The questions I’ve chosen represent language they have already learnt and should be able to use. I’ll show the following questions, then drill an appropriate reply:

To prepare, I just need to stick some flashcards around the room (food, animals).

Can you see a tiger ? IF there is a tiger picture the answer is Yes, I can, if there is no picture then No, I can’t.

Do you like pizza ? / Yes, I do or No, I don’t.

What are these ? (showing flash card of toes) These are my toes.

How many marbles are there ? (showing picture of marbles) There are seven marbles.

How old are you ? / I’m …..

What can an elephant do ? An elephant can walk and swim and run.

I will then hand out a short questionnaire and, with the invaluable aid of my TA, monitor the class, making note of those who will not or are not taking part. The questions will be:

Can you see a zebra ?

Do you like cake ?

How many puzzles are there ?

How old are you ?

What can a bear do ?

When the first partner has finished, the second will have these questions:

Can you see an ant ?

Do you like rice ?

How old are you ?

How many games are there ?

What can a zebra do ?

The next activity is a ‘run ‘n’ write’. The class is split into teams and have to run to the board and write a word that has appeared in a previous lesson:

penguin / kangaroo / giraffe / science / animals / flower

We also get to review the plural form of nouns (games, marbles) plus the ‘an’ article before a vowel noun (an elephant). Next up … music time; an old favourite:

When the band… This could be used as a background to a musical statues game, but the names of the instruments will be highlighted. They then have to identify them:

Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong … the one and only.
Kid Ory on jazz trombone
Johnny Dodds on clarinet
David Carradine as Bill playing Japanese flute.

Again, Thay Student time: a top student will ask the class:

Can you play …. trumpet ? … piano ? … guitar ?

Now a miming game. I will tell a student an instrument, and they will mime playing it. The opposite team has to guess, getting points for correct answers. Any kind of game or competition can really raise energy and motivation levels.

I want to move the lesson closer towards today’s subject (science, specifically parts of the body), so will select six students, giving each a flashcard from last week’s class. Very quickly, they will show their card to the class. Then I will ask ask which student has which card, but using the verb ‘to have’, i.e. “He has toe”, “She has arm.”

Finally, and if time allows because this already could be too long (no problem with that … a plan should be overlong in case any activity falls flat and a Plan B, C & D is needed), more ‘Thay Students’. They will review questions from last week, namely:

What are these ? These are my arms

What are these ? These are my toes

What are these ? These are my fingers

But, to stop them getting too complacent, some good old British irregularities:

What are these ? These are my feet.