Young Learners, Level 4: It’s The Late Show live from Sai Gon ….

21st May 2019

Lesson Notes for Saturday 25th May. I’m going to be buzzin’ for this lesson, on cloud nine, ripped and raring to go. Also, a big shout out to my teaching colleague Ms Han, who incidentally is as cute as a button, for being so friendly, so positive, so darn wonderful.

As you can see, the above paragraph was full of vernacular, similes, modern slang and idioms (and ended with some poetic repetition). It’s not the kind of language one would encounter in a school book, but it’s exactly the kind of talk that takes place every day on the streets of London, of New York, Melbourne, Singapore … all over the world where people try to emulate the language of English-language TV, film, music and the internet.

Taking my cue from David Crystal and his magnificent book ‘The Stories of English’, I use the classroom to teach Englishes; that is, both standard and ‘natural’. What qualifies as natural would fill not just a blog page, but an entire book, probably without a satisfactory resolution, but let’s take it to mean what would be heard in my home town, London.

A great boost for students is to learn expressions as opposed to just single words. This helps them develop a natural flow, and introduces them to the treasures of language available. So how to develop these ideas into practical activities … piece of cake !

This class have an average age of 11, so they have quite a good command of English without the teenage moodiness (that will come, have no fear). Our theme over the last weeks is ‘creativity’, and my aims are to greatly expand their vocabulary and the opportunities of speaking English to each other.

Therefore, I always board new words or phrases, then allow time for the students to write them down. As previously stated, this is not a common practice in Vietnam, so I have to encourage the students to find paper, take out note books, writing implements, sharpen pencils, in short, everything to do with writing except actually writing.

My board can look like this:

A list of adjectives, partly obliterated by the students during break time, which they take literally.

The students have to write down these words and then learn the meaning and be prepared to USE THEM. Both the TA (again, a first-rate chap, top notch) and I will then say these words endlessly, to help them sink in, and encourage the students to use them whenever possible. Therefore … our first warm up game is …

Hangman

Here, I will just reinforce the new words: / useless / bland / genius and our friend Dali.

I will then hand out boards and, in small groups, the students must write four positive adjectives (e.g. handsome, pretty, clever, etc) and four negative adjectives for a bad student (e.g. talkative, noisy, sleepy etc).

Art Review

Last week they learnt some new words. For a more kinetic exercise, I shall describe a type of art (painting, sculpture, mosaic, photograph) and two students have to run to the board and write the word. This is fun if I assign a certain colour marker to a team, then hide the markers around the room, pretend to throw them out of the room etc.

Project Presentation

Last week, the students were split into small groups and had to produce a short, illustrated story. They can continue this, and it will give us a chance to enforce appropriate classroom behaviour, namely, listening politely when other students are presenting work. This is also not a popular activity in Vietnam, from children to adults: if THEY are not involved, they have no interest. It’s not just the teacher that gets ignored.

Spelling Test

Our centre is having a major spelling contest, and this will occupy the quarter hour before break. After said break (when something is guaranteed to be broken), we do book work which, this week, is rather minimal; it’s basically a list of jobs and asking what people want to be when they grow up. Some of the jobs are in the arts such as actor or musician, so … to engage the students and get them producing English and having fun, we can make a US-style talk show:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K22baZRNQKc

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

In groups, one person can pretend to be famous, either in arts, science or sports. The rest of the group have to interview him, each member asking a question such as:

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

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:

Tonight, live from Ho Chi Minh City, it’s The Late Show ….

This will hopefully make my students energetic and not sleepy. We shall see.

Young Learners, Level 4: Art for art’s sake.

16th May 2019

This is for Saturday morning’s class, 10.10 – 12.10. Seventeen students, a little noisy and raucous but a breeze compared to Levels 1 & 2.

Today, there is a a lot of work already set for the students, including a major spelling contest, and a story-writing project. Additionally, I always over-plan the lessons, meaning that they will always be work that I can use in subsequent lessons. Such is the case today.

We can start with descriptions of people:

Warm up: Student description

In a previous lesson, the class learnt about basic adjectives to describe appearance. I will therefore choose a student and describe the physical characteristics, e.g. this student has long straight hair, is not very tall, and wears black glasses. I will choose some students and give them a student to describe, while promoting the value ‘be polite‘.

To continue the theme of Art and creativity, I will show some artists. The class already met Frida Kahlo but I thinks it’s time they met Dali !

Dali normally get a reaction (especially when we have fun elongating his name as long as possible). It’s also a chance to learn a few new words:

creative / genius / unusual / strange / surreal

The last word maybe a little advanced, but it’s a good way to introduce new words; inside the word is ‘real’ so surreal has something to do with reality … but what ? Here’s a clue:

This is a mixture of reality and fantasy. The students can say which is which … and why does Dali give the elephants tuba faces … is there a reason or is it just crazy ?

I will then expect the student to form basic sentences using these new words, and not forgetting new vocabulary from previous lessons.

Next up, is a scene from the popular Children’s classic, ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

Again, a mix of reality and fantasy. How would the students describe this ? It could be turned into a game … students put into small groups and given boards and markers. Points for the best vocabulary. What is happening ? Also, how to tell a story – an introduction and then mentioning items point by point, linking with appropriate discourse markers. YES ! I’m going to make the students study hard today.

Always good to give a model answer, tell the students what I expect to hear, or WILF as I’ve heard it termed in some schools (What I‘m Looking For).

Now, to continue the theme and introduce some listening and reading skills, a video. This is the singer-songwriter Don McLean with ‘Vincent’, about the artist Vincent Van Gogh:

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

This version also has the lyrics, as well as various paintings by the artist such as:

Then, with time against us, and a lot to get through, we’ll turn to the book work. They will watch a video which also shows sculpture, mosaic and photographs. The book also mentions Van Gogh, and a sculpture based on the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party from ‘Alice’.

A useful lesson will be the subjectivity of art – it is a chance for the student to think and to give their views, and to try to develop the English skills to express their thoughts. Clearly, this is a perfect opportunity to introduce some fixed expressions to express opinions:

In my opinion …

I feel that …

For me …

And even an idiom – it’s not my cup of tea !

Finally, to wrap up after the spelling tests and writing projects, a little bit of fun. Who better than Dali (or at least a great actor playing Dali) ?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_q1V_xjHhLM

Young Learners, Level 4: Be creative !

1st May 2019

Lesson Notes for class Saturday 4th May. Seventeen students around the ages of nine to eleven. The class is reasonably well-behaved and willing to work, and is certainly my easiest class of the day (the others being a Level 1 & Level 2).

By this stage, the students are able to form basic sentences, though they need constant encouragement to develop speaking skills, as well as being told to write down new words and expressions … and then USE them.

The lesson should involve all skills, and allow the students some active sections, to break the monotony of sitting for two hours. New vocabulary should be introduced and recent lessons should be revisited and revised. Today’s theme is ‘be creative’ so we’ll start with:

Warm up: Word Bomb (mind map)

Board ‘Free Time’ and ask the students what they do for fun, making them speak in sentences, not just shouting out single words. We can develop this by asking secondary questions for example, ‘I play football,’ ‘Where do you play ? With whom do you play ? Are you in a team, or play with friends ?’

Pre-teaching: New vocabulary

Today we have six flash cards, all in the present simple (e.g. sing songs, write stories). The class repeat the text and I check for pronunciation and meaning.

Activity: What do my friends do ?

Around the room, I stick six sheets of paper, each with a single word:

Fashion / Art / Music / Cinema / Models / writing

I then show a single Powerpoint Slide with six of my ‘friends’ and ask the students to match the friend to the activity. I will board the six names on two sides of the whiteboard and the students, divided into two teams, have to match them. My ‘friends’:

My friends are: Nicky, Ian, Stella, Bill, John & Frida.

After the students have guessed, I’ll show the following pictures:

Nicky likes music. He sings songs
Ian likes model trains. He makes models.
Stella likes fashion. She designs clothes
Bill likes writing. He writes stories.
John loves cinema. He makes movies.
Frida enjoys art. She paints pictures.

Next, a chance for the students to get up and mingle, so I’ve prepared a questionnaire, utilising a lot of past tense verbs:

Student Questionnaire 

NAME:

What did you do on May 1st ?


What was the last film you saw ?Was it good ? Did you enjoy it ?


When did you go to the dentist or doctor ?


Have you ever bought a backpack ? What colour ?


Have you ever lost anything ? What was it ?


Do you like painting or drawing ? Do you go to museums ?


Who bought clothes for you last time ? Did you like them ?


Have you read Harry Potter ? What is your favourite book or story ?


What are the best games in school ?


We can listen to some answers, and the class can correct any errors in grammar. This will also help the students speak to each other in English, so that not all communication goes through the teacher.

Next up: Student description

In a previous lesson, the class learnt about basic adjectives to describe appearance. I will therefore choose a student and describe the physical characteristics, e.g. this student has long straight hair, is not very tall, and wears black glasses. I will choose some students and give them a student to describe, while promoting the value ‘be polite‘.

Video time: listening & new vocabulary

In our first class, we watched a kids’ guide to London and I boarded the following:

I reckon / huge / a little bit

The students were told to ALWAYS have a notebook and pen handy, and to write down new words. However, this is not a common practice in Vietnam, so they have to be told … and retold.

Today’s video will be a short clip from a kids’ parade in the USA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llEAqex8qM4

We only need show the first minute, but the students can be asked to identify various creative activities that they see. Then it’s time for some action !

Board Slap

I’ll stick three of today’s six flash cards on the cards and select three students. They’ll be given a swat, and they have to run to the board and swat or slap the card they like best, saying, “I like … movies, painting etc.” This leads into:

Thay Student.

One of the top students plays the role of teacher. They come to the front and ask students, “Do you like …. songs, models etc ?” Students must answer in a sentence: “Yes, I do,” or “No, I don’t.” Thay Student will follow-up by asking why or why not …”Because it’s ….”

Here we need some good adjectives. To give them a good pool of words, we can have a quick hangman game first, so we have adjectives such as:

boring / exciting / interesting / fun / educational / creative / difficult /

Finally, I like to play a song for the students to listen to and pick out key phrases. Today’s singer is actually Swedish, but she sings in English. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upnTg2GPgTM

This is Lykke Li, and we can start the video around the 1-minute mark. The title, and the key phrase is something the class should, by now, be familiar with; ‘a little bit’. It’s also a good lesson in how Standard written English differs from spoken English, as we often swallow the ‘t’ sounds. Have a listen … you don’t need to play the whole song if it’s not your cup of tea … just a little bit.