Board new words, then allow (or force) students to write them down and reuse throughout the lesson.
Sweden is home to many global companies including Spotify, H&M, IKEA, Volvo, and Skype was co-founded by a Swede. There are branches of H&M in HCM City, but Swedes need much warmer clothing:
The students, placed into two teams, can run to the board and write items of clothing, one team member, one word, then exchange the pen with another team-mate. They can also write other items, not shown in the picture. Bonus points for those who can give the most detailed descriptions e.g. she wears a lovely purple coat (at this level, the students just use present and past simple, no continuous verbs).
Next, what are these buildings and who works there ?
Moving onto IKEA. What items of furniture can the students identify ? Which would they like – they have to select what they would buy for their home. They may choose different colours:
The Swedes are famous for their healthy lifestyle. What makes people healthy ? Here, I encourage, or demand, sentences, not just single words shouted out. To make it more kinetic, I can select some students and give them an activity to mime, such as exercise, eating healthy food and getting enough sleep. The students can be asked what food is healthy ? This leads into the next and final section, Swedish food:
After this cultural trip to north Europe, it’s time to get back to spelling tests, unit work and bookwork.
Hopefully, the students will have learnt something about a different culture, a country where English is not the mother tongue, but is widely spoken, and taught from an early age. In face, many Swedish singers even sing in English; here’s an example:
Today’s letter is ‘t’, and to end the class, the students have a project; colouring and cutting out rockets.
I don’t want to introduce any new games or activities, but to encourage as much inter-student talking as possible. It’s great to see some of the quieter students opening up and joining in more of the lesson, and starting to gain confidence in speaking English. And so, without further ado, the lesson plan:
Warm Up: I say a verb and the students must pretend to be that creature.
Hiss / stomp / walk / jump / swim / fly / roar
Put the ….. This tests knowledge of nouns, colours and prepositions.
I arrange two chairs, one green, the other yellow, at the front of the room, with a red bag in between. Around the room I will have real items that the students know (pen, book, ball, monkey) and, one by one, tell the students to put an item on/in/under a certain chair or bag. For example, put the red pen on the yellow chair.
The more advanced students can then act as ‘thay’ and instruct other students.
What’s your name ? Here, the students make a circle and one starts by saying, “My name is …. What’s your name ?” The person to the left answers … and so on. To make it fun, we can try to speak as quickly as possible, or to shout (this sometimes helps the shier students).
After, we drill the ‘t’ sound both at the beginning and end of the word.
Board Slap: I’ve made a basic slide with five ‘t’ words. Class can be put into two teams. One team shouts out a word, and one member of the other side has to slap the appropriate picture.
This is following by a drilling of the ‘t’ sound again and a test; can the students identify it in a word ? I shall say a simple word and ask the student if it has a ‘t’. They can run to one wall (with a ‘t’ flashcard) or to another, blank wall). The words:
cat / cap / hat / ham / pet / pen / one / two
Do you like … ? To review food nouns and to get the students forming basic questions, they can ask each other if they like … cake, rice, salad and pasta.
It’s always best to model speaking exercises. First I will ask one of my TAs, then two top students can demonstrate. The students sit at small tables, four or five at each, so one student could ask the others. The answer must be in a sentence: “Yes, I do,” or, “No, I don’t.”
Next up, time for some fun and movement: Musical Chairs. Today, a fun song, ‘Yummy, Yummy, Yummy’:
Lastly, I would like to review some basic grammar we touched upon last week; first and second-person use of the verb ‘to have’.
I model with a TA (we both hold an item or flash card). I say, “I have a pen, you have a book.” The TA then replies, “I have a book, you have a pen.” Some of the top students can model, then we can line the students up in two rows, giving each student an item. They face each other and say, “I have a …. , you have a …..”. This can be done all together, so the class become confident speaking, then we can listen to pairs speaking one at a time.
This is probably too much for one class, but it is always a good idea to have a lot of activities planned. Anything that isn’t used can be in subsequent lessons, thus cutting down on lesson planning.
Next week is our final class, so more of a party atmosphere, culminating in the presentation of certificates, and the taking of class photos. Maybe I will continue with the class at Level 2, maybe an entirely new class … we shall see.
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:
Next, a chance for the students to get up and mingle, so I’ve prepared a questionnaire, utilising a lot of past tense verbs:
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.
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 !
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:
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:
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.
A lesson plan for a very active, very loud young learners’ class. They are certainly a handful, but they are good at English; there is simply no way to control them for two hours. Just have to use their energy and make very kinetic lesson plans to keep the class occupied.
After break, we focus on book work and workbooks (though some students complete these at home, and I’m faced with ‘Teacher, finished !’). I insist on fast – finishers to say ‘Dear Teacher, I believe I have finished,’ while having a stack of worksheets at hand so they have something fun but educational to do while I check individual work.
This is for tomorrow afternoon:
Warm-up: Magic Bag. I’ll pretend to have various items of clothing in my bag. I’ll mime putting them on and the students have to shout out the answer. This reviews vocabulary from a previous unit.
Yes / No game. Can be very fun – I just ask the students questions and they have to answer within five seconds BUT are not allowed to say ‘yes’, ‘no’, shake or nod their heads and make any other yes/no word (yeah, naw etc).
Hello Dolly. For fun, and to expose them to some REAL music, they can listen to Louis Armstrong and try to imitate his unique voice. Points for the best version (s):
Run ‘n’ Write. The last weeks have focused on rooms in the house. I will ask in what room do we …
Then, with the class in two or three teams, one member must run to the board and write the correct room. It can be made lively by assigned a colour marker to each team and hiding them around the room, or even outside the classroom (though security probably won’t care much for that).
Who has what ? Here I choose six students and give each a flash card which they show quickly to the class, then hide behind their backs. The class must answer but using the correct form of ‘to have’, i.e. He has a sofa, she has a computer. This is a fun memory game but also drills the third-person verb form.
Picture Description. I’ll show a picture and ask the class to tell me what they see, especially asking about relative positions, looking for ‘next to’, ‘behind’ and ‘in front of’. This is from the famous toy shop, Hamleys, in London.
Vocabulary boost. A quick game to review some recent words and their antonyms. I’ll board these words, the students have to write the opposite. For this, I’ll hand out small writing boards and they can work in small teams.
The class probably won’t know the last two, so it’s a chance to show how we form opposite words. I can follow this up by asking the opposite of happy, well, tidy etc.
Student Survey. These are a great way to get the students talking to each other. I prepare a short questionnaire, and they have to ask three other students the questions. These are based on today’s lesson of counting, and recycled vocabulary.
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:
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:
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:
I’m getting a head start on my weekend class planning, and here’s the projected plan for my early morning class of nineteen young learners (13th April). It’s a mixed bag; I have some ideal students, some good but hyper-active students, some ultra-shy students, some recalcitrant students, some who are learning nothing, some who want to learn nothing, and some special-needs students. Thankfully my TA is amazing, but we both end up with vocal chords ripped to shreds, and questioning the meaning of life, or at least the meaning of doing this job. And after, we have two other classes.
One technique is to use one student as class captain, usually the meanest and noisiest. The responsibility can make that student an asset in the un-winable war on noise. I also have recourse to employ John Bercow, Speaker of the House in the UK Parliament for assistance:
And so, without further ado, the plan (and the best laid plans of mice and men …)
In small teams, the students have to write the name of an animal that can fly, one that can swim, then jump, then hiss. This will help review names of animals and give writing and spelling practice.
For this, we pass out small, wipeable boards and marker pens. We also make sure that a different team member writes each time. I know some students will NOT participate, so I will make a note of their names and pass the information onto to Student Support.
Following this, I want to see if the students can use the prepositions ‘on, in, under’. We have 14 flashcards of animals. I’ll ask one student per team to put a flashcard in a certain place e.g. ‘Put the elephant on the board’, or ‘Put the turtle in the bag.’
After I have given one or two instructions, I’ll use the best students to act as ‘thay’ and they can continue giving instructions.
I also want to revise ‘Do you like ?’ and the response, ‘Yes, I do’, or ‘No, I don’t.’ In pairs, the students can ask each other this question, relating to various flashcards that I hand them. Again, I’m sure some students will refuse to open their mouths, and again, their names will be taken. Hopefully, once the parents are informed, the students will start to work in the class.
Next it’s back to old-school grammar drill, and we’re still on the verb ‘to have’. I’ll choose four students and hand them an animal flashcard. I shall model first:
I have a tiger, you have a monkey, he has a turtle, she has a lion.
The students repeat the pattern, while the cards get changed. This helps them learn animal names and the subject-verb agreement.
Finally, before the book work, a chance to practice ‘Can you see .. ?’
I shall model one question: Can you see the rhino ? Where is it ?
After, the students can come up and ask. I’m looking for the students to answer in sentences with correct prepositions.
Then we hit the books and do a project. Fast-finishers can do a work sheet learning new vocabulary and doing a word search. This gives me a chance to hear as many of the students as possible read a few lines from their work books and assess how they are improving, or otherwise.
This weekend, I have a break until 13.00 … and no doubt I shall need it.
These are the notes for my new Level 1 class, early Saturday morning (16th March)
For this lesson, I’d like to try something ‘new’, an idea to really drill grammar at an early age so that it, hopefully, sticks and stays with the students. So first, the lesson objectives:
Theme: parks and nature vocabulary.
What can you see ? I see a flower (singular) I see flowers (plural)
Grammar: the verb ‘to have’
Warm up: Students normally arrive up to fifteen minutes late, so the first ten minutes of a lesson are spent on simple activities that will not be affected by the constant interruptions. At this level, two easy games are ‘Teacher says’ and ‘Musical Statues’.
Class rules: This is my first time with these students, and I need to make a balance between a happy learning environment and a controlled working classroom. Easier said than done ! My experience in Vietnam tells me that this is a long-term goal. That notwithstanding, some basic rules, which the students will hear and repeat are:
Listen to teacher and to others when they speak
Raise your hand if you want to speak, leave the room, drink water
Sit nicely in your chair
Revision games: After the rules, I’ll do some games with the purpose of reinforcing vocabulary from previous lessons. They have learnt some food words, and to say ‘I like’ or ‘I don’t like.’ I’ll put some flash cards of food around the room, ask for two students, then make them search for a certain card e.g.
“Where is … chicken ?”
They must find the card, then bring it to me, saying:
“Here you are,” to which I reply, “Thank you.”
One activity I like is to make the students ask each other questions in English. Thus, a student can hold up a card and ask, “What is it ?” (Normally the students, who shout their sweet little heads off in Vietnamese, can only manage a hint of a whisper in English). The answer has to be in the form of “It’s a …” and not just the single noun word shouted out, so “It’s a fish,” and not just “Fish !”
The students have to place the card on the whiteboard in one of two columns, either ‘I like it’ or ‘I don’t like it,’ then say it out loud. As you can see, making the students speak in English as much as possible is the aim.
I then need to asses their command of the alphabet. I expect that most will not be able to recite the whole ABC, so we’ll have a run and write game. Depending on the class size, I’ll have two or three teams running to the board and writing a different letter. For example Team one will write ‘A’, Team two ‘B’, Team three ‘C’, then Team one write ‘D’ and so on. this should be a fast game, and every member of the class will have to take part at least once. And then, onto grammar.
Over the decades, English teaching has moved away from grammar-based learning (conjugating verbs ad nauseam) to minimal grammar and more speaking. I’ve noticed that so many students, even after studying for years, STILL make basic mistakes with grammar. Therefore, I’m going old school:
With the TAs help, I’ll drill the verb ‘to have’:
I have you have he has she has we have they have
Tôi có / bạn có / anh ấy có / Cô bé có / chúng ta có / họ có
The verb ‘to have’ is one of the most useful, and after the drilling, we will put it into practice. The class have learnt (and hopefully remembered) some classroom items (ruler, pen, pencil, etc). I’ll give cards to some students and they must say, “I have a ruler, you have a pen.” After, I’ll ask some students to the front. They will hold cards and I will ask, “What does he have ?” and I will drill and repeat until the class is comfortable with “He has a …’ or ‘She has a ….”
The TA here will need to translate the verb ‘does’ as they may not have learnt it. However, by repeating the verb in a short simple question, they should acquire the meaning.
Then onto the book work. There are six words to learn:
flower, tree, rock, river, lake and hill.
After the students have seen the flash cards and repeated them, we need to see if they can name them correctly. After the drilling, a kinetic activity is a good idea, to get them up from their chairs and be lively. Team games are always good. Here, I can board the six flash cards and students have to throw a sticky ball and try to hit the picture. To make it more of a learning experience, the opposing team has to say what picture to hit. Thus, the students are speaking to each other, repeating the key vocabulary and acquiring new verbs (throw, aim) and expressions (well done, bad luck, excellent).
Now it’s the lesson and some culture. Our theme is ‘The Park’ and here is a very famous painting:
We can use this to illustrate plurals. In the painting there are two dogs. I will then stress the key question in this lesson:
What can you see ?
I see a monkey. I see dogs or even I see two dogs. How many boats, how many umbrellas, how many trees, how many lakes ?
And then, as in days of yore, back to grammar and conjugating the verb ‘to have’.
This could be seen as old-fashioned, will probably be seen as boring but, if it works, if students automatically say the correct verb, it will be worth it. We shall see.
This is the lesson plan for the Sunday morning class, 10th March.
Lesson seek to teach new vocabulary and pronunciation, while also revising and practising various words from previous classes. Today’s focus is on basic sentence construction, asking and answering: ‘What is it ?’ It’s a ….’
What is it? Cái gì đó? It’s a đó là ….
Last week, the students learnt some new animals, and that lesson can be found here:
We want to get the students speaking as much as possible, and to each other, not just the teacher – student dynamic. So, to kick off, the students will greet each other, saying, “Hello, I’m …. ” I shall first model this with my TAs, so the students can hear and then copy.
Then, to reinforce last week’s drill, we have an ABC song:
This is a different version to last week, and can be used to drill both the alphabet and different colours.
Then we have a ‘Teacher says’ game, which helps the students with listening skills, and being able to respond to instructions. The commands are based on previously-learnt directions such as ‘sit down’, ‘stand up’, ‘clap’, then I will introduce ‘click your fingers.’ I can demonstrate how, and introduce the word ‘thumb.’ Then we can imitate various animals. After this active game, we move into the target language.
I’ll put some picture cards on the board, basic objects that the children already know (book, ball, car, doll, chair) and ask ‘What is it ?’ Here, I will just get a single word answer (the noun), but I want the answer in the form of a question. Therefore, I will drill ‘It’s a ..’ This takes time, weeks, not minutes, but eventually it becomes natural. Parents can really help the students at home by copying this exercise and insisting on the answer being framed ‘It’s a …’ (of course, some nouns require ‘an’ not ‘a’ but Rome wasn’t built in a day !)
Then, to make it a game, two students have to run to the board and hit the appropriate card. After, they take the card and become ‘thay’ (teacher). They hold the card in front of them and ask the class, ‘What is it ?’ Now, many students at this age are very shy speaking English, so they get a lot of encouragement and praise.
Apart from the new vocabulary learnt from the books, students absorb so much from what the teachers say. Using this I, along with my magnificent TAs, repeat words and expressions designed to increase their vocabulary; excellent, well done, good job, the basic adverb ‘very.’ To get the students used to taking turns, I will point to a pair and say, ‘First John and Anna, then Bella and Tommy.’
Moving on, I want to get the class comfortable with the alphabet, letter order, pronunciation and an introduction to writing. Today I’ll highlight the letter ‘B’. They already know bag, ball, book and the colour blue. The students can share a mini writing board and practice writing the words. Next up, we need a more kinetic activity.
I teach basic prepositions (on, in, under) by a chant with actions and an easy clap pattern. We shall chant and then practice. I’ll put two chairs and a basket in front and ask the students, in pairs, to put a ball either on, in or under one of the aforementioned objects. The chairs will be of different colours, so it’s great to see how they are able to differentiate between them. All the time, I make the students says what is happening. When they are comfortable with the game, the students themselves can take turns giving instructions.
Today’s new vocabulary is related to the main topic of animals and pets. The four new verbs will be jump, walk, fly, swim. To change the pace of the lesson, I’ll show a quick video:
This video is aimed at older children as the vocabulary is quite sophisticated, but I will be able to use the word ‘high’ and start to use superlatives (highest).
We can mime this actions, and match them to animals, until the students are comfortable with them. Later in the lesson, we shall revisit them to help the students retain the verbs.
And so, to the books, a mixture of listening, following instructions, colouring and pointing to the correct noun.
We will be near the end of the lesson so we want to finish with some fun activities. In a circle, the students will be grouped into rabbits, cats, birds or fish. When I say rabbits, the students in that group must stand up and jump; with birds fly, and so on.
To really drill ‘What is it ?’ the final game will be a student holding a picture card or flash card and asking the name. The answer must be in the form of ‘It’s a ….’
Finally, we say goodbye, see you next week. High fives and goodbyes.
Last week was my first meeting with this class, so I had to familiarise myself with what they studied so far, what they could and couldn’t do.
The TAs at my centre are amazing, and I am assigned two for each of these KG (Kindergarten) classes. They informed me that the children could speak but not write. In a nutshell, they knew basic colours, numbers and instructions (‘hands up’, ‘sit down’ and the like). Also, the ABC was still being learnt, so last week I began with a great video using characters created by Richard Scary. The ABC starts at 3:20, ending at 4:00: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nog9FBW9cTo&t=284s
I was given a book by Richard Scary back when I was four (I’m NOT saying what year that was !) and still have it. I made the class sing along, then do a ‘Run ‘n’ Write’ game, each student running to the board to write an assigned letter. It is a kinetic activity and involves all the students.
The pattern for young learners is to do many different games and types of games, to maintain attention and interest. It’s the ‘montage of attraction’ I’ve referred to in previous blogs; basically how the separate parts all fit together as in engineering or film editing.
The advantages are that the students like routine and repetition, so the same games can be played most weeks, allowing for some variation. The objectives are to get the students producing English: speaking, writing, listening and eventually reading. Listening cannot be under-estimated. At this age, the students are like sponges – they absorb everything, so learning occurs at at much faster rate. This dwindles with age, hence I’ve been in Vietnam over three years and can barely form a sentence.
New vocabulary, expressions and pronunciation can be acquired just by listening to the teachers, so I ask my TAs to use key words repeatedly (e.g. ‘excellent’, ‘good work’, ‘well done’) thus expanding their lexical resources (sorry, I just didn’t want to repeat the word, ‘vocabulary’). Music too has a tremendous impact. An inane Europop song can be a wonderful learning opportunity as the lyrics are repeated AND are learnt in a fun way. As such, last week I used this song, which, I have no shame in admitting, I actually LOVE: Eiffel 65 with ‘Move Your Body’
It’s a basic class; the students know some vocabulary, colours and numbers, and we’re developing their sentence-forming skills by making them say their names (either ‘My name is …..’ or ‘I’m …… ‘ featuring the contraction of I am).
First, it’s good to do a quick and energetic warm up. We did Musical Statues (Freeze) last week, so today we’ll try Musical chairs. This class is not so large (about 11 or 12) so we’ll have the class in two groups walking around their table. The TA will make sure they understand the rules, but we are also drilling common classroom features such as chairs and tables. This seems a great video, as today we’re introducing the word ‘train’ : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYhKyqQ3zXg
When the music stops, the students race for the chairs. Thos who are unlucky have to answer a question, then we continue. While the children are standing, we can do a ‘Teacher Says’ game, basically a ‘Simon Says’, but here used to drill simple expressions such as ‘clap your hands’, ‘sit down’, ‘stand up’ etc and then acting out animals (which is always fun).
Leading on from this, another game and a chance to learn new vocabulary. I’ll prepare a slide of new animals. The children form two teams and have to throw a sticky ball at the board, aiming for the names animal. The aim (ah-hem) is to get one team to tell the other at which animal to throw. Ideally they’ll be able to say, “Throw at the chicken,” but it may just be, “Chicken !” It’s a start. My new animals will be:
Moving on, we come to the lesson and focus on numbers. Around the room, I’ll stick various flash cars depicting numbers. I’ll ask for two students to find me a number from one to four. They will run like little nutcases and grab the card. They then have to bring it to me and say, “Here you are,” and then write the number (just figure) on the board.
I like to make the students speak to each other in English as much as possible, and it’s fun to make one student ‘thay’ or teacher. That student will hold the flash card and ask the class to show him or her 1 or 2 etc and the class will hold up the right number of fingers.
The book work reinforces new vocabulary and numbers. To break the book work, they will colour a train picture I have prepared for them:
I also like to play a short video to show life outside of Vietnam. Here’s the London Tube at rush hour:
This type of class is very divisive among teachers who either love them or hate them. I am firmly in the former camp, so please allow me to set the scene.
The class size is relatively small (a dozen – twelve – or so students), the room has three brightly coloured tables and a variety of coloured chairs. There are vibrant murals on the walls, somewhat reminiscent of the Beach Boys’ ‘Smiley Smile’ LP cover
My teaching props include Polly – a puppet parrot of a psychedelic green hue, and Mike the mischievous yet well-meaning Monkey. Yes – I get to play with puppets AND get paid for it. Sometimes life ain’t so bad.
The students are around four or five in age, and love Mike and Polly – they tolerate my presence as a necessary evil.
I am admirable assisted by two very sweet young ladies, TAs, whom I ‘love to bits,’ (expression indicating a strong liking – in English we use ‘love’ quite liberally – we love coffee, love TV shows, love a shirt etc. This is not the same in other languages – in Swedish, for example, love is ONLY used for personal relationships.)
My class this Saturday is at level 3, so they are able to count, are familiar with the alphabet, can sing basic songs, follow instructions, ask basic questions, know colours, and are continuing to expand their vocabulary.
I want to push them further because they are motivated and, at this age, can absorb a new language easily. I am rather older, and find it a Herculean task to learn even one or two new words (and as for pronunciation – forget it !). As such, I’ve banned the use of the word ‘fine’ as in, “How are you ?” “I’m fine.” (see my earlier blog ‘Don’t say, “I’m fine.” https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2018/12/19/dont-say-im-fine/
Instead: I’m good, great, very well, thank you … I’ve also started to make the students use the terms ‘Activity Book’ or ‘Pupil Book’.
Also, we can impart language in a more natural way; we can use various words / expressions repeatedly so the students acquire language as opposed to being taught the vocabulary. For example, a student’s work can be described as ‘excellent’, or being told ‘well done.’ Apart from the new words, they are hearing longer, multi-syllable words, and basic collocations – words that go together to form one unit of meaning. Another ‘trick’ I have is to sing to myself the Kraftwerk song ‘We are the robots.’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_8Pma1vHmw
I sing, under my breathe, the chorus and then mime the four notes played on synthesiser. Just four simple words, but so effective for English learners, especially Asian countries where plurals are formed in a different style.
For are start we have some basic grammar – subject + verb ‘to be’. Vietnamese verbs do not alter according to subject. Students may start to learn ‘I am’ but here are introduced to ‘We are.’ The noun is robots – can’t go wrong there – everyone loves robots ! From a pedagogic view, the plural sound in introduced and drilled, repeatedly. By copying the song, they automatically repeat the -s plural sound AND apply it here after a difficult ‘t’ sound – the ‘ts.’ Lastly, we employ the notorious English ‘the’ ðə sound. The students are having an English lesson without even knowing it !
With younger classes I use a ‘montage of attractions’, a term I came across in a book on the Russian film director Sergei Eisenstein, and itself adapted from engineering. It means placing different elements together to form a unified whole, as in cutting a film, or attaching pipes. We need to keep interest and motivation / energy levels up, and this is achieved by varying the games and activities, changing after five or so minutes, before boredom and apathy set it. Thus, after musical statues (in which I am ably assisted by Mike the Monkey to see which of the students are really NOT MOVING), we’ll have ‘student as teacher’ session. One student will mime some action from last week and the class have to shout out the correct expression (sit down / open a book / put the bag on the table etc). They can then continue this at their tables, changing the ‘teacher’ so all students are active.
Next, I’ll repeat the ‘on/in/under’ song – quite simply, the three words sung with accompanying gestures and then a four-beat hand clap. It’s a fun way to introduce the students to prepositions. We could then put Mike around the room and ask where is he ? “Under the table,” “On the chair,” and then extend their speaking skills by asking for an adjective (usually a colour) + noun construction: “Mike’s on the yellow chair.”
After, I’ll distribute some writing boards and marker pens, and start saying the alphabet … when I stop, the students, as a team, have to write the next letter, both capital and lower-case, i.e. “A, B, C ….. ?”
Following, there will be a CD song, re-inforcing prepositions and adjective + noun sentences.
For a new activity, we turn to phonics – sound production / pronunciation. Today I’ll focus on the letters ‘R’ & ‘T’. I’ll prepare a slide of various words beginning with the two letters. The class will them form two lines and are given a sticky ball to throw. One side shouts out a word and one member from the opposing side must throw at said picture. Points awarded for direct hits, sound effects for total misses !
Then time for a fun song to practice the ‘R’ sound. What better than this famous British song:
‘Run, rabbit, run’ – sung quite slowly and clearly enunciated.
This should bring us to the book work and the introduction of continuous verbs. The subject is ‘What am I doing ?’ followed by five illustrations. The students will listen to a CD, then repeat.
Lessons usually end with a colouring session, allowing them to choose a picture and encouraging values such as sharing, being polite and being fair.
Then it’s High-Fives all around (to Mike; they don’t care a fig about me !) and good bye, see you next week … By this time, it’s lunch. I need a break, I need a coffee, I need a fresh shirt and I need to know how I can be as popular as Mike the Monkey. Somehow, I don’t think it’s ever going to happen. To quote Kurt Cobain, “Oh well, whatever, never mind.”