Young Learners, Level 1: I spy, with my little eye ….

24th May 2019. Lesson Sunday 26th May.

One of the best things about staying with the same company and at the same campus, is the possibility of teaching the same lesson to different students, thereby cutting out a lot of planning time. Such is the case this Sunday, when I shall re-teach a lesson I previously planned in March.

However, this is will be my last class with this group; I have a new work schedule and my manager has kindly, not to say humanely, insisted that I have at least ONE day free. She also brings me tea when I am ill (a constant threat in Vietnam where the weather switches from unbearable hot to torrential tempests … and back again. Furthermore, the corridors can be over 30 degrees, while the classrooms are cold enough to store ice cream. I tell the powers that be to turn UP the room temperature (the students also sit there shivering or wearing jackets) to 28 … I tell them every lesson … every lesson … to quote Kurt Cobain, “Oh well, whatever, never mind.”

But now, without further ado, the lesson plan. Let’s kick off with:

What can you see ? This tests the ability to form a basic “I can see a …..” sentence.

Marc Chagall
Vietnamese folk painting.

Next up, ‘When the band comes marching in ‘, a kinetic exercise and also a way to introduce new vocabulary; here it will be musical instruments:

We can use this for musical statues. The class size is very large, (20 students) the space limited, but the march tone will suit the limitations.

Moving on, back to seats, and I will teach them ‘I spy’

I look around the room and see something that they have learnt in a previous lesson (such as classroom accessories or animals), and say, “I spy, with my little eye … something beginning with …. ‘c’ “

The students then have to think of all the vocabulary they know (at this stage, somewhat limited), so the words will be ‘chair’, ‘table’, ‘pen’, ‘book’, ‘bag’, ‘teacher’, ‘student,’ and then pictures of animals that have been previously taped around the room.

Leading on from that, and time for more movement (or madness depending on your point of view), a flash card hunt. I will have various pictures of creatures taped to the wall, behind desks, under chairs … then ask, “What has eight legs … ?” then, “Six legs, four legs and a shell, four green legs and jumps ?” In twos, the students have to find said card.

Then it’s Grammar time. I drill and conjugate the verb ‘to have’

First I practice with my TA, then select some of the top students to model. They will be given a flash card and say, for example:

I have a cat

You have a dog

He has a frog

She has a spider

They have a monkey

We have a card.

By giving cards to groups of six, all the students can participate at once.

Some students can come to the front and hold their cards. I will ask, “What does he have ?” and expect the answer in a sentence, “He has a ….” and not just shouting out the single-word noun.

Moving on up, it’s time for the a /an distinction. I’ll simply board the vowels and elicit words that begin with each one. Then I’ll show the grammar, ‘It is a cat, it is an elephant.’ I’ll board ten or so words and the class must shout out whether the article is ‘a’ or ‘an’ AND say the answer as a full sentence.

Next up, a quick writing game. In small groups, the students have to write words that they have recently learnt. These will be:

bike / kite / rope / ant / bear / frog / spider / turtle

Time for a wee break, so a short video of funny animals:

Can start from 01:17 – 02:12

Finally, a chance to boost their use of adjectives. I’ll ask for them to describe animals, miming to help them, until we have basic words such as ‘big’, ‘small’, ‘fast’, ‘slow’ and then introduce some more: ‘tiny’, ‘scary’ and ‘massive’. They have to write down the new words in their notebooks.

I will then ask them to describe an ant, an elephant, a spider, a cheetah

Furthermore, I want them to start using the common adverb ‘very’ – a spider is very small and very scary !

We then have our school’s spelling contest, student book work, workbooks and worksheets for the quick-finishers.

And then … lesson over and I say goodbye to this class. They can be VERY noisy … but also a lot of fun.

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 …


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:

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.

Friends (men). Teaching sheet.

I use this sheet for many classes, usually for personality adjectives, as well as occupations. It’s adapted from a class I took at International House, London.

For higher level classes, you could also use this to illustrate the adage ‘don’t judge a book by its cover.’

The students have to guess the personality of my friends, just by looking at them; their expressions, posture, dress sense, hair style etc. Then they have to try to guess the occupation.

This is a great way to introduce new vocabulary and job titles. Additionally, students can learn that many adjectives are not necessarily positive or negative, for example ‘serious’. Being serious could be very positive (in a professional context) but negative in other situations.

I’ve put some sample adjectives and jobs after the last photo, as well as the answers to their current occupations.


Personality adjectives: aggressive arrogant calm funny (haha) funny (crazy) generous honest humorous kind mean modest polite quiet reliable rude selfish serious thoughtless trustworthy


Occupations: estate agent plumber DJ mechanic bouncer surgeon accountant actor cook/chef removal man insurance agent bank clerk detective business man barista lawyer shop manager unemployed slacker

Peter is unemployed. He has an MA in Business Studies and is currently looking for work, so he is sending out his CV and photo.

David is a DJ

Alex is an actor. He is also a Buddhist so normally has shaven hair. However, he is very big and strong, so he gets cast as gangsters or bad men, despite being very gentle and soft-spoken in real life.

Victor is a self-employed plumber.

Simon is a doctor. He is highly professional and serious, but is seen here on holiday, after a few sangrias (wine cocktails). Someone took a photo with a flash, so his eyes look wide and big.