Adult Class, Level 2: Making your mind up !

27th May 2019

Tonight is a new class, a block of four lessons, and phrasal verbs dominate the session – they almost take over. These, like idioms, can be very confusing for a learner, yet are an integral part of everyday English. Don’t give up, keep on trying and you’ll pick it up in next to no time.

First, as a warm up, we’ll go over some recent lessons and see how much of the lingo (slang for language), the students have picked up. They recently had a lesson about choice, confusion and making decisions … or not making decisions. Being unable to act, or to decide is known as procrastination … and is a flaw in one of Literature’s most famous characters, the prince of Denmark; I’m referring to none other than Shakespeare’s Hamlet. This quote may be familiar …

Shakespeare is a world-famous writer, and a great example of British culture … but what about Vietnam ? If I wanted to read some classic Vietnamese texts, what would the students suggest ?

The task is for the students, in small groups, to decide upon one suggestion for each of the following.

To begin with, the Great British seaside. the sun rarely peeks out so when it does, we rush off to the seaside. What can you see here:

Blackpool, a famous seaside town in north England.

The seaside is associated with building sandcastles, donkey rides, deck chairs, paddling, pier, sun cream and ice cream. I want to visit a typical Vietnamese beach town. Where is the best … and why ?

Now, seasides and travelling help us build up an appetite … so what to eat ? What do the students think of a traditional British breakfast (not that I’ve ever eaten one ! It’s not exactly vegetarian-friendly) ?

Again, I want to try a traditional Vietnamese breakfast. What should I eat, where should I go, what should I drink ?

Now, being British, and a teacher to boot (as well), I enjoy a beer (or two …). Here’s a typical British pub:

I’m not sure such places exist in Vietnam, but what do I know ? Maybe the students can help me ? Where could I go to drink beer and which is the best Vietnam brand ?

This is just a quick game to occupy the first part of the lesson (while students are still arriving). Let’s keep the theme of being decisive, tied in with phrasal verbs. We’ve had Shakespeare and ‘high’ culture; now it’s time to be more ‘popular’. British people over a certain age and yes, that includes me, will recognise this number (slang for a song): The music doesn’t start until around the 0:30 mark.

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

This is a famous song that won a contest back in the day (when I was younger). See how many phrasal verbs there are in the lyrics (words of a song).

Then we can go to the desert survival game :

Desert survival

You need to select five items below to help you survive in the desert.

Factors to consider:

food, drink, heat, cold, injuries, attracting attention, wildlife

First aid kit / matches / rope / knife / compass 

cigarettes / blankets / barrel of water / flare gun / torch

magnifying glass / Beatles CD / make up set / dried food 

grammar study book / Angry Birds game / air rifle / sun block

Negotiation language

I see your point but … that’s interesting, however …

I’m not sure about that I can’t go along with that 

I don’t feel that is entirely right / I fail to see the merits

I respectfully disagree / I find your contention somewhat flawed

The students, first in small groups, then as a class, have to decide upon five items to help them survive in the desert. Some items are multi-purpose, for example, a CD is useless in terms of listening to music, but the reverse could be used as a mirror, to reflect the sun, while the sides are sharp and could be used for cutting. Cigarettes are loathsome and not usually associated with long life … however … in the desert, they could save your life. Snakes hate cigarette ash so, at night, light the tobacco and sprinkle the ash in a large circle, then you can safely sleep inside.

And then time to hit the books.

The early bird catches the worm … do the students understand this saying ? What do they think it means ?

To end the lesson, we could try a Family Fortunes game … in small groups, I ask questions and require four answers. They will usually be about me, for example, what four instruments can I play, what four sports do I do ? which four places have I been to in Vietnam, what do I like most about Vietnam, etc ….

And … not forgetting … what quote from Shakespeare do they know ? And they’re not going home until they say it.

Adult Class, Level 3: If I make them learn, it’ll be a miracle !

22nd April 2019

Cutting it a bit fine, as this lesson begins in just over four hours. I’ve substituted this class before and, being diplomatic, they need a non-standard teaching method. Just going through the course book, expecting students to do the assigned work – to talk together in English, to practice and produce – is for the birds ! It ain’t gonna happen, brother !

What we have here is a class of teenagers … yeah … an adult class comprised solely of teenagers … to answer Bob Geldof, that is WHY I don’t like Mondays.

The answer … simply to be crazier than the students. It has the element of surprise.

Last time, after preparing thirty minutes of activities and getting no response, I sat next to the students and MADE them speak to me. I asked one boy (yes, he was still in school uniform) a question and it was a deer caught in the headlights – “He’s asking me a question … in English … and expects me to answer ?”

So, without further ado, tonight’s lesson plan which involves First conditional, future clauses, reading and speaking. On the surface, I’m dead in the water – however, I have some tricks up my sleeve ….

First activity will be something I learnt from my time with a theatre group (never more than five people but that constitutes a ‘group’). I’ll draw a red dot on the floor and get all the class to stand around it (yes, I know getting the class up from their chairs will probably take up most of the lesson). The exercise is to focus all of our energy at the spot. We start be pointing our right hand at it for eight seconds, then changing to our left hand, our right leg followed by our left. This is repeated for four seconds, two seconds and finally one second. I think it’s a fair bet that none of the students have started a lesson in that manner before.

Next, I shall invoke the help of my friend Dali. I shall make the students say his name, elongating it as long as possible, while twirling my (imaginary) moustache. Then I shall show them his photo and an example of his work:

I will try to elicit, to get feedback, from the class. Last week, I covered this class and I did a lesson about personality adjectives. How would they describe Dali, just from his picture, and what do they think about his art ? I will guide them towards the subject, the colours, the background. Hopefully, it will be inspiring to at least some of the students.

Now, grammar time, First Conditional.

If I have 10 million VND, I will buy a Honda motorbike.

Conditional + subject + verb …… (comma) sub + will + verb …

First conditional uses present tense ( have) and will do something. It is used when something is very possible. In Vietnam, 10 million VND is not an impossible amount for a basic motorbike.

HOWEVER, If I had 100 million VND (not so likely) I would buy ….

To test comprehension, I’ll board some incorrect sentences and see if the students can change them:

If you’ll learn English you are get a good job

My mum will hit me unless I does get good grades

She won’t going to bed until he came home

If you buy an Apple X, you would be happy

After you leave the class, you would be terribly sad.

Finally, in this rather short post, some pre-teaching for the reading section.

The words are:

prodigies

controversy

determined

forbidden

outstanding

excelled

rebelled

took up

resent

How could they apply them to the following pictures:

Both Mozart and Beethoven were incredibly gifted children. Mozart’s first composition was written when he was just five years old.

President Trump plans to build a wall between USA and Mexico. Not everyone thinks this a good idea, while some totally approve of it. It has made many people very angry.

Now, how about this sign I saw in Indonesia (Yes – this is genuine, hand on heart) ?

How would they describe this young lady:

And finally, what do they students understand by this picture ?

So, we shall see how my little rebels deal with the lesson. If all else fails, I can make then sit through some REAL music:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egMWlD3fLJ8

Now, that’s a chopper !

Adult Class Level 3: Sharks and dragons

18th March 2019

Tomorrow night I’m substituting this adult class. I’ve taught them before, so most of the faces should be familiar. I’m not sure they will be over the Moon to see me again; maybe their hearts will sink. So, as a warm up, while students turn up and get settled, a quick review of new and recent expressions. I’ll board five expressions and let the students match with the meaning:

  1. over the moon
  2. complete waste of time
  3. lose your temper
  4. must be a nightmare
  5. my heart sank

Now they have to match with these:

a. A terrible situation or experience

b. to be totally happy

c. to be totally disappointed

d. to become very angry

e. doing something but it produces nothing; it is useless and pointless.

Now practice – which expression would you use here:

He lives above a shop that has open-air karaoke every night.

She got 95% in her test and is incredibly happy.

John was nearly hit by a motorcycle; he was furious.

When the students saw Thay Paul, they were unhappy and disappointed.

Trying to teach physics to dogs is not going to do any good !

Who doesn’t like a cute dog picture ?

Next up, a review of a previous lesson: how to complain. First, I’ll show a short clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dF41XxbFbr8

I’ll ask the students what the woman is complaining about (the woman is complaining about some Asians speaking Korean in a USA coffee shop).

This is also a good chance for the students to hear other accents; the clip is from USA, so the voices will be different to my British. Furthermore, this can promote some new vocabulary. Is the lady being reasonable or unreasonable ? Does she have a fair point ? Is she right to complain ? How would the students feel if this happened to them ?

Following this, we can board some ‘dos and don’ts’ about complaining, then I’ll give a situation or situations. Students have five minutes to prepare a short conversation:

The food in a restaurant is cold and not properly cooked

A new smart phone doesn’t work properly

A hotel room is not as good as expected

A neighbour is having a loud party with karaoke … and it is 11.30pm on a Monday.

Following this, I’ll move onto the book work but with a difference. I’ve noticed how many students’ hearts sink when they have to open their books. After a conversation with a colleague, I hit upon an idea: I will do the book work, but as an activity or game. For example, the first exercise is pronunciation. How to pronounce ten words with correct stress and intonation. Instead of the students working from the book, I’ll say each word three different ways. In small teams, the students must then decide the correct version and say it. By saying it as a group or class, it prevent people from becoming embarrassed. The words include ‘experience’, ‘qualifications’ and ‘apply.’

Another book exercise involved writing questions about someone’s job. I’ll turn this into a questionnaire, students having to get up and ask each other questions. This involves speaking, listening and writing (& reading the questions) so it exercises many skills, as well as getting the students up from their seats (hopefully) and moving around.

This is basically one third of the book work covered without opening the book. But then, we have to finally take out the bad boy, open it up and start reading. Tonight’s reading is quite a chuck of text; the subject is asking rich business people to invest in a new idea. There is a show in the UK called ‘Dragon’s Den’, which features this concept, and apparently the US version is called ‘Shark Tank.’ What do these names suggest ? Into the dragon’s den is a British expression for going into or doing something unpleasant or dangerous.

As with any reading, the teacher must go through the text first and look for any problem words, or highlight useful, everyday expressions. These are then pre-taught.

Still, looking at a page of text can be daunting for a student, especially after a long working day. One way to break it down, is for students to work in pairs. One reads the first paragraph, then paraphrases it to the other. The process is then switched. However, the students may just prefer to read alone.

The last part of the lesson is speaking. Students are given some time to think up an invention of their own (they are given guides, for example, a new type of gadget, or food, or phone app. The point here is to get the students talking, learning how to ‘pitch’, what kind of language and presentation skills are needed. As a quick break, I can show some examples of people pitching ideas … but things don’t go to plan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYSSYm0b2wk

This is from the UK ‘Dragon’s Den’:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4PZywrm6TY

From 0:46, I’ll ask the students what this man’s pitch (idea) is and what is special about it ? Do they think it’s a good idea ? Would they invest in it ?

The last section of the lesson is for winding down, some games, some general speaking, some general questions. And, who knows … maybe some will leave with better English and a great business idea.

Adult Class – Level 3 (2)

25th December 2018

Christmas is not such a big holiday in Vietnam. I wasn’t expecting many students, but 13 out of 17 showed up, proving they had nothing better to do, while I was 6000 miles away from the nearest mince pie. And so … to work.

Today’s theme was traffic, road safety and Top Gear ! However, the text book we use is American, and the lesson focused on the American version. I was having none of that ! It was Clarkson, May and Hamster or nothing !

For those who don’t know, Top Gear is a motoring program from the UK that has been broadcasting for decades, and sold all over the world. Many countries make their own version, but you can’t beat the British humour and irreverence of the original. The most famous hosts were Jeremy Clarkson, James May & Richard ‘hamster’ Hammond.

The lesson began with a vocabulary overload – lots of words and phrases associated with driving:

THEME: Traffic

rush hour ring road metro/subway/ U-Bahn/ the Tube congested

blind spot flyover motorway roundabout road rage one-way street

traffic jam chockablock cutting in cut me off hit every red light !

What are the issues facing you when you travel around Sai Gon ?

[what problems do you have]

This is an opinion question, so start your answer with:

In my opinion / In my experience/ For me / I think / I believe / It seems to me

First – think of the positives – Is it easy to travel around ?

Is petrol / gas cheap ? Are there many stations ?

Can anyone attain a driver’s licence ?

What about public transport ? Cheap, reliable ?

Conversely, think of the negatives – time spent travelling.

Accidents 

Costs – insurance, petrol, maintenance

Dangers – pollution

Condition of roads

Is traffic getting worse in HCM ? Why do you think so ? 

What can be done to ease this situation ?

Finally – what is your conclusion.There will probably be both good and bad points. 

What the heck is happening here ?

What do you think will happen to the driver ? In your opinion …

Taking a Viet driving test

The second clip is from When Top Gear (UK) came to Vietnam, in 2008. They had a challenge – to buy a car then drive from HCM City to Hanoi.

What could possibly go wrong ?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fx6U8bZypvg&t=280s

You can start watching from 0.45 – 4.00. The men are speaking at natural speed, but see how much you understand.

  • How much are they given ?
  • Where do they try to buy cars ?
  • What do they decide to do ?

This was followed by some dialogue practice:

THEME: Traffic Dialogue 

Ian and Tom are driving to a business meeting.

Examples of how to use the new vocabulary in everyday situations

Ian Look at all this congestion ! It’s chockablock. What’s that idiot doing ?

Tom He’s trying to cut in. The other car’s blocked him. Oh … he’s getting out.

Ian He’s punching the car !Ha, over there, a traffic cop. Now he’s screwed !

Tom Yeah, road rage. Oh, at last, we’re on the move … and stop. What can we do ?

Ian Make the second turning at the roundabout. Take the ring road. 

Tom Cool ! Avoid the rush hour in the city. Wish we were on the motorway.

Ian Yeah, put your foot down get there in next to no time. Why’s it so busy ?

Tom I get it, roadworks. They’re building a new flyover. That should ease traffic.

Sara & Vic are arguing in the car. Sara is driving.

Vic Why did you come this way ? District 7 at the rush hour, are you nuts ?

Sara I thought we could beat the traffic. There’s too many containers in D. 2

Vic Too many cars here and we’ve hit every red light ! Women drivers !

Sara That was sexist ! Anyway, you drive like a madman. Foot down and go !

Vic Cars are for driving, not stopping ! Take that turning, it’s quicker.

Sara That’s a one-way street, Einstein ! I hate back-seat drivers. 

Vic Next time I’m driving. Women are terrible … what are you doing ?

Sara Pulling over. You can get out and walk ! Hope it doesn’t rain. See ya !

There were many new words / phrases so I suggested they apply logic.

For example, driving through busy area at rush hour is not a good idea. Therefore asking someone if they are nuts means ‘are they crazy ?’

Likewise, Einstein is a famous genius, but we use the name ironically in English – if someone does something very silly or stupid, we call them Einstein.

Other new phrases were a no-wake zones (times when people are not allowed to make noise such as boat or car engines) and the difference between attain and obtain – the former meaning to work and achieve, the latter, simply to get. People can study for years and attain a qualification OR go to a store in Bangkok and obtain a fake degree.

And on that bombshell … the blog reaches it’s destination. Safe driving everyone … and Merry Christmas.