IELTS Unit 6: ch – ch – ch – ch – changes

16th April 2019

Tomorrow night I’m substituting a new IELTS class which is going to be very heavy on reading. In order to offset this passive activity, I want to promote and encourage as much speaking as possible AND to make the students take notes of any new words or phrases. Apparently, note-taking is not big in Vietnam; for a teacher, it can seem that the students are expecting to be entertained. It’s quite amazing the amount of students who attend class without notebooks, writing implements or the motivation to open their mouths and practice the language they are paying to learn.

Therefore, I have to make it clear at the outset what I expect them to do if THEY expect to get a good grade. Taking a photo of the board is not good enough, they need to physically write and practice the new vocabulary. Wether I am successful is another matter (for another blog).

And so, without further ado, tomorrow’s plan.

The theme is about changing lives, making decisions, trying something new. Consequently, I’ll play three songs which feature a change of one description or other. Let’s start with the song alluded to in the title, ‘Changes’ by the British legend David Bowie:

David Bowie in the early 1970s … going through many changes

Next we have USA Soul-singer, Otis Redding. He sings about a life-changing move:

Otis Redding who left his home in Georgia …..

Finally the use of change in a more abstract way, a mental activity. If someone makes a decision then has a different view, we say they ‘change their mind’. That is the subject of our last song, ‘Baby, Don’t Change your Mind’ by Gladys Knight & the Pips:

Gladys Knight

The first task is to identify the type of change mentioned in the song then subsequently moving on to a second task; what do they think of the music ?

This will involve forming opinions, and using special vocabulary pertaining to music. To begin with, the students have been given several opportunities to practise these:

In my opinion

For me

I feel that

From my point of view

Then some new phrases to express like or dislike:

I really love it / I quite like it / I’m crazy about it

I can take it or leave it / I don’t mind it

I’m quite keen on it / I’m not so keen on it

I’m into it / I’m not really into it / I’m not into it at all !

I can’t stand it / It’s excruciating / I can’t bear it

It’s not my cup of tea / It’s right up my street

Now vocabulary pertaining to the actual music:

melodic / tuneless

catchy / boring

repetitive / interesting

rhythmic / great beat /

uplifting / depressing / melancholic

The students will have to move around the room (always a challenge as most students are glued to their seats for the whole three-hours and simply will not move) and interview each other. It’s my job to get them to elucidate and expand their answers, to illustrate that a basic, ‘I like it’, isn’t what is expected from an IELTS student … and isn’t going to be accepted by THIS teacher.

Thereafter, I want to move from music to cinema. I’m going to show some stills of Asian films and let the students work together to create possible scenarios. As always, I’ll model one example. This is from one of my favourite directors, Hong Kong’s Wong Kar-wai, and the film in 1994s ‘Chungking Express’.

Brigitte Lin

This still doesn’t give much information … but it has some. The figure wears a long trench-coat as worn by detectives or private eyes in US crime films). Her blonde hair is a wig and she wears sunglasses … at night. What does that suggest ?

Furthermore, the scene is well-lit by the store; what area of Asia could this be, where there is so much light, neon, brightness and excitement ?

In answer, the film is set in Hong Kong. The lady is organising some smuggling. If it works, she will make a lot of money. If it fails, her life is certainly in severe danger. Whatever happens, this night will change her life.

Now, the students have to look at these stills:

Where is this film set ? What could be the life-changing situation ? For a clue, consider the ages of two of the characters. On the other hand:

Take Care of my Cat

Where is this set ? (the signs give a clue). This is a film about five young ladies who have just left school. What changes are they facing ? Finally, a film closer to home:

The Owl and the Sparrow

The students will probably recognise the setting and the situation. How do they read the body language of the actors ? What could change ? How are the girls in this situation in the first place ?

After this, it’s time to hit the books.

To make reading more of an active activity, the students can work in pairs. One will read one paragraph, then relate the information to their partner. This is then repeated with the second partner reading then relating. Thus they practice reading, speaking and listening.

Furthermore, they can try to rephrase some lines, a useful ability to have in an IELTS test.

To end, we could show some clips of films, then pause and ask the students what they think will happen next, and to describe what they see in the shot. This helps develop the use of adjectives and discourse markers. And who knows … maybe they will change their habits and actually get up from their chairs.