IELTS Revisited

10th April 2019

I’m now taking my second IELTS class, and the great thing is that I’ve already made lesson plans. Additionally, my class is much smaller – seven students as opposed to 17 – and they seem slightly more motivated and animated.

But there is still room for improvement … and I’m referring here to myself, as a teacher. My centre tries to promote as much student talking-time as possible, ideally aiming for as high as 80% student conversation … ideally. In reality, the teacher has to face a number of obstacles. I’ll save those for another, more general blog, as I want to dedicate this post to extra work, and tips to get the students talking.

First up, I need to make the students take notes (Vietnamese are not in the habit of doing this, as my centre manager explained). Instead, they will often just take a photo of the board. Secondly, once the student has sat down, they generally will not move until it is time to leave … three hours later.

I will now insist that they take out and use notebooks, the rationale being that the active process of writing will help them remember the words or phrases much better than taking a photo (which they may never look at) or relying on their memory.

Likewise, I will strongly recommend that instead of sitting and talking with the same person all class, they get up and move around, practice with different people (“But teacher, I am tired, I am lazy,” – I have actually heard these from people half my age ).

Now, without further ado, some extra work.

In Lesson Two, I started off with some compound nouns, based upon shopping. This was a way to introduce new vocabulary as well as filling time while late students arrive.

My manager suggested that this could be developed into a speaking exercise. For example, using the compound nouns ‘bulk shopping’, ‘window shopping’, ‘binge shopping’, ‘impulse shopping’ and ‘dumpster diving’, make a presentation with questions:

Have you ever made an impulse purchase ?

How often do you go window shopping ?

Do you ever buy in bulk ?

Is dumpster diving popular in Viet Nam ?

Then, what are the pros and cons of:

Typical street market … but is the fruit safe ?
District 7 shopping mall: food courts, cinema, shops and stalls.
Souvenir store in District 1. Are the prices fixed or does it depend on how rich the buyer looks ?

Basically, get the students speaking as much as possible. To help them develop longer, more complex sentences, I’ve given them sheets of discourse markers, and each week we focus on one type and select three words. For example, last week was ‘addition’; instead of saying ‘and’, they could use ‘additionally’, ‘furthermore’, or ‘moreover.’

This gets practiced when they have to link two basic sentences:

I like coffee. I like tea.

They could be linked by a simple ‘and’, but try using new discourse markers.

Sentences can be built up by using adjectives, adverbs, discourse markers, and by the use of clauses. This will entail relative pronouns … but that is for another lesson. The students have two months and hopefully they will see improvements after every lesson.

Adult Class Level 3 Jan 2019: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Tuesday January 8th 2019

This blog site really saved my bacon last night – allow me to explain …

Those who know me know that, as much I love the idea of technology, I know NOTHING about it. People have to show me how my iPhone works, how to access websites, even basics such as how to turn the computer on in the first place ! Then, when I’m on a piece of equipment … it breaks, crashes, gives up the ghost, malfunctions … dies (just last weekend I broke BOTH the office photocopiers – technicians had to be called).

In Greek mythology, there was a King called Midas who asked for a gift – he wanted to be able to turn everything to gold, just by touching it. I seem to have the ‘anti-Midas touch’ – every piece of hardware I touch breaks.

Last night, in the classroom, I wasn’t able to access the class ebook, nor my Powerpoint presentations (ppt) which I was going to use as warm-ups for the class. Fortunately, this blog page opened and I was able to use the IELTS blog for the class. The theme last night became ‘keep clam and carry on.’

So, in case a similar event occurs, here’s tonight’s Adult Class:

When I looked at the work, my heart sank. The text books are not aimed specifically at Vietnamese students, but for all students, possibly mixed-language classes. Subsequently, some of the themes are of limited interest to my students; consequently my class are going to be less than enthralled. I need to jazz up the lesson !

These classes are arranged in blocks of four, the last part of the last lesson being a spoken exam. Therefore, I will allocate the second part of tonight’s class to speaking activities and, to warm up, I’ll have them speak to each other but in the form of a market research survey. Quite simply, I need a new mobile / cell phone.

However, I don’t know which one to buy ..

It is very confusing – I am confused.

I love Apple but … they can be very expensive

In addition, the reviews have been less than favourable:

So I need to do some research, read some online reviews or do some market research.

A typical market research office
One of many online review posts.

I need my students to carry out / to conduct a survey for me


The students will be arranged in small groups. One member will be responsible for gathering the information, then reporting back to me. I shall then collate all the data and display the findings in chart form (which will be beneficial for those who wish to study IELTS later).

After this, I shall do a vocabulary- building exercise – showing some basic words and a ‘better’, higher-level word (a ‘low-frequency’ word as some books term them).

boring mortifing

confusing irritating

embarrassing tedious

exciting bewildering

frustrating exhilarating

Spelling rule:

‘I’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’

Examples: believe field niece priest achieve

but

receive ceiling receipt deceive

These are exceptions to the rule

This leads into the book work. Many study get confused with the I am / It is structure. For example, some teenagers and university students have wished to proclaim their disapproval of my classes, and have very politely shouted out, “I am boring.” They of course mean to say ‘I am bored’, which causes laughter from those who know the grammar, and a certain satisfaction on my part. Instant karma, baby !

The class will then practise the correct -ed or -ing form of the words, before moving into the reading and listening part of the lesson.

I like to use real-life videos for listening when appropriate. Tonight I’ll show a YouTube clip from Mark Wiens, who is a food enthusiast. In this clip, he tries a typical Vietnamese breakfast, and I want to see how much my class understands. Here, the paralinguistics are important; body language, intonation, word stress

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crPVJ3CXs1g

Mark tries what is basically a pretty normal breakfast but he seems to be really enjoying it. Other students have found him very amusing, though feel he was overcharged at 91 000 VND (for two).

After break, I want the students to practise speaking, so I’ve prepared a list of general questions.

Speaking exercise

What did you do on New Year’s Eve ?

What was the last film you saw ? Did you like it ?

How many people live in your house ?

What is hard about learning English ?

How often do you chat online ?

Which social media sites do you use ?

What is your favourite food ?

Do you often eat western food ? Do you sometimes eat fast food ?

What sports do you play ?

What do you feel about shopping ?

What would you most like to buy ?

Do you like living in the city or countryside ?

Have you ever sang karaoke ? 

What country would you like to visit ?

Do any of your family live outside of Vietnam ?

Have you tried Korean or Japanese food ? What did you think ?

This can be arranged in a ‘speed-dating’ format. Students sit facing each other, speak for a few minutes, then move on to the next student. This way, they are able to practise speaking and listening with a variety of people, not just their friends. There is generally some resistance (or even refusal) with adult students to comply, so I encourage them by using non-confrontational words such as ‘suggest‘ or ‘recommend‘. Having said that, last night in my IELTS class I used, “Teacher says ‘stand up’ ” … and half the class actually DID stand up and mingle. Hey – whatever works !

A good game to end is a variation of the British radio show ‘Just a Minute.’ Students are given a subject (for example, HCM City) and must speak for one minute without repetition, hesitation or deviation. This can be done in pairs, and they can time each other on their mobiles. In order to practise for next week’s test, we can discuss what makes a good answer, and how to use discourse markers to link ideas together.

Another ‘trick’ is the use of phrases or words to ‘buy time’ while they think of an answer. This can include:

Let me think ….

How can I put it ?

That’s an interesting question …

Well,

And also repeating, in part, the question but using intonation:

Q: What will you do tonight ?

A: Tonight, I will ….. (go home and study / meet friends)

Then, if time allows, I’ll play the ‘eyewitness’ game. This involves showing some faces (three men followed by five women) for a limited amount of time, then seeing how much they can remember.

Tonight’s objectives will be for students to be able to differentiate between confused / confusing, learn some new vocabulary and be more confident and proficient speaking in longer, more fluent sentences … and to hear how an American ‘foodie’ loves Vietnamese breakfasts.