IELTS, Adult Speaking Class, Level 3. Warm up conversation starters

9th October 2020

Sometimes students arrive at class after a long day, bereft of energy and motivation. In such situations, it’s best to hit the ground running, get them talking and ready for a lesson. This needs to be done before they pull out their mobiles and start concentrating on their cyberlife … after which time, they are lost to reality.

adults-casual-cellphone-1413653 - Study Finds

Therefore, before they can hit that ‘Post’ button, pair them up and make them ask each other various questions, demanding that the answers be as complex as possible, incorporating big words (‘Low-Frequency Words’), discourse markers and relative pronouns, along with appropriate expressions.

Example: Where would you most like to visit ?

Bad answer: Nowhere. Bad answer: New York.

Better answer:

Introduce your answer THEN state the location THEN explain why.

Ah, that’s an interesting question because I really need a holiday. However travelling now is not a good idea because of the COVID 19 which is an extremely serious pandemic. So, I have to think about after, when it is safe to go on holiday.

I have always wanted to visit Singapore, because it looks so clean and modern and, not forgetting, so many shopping malls. I love shopping, it is my passion. I would buy so many things such as clothes, makeup and presents for my family.

IELTS students should be able to add a number of idiomatic language to really spice up their presentation. I would expect to hear:

cost(s) an arm and a leg / prices (can be \ are) sky high / mouth-watering / world famous / ubiquitous / pristine / that’s a bit of a sore point (because we CAN’T travel) / such a wide array / shop till (I \ you) drop / overwhelming / spoilt for choice / retail therapy

Cheap Shopping Place in Singapore - Buy Souvenirs in the Bugis Street Area
Remember … there are some affordable shopping areas in Singapore although they tend to be away from the city centre but well worth a visit.

NOW … your turn

Questionnaire / Discussion

What kind of music do you like ? (do you play or listen ?)

Can you name any plays by Shakespeare ? (if not what writer do you like ?)

What time do you usually get up ? (weekdays and weekends)

How do you relax ? (do you have time or do you study, have family, work overtime ?)

Can you play a musical instrument ? (would you like to ? Why ?)

What skill(s) would you like to acquire ? (be creative here – what stops you learning ?)

What is the best thing about Sai Gon ? (or YOUR city)

However, this is not a one-way street. The person asking is expected to make small talk, to elicit – to encourage – the speaker to open up and expand on their answers.

Use small talk phrases such as:

Really ? That’s interesting // Tell me more // Why do you say that ? // Oh, me too // What do (did) you like best // Where is that (exactly) ? // I’ve heard about that // I haven’t heard about that, can you explain // Why do you say that ? // Oh, I get it // I’m not sure I follow.

And if your partner is stonewalling you (not talking), here’s a great idiom:

IDIOM OF THE WEEK: Cat Got Your Tongue... - Cairns Language Centre |  Facebook

Adding adjectives, increasing interest.

14th October 2019

How would you describe this lady ? Where is she ? What is the day like ?
How adjectives add information and colour to speech and writing.

Making lemonade out of lemons – this is an expression which means making something good happen out of something bad. Allow me to elaborate – I was taking a Level 1 adult-talking class. The work is all prepared for me, with powerpoint slides and recordings, as well as print-outs. However, the theme was quite advanced for this level. The subject was economics, vocabulary included such gems as ‘manufacturing’ and ‘exports’. All very interesting, but far above the resources of a beginners’ class. And then the students arrived … after a few introductory questions, it became clear that I would have to abandon the lesson and somehow improvise a class at beginner level.

As the class consisted of young ladies, I chose hair and clothes … and how to use adjectives to build up setences.

It is understandable that students focus more on learning nouns and verbs, with just a smattering of common adjectives. However, I think it’s a good idea that students learn and be encouraged to use two or three adjectives from an early stage, so it becomes a natural part of their English (as well as boosting their scores in oral tests).

So, back to my class; three young ladies with very limited English but, fortuitously, also with three different hairstyles.

Image result for asain girl, long brown hair

Let’s start very simply; Ms Kim (this is a Google image, not my real student) has long hair. OK, but we can add more … what colour is it … is it straight or wavy ? Finally, let’s be polite and complimentary … Ms Kim has beautiful long wavy brown hair.

The students may have to learn hairstyles or shapes (wavy, pony-tail, bangs, pleated), and students should learn a small number of new words every lesson. It helps if they can see them in the class and then use them in controlled speaking.

So, without much effort, their sentence length had doubled. Next to Ms Kim was Ms My

Related image

Once the students had a word bank and some practice, they were able to describe Ms My as having a beautiful long black ponytail, or beautiful long black straight hair, tied into a ponytail. Fortunately Ms Anh has a different style.

Image result for asain girl, medium hair

But now, it was clear my students were comfortable with ‘beautiful’ so time for some synonyms – stunning, gorgeous, eye-catching. Ms Anh has medium-length hair or, as I insist on a full sentence:

Ms Anh has gorgeous medium-length brown hair. But we can go further – let’s compare Ms Anh’s hair with Ms Kim – both have brown hair, yet different shades. Thus we introduce dark and light:

Ms Anh has eye-catching medium-length dark-brown hair.

It’s also very rewarding to hear students start building sentences after struggling to say three or four words just five minutes earlier. And so, we continue … let’s turn to jewellery using the students themselves as examples; someone will have earrings (studs or long), another will have a neckless, a bracelet, rings etc. I ask Ms Anh to show her ring … it is gold, while Ms My has a silver one. Or, at least silver-coloured !

Then we turn to clothes, and first elicit different types of material and patterns:

silk // cotton // denim // leather //

plain // floral // striped // checked

Image result for asian girl in check shirt

So now, when they see a picture like this, the students will be able to describe the lady’s hair, jewellery and clothes and by extension, the room in which she is situated.

In terms of grammar, there is an order of adjectives, though I would not introduce this too early on. Instead, I would stress the opinion word is first, while size is before colour (eye-catching short light-blue skirt).

The website for the above chart is:

https://www.hip-books.com/teachers/writing-about-reading/adjectives/

Now, let’s return to the first picture, a young friend of mine whom we shall call Ms Ngoc. Students can work together and give me as much information as they can. This includes her hair, clothes but also what she looks like, where she is and what time of day. Furthermore, how does the weather look ? How does she look ?

Finally, a good activity is to board some common adjectives and have the students give the opposites or antonyms:

expensive // genuine // cheerful // delicious // interesting // honest // generous

This is continued in subsequent lessons, so students become used to incorporating two or maybe three adjectives in sentences. And them or course … we have adverbs … but that is another story !