IELTS: Focus on Japan

18th October 2021

Listening practice:

Life in Japan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xwg5-YY4pdg

Activity one

Listen to one or two facts, then paraphrase them. Add your opinions, and how Japanese culture differs from your life.

New vocabulary, expressions, listening to accents.

Listen out for:

‘you guys’ (US), ‘omg’ (oh my god), ‘screwed up’, ‘really cool cafes’, ‘despite’, ‘strict’.

Check her grammar – any mistakes ?

Image result for amazing things in Japan

Activity Two

Listening for information

This clip ‘7 Cool things to do in Tokyo’ has a lot of practical information.

Write down as much as you can. At first, try without subtitles.

Include prices, opening times, locations etc: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3enIWRJtHQ

Image result for amazing things in Japan

Activity Three

Project:

You have three days in Tokyo; what would you choose to do ? Read the cntraveler and plan your city-break.

Remember to use IELTS language, explain your choices and maybe add an anecdote.

https://www.cntraveler.com/gallery/best-things-to-do-in-tokyo

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden Tokyo
Image result for amazing things in tokyo

This is an edited version of an earlier blog:

https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/01/25/adult-speaking-class-level-2-part-6-2/

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

IELTS: Focus on India

18th October 2021

Image result for hello India

Firstly, a big hello to all my readers and followers in India. I want you all to know how much I appreciate you taking the time to check out my blog. Thank you so much.

Exercise one: Find out some basic information about India from the internet, such as capital and major cities, population, food, religion, imports and exports.

I give you four minutes to do an Internet search, then present to class. DO NOT simply read from Wikipedia.

Exercise two:

Adjectives: look at the photos and describe what you see.

Try these adjectives:

exotic / mysterious / exquisite / captivating / enchanting

How Narendra Modi inaugurated Abu Dhabi's first Hindu temple | Condé Nast  Traveller India
Image result for Indian culture
Image result for Indian culture

Exercise two: compare and contrast

Does this look like YOUR city ? What is similar, what is noticeably different ?

Image result for Indian city scene
Image result for Indian train station
School, Colleges to Reopen From Next Month? What we Know so Far

Vocabulary building and listening

In the real world, most students will not be communicating with English-language teachers, but probably with other non-native speakers, so learning to appreciate and understand English spoken with a ‘new’ accent is an extremely useful skill. Here’s a great video which features a charming young Indian lady teaching new vocabulary: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKUxuD0m5A8

New Vocabulary:

Instead of using ‘very’ + adjective (I am very tired), use a single word:

Try to use ‘sagacious’, ‘exquisite’, ‘colossal’ and ‘spacious

The classrooms in Block D are ……….. (big)

The furnishings are perfect, they are ……….

Building an underground train network is a ………… undertaking

The old man was ………. People came to him for advise.

This is also a listening skills exercise. 

  • Do you have any problems understanding her ? Why ?

What to do in India

The American foodie and blogger Mark Wiens travelled to Kolkata: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvNdOJMDMyQ

Listen for at least five words you didn’t previously know. In small groups ask each other:

What impressed you ? What disturbed you ? Would you like to go there ? If so, why, if not, why not ?

Here is a chance to practice adjectives, linking words and using the word ‘because’ – giving reasons, supporting your comments.

Famous Indians

In small groups, you have to make a short presentation about one of these famous Indians:

Mahatma Gandhi
Image result for famous indian siddharta buddha
Siddhartha – the Buddha
kalpana chawla
Kalpana Chawla

The class have five to ten minutes to research information, speed read and extract relevant facts with which to enlighten the class. Follow up, tell me about some Indian artists or sports stars.

And now, goodbye from this mysterious, exotic land. Hope to meet you very soon …

Image result for Indian sunset

This is an edited blog that first appeared on 24th January 2020: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/01/24/ielts-hello-india/

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

Education is everything

23rd September 2021

Post image
The fictional Sam Seaborn, played by Rob Lowe

Written by Aaron Sorkin, creator of ‘The West Wing’.

Teaching is exhausting; it requires Herculean feats of strength, mental and physical, and the compassion of the Buddha.

Teaching can be soul-destroying; it requires the wisdom of Solomon and the tolerance of Job.

Teachers can be disrespected, ignored and insulted.

Teacher reviews may be gauged on how popular they are, how many games they play, not on how much they teach or how many students actually pass.

But teachers can also change lives.

That is what makes it worthwhile.

We need to change more lives.

“We need gigantic monumental changes.”

IELTS Oral Test: A refresher

17th September 2021

IELTS reading, paraphrasing, skimming, scanning in IELTS reading. IELTS  academic and general exam.

Tomorrow I have a class taking their IELTS speaking test. Thus, I present a reminder about what you need to say in order to:

ace the test

pass with flying colours

hit that baby right out of the ballpark

I will be listening for the following:

  1. Fluency – use of discourse markers. WITHOUT A WIDE RANGE OF DISCOURSE MARKERS YOU WILL NOT GET HIGHER THAN A ‘5’.
  2. Lexical resources – Low-frequency words (big words). Know synonyms and multi-syllable words to impress the examiner. Not to mention, a sprinkling of idioms, phrases, phrasal verbs. Paraphrasing is very important
  3. Grammar – it’s OK to make a few mistakes, grammatically, but what we want to hear are complex structures – basically, altering the structure of a sentence or including several pieces of information in one sentence by using relative pronouns.
  4. Stress and intonation – listen to native speakers and COPY how we speak, when we stress words, when we ‘swallow’ letters, our body language.

To elucidate:

Fluency – Ability to speak at length without noticeable effort. A good range of discourse markers and connectives. Answer is coherent and pertinent. Self-correction is totally acceptable.

Lexical Resources – A wide vocabulary to cover a variety of topics. Low-frequency words. Ability to form collocations. Use of everyday as well as less common idioms and expressions. Paraphrasing, by which I mean rephrase the question you have been asked – don’t just repeat the exact wording.

Grammatical Range – A combination of simple and complex sentences. Generally error-free. Verb tenses must be correct, and subject must agree with verb form.

Pronunciation – Must be clear and easily understood. Effective use of stress, intonation and rhythm. If you are telling a happy story, sound happy.

I have a whole range of blogs to assist, and you can find the index for IELTS here: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/12/04/subject-index-ielts-themes-language-exercises-2/

Some specific blogs that may be of some help:

https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/07/26/ielts-how-to-pass-with-flying-colours/

https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/10/12/ielts-8-1-2-chasing-8-1-2/

For specific help with Part III of the Oral Test: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/09/15/ielts-speaking-test-part-3-how-to-nail-it/

To help with L-FWs & expressions: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2021/01/27/ielts-vocabulary-boosting-fixed-expression-theres-nothing-i-like-more/

Sterling Ielts School Student Png Images - Ielts Students Images Png  Transparent PNG - 378x456 - Free Download on NicePNG
Good luck – Best of British !

IELTS: Animal Magic – Expressions N – Z

12th August 2021

In the morning, my students are like bears with sore heads
Man’s best friend
Newts of the Yuba | South Yuba River Citizens League
I’m a newt, and I’ll have you know I’m totally sober

NEWT: As pissed as a newt – Informal British English meaning to be drunk.

SIDEBAR: This is is very unusual saying, but around 200 years ago, young teenage sailors were known as ‘newts’. It didn’t take much alcohol for these boys to become very drunk, hence the expression.

OWL: To be a night owl – someone who stays up late, maybe all night.

PANDA: To have panda eyes – night owls and insomniacs often have black rings around their eyes, like a panda. I first heard this in Malaysia.

QUAIL: To quail at something – to be afraid or nervous about something.

RED HERRING: A false clue in a mystery or detective story

NOW LET’S TAKE THESE EXPRESSIONS OUT FOR A SPIN

  1. When did you last sleep ? You ____________________________________
  2. The police followed a clue but it was just a _____________________
  3. My neighbour is a real _____________________ playing music all night.
  4. I have toothache but I __________ at going to the dentist.
  5. Did you hear him sing karaoke ? He was ___________________________ !

Are you ready for some more ?

SWAN: Swan song – a final appearance.

TIGER: A tiger mum – a mother who pushes her children to study and study and study.

UNICORN: Life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns – sometimes life is hard and we have to deal with problems (tell me about it).

VULTURE: The vultures are circling – vultures wait for animals to die, then they swoop down and eat the dead body, so this expression means something very bad is about to happen.

WHALE: Having a whale of a time – having a wonderful time, really enjoying yourself.

X: Give me a break ! However, check out this little beauty:

This is an X ray tetra, a non-aggressive fish found in the Amazon

YAK: To yak or yakking – to talk non-stop, usually about nothing important.

Yakety Yak - song by The Coasters | Spotify
YAKITY YAK" LYRICS by THE COASTERS: Take out those papers...

ZEBRA: Zebra crossing – black and white marking on the road. In the UK, cars usually stop to allow people to walk safely. In Viet Nam … hhmmmm not so much (i.e. never).

The most famous zebra crossing in the world. From The Beatles ‘Abbey Road’ LP

Speaking of The Beatles, allow me to quote from ‘A Hard Day’s Night’

  1. The party was amazing, we all had _________________________
  2. The show was her last ever, it was her ________________________
  3. Will you stop _______ ! I can’t think !
  4. Walk to the ________________________ because this road is dangerous.
  5. She has a _____________________ who makes her study English every day.
  6. The business is losing too much money. The _________________________
  7. I have to pay my rent, my student loan, my electric bill. This is no fun ________________________________________________________
Bye bye from The Monkees

IELTS: Animal Crackers – animal expressions to impress examiners

10th August 2021

This Is Bat Country GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Just because you’re having online classes, with different teachers, (lucky you) doesn’t mean you should stop expanding your knowledge of weird and wacky English expressions, and let me tell you, you won’t find many of these in those cotton-pickin’ textbooks.

English speakers use animals as:

metaphor (my neighbour is a pig)

simile (she drinks like a fish)

idiom (look what the cat dragged in)

adjective form (he is rather bovine – like a cow, she moves with a feline grace – like a cat)

Today, I’m going to introduce you to expressions featuring animals, some of which may not be suitable for polite company …hey, you want to learn REAL English … that’s how we speak !

Now, without further ado …

ANTS: Ants in your pants – when someone can’t keep still, is always moving about which can be very irritating.

BATS: Bat-shit crazy – NOT used in formal, standard English. This is more common in US English to describe someone who is acting very strangely.

CATS: To let the cat out of the bag – to tell a secret, to tell something you were not supposed to disclose.

DOGS: Gone to the dogs – someone or something that was once respectable but is now dirty, useless etc.

ELEPHANT: Couldn’t hit an elephant – implies that someone is very bad at something for example, if they had a rifle they wouldn’t be able to hit a very large target.

SIDEBAR: “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance,” are the famous last words of John Sedgwick, an officer in the Union army in the US Civil War. He meant that the enemy was so far away, they couldn’t possible hit a massive target let alone a single man. Sedgwick was, ironically, shot and killed by the enemy. Read more here:

https://www.phrases.org.uk/famous-last-words/john-sedgwick.html

FISH: Like shooting fish in a barrel – refers to something that is so easy, no effort at all is required to be successful.

An Elephant in My Pajamas: The Misplaced Modifier – Ivy Global Blog
Groucho Barks ?

At this point, time to stop and reflect, practice what you’ve learnt. What expression fits ?

  • He used to be a respectable professional, but his wife left him he began drinking and now he’s _______________________________
  • The bloody woman next to me on the plane just wouldn’t sit still. She had ___________________________________
  • I’m never teaching that class again ! The kids are all __________
  • This job is so easy, it’s _________________________________
  • Oh ! I knew they had a secret. Now the _____________________
  • Don’t worry about Peter, he’s so bad, he _______________________
The quest for best animal joke ever! | Earth Rangers: Where kids go to save  animals!
Hahahah ants in my pants, I love that one !

Ready for some more ? OK, let’s kick it !

GOLDFISH: Living in a goldfish bowl – a life with no privacy, everyone can see what you do, all the time.

HORSE: A dark horse – someone that has hidden talents or abilities

INSECT: Go away, you little insect – not polite, used when someone is making you feel very uncomfortable, or is harassing you.

JACKASS: You jackass ! – again, very informal signifying a silly or stupid person.

LION: Taking the lion’s share – taking the biggest amount of something.

MONKEY: Too much monkey business – too much madness or uncontrollable behaviour

Practice makes perfect so … kick it !

  • You spent $100 on that Relox watch, made in China ! _____
  • Being famous is awful, everyone taking photos all the time, it’s like _____________________________________
  • I can’t work for this company anymore, I don’t trust them, ________________________________________
  • As the CEO, he took ___________________________ of the bonus.
  • I don’t want to buy those cheap fake sunglasses, go away you _________
  • Wow, Julie wrote this ? It’s so good, she’s a real _________________ always so quiet in class.

OK, enough for one blog, I’ll continue N – Z if there’s any interest, I’ll continue N- Z even if there isn’t any interest. Now I gotta prepare for two online classes and a speaking placement test, drink tea (I am English, don’t forget) and hope my internet doesn’t act like a jackass and pack up on me.

Everyone, stay safe and well.

Thank you for visiting this site

Young Learners: Sentence building and Zoom warm up games.

2nd August 2021

A selection of short exercises to develop sentence building and encourage use of adjectives. Games aimed at students aged 7 – 12

Warm up game 1

Who can name a country or city beginning with ‘A’ … ? ‘B’ … ?

Warm up game 2

What country do you associate with:

  1. sushi 2. hot curry 3. the White House 4. kangaroos 5. pizza ?

Warm up game 3

What animal is the biggest ?

How many eyes do most spiders have ?

What is more dangerous, a crocodile or an alligator ?

What does a camel have in its hump ?

What is the only bird that can fly backwards ?

What do pandas eat ? What do you call a baby kangaroo ?

Answers: A blue whale (up to 98 feet) // 8 eyes // crocodiles // camels store fat NOT water // hummingbird // bamboo // joey

Warm up game 4

Adjectives – words to describe a person or a thing

Example: The Kangaroo is small // cute // funny

Name an adjective beginning with ‘A’ … // ‘B’ … // etc

Students should be instructed to write down new words and then try to use them

Sentence building 1

What is your favourite film (or TV show, book) and why ?

EXAMPLE: I really love Star Wars because it is amazing and has many exciting space fights. The actor is incredible and the Princess is so beautiful. The film is sometimes funny and sometimes scary.

Sentence building 2

Tell me about your family ?

What do they look like ?

What are they like ?

EXAMPLE: I love my mummy very much because she helps me with my homework. She is small and has long black hair. She is friendly and happy. She likes to play badminton because it is healthy and fun.

Sentence building 3

Write interesting stories about these photos. Use adjectives and long sentences

Premium Vector | Cute elephant character playing music and singing isolated  .
Asian Woman Eating Pizza In Restaurant Stock Video - Download Video Clip  Now - iStock

Zoom Classes: You cut my hours, you slash my wages and you give me these ?

27th July 2021

Teacher suspended after appearing topless during Zoom video lesson | Nestia
Google Images. A teacher was reported suspended after appearing shirtless on Zoom

In a previous blog I tried, against my nature, to show a positive side to Zoom teaching. Teachers, TAs, admin staff are kept in employment, albeit with significant pay cuts, while the students are able to practise their English skills … should they choose.

I’m trying to keep this light-hearted, but all anecdotes are true, based on my experiences of Zoom. CUT TO last year, our first period of lockdown.

I can’t turn my light on, I’ve got no power

First up, back in the early days, teachers went to campus and used laptops to hold Zoom classes. The first five or ten minutes were spent waiting for late-comers, asking people to put their cameras on, then to KEEP their cameras on, ditto mics. One character, a teenage boy was sitting in darkness … this was a daytime class and Sai Gon in the day in bright, big time. Said teenager claimed that he had no electricity in his house, therefore could not put on the lights.

Do you sense a ‘however’ coming on ?

However … his laptop was working (sure, maybe it was running on battery). His wifi was working, but, the smoking gun … a slither of bright light from the corner of the room. Yes, said young gentleman had drawn his curtain and was ‘claiming’ he had no power.

Do you sense another ‘however’ coming on ?

However … I had an ace up my sleeve for, off-screen but next to me was my manager. I updated Mr No-Power on this development. A native teenager lying to an English teacher is not so unique. But would he lie to his Vietnamese manager. Damn right he would.

Just the tip of the iceberg. My camera’s not working

The teacher asks, politely requests, a student to put the camera on. This is after the class has seen a slide giving class rules AND a video in Vietnamese explaining what is expected. It is expected that students will put on their cameras. CUT TO a black screen, and yet another (here is where a teacher needs the patient of a whole temple of Buddhas) invitation to turn on the camera. Student claims camera is not working. Unfortunately, student had turned ON the camera and we could all see, in glorious Technicolor, the student, bold as brass (but thick as a brick). The mistake was then realised, and the student could be seen reaching for the lower corner of the laptop, and camera fades to black.

But that’s just one or two rotten apples, right ?

Are you kidding ? I teach IELTS which is the serious subject; a good grade here is a passport to a different country, to study, to live, maybe get exposed to different points of views, philosophies and outlooks. So you would think the students would be really motivated, right ?

Think again, pucko !

I had one IELTS class with about eight or nine students, including professional people and even a doctor. Guess what … despite the rules being reiterated, the Vietnamese-language video, I end up speaking to eight or nine black screens. Every lesson.

Doesn’t your campus kick ass ?

Kiss ass rather than kick ass. They go, half-heartedly through the motions, make rules but lack the balls to enforce them.

The reasons are clear. Firstly, this is not a state school, the students are CUSTOMERS … they generate revenue. It is a business axiom that the customer is always right. A business needs to keep and expand its customer base. My campus wants customers to return, to tell their friends, schoolmates, family members, each and everybody, they produce Disneyesque promotional films of photogenic children saying how they love learning here, and how they love their teachers (ya never see the fat ugly kids with buck teeth do ya).

Oh, man, you must be puttin’ me on ?

I wish ! You can look for yourself on YouTube, though not too soon after eating; there are stomach-churningly nauseating. Furthermore, the punters are locals, they are Vietnamese. I’ve seen some YouTube videos of a South African man explaining a similar situation in China. When push comes to shove, the natives support each other. Always. Teachers are a dime a dozen, they come ‘n’ go, and who can blame them ? Customers are more valued, they will always take precedence over a foreigner (that is how we are designated). Ready for one or two final delicacies ?


But teenagers are famous for their good behaviour

Haha, yeah good one. Just a brief entrance here. I had one class, back at campus, with some teens. I began saying hello to each student. Some would just stare at me, refusing to say a word. Then they initiated a new game; I would call a customer and rather than answer immediately, the teen would say, “Me ?” with terrible over-acting, faux surprise. This carried on with every subsequent teen. Finally, a teen, let’s called her Mary, copied her classmates, to wit:

Me: Mary, what’s number 3, please ?

Mary: Me ?

Cue the Beethoven

Beethoven as a Child and His Father's Alcoholism - MagellanTV

Me: Is your name Mary ?

Mary: Yes.

Me: Then answer the question and stop wasting my time.

I went on to explain that I will do everything to help anyone who really wants to learn. However, those who just want to insult me and disturb my lesson … well, let’s Samuel L. explain:

GIF jules winnfield and i will strike down upon thee with great vengeance  and furious anger ezekiel 25 17 - animated GIF on GIFER - by Grilace

Finally, (though you can guess this one could run and run), another IELTS class. I was given a real motley crew of unmotivated, unanimated, lifeless schlimels (if you don’t know what that means, look it up, I ain’t doing all the work for you). One schliemel was a teenage boy, a poster-boy for gormlessness. He informed me, by chat box, that his mic wasn’t working. Now, IELTS is all about speaking and practising, it ain’t just watching the teacher, it ain’t TV, dig ? You’ve gotta join in or you are wasting your (parents’) money.

Did you strike down upon him with great vengeance and furious anger ?

I farmed out that hit. Stopped the lesson and let everyone see that I was contacting Customer Care who, in turn, phoned gormless schliemel. Lo and behold, the mic miraculously started working. The guy would have been happy to sit and listen for an hour or two without contributing anything. After, he could go away and laugh that he hadn’t done any work.

If the job sucks, why d’you do it ?

Good question. I’ve spoken to many teachers, in various countries, and the answer is generally, ‘What else can I do ? It’s my profession’. And, at the moment, I don’t need to tell you, travel just ain’t as easy as it used to be.

Is there anything good about it ?

No. OK, I’m pulling your leg. A minority of students are sweet, respectful and polite. They really want to learn, and I can see the progress week by week. Occasionally, very occasionally, an adult student can become a friend, while the younger kids provoke avuncular feelings. Very rarely, one gets to meet a Princess. But these, as stated, are the minority.

“What a piece of work is man ?” What indeed

These situations are hardly isolated.

I saw an interesting site that highlighted some deplorable behaviour by participants. Read the full page here: https://skierscribbler.com/9307/news/inappropriate-behavior-in-zooms/

A new set of guidelines, according to the article, has been set following recent misbehaviors:


Camera’s must be on during online classes, students that fail to comply with this rule may be marked absent (unless there are extenuating circumstances).


In all zoom calls there is now a mandatory waiting room.


Students are no longer allowed to change their names.

Backgrounds must be one of the default zoom backgrounds or a solid color.


If students have a profile photo, it has to be of themselves.


In some classes, chat restrictions have also been implemented.

The teachers are all taking a massive financial hit to keep these lessons going. ‘T’is a pity the customers display contempt and disrespect. C’est la vie.

Zoom Classes: A dream or a nightmare ?

21st July 2021

Zoom booking system: Taking your fitness classes online with TeamUp's new  Zoom integration and On Demand feature | TeamUp
Zoom exercise class with a motivated student. This bears absolutely no resemblance to my classes. Taken from Google Images

Part One: “Always look on the bright side of life”

Eric Idle 1979

First, a thank you to a blogger friend in USA, Haoyan Do, who asked me about Zoom classes, and how they differed from the physical classroom or, in plain English, real life. I had already decided to put a positive spin (more neologisms) on the current situation but, in the interests of fairness, I shall also explore the other side of that metaphorical coin in a future blog.

Have a look at Haoyan’s blogs which you may access here: https://haoyando.net/

Now, without further ado, the benefits of teaching on Zoom

“If the rain comes, they go and hide their heads …”

The Beatles ‘Rain’ 1966

Rainy Season in Sai Gon

Not easy to capture a monsoon on a cheap mobile (cellphone) but you can see the grey sky, the clouds and the mournful trees trying to shelter from the storm. So, advantage number 1 …

1: Avoid going out in the rainy season

My IELTS students, not to mention my Top Cats from younger classes, will know the idiom ‘it’s raining cats and dogs,’ and then some ! When it rains here, the heavens open and streets get flooded. I’ve had to wade, knee-high, in swampy rain water to get to my campus. I lost an iPhone in the rain, and nearly get my foot stuck in a pothole in the middle of the main road. Now, I can watch the rain from inside, safe and dry.

Moving on, I haven’t posted many teaching blogs recently, leading to advantage number 2 …

2: No lesson planning

I only have Young Learner classes, students aged from 7 – 11, which are two-hour classes. We work from the set text books, but my manager prepares all the warm up activities, games and vocabulary reviews on ppt slides. I present them and conduct the lesson.

Some students may be rather vocal, and twelve enthusiastic youngsters can be, as we say in London, GBH of the ear’ole, meaning pain from so much noise or excessive talking (GBH stands for grievous bodily harm in English criminal law). Thus, advantage number 3 …

3: MUTE & MUTE ALL buttons

I love these options, the teacher’s friend. A student who is sitting by a blaring TV, a mummy and daddy having a shouting match, someone who wants to disturb the lesson by humming into the mic … just hit the MUTE button … bliss. Furthermore, we have a Waiting Room facility. Any student who is disrespectful or does now meet my standards of behaviour can be kicked out of the class for five minutes. This action can be repeated. I also have the option to permanently remove them from the class (though I have yet to use that feature).

Thay Paul, can you give us an example ?

Can I ? Oh, yeah, in spades ! Just last weekend, I was going through the online class rules, one of which was not to play with the Zoom features, and not to use a Zoom filter background. No sooner said, then one student began playing with Zoom, flashing said background. In my class, that got him a BLACK STAR. Student, typically, denied the accusation, although everyone had seen, and thereafter was in a bad mood, not answering when the TA called and refusing to take part in a game. Therefore, I put the student in the Waiting Room. Upon return, the student began taking part very enthusiastically, even earning stars for good work.

Next advantage is more indirect but ultimately beneficial to us all

4: Environmental

Schools closed, traffic greatly reduced leading to less pollution. Naturally people are using more electricity at home, but in many cases, lights, computers and A/C would be on anyway. Additionally, I spend more on electricity but this is offset by not spending money on petrol (gas) or Grabbike (similar to an Uber service).

So there you have it, four benefits although nothing of real pedagogic value. The Zoom classes are a way of providing some level of education during this lockdown period, to make sure students are exposed to English: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

Teachers need to be extra patient and calm, understanding and compassionate. However, we also have a job to do, and I endeavour to make sure all the students have had an opportunity to practice English, leaving the class having learnt something of lasting value.

Love and Chaos Part 8(E) Julie 1

24th June 2021

May be an image of 1 person

Part Eight. Berlin. September 1995

Julie Retoré sat on the grass, looking into her small compact mirror, and adding some more lipstick.

She could feel Alan standing behind her, moving ever so slightly, so as to get the reflection of her mouth in the shot. He called out and she began the scene.

Julie smiled to herself as she heard the motor of the small Super 8 camera twirl. To her it didn’t matter. It was still cinema.

Alan was well organised and worked quickly, consulting a clipboard and telling the actors what to do next. He was shooting in sequence, so they could follow the action and change reactions more naturally.

Of her co-star, Julie wasn’t so sure. She knew about Vincent, had once seen him reciting the poems of Baudelaire and Rimbaud, and was looking forward to working together. He was quite the local star in the bars and theatres of east Berlin. The only problem was that he knew it. He was good and he knew it. He was striking to look at and he knew it. Girls tended to stop and look at him and he really knew that.

Vincent was taking over the shoot, advising Alan how to set-up, what angle to use, even how Julie should act. Not wanting to cause a scene or to speak out of place, she kept her peace, but resented him for spoiling what otherwise had been a very pleasant day.

Alan shouted, ‘Cut’ and she relaxed, looked at her director and smiled, asking him how she was. He gave a very flattering answer, which she knew was exaggerated, but when Vincent joined in and appeared genuinely impressed, she blushed slightly, and looked away, hiding her embarrassed smile.

She liked the story and liked helping a new director. She sensed he was a little withdrawn, but once he got started on a subject close to him, he relaxed and actually there was a problem to stop him talking. She found it charming, and refreshing that he was speaking about other people’s work and ideas, not just his own.

Her need to act had already brought her into contact with many artists who began every sentence with either ‘I’, ‘Me’ or ‘My’.

Alan had the whole film planned out, from the location (even noting where the nearest public toilets were and the cafes with good coffee) the position of the sun, for light, the style of clothing and the music.

She found all this very impressive and told him so when they had met to discuss the film.

Étude No 1 opens with a Close-Up of The Man. He sits, thinking, uncertainty on his face. It cuts to The Woman, arranging her hair. The Man now appears in Medium shot, sitting on the grass. He looks over, then back, and down. The next shot is from behind The Woman, applying make-up.

The Man is thinking over his relationship, wondering if it is working, what he is doing, having an existential crises. The Woman goes behind him, ruffles his hair and tries to cheer her up. He gets up and walks away, carrying her shoes, as if to get her follow him.

There are some fast, inter-cut scenes, showing their faces, until finally, The Woman puts her arm around The Man’s waist and he puts his around her shoulders and they walk away.

This would be accompanied by Debussy’s ‘La fille aux cheveux de lin’.

“That sounds lovely,” she said, a mere hint of German in her English.

She also asked if it would be in Black & White. He said he would like to, but only had colour film and didn’t even know if he could even get Black & White film for Super 8.

“Of course you can. And you can get it processed here, in Berlin.”

“Really ?”

“Yes, my friend made a short film. Very quick. Same week, I think. I’ll phone him and ask, but I am sure.”

“Oh, yes, so much better. As Fellini said, ‘Cinema has two colours: black and white.’”

Julie laughed and Alan just took it as a sign that he was in the right place, the only city in Europe that had a studio to develop that film stock. And that here he was, in a café, discussing films with a beautiful intelligent young woman who loved cinema as much as he did.

During the filming, there was some discussion over the ending. Vincent suggested a whole new climax, totally against the spirit.

“Not only does this man have a giant ego”, she thought, “he’s proud of it, and thinks his ego is bigger than anybody else’s.”

Vincent’s idea was nonsensical, clearly just thought up. She spoke up, siding with Alan and saying that they should keep to the script that they had all decided upon and agreed to.

“I’m just trying to make it better, otherwise the audience won’t know what happens,” he said back, more than a hint of malice in the voice.

“That’s why it works,” she answered, calmly, “the power comes from the open ending. The audience will have to think for themselves. And they will, they will ask each other ‘what do you think happens ?’ No, I like it and we should do it that way.”

Despite making a gesture indicating that he no longer cared, Vincent went along with it, but made a poor first take. Julie whispered something to him, and the second take was much better. Alan only had enough money and film for a maximum of two takes.

After being thanked and told how good he was, Vincent relaxed, and began laughing and dominating the conversation. As they walked back to the S-Bahn station, he put his arm around Julie.

Although she couldn’t see him, Julie could sense that Alan wanted to shout, “Cut !”