Ôi Trời Ơi – OyVey! – Are you kidding me ! Last night’s class was chockablock with new, high-level vocabulary:
Ok, take it easy, let’s break it down. Firstly, you were not expected to learn or remember everything; I told you to … well, you tell me. Try to complete the sentences with the new words. If you need help, the vocabulary box follows the questions, while I’ll put the answers at the end of the blog.
1) I didn’t understand everything, but I got the ________
2) Light and sound travel in ___________
3) X-Rays and microwaves are a form of (type of) __________________
4) For me, trying to pronounce Vietnamese words is a real ____________
5) Can you buy twelve eggs ? Yeah, buy me ______________
6) I don’t understand the Zoom instruction video, there’s so much computer __________
7) One of y tá (nurse) Cam’s duties is to take a patient’s ________ , to measure their heartbeat.
8) They love each other dearly, but they don’t always see __________________
No preamble, let’s just dive in; how to boost your lexical resources.
Firstly, replace all your basic verbs with ‘better’ ones, L-FWs as IELTS refer to them. Thus, fifteen of the most common English verbs:
Activity 1: Assign three verbs to students (individually or in small groups). They must write a sentence (the more complex the better) utilising the substituted verb. Students can use a thesaurus for assistance.
I always donate my old clothes to charity.
Activity 2: Convert a simple sentence into a jaw-droppingly magnificent IELTS sentence, employing the whole spectrum of resources, by which I mean phrasal verbs, adverbs, LFWs, idioms etc.
I always donate my old clothes to charity.
I have to confess that one of my passions is shopping, be it at a mall, a street market or online. As a young person, I adore buying clothes, though I have to restrain myself as many items cost an arm and a leg. Naturally, I accrue a vast wardrobe. From time to time I have a good sort out, sometimes being quite brutal. If I haven’t worn something for, say, two years, then I get rid of it. However, instead of simply throwing them away, or giving to siblings or cousins, I choose to donate to various charities such as UNICEF, Save The Children or Cancer Research. That way, I can contribute to improving the world.
Study the above example. Can you pick out the elements that differentiate this from a basic English class response ?
Write down new vocabulary and make a point of using new words.
Observe how points are introduced, and answers expanded.
How many phrasal verbs are you familiar with ? How about fixed expressions (here I added ‘From time to time‘) which brings us nicely to our next section …
As far as I’m concerned // I can’t wait to … //
If there’s one thing that I (love, hate, detest) it’s … // I’m looking forward to … //
It may surprise you to learn that I … // It’s no surprise that … //
The first thing I’d going to do when I … // There’s nothing I like better than … //
Activity 3: Practice using these expressions
Example: After a hard day of teaching, there’s nothing I like better than watching a great movie. Only last night, I saw a fantastic film, ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’ by Aaron Sorkin who is a highly respected American writer.
The previous blog demonstrated how to form complex sentences whereas this one will give you a chance to actually incorporate them into your everyday speech or, more importantly, your IELTS test which you will want to pass with flying colours.
Let’s dive in !
A typical IELTS question will be about your family. Time to show off your knowledge of adjectives and phrases.
Start with mother. Some positives:
My mother has a heart of gold // She is so kind and caring // She always puts others first.
On the other hand:
I’m afraid my mother is a ‘tiger mum’ // She expects too much of me // She is never satisfied with my work.
As for father:
My father is industrious and so hard-working // My father always has his nose to the grindstone, providing for his family // People say I take after my father // He is firm but fair.
On the other hand:
My father never lets me stay out // He drinks like a fish on holidays // He is a very strict disciplinarian.
He is my role model // I always look up to him // He looks out for me and takes me under his wing.
On the other hand:
My brother is a total slacker // My brother gets aggressive when he’s been drinking // My brother lacks ambition and drive.
Don’t forget sister:
My sister is a little angel // She has the sweetest soul // She has a kind word for everybody.
On the other hand:
My sister is such a prima donna // She only thinks of herself // She won’t lift a finger around the house // She spends all her money on herself.
Let’s extend the family: uncle, aunt, cousin etc. Remember, always be thinking of how you can use IELTS language such as idioms and expressions.
Your uncle lives in a different city (how often do you see him ?) He has a great job, a lot of influence (an expression ?)
Tell me about the people you live with
Allow me to introduce my family to you. Firstly, there is my mother, who has a heart of gold, I can tell her anything. She’s always working, cooking or cleaning. I would say she is the biggest influence in my life. My father is very industrious by which I mean he gets up early, every day, works long hours at his office which is very far away. However, he likes to relax at holiday time. His brother, my uncle, who is a mover and a shaker, occasionally pays a visit at Tet (Christmas, Hanukkah etc) and the two of them drink like fish ! That’s because my uncle, who lives in (a far-away city), only comes to (your city) once in a blue moon.
Piece of cake, right ?
First, decide what idioms are appropriate.
Second, select some impressive L-FWs or phrases.
Finally … it doesn’t have to be true ! We are here to check your command of English, we are not going to check if your uncle really is a mover and a shaker !
Ask each other the following questions. Check how many IELTS features the speaker uses, and give encouraging feedback.
Which member of your family are you closest to ?
Which member of your family do you take after ?
How often do you see your cousins, or grandparents ?
Is family important in your country ? Why ?
Do you want to live in a nuclear (small) or extended family ?
What qualities do you admire in your family ?
Now … think on your feet.
Tell me about your brother, who is an actor.
Tell me about your aunt, who teaches music.
Tell me about your cousin, who wants to study at Oxford.
Tell me about your mother, who demands that you get A++ for every exam.
Obviously, teachers don’t want to overwhelm the students with an unmanageable amount of new language. Far better to serve up bite-size pieces, then practice, practice and practice. When the language has become second nature to the students, move onwards and upwards.
The first step is to elevate your language; replace basic common or garden verbs with ‘better‘ ( that is, low-frequency) words.
For example, the verb ‘try’. Instead, we can have:
To keep trying, not giving up, we can use:
persevere or persist
Let’s take these new words out for a spin:
This year, I shall endeavour to learn Vietnamese. I’ve tried before but gave up as it was simply too hard. However, this time I’m going to persevere.
Can you think of an idiom that could be used to show someone planning to work much harder ?
Onwards and upwards:
get a qualification or certificate by hard work and study:
attain // achieve
to get somethingwithout the need for work or study:
obtain (you can obtain the application form in room 7A)
say / said:
exclaim // express // remark (add -ed to form past tense)
utilise (utilize USA) / apply
to eat, consume or do a lot of something:
devour (He devoured the whole pizza by himself // She loves reading, she absolutely devours books)
Transform this simple sentence into something more IELTS-like:
Sarah said that if she gets an ‘A’, her father will buy her a new iPhone.
Tony says he wants to get a visa which he can buy at the UK Embassy, so he can use his English skills in London.
Mary really wants to buy the ‘Fargo’ box set. She said it was the best TV show in years and she plans to watch all the episodes in one day !
Similarly, boost your lexical resources with regards to adjectives.
fundamental // elementary
difficult // challenging
delicious // mouth-watering // scrumptious
broaden my horizons // real-life knowledge // culture shock
Signpost language: (To help the listener or reader follow you)
Firstly / To begin with / I’d like to start by …
Secondly / additionally / another factor is …
What’s more / furthermore / not forgetting
Obviously / clearly / it is evident that …
Moving on / I’d like to change the topic / Let’s turn to …
Finally / all in all / all things considered
Put students into small teams. One teams challenges the other(s) to form a sentence using as many new L-FWs as they can. Award bonus points for the appropriate use of idioms or fixed expressions.
Students challenge each other to find a L-FW for a basic, prosaic verb or adjective. Teams are allowed a fixed time, say one minute, and are allowed to use a thesaurus such as here:
Then the group has to use the new word in an IELTS-style sentence by which I mean, an introduction, a signpost word or phrase and, obviously, a suitable idiom (examples – ‘put’, ‘big’, ‘interesting’, ‘watch’, ‘boring’, ‘eat’)
Teams are given a mix of L-FWs, idioms & signpost language. After a short preparation time, they have to construct an inspiring, fascinating and jaw-droppingly brilliant sentence. Piece of cake, n’est ce-pas ?
One student from each group starts answering an IELTS question (travel, food, study, neighbourhood). At a given point, the teacher stops the student and another group has to continue, and so on. Monitor the correct utilisation of signpost language as well as fluency, not forgetting the all-important pronunciation features.
Quick Fire / Rapid Fire Round
What is the correct word:
To get a certificate after study ?
Delicious food is …
London is brass monkeys in January so _______ bring warm clothes.
A L-FW for ‘use’
Strange behaviour – he is acting _______
Istanbul is famous for its covered market, known as a __________
Nose, jaw, mouth … use these features in phrases
Moving from Europe to Asia will undoubtedly result in a degree of ________ _____.
The unspeakably greedy child ______ all the doughnuts !
Actor Mark Hamill basically disagreed with everything in the film script.
I start by writing the word ‘travel’ on the board, and see how many avenues spread out from it. Start with the grammar; what type of word is it (noun) but it can be made into a verb (to travel, travelling) and the students should remember how to apply it to a person (traveller).
Then we have expressions such as ‘travel broadens the mind.’
We have this quote which introduces metaphor – the world as a book:
Then more pedestrian aspects of travel; how do we travel (transportation), preparation (booking tickets, hotels, visas etc), what do we bring with us (different clothes, sun cream, currency, sun glasses etc). How about culture shock ?
Next, what are the positive aspects of travelling (new cultures, fun, adventure, relaxation) and conversely, the negatives (delays, waiting in soulless airports, getting ripped off, tourist traps, bad hotels etc)
Pair work: students have to write a short passage using ‘although‘ and ‘despite‘ to encapsulate their travel experiences or wishes.
EXAMPLES: Although I absolutely love travelling, there are many drawbacks. Firstly, there is the cost; it can be incredibly expensive what with plane tickets and hotels not to mention having to eat out in restaurants. Despite these issues, travelling can be so relaxing or exciting, seeing new places and doing new things or simply as a break from our normal lives.
Vietnam has many beautiful towns and places of interest although I have only been to a few of them despite travel being relatively cheap in this country. We can fly everywhere within one or two hours, at very reasonable prices although some cheap airlines, such as Vietjet, are notorious for delays.
I have always wanted to visit Beijing in China which is not excessively far from Sai Gon. Despite that, I haven’t been because I am not sure about the visa and how expensive it would be to visit. Additionally, I hear some negative things such as terrible pollution and many tourist scams. Despite the drawbacks, I really want to see the Great Wall, the Forbidden Palace and all the temples. Although Vietnam and China have a complicated relationship, most Vietnamese would agree that Chinese food is delicious.
These exercises help to increase vocabulary and confidence. Furthermore, the repetition helps to make the target language part of the students’ lexical resources.
Group work: Prepare a guide to Sai Gon for tourists.
Allow students access to the class computer for Google images if required.
What to see and do // where and what to eat // what to buy //
What they can do for entertainment
Safety and scams
Cultural differences – what should people do or NOT do in Vietnam ?
Use of interesting adjectives to describe the city centre.
Groups can then present to the class, with all students taking turns speaking. I shall be listening for relevance, pronunciation and use of expressions and discourse markers. Furthermore, I may learn some interesting tips.
My friend Andy is coming to Sai Gon
Using ‘should’ to give advice or information, make suggestions for Andy.
He loves history … what should he visit or see ?
He loves traditional food … what should he eat ?
He can’t ride a motorbike … how should he travel ?
He likes a beer a night (!) … where should he go ?
My Thai friend is coming to Vietnam:
Ms Namsum is young and energetic. She’s into (really enjoy) clubs, sightseeing and shopping.
I suggest she starts the day with a traditional bowl of pho then goes to Sai Gon centre. She can walk there from her hotel in District 1 or take a taxi (Vinasun or Malin ONLY). She will be out of the heat and has a lot of shopping choices and places to eat or grab a coffee. She could rest at her hotel in the afternoon, then go to Nguyen Hue walking street when it gets cooler in the evening. She has many restaurants in this area. Furthermore, there are many English-language menus. Finally, she can go to Bui Vien street where there are many clubs and bars, as well as many tourists speaking English.
What do they students think ? Is that a good plan ? Have I missed something important ?
Language to use:
I see your point
That’s a good idea but …
If I may make a suggestion …
I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.
For example – That’s a good idea but you haven’t thought about sightseeing.
Bui Vien can be very noisy so I’m not sure that’s such a good idea for a young lady on her own.
Two of my friends, Tom and David who are both actors, are coming to Sai Gon. The students, in groups, have to arrange a fun day including sightseeing, shopping, eating and transportation. Then they have to compare their itineraries and exchange views and opinions. The students learn how to politely disagree with each and put forward their ideas and support their choices.
PLAN A DAY FOR TOM & DAVID
Where can they eat ?
What could they see or visit ?
How can they travel around ?
What can they buy as souvenirs ?
Where could they go at night ?
What safety advice would you give ?
What you need to know:
Both are 45-years old. They have good jobs and a good income. They like history and culture. They really enjoy good food and wine. Neither speaks any Vietnamese. They are too old for very loud clubs but they don’t mind having a few beers and maybe seeing some live music.
The students can make a presentation, and use the computer for images or maps to illustrate their plan. Then the other team can explain what they have organised, and the reasons why. I will decide which team has made the best choice.
Activity: Plan a day out for my friends.
I have two friends arriving in Sai Gon (or your city). They want a typical, authentic experience. Plan a day for them. It must include:
Somewhere for a snack
An interesting building or location
Something to do in the evening
Give tips and advice.
How do they travel around ?
What are their options and estimate the prices.
Try to use as much new vocabulary as possible, words and expressions.
Directions to Pham Ngo Lao Street District 1 // Directions to a city centre street.
Ask for help. Other must offer as much help – how to get there, the best way, the price, the dangers. Body language – distance, expression, intonation, eye contact etc
Is Sai Gon safe ?
Can you understand Vietnamese people speaking English ?
Do you agree with their points ?
Are there any words you didn’t understand ?
Do you have any bad experiences ? Tell the class your anecdote.
Word bomb– what do you think of when I say ‘hotel’ ?
Checking in to a hotel
reception / lift or elevator / single or double room / king size bed or twins /
first floor / complimentary breakfast / key deposit / luggage storage / safe / mini bar
What would the conversation be ?
Reception: How may I help you / May I ask your name ? / Can I see your reservation code ? / That’s fine. You stay for three nights ? / May I have your passport, please ? / You’re in room 237. That’s on the second floor / Thank you. Sign here, please / Yes, the lift is just over there. / Naturally, as well as a hair dryer, coffee machine and mini bar. / Enjoy your stay.
Guest: Hello, we have a reservation / We booked a room online / My name’s ….. / Certainly, it’s on my phone. / Yes, that’s right. / Absolutely. / Correct. / Just a second; here you are./ Is there a lift ? / The second floor ? / Is there a safe in the room ? / Perfect. Thanks very much
Make a conversation. One student will be the reception, the other(s) a guest or guests.
Write your own conversation
You are in a hotel bar and you meet another guest. Start a polite conversation, but you have to use your English.
Greet each other
Why are you in this city ? (holiday or on business)
Offer to buy a drink (accept or decline – maybe you don’t drink alcohol)
How long are they staying ? What do they think of the hotel ? What can they do in the area around the hotel ?
Small group work
You are two married couples who meet on a tour and are staying at the same hotel OR you are on a business trip and meet some other business people.
Use the following sentences, as well as your own, to make a conversation. try to keep speaking for as long as possible by using small talk techniques (oh, really / that’s interesting / tell me more / what do you do exactly ? / where is that ? / Sounds interesting)
My wife and I are delighted to meet you
Shall we go to the bar or cafe ?
Can offer name first (I’m Simon, what’s your name ?)
Would you fancy a drink … ?
Is there anywhere special to do here ?
Sorry, I have to get my head down, it’s been a long flight (I need to sleep).
My colleague and I were going out to eat.
I fancy a beer or something alcoholic
Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t ask where you are from.
Would you like to join us ?
Peckish (little hungry)
What do you think of these hotel rooms ?
What do you think of the design ?
Would you like to stay in any of these ? Why, or why not ?
Describe these pictures, using adjectives and your opinions.
Highlands Coffee has great coffee, air-con and free wifi. Having said that, the service is a little slow, there are no waiters and the cost is unbelievably expensive !
Vietnam is famous for coffee; coffee shops are ubiquitous. In fact, there are so many, it’s hard to see (difficult to understand) how they stay in business let alone turn a profit.
Be that as it may, let’s use this as a learning opportunity. To practice making longer sentences, and as a warm up exercise, the students can ask each other, “Where do you go for coffee ?”
Don’t answer the question directly and immediately; Begin with a short introduction:
Sai Gon has so many coffee shops, some are cheap while others can be quite expensive although they have a wide range of delicious coffee. Personally, I like going to …
How MUCH do you like it (adverbs) ?
What kind of coffee (adjectives) ?
What do you think about this ? (opinions)
WHY do you like it (give reasons)
Interesting words, phrases, idioms
Personally, I like Tap Coffee which is an independent shop where I live. I enjoy going there so much because the owner is very friendly and tries to speak English with me. There isn’t a lot of choice, so I order cappuccino with hot, fresh milk. In my opinion, it is good value and tastes delicious. What I like about the shop is the free wifi, the comfortable chairs and the atmosphere. Furthermore, it is usually very quiet and it therefore a good place to read. I love to put my feet up, kick back and sip my damn fine coffee.
Before the exercise, elicit and board as many relevant words and phrases as required. The students have a discourse marker list, so I could insist that they use certain words (moreover, therefore, consequently etc). Additionally, I’ll need to explain vernacular phrases such as ‘kick back’ and ‘put my feet up’.
IF a student doesn’t like coffee, then they can say where they go and what they drink. IF they don’t go anywhere or like anything (yes, I have had that in a class), then they can explain WHY NOT!
Key vocabulary: ambience // aroma //atmosphere
In a list of three, use one comma and a linking word (and):
The service is a little slow, there are no waiters and the cost is unbelievably expensive !
In a list of two, just use a linking word (and):
Mega Mart has amazing choice and is good value for money.
How to make Vietnamese coffee
Tell me: what do I need ? What type of coffee is best ? Where can I buy it ?
New verbs: pour / stir / fill up /
Make a long, fluent presentation.
Signpost expressions: used to help tell a story or a narrative. They allow the listener to help organise the information.
Useful words or expressions:
Firstly / afterwards / and then / following that /
don’t forget to … / you can always ….
lastly / finally / at the very end …
In your experience, what coffee is best ? Trang Nguyen, Highlands or Milano ? Maybe street coffee ?
Pat Well, I’m exhausted. I need a damn fine cup of coffee and a big piece of pie.
Sam There’s a Highlands over the road, or we can go to Coffee Bean or Milano.
Pat I’d prefer Tran Nguyen but it costs an arm and a leg. Highlands is also incredibly expensive.
Sam But great quality and superb cakes. Come on, I’m starving, I need coffee now !
Pat OK, hold your horses hahaha. After we can meet up with Thay Paul.
Sam Sounds good. Now … shall we have chocolate cake or fruit cake … ?
costs an arm and a leg = very expensive
hold your horses = please be patient and wait
Inside HighlandsCoffee Shop
Sam Hi, I’ll have a large cappuccino, please. What do you fancy ?
Pat Tough decision. I’m going for the cheesecake and a slice of blueberry pie.
Sam Oh, me too. Big slice, no, only joking, I have to watch my weight.
Pat I think you look great. Lets also get some chocolate cake and we can share.
Sam Brilliant. Oh, did I show you my recent photos ? Here, on my phone.
Pat Let me see … oh, so funny. Who’s that ? The man next to Niall ?
Sam That’s Jimmy, he’s in Niall’s band. He plays drums and drinks like a fish !
Pat And that’s you, a selfie. You look adorable. Butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth !
drinks like a fish = drinks a lot of alcohol
Butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth ! = looks very sweet and nice … but can be very naughty
Let’s kick off with an old friend: Peter from England.
Age 24 // MA in Business Studies Born in Surrey, close to London Unemployed // Single //
Enjoys pubs, tennis and movies Wants to run his own company
From that information, build a complex sentence – basically combine two, three or more facts and connect them with relative pronouns and discourse markers:
Peter, who has a MA in Business studies, wants to run his own company.
Peter, who is from Surrey, enjoys pubs, tennis and movies.
From this point, the sky is the limit.
Despite being unemployed, Peter, who has a Master’s Degree in Business Studies, has entrepreneurial dreams of owning his own company.
Although he has an MA and is actively seeking employment Peter, who is from Surrey which is close to London, still finds time to indulge his passion for tennis, even becoming a member of an exclusive sporting clubs, whose membership fees are sky-high.
NOW …YOUR TURN
Write and then present a complex sentence about your partner. Gather some basic information, such as:
Age (if they are willing to say) // where they are from
Job or Study // Where they work or study //
What they like doing// What they dislike // Plans for the future
For Speaking Class level 2, I expect at least one relative pronoun (who, where, which, whose).
For IELTS, try for two relative pronouns, two L-FWs and at least one expression or idiom.
You should be familiar and able to use these words at the drop of a hat: