Tonight is a new class, a block of four lessons, and phrasal verbs dominate the session – they almost take over. These, like idioms, can be very confusing for a learner, yet are an integral part of everyday English. Don’t give up, keep on trying and you’ll pick it upin next to no time.
First, as a warm up, we’ll go over some recent lessons and see how much of the lingo (slang for language), the students have picked up. They recently had a lesson about choice, confusion and making decisions … or not making decisions. Being unable to act, or to decide is known as procrastination … and is a flaw in one of Literature’s most famous characters, the prince of Denmark; I’m referring to none other than Shakespeare’s Hamlet. This quote may be familiar …
Shakespeare is a world-famous writer, and a great example of British culture … but what about Vietnam ? If I wanted to read some classic Vietnamese texts, what would the students suggest ?
The task is for the students, in small groups, to decide upon one suggestion for each of the following.
To begin with, the Great British seaside. the sun rarely peeks out so when it does, we rush off to the seaside. What can you see here:
The seaside is associated with building sandcastles, donkey rides, deck chairs, paddling, pier, sun cream and ice cream. I want to visit a typical Vietnamese beach town. Where is the best … and why ?
Now, seasides and travelling help us build up an appetite … so what to eat ? What do the students think of a traditional British breakfast (not that I’ve ever eaten one ! It’s not exactly vegetarian-friendly) ?
Again, I want to try a traditional Vietnamese breakfast. What should I eat, where should I go, what should I drink ?
Now, being British, and a teacher to boot (as well), I enjoy a beer (or two …). Here’s a typical British pub:
I’m not sure such places exist in Vietnam, but what do I know ? Maybe the students can help me ? Where could I go to drink beer and which is the best Vietnam brand ?
This is just a quick game to occupy the first part of the lesson (while students are still arriving). Let’s keep the theme of being decisive, tied in with phrasal verbs. We’ve had Shakespeare and ‘high’ culture; now it’s time to be more ‘popular’. British people over a certain age and yes, that includes me, will recognise this number (slang for a song): The music doesn’t start until around the 0:30 mark.
cigarettes / blankets / barrel of water / flare gun / torch
magnifying glass / Beatles CD / make up set / dried food
grammar study book / Angry Birds game / air rifle / sun block
I see your point but … that’s interesting, however …
I’m not sure about that I can’t go along with that
I don’t feel that is entirely right / I fail to see the merits
I respectfully disagree / I find your contention somewhat flawed
The students, first in small groups, then as a class, have to decide upon five items to help them survive in the desert. Some items are multi-purpose, for example, a CD is useless in terms of listening to music, but the reverse could be used as a mirror, to reflect the sun, while the sides are sharp and could be used for cutting. Cigarettes are loathsome and not usually associated with long life … however … in the desert, they could save your life. Snakes hate cigarette ash so, at night, light the tobacco and sprinkle the ash in a large circle, then you can safely sleep inside.
And then time to hit the books.
The early bird catches the worm … do the students understand this saying ? What do they think it means ?
To end the lesson, we could try a Family Fortunes game … in small groups, I ask questions and require four answers. They will usually be about me, for example, what four instruments can I play, what four sports do I do ? which four places have I been to in Vietnam, what do I like most about Vietnam, etc ….
And … not forgetting … what quote from Shakespeare do they know ? And they’re not going home until they say it.
This is the lesson plan for the Sunday morning class, 10th March.
Lesson seek to teach new vocabulary and pronunciation, while also revising and practising various words from previous classes. Today’s focus is on basic sentence construction, asking and answering: ‘What is it ?’ It’s a ….’
What is it? Cái gì đó? It’s a đó là ….
Last week, the students learnt some new animals, and that lesson can be found here:
We want to get the students speaking as much as possible, and to each other, not just the teacher – student dynamic. So, to kick off, the students will greet each other, saying, “Hello, I’m …. ” I shall first model this with my TAs, so the students can hear and then copy.
Then, to reinforce last week’s drill, we have an ABC song:
This is a different version to last week, and can be used to drill both the alphabet and different colours.
Then we have a ‘Teacher says’ game, which helps the students with listening skills, and being able to respond to instructions. The commands are based on previously-learnt directions such as ‘sit down’, ‘stand up’, ‘clap’, then I will introduce ‘click your fingers.’ I can demonstrate how, and introduce the word ‘thumb.’ Then we can imitate various animals. After this active game, we move into the target language.
I’ll put some picture cards on the board, basic objects that the children already know (book, ball, car, doll, chair) and ask ‘What is it ?’ Here, I will just get a single word answer (the noun), but I want the answer in the form of a question. Therefore, I will drill ‘It’s a ..’ This takes time, weeks, not minutes, but eventually it becomes natural. Parents can really help the students at home by copying this exercise and insisting on the answer being framed ‘It’s a …’ (of course, some nouns require ‘an’ not ‘a’ but Rome wasn’t built in a day !)
Then, to make it a game, two students have to run to the board and hit the appropriate card. After, they take the card and become ‘thay’ (teacher). They hold the card in front of them and ask the class, ‘What is it ?’ Now, many students at this age are very shy speaking English, so they get a lot of encouragement and praise.
Apart from the new vocabulary learnt from the books, students absorb so much from what the teachers say. Using this I, along with my magnificent TAs, repeat words and expressions designed to increase their vocabulary; excellent, well done, good job, the basic adverb ‘very.’ To get the students used to taking turns, I will point to a pair and say, ‘First John and Anna, then Bella and Tommy.’
Moving on, I want to get the class comfortable with the alphabet, letter order, pronunciation and an introduction to writing. Today I’ll highlight the letter ‘B’. They already know bag, ball, book and the colour blue. The students can share a mini writing board and practice writing the words. Next up, we need a more kinetic activity.
I teach basic prepositions (on, in, under) by a chant with actions and an easy clap pattern. We shall chant and then practice. I’ll put two chairs and a basket in front and ask the students, in pairs, to put a ball either on, in or under one of the aforementioned objects. The chairs will be of different colours, so it’s great to see how they are able to differentiate between them. All the time, I make the students says what is happening. When they are comfortable with the game, the students themselves can take turns giving instructions.
Today’s new vocabulary is related to the main topic of animals and pets. The four new verbs will be jump, walk, fly, swim. To change the pace of the lesson, I’ll show a quick video:
This video is aimed at older children as the vocabulary is quite sophisticated, but I will be able to use the word ‘high’ and start to use superlatives (highest).
We can mime this actions, and match them to animals, until the students are comfortable with them. Later in the lesson, we shall revisit them to help the students retain the verbs.
And so, to the books, a mixture of listening, following instructions, colouring and pointing to the correct noun.
We will be near the end of the lesson so we want to finish with some fun activities. In a circle, the students will be grouped into rabbits, cats, birds or fish. When I say rabbits, the students in that group must stand up and jump; with birds fly, and so on.
To really drill ‘What is it ?’ the final game will be a student holding a picture card or flash card and asking the name. The answer must be in the form of ‘It’s a ….’
Finally, we say goodbye, see you next week. High fives and goodbyes.
Tomorrow night is the last of the four-week series of lessons with one of my favourite classes. Next week they have a test, so a lot of the lesson will be taken up with review work, some reading and grammar. Very important, but can be a tad dry. I want to get the students speaking English as much as possible yet this, I regret to say, can sometimes be a challenge.
I’ll write another blog specifically about the issues I’ve faced trying to motivate my Vietnamese students but, for now, the lesson plan.
The main theme is the actor Sir Ian McKellen. Immediately, we have two interesting points about his name, namely, what does ‘Sir’ mean and why is his name spelt ‘McK …’ ?
‘Sir’ (‘Dame’ for a lady) is an award given by the Monarch (king or queen) for services to the country. It replaces ‘Mr’ so instead of Mr McKellen, he is now called Sir Ian. The ceremony can be viewed here (Ringo Starr of The Beatles is being knighted by Prince William):
As for the ‘McK’, Mc is Gaelic (Irish & Scottish) for Mac or son of. Therefore McKellen means ‘son of Kellen’.
Sir Ian has had a long and distinguished career, in both theatre and film. I was lucky enough to see him on stage in London in a play by the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett, ‘Waiting for Godot’, but he is surely more famous, worldwide, for being in some Hollywood blockbusters.
So first, to warm up, a word bomb game. I’ll board the word ‘cinema’ and see how many words, phrases and names can be elicited from the class.
Then we’ll move into a quick Present Perfect review. I’ll write:
I have see many films.
What is the error here ? What would be the contraction of ‘I have’ ? How would the negative be formed ? How could this be turned into a question ?
The present perfect is formed by subject + have or has + past participle (verb 3). Thus, I have seen, not ‘see’. The contraction is ‘I’ve’, the negative becomes ‘I haven’t seen ‘ while the question form is ‘Have you seen ?’ After this modelling, A few exercises for the students.
I have (meet) Sir Ian
You have (read) ‘Lord of the Rings.’
We have (study) a lot of expressions
She has (go) to the cinema many times.
The students have to give the three forms of these short sentences. Now we’ll turn to Sir Ian. Some students may recognise his face, but I’m sure all of them will know him from at least one of these films: This clip is nearly ten-minutes long, so I’ll just show the top two films, the ‘X-Men’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (7:19 – end).
I like using ‘real-life’ videos, as they are great for hearing English being used naturally. The problems in listening can be offset by the benefits in learning new expressions, and many videos actually have subtitles. I often play a short excerpt from a video several times, breaking it down so the students start to recognise the patterns, then practice among themselves.
In the whole clip, I would highlight the following expressions:
We’re counting down
There’s a lot to choose from
A great opportunity
Stole the film
Then, to practise, match them with these sentences:
Some people love Justin Bieber, some people hate him. He ……..
What food shall we order, ……………
The test is in five days, ……..
Brad Pitt was so good he …………
Going to Australia will be a ……………. to learn more English.
At this point, the book work can commence. They’ll learn about Sir Ian, and read a short interview with him. Questions fall into six categories and he gives succinct answers to each. So now it’s the turn of the students to get up from their chairs (they always need motivating to do that despite my continual promulgations that moving around will create energy and lessen the boredom of a three-hour lesson), speak with different people and practice English. It generally falls on deaf ears. A teacher needs to be patient; it’s part of the job.
The questions will be based on but amended from the interview they have just read:
What Kind of music do you like ?
Can you name any plays by Shakespeare ?
What time do you usually get up ?
How do you relax ?
Can you play a musical instrument ?
What skill(s) would you like to acquire ?
What is the best thing about HCM City ?
What is the best book you’ve read OR the best film you’ve seen ?
There is a lot of book work tonight, so it’s good to break it up with some games or a complete change of pace. I used this still last night in my IELTS class, where it met with a pretty luke-warm reception. I showed them how to ‘read’ a picture. First, ask what the students think is happening in this shot. What do the characters feel about about each other ? I mentioned the emotions evoked by the use of colour; here dull – blue and grey, but as we get closer to the lady (Faye Wong), the colours turn red – the sauce bottles, the Coke machine. Then look at the symbol of her T-shirt, look where her eyes are staring ….
We could then move onto film genres – make a class survey by dividing the teams in two and assigning one captain to each. They have to collate information such as favourite type of film, Vietnamese or American, how often do they go to the cinema, do they ever stream films at home and with whom do they go to the cinema ?
To end, the Family Fortune game seems very popular, where the students are put into small groups, given a board and marker, and have to come up with four answers to various questions.
Additionally, I could use some photos from an internet search, about Vietnam, and ask the teams to tell me an interesting story. I will encourage them to expand their sentences by employing adjectives, adverbs, idioms and expressions.
Then, to quote Prospero in Shakespeare’s ‘Tempest’
Tonight is my final class before the speaking test, and it’s jammed-packed with language skills such as listening, pronunciation and, not forgetting, speaking.
The words in bold indicate the way native-speakers sometimes link words together, to form one linguistic unit, a process referred to as ‘chunking’ in the IELTS book (though I had not previously come across this term).
This is defined on the Cambridge English Dictionary website as:
In terms of the Speaking Test, it will help students sound more natural, more fluid, so is very beneficial, along with learning fixed expressions and an idiom or two. But first, as the students will be arriving in dribs and drabs, we’ll need a warm-up before the lesson can start in earnest. Let’s use some examples from the film alluded to in the heading, Wong Kar-Wai’s ‘Chungking Express’ (1994).
I will show three still of character inter-action. The students have to give me as much information as they can (description) and tell me, in their opinion, what is happening. The stills:
To help the students, I will guide them: where are the characters, how are they dressed, what is their body language ? We can then move on to ‘reading’ a picture. Look at the colours – which are warm, which are cold ? How close are the characters ? The woman in the first picture is wearing sunglasses inside and an obvious wig and heavy coat – why ? What is the relationship between the policeman and fast-food worker in the second ? Follow the eye-lines, look at the space between them look at how the bottles on the counter go from blues (cold) to red (hot, passion, love) as they move from cop to the girl. As a final clue, what symbol is on her T-shirt ? Finally, how would they characterise the meeting in the last photo ? Do they appear friendly ? Is there a social-economic or class issue ?
This is one of my favourite films, the acting is great and the cinematography is breathe-taking. The American director Quentin Tarantino is also a big fan of the film, so here’s a link into a listening exercise. Tarantino is from the US, so let’s see how much the students can understand from a ‘real-life’ video (from 0:00 – 0:45):
What expressions does Tarantino use to indicate a long time ?
We then move to a controlled practice session. Over the past weeks, the students have learnt new vocabulary and expressions but, unless they are used, they will be forgotten … and we can’t have that. So, time for some small group work:
I’m planning a trip to Nha Trang (a beach town in South Vietnam, about an hour’s flight from Ho Chi Minh City). I have two hotels in mind, but I need advise from some Vietnamese. They also have to use as many of these words as possible:
visually stunning / mouth-watering / you get what you pay for spectacular / a waste of money / significantly / somewhat according to / how can I put it ?
Students must tell me about the hotels, the area, the food and which one they would choose for me:
Victory Hotel 2* Rooms not very clean, no view. No complimentary breakfast.
Sandy Bay Hotel 4* Much more expensive, although it has breakfast buffet, and room has a balcony with view of the sea.
Trip Advisor recommends Sandy Bay, but they said Victory was dirty and very over-priced.
Local food is great
WILF (What I’m looking for): can the students describe the scenery and food ? Can they compare the price and quality difference ? Can they use expressions appropriately ?
With the adjectives, I’ll be listening out for intonation – ‘spectacular !’
To quote another source of information, ‘according to’ and for the prices, the 4* is ‘significantly more’ expensive than … Then, in conclusion, can they make a judgement – ‘a waste of money’ or accepting that high quality means high prices, ‘you get what you pay for.’
By now it’s time for the book work, and we have a lot to get through tonight.
The speaking practice involves a two-minute talk about an electronic device. The books offers some ‘stepping stones’, guides about what to say. To help the class, I’ll model an answer showing discourse markers, adjectives and adverbs, as well as some ‘low-frequency’ vocabulary (or ‘better words,’ if you will). My topic will be my Kindle.
There should be a short introduction (one or two sentences), then each point arranged in different paragraphs, then ending with a short conclusion. The book suggests saying:
How long you have had it ?
How often you use it ?
What you use it for and
Why you use it so often.
They don’t all have to be answered, and other points can be made, but the speaker should be aiming for two minutes without repetition, hesitation or deviation.
One of my favourite electronic devices is my Kindle, an ebook reader, which is small and light. I always take it with me when I travel; I’d be lost without it.
The Kindle is primarily a way to buy, store and read books in electronic format. At first, I wasn’t convinced, I liked reading real books. However, books take up a lot of space and, at least in the UK, are rather expensive. When I saw what a Kindle can do, and that so many books are free, I was hooked ! I had to get one. I bought my device in 2014 and I’m still using it today.
As mentioned, I use my Kindle for reading. Literature and poetry is one of my passions. Instead of going to a shop, I just browse the online store, click and wait for it to download. With reasonable wifi, this can just take a minute or so … then I can start reading. It is no surprise that ebooks are ubiquitous in the UK.
Although I read a lot, the Kindle is more than just an ebook. It has wifi so I can access the internet, can play music, write notes and play games.
The wifi is vital, especially when I travel. I can maintain contact with friends and family, watch YouTube if the hotel TV is less than enthralling, or read travel guides such as Trip Advisor. Naturally, I can also book tickets or make reservations and therefore pay significantly less.
I recently travelled to Thailand to meet some friends. I didn’t want to buy a new SIM card, and my friend only had an old phone, so there was a dilemma; how to stay in touch ? Thanks to my Kindle, I had email access, so we could plan when and where to meet.
I can’t watch Vietnamese TV, due to the language barrier. Consequently, the Kindle plays an even bigger part of my life, as I need some way to relax after toiling away for hours at work.
The choice of books is amazing. In the stores, a single book can cost around £10, but recently I downloaded the entire output of the Russian writer Tolstoy for less than £1.50 … incredible !
Kindles come in many shapes and sizes, so before you buy, you need to ascertain how you’ll be using it. For example, do you want a basic ebook reader, just for books, or the latest model with wifi ? This will, naturally, affect the cost. Then you have to decide upon the extras, for example how much storage space do you require, or a super-fast charger or protective case ? All of these bump the price up considerably.
If you’re interested in purchasing one, I have some information for you. I did a quick Google search and saw prices started at under 2 million VND, averaged around 5 million, but some were over 15 million. That, for me, is too extravagant.
In conclusion, my Kindle is very much a part of my life. It accompanies me everywhere. I simply don’t know what I would do without it.
Speaking for two minutes can be quite daunting and challenging, even for a native speaker. I will try to encourage the class to expand on their work as much as possible. They can do this by giving examples or lists, using personal experiences or giving full reasons for their choices.
This exercise will probably be the centre-piece of the lesson, as they’ll need time to prepare and perform. I won’t embarrass anyone by making them read aloud, but instead, I’ll circulate and offer help and tips where necessary.
As it’s the last lesson, the later part of the class can be for fun activities, maybe some general knowledge questions, or sentence building exercises, where we start with a basic sentence and see how far we can develop the story. Possibly I could show them a clip of English-speakers in Vietnam; what they (the people in the show) think of it, how they react. The clip I have in mind is when the ‘Top Gear’ team arrived, their mission to drive from Ho Chi Minh City to Ha Noi. What could possibly go wrong ?
Last week was my first meeting with this class, so I had to familiarise myself with what they studied so far, what they could and couldn’t do.
The TAs at my centre are amazing, and I am assigned two for each of these KG (Kindergarten) classes. They informed me that the children could speak but not write. In a nutshell, they knew basic colours, numbers and instructions (‘hands up’, ‘sit down’ and the like). Also, the ABC was still being learnt, so last week I began with a great video using characters created by Richard Scary. The ABC starts at 3:20, ending at 4:00: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nog9FBW9cTo&t=284s
I was given a book by Richard Scary back when I was four (I’m NOT saying what year that was !) and still have it. I made the class sing along, then do a ‘Run ‘n’ Write’ game, each student running to the board to write an assigned letter. It is a kinetic activity and involves all the students.
The pattern for young learners is to do many different games and types of games, to maintain attention and interest. It’s the ‘montage of attraction’ I’ve referred to in previous blogs; basically how the separate parts all fit together as in engineering or film editing.
The advantages are that the students like routine and repetition, so the same games can be played most weeks, allowing for some variation. The objectives are to get the students producing English: speaking, writing, listening and eventually reading. Listening cannot be under-estimated. At this age, the students are like sponges – they absorb everything, so learning occurs at at much faster rate. This dwindles with age, hence I’ve been in Vietnam over three years and can barely form a sentence.
New vocabulary, expressions and pronunciation can be acquired just by listening to the teachers, so I ask my TAs to use key words repeatedly (e.g. ‘excellent’, ‘good work’, ‘well done’) thus expanding their lexical resources (sorry, I just didn’t want to repeat the word, ‘vocabulary’). Music too has a tremendous impact. An inane Europop song can be a wonderful learning opportunity as the lyrics are repeated AND are learnt in a fun way. As such, last week I used this song, which, I have no shame in admitting, I actually LOVE: Eiffel 65 with ‘Move Your Body’
It’s a basic class; the students know some vocabulary, colours and numbers, and we’re developing their sentence-forming skills by making them say their names (either ‘My name is …..’ or ‘I’m …… ‘ featuring the contraction of I am).
First, it’s good to do a quick and energetic warm up. We did Musical Statues (Freeze) last week, so today we’ll try Musical chairs. This class is not so large (about 11 or 12) so we’ll have the class in two groups walking around their table. The TA will make sure they understand the rules, but we are also drilling common classroom features such as chairs and tables. This seems a great video, as today we’re introducing the word ‘train’ : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYhKyqQ3zXg
When the music stops, the students race for the chairs. Thos who are unlucky have to answer a question, then we continue. While the children are standing, we can do a ‘Teacher Says’ game, basically a ‘Simon Says’, but here used to drill simple expressions such as ‘clap your hands’, ‘sit down’, ‘stand up’ etc and then acting out animals (which is always fun).
Leading on from this, another game and a chance to learn new vocabulary. I’ll prepare a slide of new animals. The children form two teams and have to throw a sticky ball at the board, aiming for the names animal. The aim (ah-hem) is to get one team to tell the other at which animal to throw. Ideally they’ll be able to say, “Throw at the chicken,” but it may just be, “Chicken !” It’s a start. My new animals will be:
Moving on, we come to the lesson and focus on numbers. Around the room, I’ll stick various flash cars depicting numbers. I’ll ask for two students to find me a number from one to four. They will run like little nutcases and grab the card. They then have to bring it to me and say, “Here you are,” and then write the number (just figure) on the board.
I like to make the students speak to each other in English as much as possible, and it’s fun to make one student ‘thay’ or teacher. That student will hold the flash card and ask the class to show him or her 1 or 2 etc and the class will hold up the right number of fingers.
The book work reinforces new vocabulary and numbers. To break the book work, they will colour a train picture I have prepared for them:
I also like to play a short video to show life outside of Vietnam. Here’s the London Tube at rush hour:
This is my final class with this group as they have tests next week, conducted by the Vietnamese staff. Therefore it is a review lesson, going over recently-acquired words and practising listening skills.
It threatens to be quite passive (although this class is anything but passive) so I need to start with some energetic team games, focussing especially on speaking.
To begin, a STB game based on the previous unit (‘Special Places’). I’ll show various pictures of world landmarks and ask about them, for example where is this:
Bonus points for naming the mythological creature, and for asking the riddle with which it is associated. Other sites include the Taj Mahal, the Parthenon, a lighthouse, and the recently-discovered Hang Soon Dong cave here in Vietnam.
psycho / palace / famous for / in common / gadget.
As usual, it helps to give a model to serve as an example. I shall use this photo:
In this picture, the British spy James Bond is surrounded by some very scary alligators who are extremely hungry. He tries using his magnet gadget on his watch but it doesn’t work. Bond is famous for escaping from very dangerous situations. Quickly, he runs across the water stepping on the backs of the creatures. Bond films are incredibly popular because they are amazingly exciting. Do you find them interesting or boring ?
Now for the students:
To end the activity section, an opinion poll. This makes the students get up and ask classmates for their views, so listening and speaking skills are utilised – and no teacher-talking-time !
This survey will be based on Special Places. The students are offered a choice of four locations: The Pyramids of Giza, the Parthenon in Athens, The Taj Mahal in India and Buckingham Palace in England.
Which site do you want to visit most ?
What is the weather like there (use adverbs) ?
What can you do there ?
What could be a problem ?
After this, it’s time for the book work and assigned lesson plan. As mentioned, there is a lot of listening and video watching, so that should occupy most of the remaining time.
To finish we need a high-energy game. ‘Family Fortunes’ is good as it makes the students work together, and can be a test of general knowledge. I could ask: name four countries in Europe, four typical dishes from USA, four famous singers etc.
Tomorrow night’s class is heavy on speaking and listening. One theme is travel, focusing on getting to the airport or station. I’ve noticed that students in all classes, of all ages, prefer activities to actual bookwork. Hence, I shall do maybe up to an hour of ‘games’ designed to practise and reinforce vocabulary, introduce new expressions and, mostly, get the students producing English among themselves.
Again, I’ll be able to recycle material from other classes, adapted to the news of these specific students.
Firstly, I’ll introduce some common fixed expressions. Three should be enough at this level:
Long time no ….
At the end of the …
Better luck next ….
‘At the end of the … ‘ is a very common expression, especially used by footballers in post-match interviews. Here is just one example:
I will play this 2 or 3 times, asking the students what it is about and can they hear the expression (which is said twice).
Next up, a quick review of new vocabulary. I’ll show some definitions and the students have to give me the word or phrase:
What you think of something when you just see it (two words)
Something you want to do or achieve in life – a
Sending a file, picture or music using email –a
An adjective meaning very good – a
Expression meaning you have chosen the best area or shop or office – Y c t t r p.
The third activity is to practise speaking and using new language. Students are put into small groups and take turns speaking. The topic shall be travel, and the students have to use the following:
amazing / attachment / incredibly / predict / first impressions / you’ve come to the right place
With all speaking exercises, it helps if the teacher or a top student models first, so that all the students understand what they have to do. I shall use the same words but my theme shall be food:
On Saturday, I was out shopping and I felt very hungry. I went into a restaurant and my first impression was not encouraging. It looked a bit dirty and I predicted that the food wouldn’t be very exciting. However, they had an interesting menu with vegetarian options, which was amazing ! I ordered some pho and salad and it was incredibly delicious. I thought to myself I’ve come to the right place. I took some photos so I’ll send them to you by attachment on my next email.
The following activity maintains the groups. This activity shows three options for getting downtown from the airport. There are also three pairs of people who arrive at different times and have different requirements. The students must read the information and discuss the merits of each method. Then they must advise the travellers which method is best suited to their needs. This activity can be found on a previous blog, and the link is:
While they students work, the teacher shouldn’t interfere unless directly asked, or give too many extra instructions; the students need time to work alone and develop language skills. However, I can listen out for any mistakes in grammar, pronunciation etc. At the end of the exercise I can board these and the class can make corrections. This prevents an individual student becoming embarrassed.
Before the book work (today it’s listening to videos and answering comprehension questions), there is one more exercise from a book. The subject is ‘have you ever done it ?’ and the students are presented with 14 situations. There are given the base verb and have to answer the questions making sure to use both positive and negative answers. For example:
I ………… Star Wars films (see) I have seen all the Star Wars films
I ………. to Thailand (go) I have been to Thailand
Then it’s time for the assigned work. I’ll aim to work and leave about 15 minutes for some informal games. The Family Fortune (FF) game is very popular; here groups are given a board and marker and have to write four answers, some general knowledge, some about me. Examples from last night are:
Four countries in Europe
Four ways to say ‘hello’ except in Viet or English.
Four foods from Italy (here we have a lot of fun with exaggerated pronunciation). What better teacher than Christoph Waltz from ‘Inglorious Basterds’ ?
This scene can have two roles. First we compare how a Brit would respond to hearing of someone having an accident (turn our heads, look very sympathetic and say ‘Ahhhhhh, poor you,’). Then we see how Mr Waltz’s character responds (0:54 – 1:34). In the film, a young lady has broken her leg and the German inquires how the accident happened.
The Italian pronunciation scene begins at 2:24.
We can alternate with some personal questions such as ‘What will I do after work ?’, ‘What are four things I dislike about Vietnam ?’ and what four instruments can I play ?’ (It doesn’t matter if I can only play one, it’s just a test of vocabulary, and it makes me seem much more interesting !)
This is the penultimate class before the speaking test, and the assigned work involves a fair amount of reading and listening. Therefore, I want to introduce more speaking activities so the students can practice and I can check for pronunciation and correct use.
We’ll kick off with a warm up – I’ll board some fixed expressions and the students must complete them:
The last expression leads into the second activity, ‘Lonely Hearts.’
I’ll re-use the photos from a class I took last week, where I show three men and three woman with a very brief bio of each one. The students have to match them up, then speculate on what the outcome of the date will be …
After, there will be a quick-fire vocabulary game to go over the meaning of recently-learnt words and expressions.
something that is everywhere, very common, easily found
Quoting a fact from somebody else
An adverb that means much more
An adverb that is mild, a little, a little more
To repeat something
(Again, answers at the end)
The next game is Desert Survival. Students are put into two groups and given a sheet with a number of items. They have to work together to decide upon five items ONLY that will help them survive in the desert.
You need to select five items below to help you survive in the desert.
cigarettes / blankets / barrel of water /flare gun /torch
magnifying glass / Beatles CD / make-up set / dried food
grammar study book / Angry Birds game / air rifle / sun block
I see your point but … / that’s interesting, however …
I’m not sure about that / I can’t go along with that
I don’t feel that is entirely right / I fail to see the merits
I respectfully disagree / I find your contention somewhat flawed
Your case (arguement) is not without value, but …
Have you fully considered the implications of your decision ?
The students have to practice the given language and negotiate with each other, then with the other team. We need to find a consensus of five items.
This will probably be enough to take us to the book work.
The first item is the difference between ’cause’ and ‘make’
Look at this sentence:
There was a recession in 2008 because of the collapse of the housing market.
This can be re-written, to alter the style of writing:
Because of the collapse of the housing market, there was a recession in 2008
The collapse of the housing market caused a recession in 2008.
We can see ’cause’ in because of. Here, we are talking about a thing (the housing market). When we talk about the effect on people, we usually use ‘make.’
The recession made many people loose their jobs.
In the area of Ho Chi Minh where I live, there are a lot of open-air karaoke singers, and a vacant lot hired out for wedding parties.
On Saturday, a wedding party caused a lot of noise.
The guests made a lot of noise
Listening to drunken people screaming karaoke makes me angry !
Additionally, ’cause’ is more informal, while ‘make’ is frequently used in informal collocations:
The delay was caused by heavy traffic. The delay made me late.
The heavy traffic caused me to be late. The incessant noise caused me to be angry
This is a more formal than ‘made me late’ but the sentence structure has to be altered; to be is added before the adjective (late).
After, with about thirty minutes left, the energy and motivation will probably be somewhat low (to say the least), so an activity to wake them up and to encourage them to speak and express their views. I shall simply write two contentious issues on the boards, in the hope of provoking the students:
Vietnamese are so lazy
Vietname should be part of China
I am expecting a vociferous outcry, but the object here is to let the students gather their ideas and verbalise them in a suitable way for IELTS.
They will need to give their opinions, use adverbs, and back them up with reasons.
Finally, we can play a Family Fortune (FF) game. Students are put into small groups and have a set time to come up with four answers. These can be learning based (e.g. four adverbs of degree), new vocabulary or general knowledge questions. To make it more fun, I could ask questions regarding my experiences (I have lived in four countries; which ones ? What are my favourite Vietnamese dishes ? What do I like more in VN than UK ? etc).
Hopefully the class will be happy at 9.00 pm, NOT because the lesson is over, but because it has been worthwhile … probably a mixture of the two !
The answers: see / day / time / day out / everybody
ubiquitous / according to / significantly or remarkably / quite or somewhat / reiterate.
Yes, it’s adverb time. This class was introduced to them last week, while I was happily sipping a beer in Thailand, a remarkably beautiful country which, despite being quite close to Vietnam, has a significantly different culture, atmosphere, vibe.
Tonight’s class focuses on speaking, so I’m hoping for a lively session with all students enthusiastically participating.
To begin with, there are several types of adverb:
I use a mnemonic device to help me remember the five main types: DF MPT (degree, frequency, manner, place, time).
I shall look at the adverbs they learnt last week and make a ‘run & write’ game. Class will be split into two teams; I’ll board or say a word (careful, fast, angry etc) and one person from each team will have to write it as an adverb.
To reinforce, I’ll select one of the more outgoing students to act out various scenarios, for example the student can walk carefully, speak quietly, eat quickly. Thus the students will have both written and spoken some basic adverbs.
WEATHER: Grey, cold WEATHER: Very cold, very hot in summer
JOB: Journalist JOB: Electrician
LIKES: Making models LIKES: Sudoku
Travelling Football Piano Meeting friends
WHY IN VN: Writing a story WHY IN VN: Travelling around Asia
BEST: Meeting Vietnamese people BEST: Cheaper prices. Good food
WORST: Too hot. Food too spicy WORST: Extremely hot and sticky
OPINION: Incredibly noisy and humid OPINION: Amazingly fun place.
This is an exercise to help students form questions. A great way to start a speaking exercise is simply to model it first, eliciting as much information from the students. For example, I could board answers and ask the students what questions could they ask to get these answers. To broaden their vocabulary, I will demonstrate various approaches;
To enquire about my job:
What do you do for a living ?
What do you do ?
What is your occupation ?
How do you make a living ?
For my likes:
What do you like doing in your free time ?
What are your hobbies ?
What kinds of things are you into ?
The students ask the chosen student questions, then report back to the class. To make sure all the class are paying attention, I’ll ask questions and award points. It is common situation that students who are NOT presenting have very limited interest in other students who are speaking.
Depending on time, I will add a quick game where I board a basic sentence and the students have to elaborate by adding adjectives and, now, adverbs.
The student is good – The intelligent student works extremely well.
The food is nice / The weather is hot / The homework was hard / My cat is lazy.
And onto the bookwork. Today’s book mentions Cambridge (which they read about before with reference to the boat race), Buckingham Palace in London (which most of the students know is the home of the Queen) and Bristol in west England, which, I am sure, will be unknown to the students: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khM7tjui86Q
This is quite a good video, as it is just visual (thus giving the students a little break, as well as introducing them to a new city), and it can be followed up by asking what people can do there ? What kind of buildings did they see ? Would they like to go there ? What did they think about it ? Interesting or boring … and then use adverbs to make their answers more interesting.
Also, I like to let the students hear different accents because in the real world, they probably will not be listening to English teachers speaking slowly, carefully and in Standard English, but to people from all over the English-speaking world or, more likely, non-native speakers. Locals from Bristol have a different accent to mine (east London but with Standard for work), so here is a short clip illustrating the difference, and it has subtitles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qKBRnyWleU
The students can try to copy the sounds and also learn everyday fixed expressions. All in all, I’m hoping it’ll be an exciting and active class.
In keeping with the emphasis on speaking, in the reading section, one section of the class can read one paragraph, then close their books while the other students ask them questions, so here we have reading with speaking and listening skills being practised.
Today’s lesson is about the internet, what it’s used for, what vocabulary is associated with it and how men and women spend their time online. The main topic is ‘do men and women use the internet in different ways ?’
As a quick warm-up, the students can shout out different websites that are famous, and how they would be categorised (social media, news, commercial, blog etc).
No doubt ‘YouTube’ will be mentioned and here is a short video which ties in with the theme of a previous lesson (‘What do you want to do with your life?’). Here, 100 children are asked what they want to be. The students have to write down as many jobs as they hear, so they practice listening skills. Additionally, the children are from USA, so their accents differ from mine, exposing the class to a variety of Englishes. Some speak very clearly, other mumble so turning this into a game could be fun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUup841pZrs
The chart can be used as an exercise in data reading and use of comparatives for example, where are the highest users of the internet and, conversely, the lowest ? Do more men or women go online ? Then adverbs can be employed to stress the difference.
We can see that, with the exception of the Americas, men use the internet slightly more than woman in their geographic area. Regarding the Americas, the amount of women compared to men is not significantly higher. Over 80% of European men access the net, but less than 20% of African women do so. Asia is often seen as being in the forefront of technology (think of Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong) yet has a surprisingly low percentage of users, less than 40% of women compared to nearly 80% of women in Europe. What could be the reasons for this ?
However, this is a level 1 class so we don’t want to delve too deeply into the reasons, we want to get the students up and talking, and one of the best ways is make them conduct a quick survey among their classmates.
Question Name Answer
How often do you go online ?
Do you use the internet for work and/or study ? How ?
What social media sites do you use regularly ? How often ?
Have you ever bought or sold anything online ?
What is good about the internet ? What is the worst ?
This is an adult class, so I’m sure someone may refer to dating sites. this will lead us into the next activity, ‘Lonely Hearts’. Here, I’ll show three men and three women, each with a brief biography, stating their likes and what they are looking for in a partner. The class, in small teams or pairs, have to match each man to a woman, then predict what will happen on the date.
This allows the students to be creative, while encouraging the use of opinion phrases and building sentences by giving reasons to support their ideas.
PETER. Age 46. Lawyer. Likes cooking, travelling, wine, driving, tennis. Divorced, 2 children. Looks for quiet lady with no children, to look after the house and him.
JAMES. Age 26. IT worker. Likes music, dancing, going to clubs, beach holidays. Single. Looks for young lady who is loud and fun, likes to party.
David. Age 22. Model. Likes fashion, clothes, cocktail bars, smoking cigars. Looks for a women who is a model so we can look great together. Must be very beautiful and wear expensive clothes.
Jane. Age 22. Likes fashion, clubbing, kittens, holidays in the sun. Looks for a man with a steady job and ‘down-to-earth’. Non-smoker only.
Lisa 28. Banker. Likes quiet restaurants, badminton, travelling. Looks for a mature man with good income for long term relationship. No boys, please !
Emily. 20. Likes dancing, fashion, going out with my friends. Movies. Wants a young, cute boy-friend so we can go to parties together. No boring old men, please !
This exercise can be used to elicit adjectives as well; the students can describe the physical appearances, and what they think the people are really like.
All the time, I’d like to encourage the students to talk more in English, reduce the teacher- student dynamic, have more open-class discussions. One way to facilitate that is to maybe repeat something controversial and see how the class react to the comment. For example, a man may say that women only use the internet for social media and gossip, men use it for important things.
Obviously, my job is to encourage students to speak with each other, to take a back seat or, as we put it, to cut down on ‘teacher-talking time.’ I’m certainly not here to foster my views or disagree with the class. However, if I feel a conversation is in danger of becoming contentious, I can point out that in Europe, USA, Australia (called ‘the west’ for convenience) such views would be unacceptable on the grounds of sexism or racism. We don’t just teach the English language; we introduce students to western culture and norms.