Indeed … next week is the speaking test, so I get to interview the students, one-to-one, to see how much they have listened to me and retained the information.
For some students, the biggest test will be NOT using their phones for ten minutes. Be that as it may … No time for learning anything new, tonight will just be as many activities as reasonable, and then practice.
I shall offer my help to those that request it.
So, let’s kick off with the first game:
Two teams … on the board, single words. Teams have to complete the idiom and give the definition.
mouth // candle // cats // piece // arm // grindstone // sky // blue //.
Next, one team selects a word, then asks one member of the other team to use it in a sentence.
Moving on up: Complex sentences. I shall give the names of some famous companies and the teams have to compose a complex sentence using relative pronouns and discourse markers.
I have my heart set on buying a pair of Converse, which is an American company with a star logo, who make very fashionable, not to mention very cool, footwear.
The teams have to choose from:
Keep the ball rolling with a pronunciation game. I’ll play two clips of native speakers. The teams, one by one, have to copy using correct intonation and stress.
A quick shout-out to a great student, Ms Linh. Very briefly, I teach a 90-minute speaking class; the work is prepared form me, I just have to deliver the lesson, and check for pronunciation, intonation and stress.
Now, although the students choose which lessons and subjects to attend, they can find the subject rather tedious, the work repetitive and therefore, they get bored and when students get bored, they may project their annoyances onto the teacher, such as mumbling or whispering a response, yawning and sighing (loudly), avoiding eye contact or outright refusing to answer.
I had such a situation last night, a miserable wet Monday. I’m supposed to make the students repeat the target language until they can pronounce it perfectly … but it just wasn’t happening.
You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink
Eventually, like pulling hen’s teeth, the class began talking more and trying to use the new expressions I had offered them.
At the end of the class, while some students couldn’t wait to split, one or two came up and were complimentary. The aforementioned Ms Linh said that although the subject was less than fascinating, she could see that I was really trying to make it interesting.
That was such a lovely thing to say, so now I say to you, Ms Linh:
Phrasal verbs: coming out // look after // hang up // turn down // give up // hang out // look up to // take after // turn up
What phrasal verb means:
take care of // spend time with friends // to be like someone // stop doing something // make music louder // make music softer (quieter) // to respect someone // turn off a phone conversation // plan to go outside
Now … your turn
Which phrasal verb would you use?
Many people 1) ………. Nelson Mandela.
In ‘Treeless Mountain’, a young girl has to 2) ……… of her young sister.
She looks just like her mother, she really 3) ………. her.
Learning Mandarin is too hard, I 4) ………..
Are you 5) …… tomorrow night ?
New expressions / vocabulary
unique = one of a kind, there is only one of them, very special
numerous = many
typical = normal, usual
straightaway = immediately, right now
clue = evidence (the police look for a clue.)
I haven’t got a clue = I’ve no idea !
First impressions count = the first thing you see is very important
blows your (my) mind = something so amazing, you almost can’t believe it.
Can’t judge a book by its cover = you can not tell what something or someone is like just by how it or they look.
Now … your turn
What words or expressions would you use ?
1. Can you please send me that email …….. (now).
2. He looks so quiet and nice, but he plays very loud guitar. That proves you …………………………………….
3. Don’t worry, there are ……. coffee shops on the main road.
4. Wow ! He knows so much, it totally ……………. (really surprises me)
5. You can’t replace that broken vase, it was …….. (only one of a kind).
6. What is 1 693 093 divided by 37 ? I …………………………. (no idea at all)
take care of // look after
spend time with friends // hang out
to be like someone // take after
stop doing something // give up
make music louder // turn up
make music softer (quieter) //turn down
to respect someone // look up to
turn off a phone conversation // hang up
plan to go outside // coming out
look up to 2. take care of 3. takes after 4. give up 5. coming out
1. straightaway or immediately 2. can’t judge a book by its cover 3. numerous 4. blows my mind 5. unique 6. haven’t got a clue !
Yesterday I blogged a database of idioms, collocations and negotiation language. That is just the tip of the iceberg. If you have looked at English-language study books, you will, no doubt, have seen several dictionaries solely devoted to idioms; we use them so often, and there are so many.
For my IELTS students, I have repeatedly taught half a dozen (six) in order for the students to incorporate them into their natural speech … without idiomatic language, you will not break past the 5 score (taken along with grammar, vocabulary and intonation, naturally).
Therefore, for Top Cat students, or anyone looking to learn some more, this blog is for you.
Expressions or idioms
Ring any bells ? // do you remember //
More or less // not exactly but approximately
Get the gist // do you understand the main point ?
Right up your street // this is something you will really like
Rabbit, Rabbiting on // UK slang, especially in London … talking too much
Piece of cake // no problem, very easy, sure
Tongue in cheek // not being serious about something
Now … how you use them:
Student A: Hello, we met last year at Julie’s party.
Student B: Sorry, that doesn’t ring any bells (I don’t remember).
Student A: Are you ready to go ?
Student B: Go where ?
Student C: Cake, food, drink, singing, dancing … ring any bells ?
Student D: Oh, Tony’s birthday party. Sorry, I forgot.
Student A: Are you ready for the test ?
Student B: Yes, more or less.
Student C: I’ll wait for you.
Student D: I won’t be long, I’m more or less finished.
Student A: Do you have to read all the document ?
Student B: No, just to get the gist.
Student A: You should listen to this CD, it’s right up your street.
Student B: Oh, French piano music, I love it. That’s right up my street.
Student A: What did your girlfriend want ?
Student B: She was rabbiting on about something to do with her clothes, I wasn’t really listening.
Teacher A: Hey ! Miss Mary … stop talking. You’re a little rabbit !
Student A: Can you drive me home ?
Student B: Sure, piece of cake.
Student A: Have you seen John’s new shirt ? It’s so elegant.
Student B: Are you serious ? It’s terrible.
Student A: I know ! I was being tongue in cheek.
Now … your turn.
Add the correct idiom [answers at end of blog]
1) Shall we see the new action film ? It sounds ______________
2) Are you still talking ? You are such a __________
3) She said I was the best student but I think she was being ___
4) You said you would bring something … cheese, tomato, garlic bread ____________ ?
5) The IELTS speaking test was a ________ after reading Thay Paul’s blogs (I hope).
6) Student A: Did you understand the project ? Did you ________ of the idea ?
Student B: Well, ______________ but not every single detail.
Right up your street 2. rabbit 3. tongue in cheek 4. ring any bells 5. piece of cake 6. get the gist / more or less.
Today, we shall learn the story of Theseus and the Minotaur. This story is over 3 000 old, and comes from the country of Greece. Here is the flag of Greece:
Greece is in Europe. It is a very hot country, and has many stories from history. The capital city is Athens.
Have you ever seen something like this before ?
This is the Minotaur, half man, half bull. He was extremely strong, extremely angry and very, very scary. He lived near Greece, on the island of Crete:
The Minotaur lived underground in a big maze called the labyrinth. Every year, the King of Athens had to send 14 children for the Minotaur to eat. This is a labyrinth, a huge maze. It is very easy to get lost inside a labyrinth.
The king had a son called Theseus. He was a hero. He decided to go and kill the Minotaur.
The King of Crete had a daughter called Ariadne. When she saw Theseus, she decided to help him. She gave Theseus a big ball of string. He tied it to the door of the labyrinth, then used it so he wouldn’t get lost:
Theseus found the Minotaur.
They had a long fight because both Theseus and the Minotaur were very strong. Finally, Theseus won and killed the Minotaur.
Then he returned to Athens with Ariadne. The people were so happy, and Theseus became a hero in Greece.
A compilation of shopping activities to promote longer sentences, idiomatic language and fluency.
Exercise 1: compound nouns
Exercise 2: devil’s advocate
Exercise 3: role-play
Exercise 4: coffee in Saigon
Exercise 1: compound nouns to do with shopping
Match the compound noun with the photos:
Prices are sky-high / It cost an arm and a leg /
marked down / on sale / discount / what a bargain !
I couldn’t resist it / I simply had to have it / retail therapy
Make sentences using some of the above language.
Talk about shops in your city:
Do people go dumpster diving ? Why or why not ?
Have you ever used retail therapy (buying something to make you feel happy) ?
Have you ever gone out to buy just one thing and come back with many items !
Does your husband/ wife / partner like shopping ?
Exercise 2: Devil’s advocate.
This is to develop argument skills, how to politely disagree with someone.
Example: one student wants to buy a beautiful, luxurious Rolex watch. It really is an outstanding timepiece:
Without doubt, this is a luxury item. The pros …
It is gorgeous and so elegant. I will feel so special wearing it. People will admire and look up to me. They will think I am wealthy and have a great career. I will attract many cute women (or handsome men). I may feel superior to other people who only have cheap watches or nasty fake knock-offs.
Now play Devil’s advocate. Say what are the cons of owning such an item.
Firstly, agree with the first student – it is without question a luxury item. Having said that …
It will attract attention … but maybe from thieves or pickpockets. It is a lot of money, maybe an obscene amount of money when so many people are poor. Can you justify owning such a materialistic item ? Will it make you arrogant ? Will you think you are better than other people BECAUSE of a thing ? Finally … what does it DO ? Fundamentally, it tells the time. My fake Rolex will tell the same time … but it cost $20 NOT $ 5 000 !
Now students’ turn. Similar concept but this time, the latest iPhone:
The iphone 11 (woooooowwwwwwww !)
One student wants to buy it, the other must give reasons why it is not such a good idea.
a waste of money / not necessary // a fashion accessory // you can’t afford it //
Exercise 3 Role play game:
Three students will act out working in a department store, a shop with a sale on, and a street market. Other students have a set budget (say £100) and have to buy three items.
They can practice with the following language:
How much is this, please ? // Could you bring the price down for cash ? // Do you take plastic (credit cards) ? // If I smile, can you take off 10% ?
Wow, that’s a bargain ! // Sorry, that’s too much // Is that your best price ?
I’ll take it ! // Wrap it up ! // Let me think about it and come back // Sorry, that’s too much.
The items can be T-shirts, pens, bags, shoes, watches etc and the teacher can print out photos and hand them out.
Exercise 4: Coffee in Sai Gon
Describe this picture; use adjectives and 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 Happy 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.
Words and expression to use, tips, phrases and idiomatic language
Recap: to pass IELTS with flying colours, you will needs to demonstrate a command of everyday English, the ability to express it with stress and intonation, as well as being able to link your ideas with appropriate discourse markers.
I need to hear nouns described by interesting adjectives, verbs intensified by adverbs and conversation enlivened by low-frequency vocabulary.
Piece of cake, right ?
Low – frequency words (LFW)
Boring: tedious // forgetful: absent-minded // expensive: sky high // what will happen: predict // everywhere: ubiquitous.
Activity 1: Make sentences using the above five LFW
Introduce your answer by:
Let me think // How can I put it // Well, that’s an interesting question
In my opinion // From my perspective // For me // Allow me to explain // By which I mean //
as well as // furthermore // additionally // on the other hand // having said that // however // although // despite that
Activity 2: Give each student a discourse marker and they have to use it in a sentence
EXAMPLE ‘in addition’
I have a busy life; I have to study, work my part-time job and help my family. In addition, I go shopping for my neighbour because he is too old to go out.
NOTE: use of ‘because‘ to explain why you do something … and therefore construct a longer sentence.
It’s raining cats and dogs // It costs an arm and a leg // piece of cake // I’m burning the candle at both ends.
Activity 3: Who can use these idioms correctly ?
Relative pronouns – who / which / where / whose
Activity 4: Use the correct relative pronoun:
We arrived at a nice beach ______ we could swim and lie in the sun.
A man ______ mobile phone was ringing did not know how to switch it off.
The patient, ______ had a serious disease, was taken to hospital immediately.
Smithsfield is a small village ______ people live a quiet life.
This dress is made of silk, _____ is a very expensive and delicate material.
Could you repeat that, please // I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that // Would you mind rephrasing the question
Model answer: What do you do in your free time ?
One of my favourite things to do, if I have some spare time, is to hang out with my closest friends and just catch up on our news, maybe hit a mall because they are air-conditioned and have a wide array of amenities such as shops, cafes and, if I may say, bathroom facilities, as well as services like ATM machines and free wifi. My closest friends are Sheila, who is from Japan and studies here in Sai Gon, and Kerry, who is a gorgeous Thai lady. As we all come from different countries, there can be issues. Allow me to explain; we have to communicate in English, however Kerry is just starting her studies, so we have to use Google translate frequently. Having said that, it’s such tremendous fun to be with my best friends. It helps me forget about the pressure and stress of work.
Use this an a plan – now tell me what YOU do in YOUR free time … DO NOT just copy the above example !
Now … Your turn
Conversation Practice: In pairs or small groups, ask each other these questions. If the answer is too short, ask the person to tell you more, to explain with more details.
Ask each other about your families
How many siblings do you have ?
[You can give names, ages, jobs, what and where they study, what they look like, what their personality is like, if you have something or nothing in common with them]
Do you live with your parents and grandparents ?
Do you often meet your cousins ?
Who is the youngest member of your family ?
Who is the oldest ?
Who is your favourite person in your family and why ?
Can you tell me more ? // In what way ? // Why do you say that ? //