Are we getting close to the Biblical Tower of Babel ?
For those who are interested in the story, here is the extract from The Bible, Genesis 11
Genesis 11 New International Version (NIV)
The Tower of Babel
11 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward,[a] they found a plain in Shinar[b] and settled there.
3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lordsaid, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.9 That is why it was called Babel[c]—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
WARNING: THIS BLOG CONTAINS IMAGES OF WAR THAT ARE NOT SUITABLE FOR YOUNG READERS
April 30th is a national holiday in Vietnam. My Vietnamese students should know why, other students can probably guess.
Describe this photo:
What is the subject ? What is the background and history ? Why is this picture significant ?
What happened after this snapshot?
background– recent story or history to some event.
significant (adjective) – very important or large.
significance (noun) / significantly (adverb)
snapshot– a moment in a photo – captured by time.
In this photo we can clearly see …
The photo shows …
The photo depicts …
war / conflict / civil war / agent orange / reunification / peace treaty / ceasefire / chemical warfare / the seat of government / reeducation / education growth / Le Duan / public opinion / anti-war sentiments / Vietnam War Memorial, Washington DC / My Lai / Kim Phuc
Use the above vocabulary to describe the following photos. Organise your thoughts, then employ discourse markers to link your ideas together.
If you are not certain, you may use expressions such as:
I’m not entirely sure, but I think …
This would seem to show …
I’m not familiar with this image …
Practice speaking in complex sentences by using relative pronouns (who, where, which, whose)
This is a great opportunity for IELTS students to interpret the information represented on this graph. What is the trend ? What is the anomaly ? How would you categorise the fluctuation in figures from 2007 – 2010 ?
NEXT PHOTO MAY DISTURB SOME READERS
THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST ICONIC PHOTOS, NOT JUST OF THE WAR IN VIETNAM, BUT OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY.
THERE ARE NO ADJECTIVES CAPABLE OF DESCRIBING THE IMAGE.
THE PHOTO HAS BEEN CREDITED WITH TURNING AMERICAN PUBLIC OPINION AGAINST THE WAR.
24th October for Saturday 26th October 2019. E Up U 6, L 4 pp. 58 – 59
Warm up: Student description
In a previous lesson, the class learnt about basic adjectives to describe appearance. I will therefore choose a student and describe the physical characteristics, e.g. this student has long straight hair, is not very tall, and wears black glasses. The students must guess the student I am describing.
To make it more fun and engaging, it’s a good idea to put the class into teams for a bit of competitive spirit.
This is my friend, Ms Quynh. She has long straight black hair.
We can extend their vocabulary by including clothes: Ms Quynh is wearing a white top and a colourful skirt.
I will choose some students and give them a student to describe, while promoting the value ‘be polite‘. They can describe their hair, whether or not they wear glasses, and if that isn’t enough, they can identify them by their clothes.
To continue the theme of Art and creativity, I think it’s time they met Dali !
Dali normally gets a reaction (especially when we have fun elongating his name as long as possible). It’s also a chance to learn a few new words:
creative / genius / unusual / surreal
The last word maybe a little advanced, but it’s a good way to introduce new words; inside the word is ‘real’ so surreal has something to do with reality … but what ? Here’s a clue:
This is a mixture of reality and fantasy. The students can say which is which … and why does Dali give the elephants tuba faces … is there a reason or is it just crazy ?
I will then expect the student to form basic sentences using these new words, and not forgetting new vocabulary from previous lessons, for example,
“Dali’s paintings are very unusual.”
Next up, is a scene from the popular Children’s classic, ‘Alice in Wonderland’.
What is happening ?
Again, a mix of reality and fantasy. How would the students describe this ? It could be turned into a game … students put into small groups and given boards and markers. Points for the best vocabulary.
Key words: tea-party / young girl / bow tie / sleeping / garden
Now, to continue the theme and introduce some listening and reading skills, a video. This is the singer-songwriter Don McLean with ‘Vincent’, about the artist Vincent Van Gogh: This can be played in the background as the students do a writing project today.
This version also has the lyrics, as well as various paintings by the artist.
A useful lesson will be the subjectivity of art – it is a chance for the student to think and to give their views, and to try to develop the English skills to express their thoughts. Clearly, this is a perfect opportunity to introduce some fixed expressions to express opinions:
In my opinion …
I feel that …
For me …
And even an idiom – it’s not my cup of tea !
What kind of art are these and what do they think of them ?
Then, with time against us, and a lot to get through, we’ll turn to the book work. They will watch a video which also shows sculpture, mosaic and photographs. The book also mentions Van Gogh, and a sculpture based on the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party from ‘Alice’.
Finally, to wrap up after the project, a little bit of fun. Who better than Dali (or at least a great actor playing Dali) ?
Before the final speaking test, I’ve prepared a list of some useful vocabulary and expressions that will come in very useful. Furthermore, in response to one of my students, I’ve included an exercise on relative pronouns.
Tonight is what we call a ‘mixed bag’; the lesson includes speaking, reading, listening and grammar. It’s Monday; students will be arriving after work, tired, maybe not entirely motivated, maybe not entirely in the mood for a three-hour lesson, maybe committed to watching the clock move it’s intractable hands from 6 to 9. IELTS is a hard course, it requires work, energy, motivation. The teacher’s thankless task is to bring the book alive, motivate the unmotivated and ignore, rise above, the veiled insults and sarcasm that is prevalent in most classes. But, enough, time to put noses to grindstones and upload tonight’s plan.
The first 15 / 20 minutes or so are a French farce of people coming and going, greeting each other, moving chairs, chatting on phones. I do a short warm up exercise, introducing vocabulary or phrases. It provides useful expressions for punctual students, whereas latecomers will not have missed any book work. Tonight it’s going to be common fixed expressions and in which situation they can be used:
This one’s on me Let me thinkabout it It doesn’t matter Thanks for coming
I don’t believe a word of it I’ll be with you in a minute As I was saying It was lovely to see you I don’t get the point I see what you mean
You look great today I’ll be making a move then Just looking, thanks
Match the phrase(s) with the situation
You meet an old friend
You are asked a question but need time to consider
Someone tells you a story – you think it is false.
Friends drinking in a pub / bar
You go into a shop but not necessarily to buy anything
A customer arrives but you are busy
You don’t understand what someone is trying to prove
You understand what someone thinks (but not necessarily agree with)
There is a small problem / Someone upsets you but you want to make it OK
To continue with a conversation that was interrupted.
These fixed phrases are so important in making students sound like natural speakers, which will result in higher IELTS scores.
The next section will be expressing likes, dislikes or having no strong feeling either way. A good activity will involve different skills being used, so here I will play three songs, in English naturally, but from different countries, and with different accents. I want to elicit the students’ opinions of the music and how much they can understand. First, the presentation, new vocabulary:
Like: I absolutely love … I’m crazy about … I (really) like I’m into I’m a big fan of … I’m quite keen on I haven’t heard (seen/read) this before, but I think it’s great
No strong opinion: I don’t mind I have mixed feelings about …. It’s OK I don’t really have any strong views / feelings either way
Dislike: I hate I detest I can’t stand I don’t really like I think it’s awful I’m not a big fan of … I’m not that keen on …
Secondly, we could play a ‘word bomb’. In this activity, a generic word is boarded, in this case, ‘music’. The students shout out as many words they can, a word-association game. Once the board is full, or the students have no more ideas, we can expand; types of musical genres, instruments, musical terminology, ways of listening to music, of buying music, musicians, bands, solo artists, people who work in the industry. This type of game is good as there are few ‘wrong’ answers and the speed can encourage shyer students to speak and participate (note comparative of shy can be shier or shyer).
First, from Australia, we have Kylie Minogue. The lyrics start at 00.30
The students will play the role of examiner and candidate. One will ask questions and the other will be expected to answer in an IELTS-style manner, ie, long sentences, discourse markers, good grammar and syntax, appropriate intonation, eye contact and body language.
I have already given the students tips of ‘buying time’ or filling up ‘dead air’ by employing expressions such as:
That’s a good / interesting question
Let me think …
Well, I would say …
How can I put it … ?
Of course, these mustn’t be over-used. Students will also be encouraged to stretch their vocabulary, and self-check:
Is that the right word ?
By which I mean …
Have I used that in the correct sense ?
After this it’s time to hit the books. As mentioned, the tasks are varied and I want to pace them so that all students feel they have understood before moving on to a new subject. Tonight we also have the three ways of pronouncing the -ed form of regular verbs:
Pronunciation of -ed past tense verbs
Words have 3 end sounds:
If the word ends with:
ch / f / k / p / s / sh / thi The sound is ‘t’ look = ‘lookt’
t /or / d/ The sound is ‘id’ visit – ‘visitid’
Other sounds are ‘d’ bang = ‘bangd’
What is the correct pronunciation for these regular verbs ?
Look = Looked / laugh = laughed / end =
beg = / visit = kiss =
brush = / breath = love =
Read these sentences:
He cleared up the mess / He rolled up the newspaper / I have visited Hue
No Homework ! That sounded good / Teacher shouted, ‘No way !’
We all worked hard today / Tom talked so much / The students played many games and laughed till their sides burst.
To end, I like to expose the students to short video clips using a variety of Englishes (as there is so much variance even in the same city with slang, pronunciation, argot, accent, dialect, local words etc). To make it more relevant, I look for a Vietnam-related theme. One of my favourites is this chap, a serious beer enthusiast, who has just discovered a beer from Vietnam, Sai Gon Red.
I want the students to hear a different accent from mine (I aim for a standard British variety), learn some new vocabulary and also watch the para-linguistics: the expressions, intonation, body language. As my beer-drinking friend has just discovered, to paraphrase The Smiths, “some beers are better than others.”