IELTS: Final review

5th March 2019

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.

Useful words and expressions

Adjectives

absent-minded / eye-catching / mouth-watering / second-hand

ubiquitous / sky-high / visually stunning / spectacular / 

Adverbs

quite / rather / somewhat

considerably / significantly / remarkably / undeniably 

Discourse Markers 

Additionally / as well as / furthermore / moreover

Therefore / consequently

On the other hand / having said that / although / despite 

Expressions / chunking phrases

At the end of the day / Am I pronouncing that correctly ?

Turn a blind ear / it fell on deaf ears

Friends and family / According to …

Same thing, day in, day out / You get what you pay for / a waste of money

Like / Dislike

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 …

To buy time

That’s a good / an interesting question

Let me think …

Well, I would say …

How can I put it … ?

Sentence building

Use adjectivesto describe nouns

adverbsto describe adjectives and verbs – give more information

opinion phrases: In my opinion / it seems to me / I feel

linking words to connect positive to positive or positive to negative

reasonswhy an action is being done

I like coffee

I like coffee so much because it tastes great and makes me wake up although too much will stop me from sleeping at night but, in my opinion, the benefits far out weigh the disadvantages.

Using Relative Clauses

who For people: This is the man whosold me the fake Rolex ! 

which For things: We tried fish and chips which is delicious.

where For places: Let’s go to the shop where we saw the great bargains.

Whose Possessive: That’s the singer whose record we heard last night.

The car, whose driver was young, won the race.

Exercises

We arrived at a nice beach ______ we could swim and lie in the sun.

A man ______ mobile phone was ringing did not know what to do.

The patient, ______ had a serious disease, was taken to hospital immediately.

Smithsfield is a small village ______ people live a quiet life.

A boy ____ sister is in my class was in the bank at that time.

I know a person ____ can speak seven languages.

We visited the church _____ is in the middle of the square.

It is a protected area of land _____ you can see a lot of interesting wildlife.

This dress is made of silk, _____ is a very expensive and delicate material.

A police officer _____ car was parked at the next corner stopped and arrested them.

Listening Websites: A list with links can be found on this page:

https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2019/01/23/listening-skills-tips-and-links/

Good luck with your tests

Adult Class Level 1: Can’t get there from here.

26th February 2019

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: 

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

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:

https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2019/02/10/ielts-have-love-will-travel/

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’ ?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rq7qm3T3cPE&t=186s

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.

Inglorious Basterds 2009 (Dir Quentin Tarantino)



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 !)

IELTS: warm up games.

25th February 2019

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:

Long time no …..

At the end of the ….

Better luck next ….

Same thing, day in ……

There’s someone for ……..

(Answers at the end)

At the end of the … is a very common expression, especially used by footballers in post-match interviews. Here is just one example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIucUjHlMbE

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 …

The activity can be found on this blog: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2019/02/20/adult-class-level-1-computer-world/

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.

Desert survival

You need to select five items below to help you survive in the desert.

Factors to consider:

food, drink, heat, cold, injuries, attracting attention, wildlife

First aid kit / matches / rope / knife / compass 

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

Negotiation language

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.

IELTS: Travel follow-up

19th February 2019

Last night’s class threw up several new words, fixed expressions, idioms, cultural notes and even a reference to Thai ladyboys … you had to be there !

Being exposed to new vocabulary is one of the reasons to attend a class, but language is organic; it needs to be nurtured, developed, practised and used.

To wit, here is a list of words that arose last night:

VOCABULARY

accommodate – make space for.

alternate / alternative – one of two choices / a different way of doing something.

car share – people who work or live near each other can give each other a ride, so only one car is used.

congestion / congested – blocked up, unable to move e.g. traffic jam

commuter – a person who travels to and from work.

composite – made from different things.

dozen – a set of twelve (also from French, via Latin).

flexitime – from flexible & time. A method of working where staff can arrive at different times.

fuselage – the main body of an airplane. Word is of French origin. Notice how English borrows many words from other languages.

implement – to use, to plan and then do something.

independent – free, not under anyone’s control or rule.

institute – an organisation usually academic or scientific.

reiterate – to say again, to repeat (see how the ‘re’ often means again – repeat, re-sit, re-do, redesign, re-watch)

The BBC comedy series ‘Car Share

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7uQ4F64Ew8

This show is about two co-workers who ride to and from work every day. It is set (the location) in the north-west of England, around Manchester so the accent may be harder to understand.

Idioms

not my cup of tea – a polite way of saying that you don’t like something

piece of cake – if something is very easy, or if something is not a problem.

Actually, the idiom is ‘like taking candy from a baby.’

I checked at a previous IELTS centre about the use of idioms in the course. The verdict was that one or two are totally acceptable, as it shows a deeper knowledge of English. However, they should be used appropriately, and are more suited to speaking, as opposed to writing.

Fixed expressions / phrases

according to – when you give a fact or information that someone else says.

brand new – totally new, un-used, still in the box or wrapping.

for this / that reason – because of this / that

hard to reach – difficult to get to.

mouth-watering – food that is so delicious, it makes the mouth produce saliva by smelling it or even just talking about it.

off-peak – a quiet time, either for driving and commuting, or for holidays.

off-season – a quiet time for hotels, flights and holidays.

second hand – an item that has been previously used.

turn a blind eye – to see something wrong but pretend not to notice.

Adverbs

remarkably / significantly – strong adverbs of degree, showing a high change.

quite / somewhat – mild adverbs of degree

Exercises

Use the new vocabulary in this conversation.

Peter: Sorry I’m late; the roads are so ——– (very busy). Sally: There was an accident ———-the radio (the radio said). You look ill. Peter: Well, I had —- (12) beers last night ! I’m glad we’re on ——- (not fixed time). Hey, is that a new phone ? It looks ———- (just bought). Sally: No, I got it ———– (previously used). I know an ———–(different) way to get to work. It’s on the back streets so ————– (because of) it’s empty. Peter: Less ———- (people going to work) ! ——————– (no problem !)

IELTS Talking

The student should be prepared to talk for up to two minutes. Having said that, there is one minute allowed for preparation.

The speaking can be planned in a similar way to writing; a short introduction; one idea or subject at a time; mention both something good, then bad; a short conclusion.

Avoid repetition, hesitating and speaking about something not directly related to the question. One way to ‘buy time’ to think is to use one of the following:

How can I put it ?

What’s the word ?

That’s an interesting question

Well, I hadn’t thought about that before

The examiner will also be looking for politeness and eye contact, as well as listening for intonation and pronunciation. Grammar is naturally important, but one or two minor mistakes are acceptable.

Last night we practised talking about holidays, so for practice, talk about a holiday you went on. Try to use some of the new vocabulary from above.

If you need some ideas, use these pictures for assistance:

When did you go there ?
With whom did you go ?
How did you travel there … and why ?
What did you see and do
What were the good points
Was there anything bad about the trip ?


Some extra revision can be found on this website:

http://ieltsliz.com/ielts-speaking-part-2-topics/

Adult Class Level 3: Manners, etiquette and culture shock

Tuesday 15th January

Tonight is the last lesson of the four-week block, so will culminate in an oral test: I will listen to all the students individually for three minutes or so, then give a grade and some brief feedback.

The bookwork covers vocabulary, speaking and pronunciation, so that’s a great opportunity to prepare the students for the speaking review.

I’ve just finished a short booklet about how intermediate learners can move up to advanced levels:

The book advocates teaching / learning collocations (which I always teach) and ‘chunks’ of language, or frequently used expressions.

Collocations are words that always go together, for example take a photo (not do a photo, make a photo), jump on a bus, grab a bite to eat, make your mind up etc.

This can be so helpful to an English-language learner, as the words form one unit – ‘take a photo’ is ONE unit, not three separate words. This can really help in reading – instead of seeing a mass of words, patterns will emerge, almost like breaking a code. With practice, students will be able to predict a sentence / phrase just by its opening word/s.

Frequently used phrases are beneficial to make speakers sound more natural (and that should be the aim, in order to progress to a higher level of proficiency), and they are so common, they can be used in everyday situations. On p. 18, Richards quotes some common expressions:

This one’s on me It was lovely to see you I’ll be making a move then

I see what you mean Thanks for coming Let me think about it

I don’t believe a word of it Just looking, thanks It doesn’t matter

I don’t get the point I’ll be with you in a minute You look great today

As I was saying

We’ll talk about how and where these expressions can be used, then do some exercises, role-playing. Classic CELTA-style method: present then do controlled practice (the third stage is produce – to see if the students are able to use the phrases with correct intonation and in the correct situation).

Friends are having drinks in a pub / bar

You go into a shop but not necessarily to buy anything

A customer arrives but you are busy

You meet an old friend

Compliment someone

You don’t understand what someone is trying to prove

You understand what someone thinks (but not necessarily agree with)

Someone tells you a story – you think it is false.

You are asked a question but need time to consider

There is a small problem / Someone upsets you but you want to make it OK

To continue with a conversation that was interrupted. 

Then the students will work in pairs to produce simple conversations, for example: Oh, it’s late, I’m tired / I’ll be making a move then (I will leave).

I’ll then introduce a visual activity, as it’s good to vary the tasks; something I learnt from Eisenstein’s film theory (Sergi Eisenstein, Soviet filmmaker, NOT Albert Einstein, physicist), the ‘Montage of Attractions.’ This is basically having lots of different things following each other, linked together, to maintain interest and constant stimulation. More of this in other posts as it is especially applicable to young learners.

I’ll show a slide of various activities and ask which are acceptable, polite, impolite, illegal. This comes under the umbrella heading of culture shock – different customs, different countries. For example, this friendly gesture in the UK is impolite in Vietnam:

SONY DSC

This, I falsely believed, was the universal sign for ‘good luck’ so, during tests, I (being polite and friendly), wished my students (usually young learners), ‘good luck’. No one took the time to tell me it didn’t mean that in Vietnam; it is, in fact, a representation of female genitalia. Whoops ! What message my students took from my inadvertent gesture is a matter of speculation. Here are some other social no-nos:

Totally acceptable in the west, but an insult in Thailand where hands must be pointed down. My US friends also tell me that they use two fingers, so if the taxi drives past, they can keep one finger up to represent their feelings. We would never do that in Britain … well, almost never.
Street micturition – a ubiquitous sight in Vietnam.
Pregnant woman stands while three men sit.

Lastly, I will conduct a simplified version of last night’s lesson. I show photos of my bad day (it was one of those days). I’ll board some details, times and events, show some photos and ask the students to make sentences, pushing them to employ adjectives, adverbs and discourse markers. The full activity can be found on last night’s IELTS notes

https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2019/01/14/ielts-lesson-3-may-the-force-be-with-you/

Before a test, most students find it hard to concentrate on learning new material, so I’ll use the 90 minutes to encourage as much speaking as possible. Hopefully, they’ll be more prepared for the oral test and will do themselves proud.