Obviously, teachers don’t want to overwhelm the students with an unmanageable amount of new language. Far better to serve up bite-size pieces, then practice, practice and practice. When the language has become second nature to the students, move onwards and upwards.
The first step is to elevate your language; replace basic common or garden verbs with ‘better‘ ( that is, low-frequency) words.
For example, the verb ‘try’. Instead, we can have:
To keep trying, not giving up, we can use:
persevere or persist
Let’s take these new words out for a spin:
This year, I shall endeavour to learn Vietnamese. I’ve tried before but gave up as it was simply too hard. However, this time I’m going to persevere.
Can you think of an idiom that could be used to show someone planning to work much harder ?
Onwards and upwards:
get a qualification or certificate by hard work and study:
attain // achieve
to get somethingwithout the need for work or study:
obtain (you can obtain the application form in room 7A)
say / said:
exclaim // express // remark (add -ed to form past tense)
utilise (utilize USA) / apply
to eat, consume or do a lot of something:
devour (He devoured the whole pizza by himself // She loves reading, she absolutely devours books)
Transform this simple sentence into something more IELTS-like:
Sarah said that if she gets an ‘A’, her father will buy her a new iPhone.
Tony says he wants to get a visa which he can buy at the UK Embassy, so he can use his English skills in London.
Mary really wants to buy the ‘Fargo’ box set. She said it was the best TV show in years and she plans to watch all the episodes in one day !
Similarly, boost your lexical resources with regards to adjectives.
fundamental // elementary
difficult // challenging
delicious // mouth-watering // scrumptious
broaden my horizons // real-life knowledge // culture shock
Signpost language: (To help the listener or reader follow you)
Firstly / To begin with / I’d like to start by …
Secondly / additionally / another factor is …
What’s more / furthermore / not forgetting
Obviously / clearly / it is evident that …
Moving on / I’d like to change the topic / Let’s turn to …
Finally / all in all / all things considered
Put students into small teams. One teams challenges the other(s) to form a sentence using as many new L-FWs as they can. Award bonus points for the appropriate use of idioms or fixed expressions.
Students challenge each other to find a L-FW for a basic, prosaic verb or adjective. Teams are allowed a fixed time, say one minute, and are allowed to use a thesaurus such as here:
Then the group has to use the new word in an IELTS-style sentence by which I mean, an introduction, a signpost word or phrase and, obviously, a suitable idiom (examples – ‘put’, ‘big’, ‘interesting’, ‘watch’, ‘boring’, ‘eat’)
Teams are given a mix of L-FWs, idioms & signpost language. After a short preparation time, they have to construct an inspiring, fascinating and jaw-droppingly brilliant sentence. Piece of cake, n’est ce-pas ?
One student from each group starts answering an IELTS question (travel, food, study, neighbourhood). At a given point, the teacher stops the student and another group has to continue, and so on. Monitor the correct utilisation of signpost language as well as fluency, not forgetting the all-important pronunciation features.
Quick Fire / Rapid Fire Round
What is the correct word:
To get a certificate after study ?
Delicious food is …
London is brass monkeys in January so _______ bring warm clothes.
A L-FW for ‘use’
Strange behaviour – he is acting _______
Istanbul is famous for its covered market, known as a __________
Nose, jaw, mouth … use these features in phrases
Moving from Europe to Asia will undoubtedly result in a degree of ________ _____.
The unspeakably greedy child ______ all the doughnuts !
Actor Mark Hamill basically disagreed with everything in the film script.
After three or four lessons, I expect my students to know several common idioms (their meaning and how to use them appropriately), a number of low-frequency words (L-FWs), how to introduce an answer, how to form a complex sentence and to demonstrate varieties of intonation and stress.
Without these features, you ain’t gonna get above a ‘5’, no way. Therefore, time for a quick review, see how you’re measuring up to the standard, whether you need to turn over a new leaf and put your nose to the grindstone.
Therefore, let’s recap
it’s raining cats and dogs
it costs an arm and a leg
piece of cake
I’m burning the candle at both ends
once in a blue moon
pass with flying colours
turn over a new leaf
put your nose to the grindstone
Part 1: What do the aforementioned idioms mean ?
Part 2: Give each student an idiom. They have to use it, correctly, in a sentence.
absent-minded // sky-high, astronomical // an entrepreneur //
hawkersor peddlers // a mover and a shaker // consider //
Part 3: Students have to describe their neighbourhood, using as many L-FWs, and idioms, as they are able.
That’s a very interesting question
Well, that’s a great question
Well, there is so much to say about that subject, where shall I start ?
It’s funny you put that question to me because earlier today I was just thinking about …
As a young Vietnamese (add your own nationality), I …
Part 4: Students have to demonstrate they know how to introduce their answer.
What do you want to do in the future ?
Give them one minute to prepare a very short reply.
Part 5: Moving on, students have to form complex sentences out of the following information, using intonation to reflect excitement or a positive point and, conversely, a negative factor. Discourse markers to be employed in order to link ideas, naturally. Furthermore, I shall be listening for adverbs and adjectives.
First, choose the correct relative pronoun (who, which, whose or where)
capital of UK // many shops and museums // expensive and cold
Teacher John //
from New Zealand // smiles and plays guitar // talks too fast
real name Tony Starke // very rich and intelligent // is fictional
90 minutes flight from HCMC // friendly people, great food // many western tourists and crowded
ABC English Centre //
located in city centre, District 1 // use laptops and tablets in classes // lessons are four hours long, with extra homework.
Part 6: Class split into two teams. They have to plan a day in their city (here, of course, it’s Sai Gon) for my friend Ethan.
I start by writing the word ‘travel’ on the board, and see how many avenues spread out from it. Start with the grammar; what type of word is it (noun) but it can be made into a verb (to travel, travelling) and the students should remember how to apply it to a person (traveller).
Then we have expressions such as ‘travel broadens the mind.’
We have this quote which introduces metaphor – the world as a book:
Then more pedestrian aspects of travel; how do we travel (transportation), preparation (booking tickets, hotels, visas etc), what do we bring with us (different clothes, sun cream, currency, sun glasses etc). How about culture shock ?
Next, what are the positive aspects of travelling (new cultures, fun, adventure, relaxation) and conversely, the negatives (delays, waiting in soulless airports, getting ripped off, tourist traps, bad hotels etc)
Pair work: students have to write a short passage using ‘although‘ and ‘despite‘ to encapsulate their travel experiences or wishes.
EXAMPLES: Although I absolutely love travelling, there are many drawbacks. Firstly, there is the cost; it can be incredibly expensive what with plane tickets and hotels not to mention having to eat out in restaurants. Despite these issues, travelling can be so relaxing or exciting, seeing new places and doing new things or simply as a break from our normal lives.
Vietnam has many beautiful towns and places of interest although I have only been to a few of them despite travel being relatively cheap in this country. We can fly everywhere within one or two hours, at very reasonable prices although some cheap airlines, such as Vietjet, are notorious for delays.
I have always wanted to visit Beijing in China which is not excessively far from Sai Gon. Despite that, I haven’t been because I am not sure about the visa and how expensive it would be to visit. Additionally, I hear some negative things such as terrible pollution and many tourist scams. Despite the drawbacks, I really want to see the Great Wall, the Forbidden Palace and all the temples. Although Vietnam and China have a complicated relationship, most Vietnamese would agree that Chinese food is delicious.
These exercises help to increase vocabulary and confidence. Furthermore, the repetition helps to make the target language part of the students’ lexical resources.
Group work: Prepare a guide to Sai Gon for tourists.
Allow students access to the class computer for Google images if required.
What to see and do // where and what to eat // what to buy //
What they can do for entertainment
Safety and scams
Cultural differences – what should people do or NOT do in Vietnam ?
Use of interesting adjectives to describe the city centre.
Groups can then present to the class, with all students taking turns speaking. I shall be listening for relevance, pronunciation and use of expressions and discourse markers. Furthermore, I may learn some interesting tips.
My friend Andy is coming to Sai Gon
Using ‘should’ to give advice or information, make suggestions for Andy.
He loves history … what should he visit or see ?
He loves traditional food … what should he eat ?
He can’t ride a motorbike … how should he travel ?
He likes a beer a night (!) … where should he go ?
My Thai friend is coming to Vietnam:
Ms Namsum is young and energetic. She’s into (really enjoy) clubs, sightseeing and shopping.
I suggest she starts the day with a traditional bowl of pho then goes to Sai Gon centre. She can walk there from her hotel in District 1 or take a taxi (Vinasun or Malin ONLY). She will be out of the heat and has a lot of shopping choices and places to eat or grab a coffee. She could rest at her hotel in the afternoon, then go to Nguyen Hue walking street when it gets cooler in the evening. She has many restaurants in this area. Furthermore, there are many English-language menus. Finally, she can go to Bui Vien street where there are many clubs and bars, as well as many tourists speaking English.
What do they students think ? Is that a good plan ? Have I missed something important ?
Language to use:
I see your point
That’s a good idea but …
If I may make a suggestion …
I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.
For example – That’s a good idea but you haven’t thought about sightseeing.
Bui Vien can be very noisy so I’m not sure that’s such a good idea for a young lady on her own.
Two of my friends, Tom and David who are both actors, are coming to Sai Gon. The students, in groups, have to arrange a fun day including sightseeing, shopping, eating and transportation. Then they have to compare their itineraries and exchange views and opinions. The students learn how to politely disagree with each and put forward their ideas and support their choices.
PLAN A DAY FOR TOM & DAVID
Where can they eat ?
What could they see or visit ?
How can they travel around ?
What can they buy as souvenirs ?
Where could they go at night ?
What safety advice would you give ?
What you need to know:
Both are 45-years old. They have good jobs and a good income. They like history and culture. They really enjoy good food and wine. Neither speaks any Vietnamese. They are too old for very loud clubs but they don’t mind having a few beers and maybe seeing some live music.
The students can make a presentation, and use the computer for images or maps to illustrate their plan. Then the other team can explain what they have organised, and the reasons why. I will decide which team has made the best choice.
Activity: Plan a day out for my friends.
I have two friends arriving in Sai Gon (or your city). They want a typical, authentic experience. Plan a day for them. It must include:
Somewhere for a snack
An interesting building or location
Something to do in the evening
Give tips and advice.
How do they travel around ?
What are their options and estimate the prices.
Try to use as much new vocabulary as possible, words and expressions.
Directions to Pham Ngo Lao Street District 1 // Directions to a city centre street.
Ask for help. Other must offer as much help – how to get there, the best way, the price, the dangers. Body language – distance, expression, intonation, eye contact etc
Is Sai Gon safe ?
Can you understand Vietnamese people speaking English ?
Do you agree with their points ?
Are there any words you didn’t understand ?
Do you have any bad experiences ? Tell the class your anecdote.
Word bomb– what do you think of when I say ‘hotel’ ?
Checking in to a hotel
reception / lift or elevator / single or double room / king size bed or twins /
first floor / complimentary breakfast / key deposit / luggage storage / safe / mini bar
What would the conversation be ?
Reception: How may I help you / May I ask your name ? / Can I see your reservation code ? / That’s fine. You stay for three nights ? / May I have your passport, please ? / You’re in room 237. That’s on the second floor / Thank you. Sign here, please / Yes, the lift is just over there. / Naturally, as well as a hair dryer, coffee machine and mini bar. / Enjoy your stay.
Guest: Hello, we have a reservation / We booked a room online / My name’s ….. / Certainly, it’s on my phone. / Yes, that’s right. / Absolutely. / Correct. / Just a second; here you are./ Is there a lift ? / The second floor ? / Is there a safe in the room ? / Perfect. Thanks very much
Make a conversation. One student will be the reception, the other(s) a guest or guests.
Write your own conversation
You are in a hotel bar and you meet another guest. Start a polite conversation, but you have to use your English.
Greet each other
Why are you in this city ? (holiday or on business)
Offer to buy a drink (accept or decline – maybe you don’t drink alcohol)
How long are they staying ? What do they think of the hotel ? What can they do in the area around the hotel ?
Small group work
You are two married couples who meet on a tour and are staying at the same hotel OR you are on a business trip and meet some other business people.
Use the following sentences, as well as your own, to make a conversation. try to keep speaking for as long as possible by using small talk techniques (oh, really / that’s interesting / tell me more / what do you do exactly ? / where is that ? / Sounds interesting)
My wife and I are delighted to meet you
Shall we go to the bar or cafe ?
Can offer name first (I’m Simon, what’s your name ?)
Would you fancy a drink … ?
Is there anywhere special to do here ?
Sorry, I have to get my head down, it’s been a long flight (I need to sleep).
My colleague and I were going out to eat.
I fancy a beer or something alcoholic
Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t ask where you are from.
Would you like to join us ?
Peckish (little hungry)
What do you think of these hotel rooms ?
What do you think of the design ?
Would you like to stay in any of these ? Why, or why not ?
Let’s kick off with an old friend: Peter from England.
Age 24 // MA in Business Studies Born in Surrey, close to London Unemployed // Single //
Enjoys pubs, tennis and movies Wants to run his own company
From that information, build a complex sentence – basically combine two, three or more facts and connect them with relative pronouns and discourse markers:
Peter, who has a MA in Business studies, wants to run his own company.
Peter, who is from Surrey, enjoys pubs, tennis and movies.
From this point, the sky is the limit.
Despite being unemployed, Peter, who has a Master’s Degree in Business Studies, has entrepreneurial dreams of owning his own company.
Although he has an MA and is actively seeking employment Peter, who is from Surrey which is close to London, still finds time to indulge his passion for tennis, even becoming a member of an exclusive sporting clubs, whose membership fees are sky-high.
NOW …YOUR TURN
Write and then present a complex sentence about your partner. Gather some basic information, such as:
Age (if they are willing to say) // where they are from
Job or Study // Where they work or study //
What they like doing// What they dislike // Plans for the future
For Speaking Class level 2, I expect at least one relative pronoun (who, where, which, whose).
For IELTS, try for two relative pronouns, two L-FWs and at least one expression or idiom.
You should be familiar and able to use these words at the drop of a hat:
Which adjectives could describe the four types of area ?
Speaking exercise – imagine you live in the first picture. Describe the neighbourhood and your life. However, when you get a high-paying job, you want to take out a mortgage and move to the second picture. Describe that neighbourhood.
Introducing and expanding your answer
Do you like coffee ?
I like many drinks however coffee is my favourite 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.
NB (Latin – nota bene = note well, please read, important information)
I didn’t answer immediately but introduced the question.
Use of discourse markers to extend the answer
Saying something positive and negative about the subject
This was all one sentence – a complex sentence which you will need to start using in order to pass IELTS with flying colours
Living in HCM
Working and studying.
ubiquitous everywhere, very common
naïve innocent, inexperienced
stroll a gentle walk, for exercise (collocation: take a stroll)
a bazaar (noun) a permanent, covered market
bizarre (adjective) very strange, unusual
absent-minded extremely forgetful
sky-high, astronomical very expensive, maybe too expensive
predictable it is possible to guess the answer, people doing the same thing
Street _______ are common in Vietnam, and they are _________ in District 1. It is nearly impossible for a westerner to take a ________ without being approached. Some claim to sell Ray Bans or designer sunglasses, but you would have to be extremely ________ to believe they are genuine ! They are all fake, probably made in China. Many people try to _____(collocation) money by selling to tourists especially around Ben Thanh Market, a kind of _______, though this is strictly for tourists as the prices are ____________ !
First time in Viet Nam – First impressions of Viet Nam
A vlog by Divert Living, posted just over two years ago and which has already received more than a million hits:
[American English accent]
Try 04:44 – 04:53
” … and I asked them, ‘How much is aqua (water) ?’ Aqua’s fifteen thousand, beer’s twenty thousand … of course I’m gonna get the beer, now … it’s just as expensive as the water.”
09:00 – 0913
“Fun fact, Vietnamese cuisine is considered one of the healthiest cuisines in the world … and, to go with the food, the size of the dining tables and chairs are super small.”
A database of idioms that my physical classes covered previously as well as new idioms plus a reminder of some low-frequency words that are guaranteed to impress the examiner. Let’s kick off with some vocabulary building:
We’ve got photographs of men on the moon We’ve got water that is good for us We’ve got coffee that’s instantaneous We’ve got buildings that are very tall We’ve got cigarettes that are low in tar We’ve got policemen can tell us who we are We can reproduce a work of art We’ve got missiles can tear the world apart Good, good, good, good, good, good technology
We’ve got trains that run underground Aeroplanes that fly very fast We’ve got music that is popular We’ve got machines that sound like orchestras We’ve got ability to transplant a heart We’ve got freezers full of body parts We’ve got computers that can find us friends We know roughly when the world will end Good, good, good, good, good, good technology
We’ve got animals with transistors in We’ve got pills that can make you slim We’ve got factories turning frozen chickens out We’ve got ovens that cook in seconds flat We’ve got plastics that are indestructible We’ve got deodorants that make us smell of flowers We’ve got detergents to clean up the sea We’ve got sounds can turn you inside out
Sometimes I wonder what it is all about There’s lots of leisure time to sit and work it out There’s a TV show I’ve got to see Good, good, good, good, good, good technology Good technology
Now, to cut down on ‘Teacher Talking Time’ and to get the class prepared to speak, to use intonation and stress as well as affording them the chance to use their L-FWs and idioms, a little warm up activity.
Firstly, what did you think of the song, with special reference to the lyrics and themes. remember – this song was from the 1980s, before mobile phones and the internet, which are now ubiquitous.
Ask and answer. Speak to many different students.
Elicit answers, interview your fellow students, pump them for information, don’t allow them to get away with a two- or three-word answers
How many hours do you use a computer every day ?
[Ask what the computer is used for, ask for examples, favourite sites, what is the work – play balance ?]
Do you have a smartphone ? If so, what type ?
Have you ever read an e-book ? Which one ?
What are your favourite video games ?
Do you write or read a blog ?
Are you on Instagram or Twitter ? Why or why not ?
When do you post comments online ?
Do you make phone calls or text family and friends ?
Our plan for the next semester is to develop speaking skills – presentation and delivery – as well as, naturally, increasing vocabulary, colocations, phrases, idioms … in short, the whole nine yards.
I don’t want to overburden the class with too many idioms, so these are what we’ll be using over this semester. That means using them repeatedly until they become second nature and the students, of whom I am very fond, will have another string to their bow … oh, heck – ANOTHER idiom !
Another string to (your) bow – a new skill or learning experience
bear with me – please wait a very short time (usually spoken as opposed to written)
bit of a sore point – something that makes you sad or angry
down in the dumps – depressed, unhappy, feeling gloomy
hit the ground running – to start something immediately and with all your energy
like a madhouse – a place or area that is crazy, too noisy, too busy etc
run of the mill – ordinary, typical, normal, usual, boring
up in arms – to be very angry about something, to protest strongly
you take your life in your hands – doing something that is extremely dangerous
NOW … your turn … what idioms fits ?
At breaktimes, all the younglings come pouring out of their classes, screaming their little heads off …
Students are unhappy about tuition fees
They are _____________
She can speak five languages, do karate and is now learning violin
She has added __________________________
She thought the novel would be extremely exciting.
Unfortunately, for her, it’s just a ___________________ story.
Some areas of downtown are no-go areas.
You really _________________________________________ if you go after dark and alone.
Poor Buster is so funny, yet he always looks _______________________
Oh, dear …
This beautiful young lady seems to be upset about something.
Possibly something the man said is a ______________________ with her ?
We’re going to have a tremendous success with our new product which we shall be launching in Europe, the US and parts of Asia.
We’re really going to ________________________________
Excuse me, I have to take this call _______________________
How would you describe these neighbourhoods ? I want full sentences, as complex as you can make them, bursting with idioms, expressions and Low-Frequency Words. Give your opinions – would you like to go there, or even live there ? Explain your rationale.
Practice making complex sentences, with two clauses at least, from these simple sentences.
Johnny always went to the cinema when he was a child.
As a child, Johnny always went to the cinema.
GRAMMAR NOTE – the first word after the supporting clause has to be the subject.
We always played games when we had Mr Tony as our teacher.
He speaks English well although his written work is rather poor.
The Who were formed in west London in the early 1960s. They are a very famous, influential bands despite never having a Number 1 hit single.
My neighbour only works in a convenience store. She thinks she is a big star. She is constantly taking selfies.
And … to end, let’s start copying some classic movie scenes: