IELTS 5 – 6.5: Extra activities

10th September for 11th September 2019 pp. 22 – 23

Tonight’s lesson is quite full, focusing on speaking and pronunciation, with extra worksheets to encourage longer sentences and the use of IELTS-preferred language. Subsequently, there is no so much for a teacher to prepare. Having said that, the students generally respond well to more active exercises. As such, I’ve prepared a handful of said items.

Warm Up – students arrive on Viet time, so I always start with a minor exercise. Tonight, we will go over some new vocabulary and then apply in short sentences. Last week, we covered:

disparity // tongue in cheek // consider // extrapolate // significance

And we need to increase the frequency of discourse markers:

subsequently // therefore // consequently

First, elicit the meanings, then decide which words or expressions fill these gaps ?

You must scan the article quickly in order to ……….. the relevant information.

There is a huge ………. between the super rich and the poor in many countries.

Image result for super rich super poor

The students just played with their phones in class. …………. many failed their test.

I need time to …………. your proposal.

What was the ………… of 30th April 1975 ?

He refused to ask directions and …………. was completely lost.

“Vietnam is such a clean, environmentally-friendly country,” John said, ……………..

BONUS POINTS:

What does Thay Paul drink in the morning …?

Tony was busy ……………………………… to his friend (phoning).

What is the name of those three dots (…) in a text ?

Can you think of a good anecdote ? Oh, I can ……………… (remember something)

Next Up: What’s the story.

Here, I board some key words and the students have to try to devise a plot of a film:

China // rural // poverty // teenage teacher // naughty // runaway // search // appeal on TV // subsequently // reunited.

Give the students a few minutes to come up with a plot-line, and listen to their ideas.

Show this clip and see how close (or miles away) they were: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgtEYDc1JW4

NOT ONE LESS, (YI GE DOU BU NENG SHAO), Wei Minzhi, 1999, (c) Sony Pictures Classics

This short trailer is also great for listening as well as learning new vocabulary.

We have a lot to get through tonight, so time to hit the books, and cover the extra speaking activities.

Movin’ on: Speaking practice

I have list of general, small talk questions. The task is to respond in such a way as to impress an IELTS teacher. As always, best to start with an example, so a simple, very open question:

What kind of music do you like ?

One could just list some genres, but that wouldn’t cut it for IELTS. So, to increase sentence length, start with a short introduction, for example:

Music is very important in my life; I listen to some form of music every day. I really couldn’t imagine life without songs.

Then go on to explain in detail. People rarely only like one type of music, so that opens up the scope of the response:

When I was younger, of course I liked pop music such as (list two or three examples), but nowadays, I find myself listening more to (name some different genres).

Then how do you listen to music ? Computer, You Tube, Spotify, MP3 player, on your phone ? Do you buy, stream or download. Do you buy CDs ?

Can you play an instrument ? If so, which one(s). If not, you can still talk about it:

Although I love music, I don’t actually play any instruments, though I have always wanted to learn (the piano, guitar, oboe etc), and, who knows … maybe in the future I will.

Then turn the conversation; is there any music you don’t like ? This will enable the speaker to use an appropriate discourse marker:

Be that as it may // That notwithstanding // Having said that, I absolutely detest (give an example or examples – are there occasions when you are forced to listen to music ?) karaoke, which is so prevalent in Viet Nam, not to mention drunken wedding party ‘singing’.

I have a list of several questions. Students can work in small groups or pairs and choose one question about which they feel most confident. After a short preparation time, they must speak without repetition, hesitation or deviation – their partners can check this.

Finally, as an endgame, I can play some music and the students have to identify the genre from the above list.

Sweet ‘Love is Like Oxygen’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXJ4TZSXtzc

Nirvana ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’

watch?v=hTWKbfoikeg

Chic ‘Good Times’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Er9xGRolrT4

Stray Cats ‘Stray Cat Strut’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbAyj1h9vI0

And on that note … lesson over.

IELTS 5 – 6.5: “I don’t like cricket …”

2nd September for Wednesday 4th September. Listening pp. 20 – 21

Tonight’s focus is on listening, which is perhaps the hardest part of learning English. I often mention the disparity between reading a text and actually hearing said text spoken, with contractions, glottal stops, chunking not to mention accents and accelerated articulation.

Last week, the class were surprisingly lively, and seemed to enjoy some role-playing activities, to practise speaking. I warned them that a listening lesson was coming up, and they were stoical about it, one student even saying that they understand, and it’s not my fault. I have to follow the syllabus, my hands are tied … but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun !

Warm Up: As students are arriving, I’ll start by relating a simple anecdote. The students then have to repeat the important information. The second time, I’ll include more information, and more the third time … and so on. For example:

On Monday, I watched a Korean film called ‘… ing’, which was made in 2003. It’s a romantic drama and is a real tearjerker.

Yesterday, I woke up at 5.50, drank two cups of damn fine coffee, and checked my emails, posted a blog and caught up with friends on Facebook.

Speaking of Facebook, one of my favourite films is ‘The Social Network’ about how the company was founded. It was made in 2010 and based on a book that was published in 2009. I really love this scene in the film which features a song called ‘Dreadlock Holiday’ by the band 10cc (can watch up to 0:45).

Image result for social network caribbean night

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tVYr-a33Bw

BONUS POINTS … at the beginning of the scene, some young Jewish men are speaking about why Jewish guys like Asian girls … what, according to the character Eduardo, is the reason (This is one of my favourite all-time cinema quotes) ?

As with all tonight’s real-life clips, we’ll see if any of the students can repeat the quote, aiming for pronunciation, chunking and a natural rhythm.

Speaking of, apropos of ‘Dreadlock Holiday’, can the students understand the first verse and chorus ? This link has the lyrics, so I can turn off the projector and just have them listen, then listen again with the words.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q659IaXrS3Y

Next up, a version of Chinese Whispers (which is probably a politically incorrect name now). Be that as it may, (and no offence whatsoever to our northern neighbours) the game works like this (assuming that most of the students have arrived, the Vietnamese not being the most punctual of people, and that’s not racist, it’s a fact – they even have a name for it, which translates as ‘rubber-band time’):

Class in two teams. I take the first person of each team outside and give them a separate sentence. They must go back to the class, tell their neighbour and see if the final person is able to repeat the line. Can be repeated depending on class reaction.

A good activity to encourage inter-student communication is to put the class into two or three groups. Each group is handed a paper with some information. One person has to read aloud without showing the paper, and the others have to see how much they can understand. The speaker may be asked to repeat, so it’s also a good way to introduce phrases. A typical card may be:

I’m looking to speak with Ms Nguyen // I’m in the office from 11.00 – 15.00 // I want to discuss the new school building // I work for Vietnam News // Call me on 032 734 9201.

Useful Expressions:

Could you repeat that, please ?

I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your number.

Would you be so kind as to leave your name ?

Let me make a note. Hold the line.

Is there a message I can take ?

[With a small group, this could be done one student at a time, but may be intimidating for some students.]

And then, it’s time to hit the books – it’s high time we hit the books.

End game: To continue the listening, but bringing it alive, I’ll show a couple of evergreen clips. One is from ‘Twin Peaks’, a cult TV show from the 1990s. The main character, like the writer of this blog, loves coffee. The students have to copy the body language and say:

“Wait a minute, wait a minute …. this is, excuse me, a damn fine cup of coffee.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxwcQ1dapw8

Finally, the late, great, Peter O’Toole on the David Letterman chat show. The host is a fast-talking American, the actor, an Irish-born, incredibly charismatic, flamboyant old-time movie star. He is asked to tell an anecdote, and rather than a pedestrian, “Let me see,” he delivers, with perfect timing:

“Oh, I think I can shuffle through my memory.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Fl3bOeXvyI&list=PL97HViQblvdEM3zsauRxnIg1baFTNmsDM&index=25&t=51s

Related image

Listening Tips: I have a plethora of clips and exercises on a previous blog: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2019/01/23/listening-skills-tips-and-links/

IELTS 5- 6.5: Just like starting over

13th August for Wednesday 14th August. Unit 1 pp 8 – 9.

Lesson focus: Listening skills

Theme: Moving to a new country

Objectives: Improve conversation skills by using discourse markers, better vocabulary and supporting clauses.

Allow students to hear ‘real-life’ native speakers in song and vlogs.

Introduction song – John Lennon ‘Starting Over.’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPfB9KG9rao

Yoko Ono and John Lennon.

Songs are a great way to introduce new vocabulary and expressions, as well as how native speaking pronounce and link words together. Early in the song, we have words such as ‘precious‘ and expressions like ‘we have grown‘ and ‘time flies so quickly.’

Warm up: Mind map – Travel

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.

As a break from the book work, I’ll show the class a vlog from YouTube, two tourists who come to Sai Gon and what they think of the city. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iw_K-1AmVk

How do the tourists feel about the city ? As residents, do they agree with the review ?

Students can discuss the video using the following language:

I agree totally // I agree to an extent // I disagree // I’m not entirely sure // No way ! They don’t know what they are talking about !

optimistic // uninformed // delusional // open-minded // enthusiastic

Group work: Prepare a guide to Sai Gon for tourists.

Allow students access to the class computer for Google images if required.

Include

What to see and do // where and what to eat // what to buy //

What they can do for entertainment

Travel tips

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.

IELTS: sentence building

22nd July 2019

Here are some tips to help you expand your sentences, as well as incorporating language use that IELTS examiners will expect. Also bear in mind that the way you speak, the para-linguistics, is equally important.

Sentence building – becoming fluent and coherent

Use

  • adverbs
  • adjectives
  • opinions phrases
  • linking words and discourse markers
  • new vocabulary

EXAMPLE: I like coffee

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uvs7pmISe8I

Ask

  1. how MUCH do you like it (adverbs) ?
  2. What kind of coffee (adjectives) ?
  3. What do you think about this ? (opinions)
  4. WHY do you like it (give reasons)
  5. interesting words, phrases, idioms

Example

I enjoy coffee (a little / incredibly) because it helps bring people together as well as making our minds become quite active and somewhat excited. Coffee, from my point of view, is essentially useful if we use it in moderation. On the other hand, coffee can be a dreadful waste of money not to mention having a detrimental effect on our health such as insomnia. Despite the negative aspects, coffee makes me feel over the moon!

EXERCISE: Where do you drink coffee ?

Plan –

Introduction: one complex sentence.

Where do you go ? Do you go to many different types ? What do you usually order ?

Why do you go there ? What are the good points ? How often do you visit ? With whom do you go ? How long do you spend there ?

Compare the store with another (price, choice, comfort, amenities).

Are there any negative aspects ? Price, location, crowds, parking etc.

Conclusion: one sentence summary of what you have said.

IF you don’t drink coffee, then you can explain why not, and where you like to go to hang out with friends. Even if you never go out, you can talk about that as it will afford you the opportunity to give reasons and build more complex sentences.

Highlands Coffee, a popular chain in Vietnam.

Practice adjectives by describing this photo.

Increase your word power

Match the basic words with others of similar meaning

For example boring = tedious

interesting attain on time fascinating

forgetful miserable live (I live in) jovial

smart (clever) exhausted

unhappy punctual

happy feasible

possible reside

tired intelligent

get (a qualification) environment

place absent-minded

Interviews

What is your favourite beer ?

Image result for czech beer"

Well, I like many beers but my favourite is Czech beer. For example, Pilsner, Budweiser or Staropramen. I think the taste is very good as well as being excellent quality. 

Along with Czech beer, I also really like Mexican beer such as Corona or Desperado. 

Having said that, these beers can be expensive so sometimes I just drink Vietnamese beer, maybe Saigon Red or 333 because they are much cheaper.

1 Answer the question in a proper sentence

2 Give examples

3 Give reasons

4 What else ?

5 An opposite conjunction (but, however, having said that, on the other hand)

6 What instead ?

Remember to use adverbs and adjectives to make your speech more interesting

Well, I like many beers but my favourite is Czech beer. 

For example, Pilsner, Budweiser or Staropramen. 

I think the taste is very good as well as being excellent quality. 

Along with Czech beer, I also really like Mexican beer such as Corona or Desperado. 

Having said that, these beers can be expensive 

so sometimes I just drink Vietnamese beer, maybe Saigon Red or 333 because they are much cheaper.

Ask each other some of the following questions:

The interviewer must keep asking questions until the speaker has nothing more to say.

Interviewer can ask, ‘Why do you say that?’, ‘What other reasons?’ ‘Why else ?’

Do you think sports are good ?

What do you like about working for your company ? / Attending your school ?

Do you spend, save or invest your money ?

What films do you like best ? Do you go to the cinema or watch at home ?

IELTS Unit 6: ch – ch – ch – ch – changes

16th April 2019

Tomorrow night I’m substituting a new IELTS class which is going to be very heavy on reading. In order to offset this passive activity, I want to promote and encourage as much speaking as possible AND to make the students take notes of any new words or phrases. Apparently, note-taking is not big in Vietnam; for a teacher, it can seem that the students are expecting to be entertained. It’s quite amazing the amount of students who attend class without notebooks, writing implements or the motivation to open their mouths and practice the language they are paying to learn.

Therefore, I have to make it clear at the outset what I expect them to do if THEY expect to get a good grade. Taking a photo of the board is not good enough, they need to physically write and practice the new vocabulary. Wether I am successful is another matter (for another blog).

And so, without further ado, tomorrow’s plan.

The theme is about changing lives, making decisions, trying something new. Consequently, I’ll play three songs which feature a change of one description or other. Let’s start with the song alluded to in the title, ‘Changes’ by the British legend David Bowie:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCgzX7vwlFk

David Bowie in the early 1970s … going through many changes

Next we have USA Soul-singer, Otis Redding. He sings about a life-changing move: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISxskvJ9FwI

Otis Redding who left his home in Georgia …..

Finally the use of change in a more abstract way, a mental activity. If someone makes a decision then has a different view, we say they ‘change their mind’. That is the subject of our last song, ‘Baby, Don’t Change your Mind’ by Gladys Knight & the Pips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6IjDftWaXpA

Gladys Knight

The first task is to identify the type of change mentioned in the song then subsequently moving on to a second task; what do they think of the music ?

This will involve forming opinions, and using special vocabulary pertaining to music. To begin with, the students have been given several opportunities to practise these:

In my opinion

For me

I feel that

From my point of view

Then some new phrases to express like or dislike:

I really love it / I quite like it / I’m crazy about it

I can take it or leave it / I don’t mind it

I’m quite keen on it / I’m not so keen on it

I’m into it / I’m not really into it / I’m not into it at all !

I can’t stand it / It’s excruciating / I can’t bear it

It’s not my cup of tea / It’s right up my street

Now vocabulary pertaining to the actual music:

melodic / tuneless

catchy / boring

repetitive / interesting

rhythmic / great beat /

uplifting / depressing / melancholic

The students will have to move around the room (always a challenge as most students are glued to their seats for the whole three-hours and simply will not move) and interview each other. It’s my job to get them to elucidate and expand their answers, to illustrate that a basic, ‘I like it’, isn’t what is expected from an IELTS student … and isn’t going to be accepted by THIS teacher.

Thereafter, I want to move from music to cinema. I’m going to show some stills of Asian films and let the students work together to create possible scenarios. As always, I’ll model one example. This is from one of my favourite directors, Hong Kong’s Wong Kar-wai, and the film in 1994s ‘Chungking Express’.

Brigitte Lin

This still doesn’t give much information … but it has some. The figure wears a long trench-coat as worn by detectives or private eyes in US crime films). Her blonde hair is a wig and she wears sunglasses … at night. What does that suggest ?

Furthermore, the scene is well-lit by the store; what area of Asia could this be, where there is so much light, neon, brightness and excitement ?

In answer, the film is set in Hong Kong. The lady is organising some smuggling. If it works, she will make a lot of money. If it fails, her life is certainly in severe danger. Whatever happens, this night will change her life.

Now, the students have to look at these stills:


Where is this film set ? What could be the life-changing situation ? For a clue, consider the ages of two of the characters. On the other hand:

Take Care of my Cat

Where is this set ? (the signs give a clue). This is a film about five young ladies who have just left school. What changes are they facing ? Finally, a film closer to home:

The Owl and the Sparrow

The students will probably recognise the setting and the situation. How do they read the body language of the actors ? What could change ? How are the girls in this situation in the first place ?

After this, it’s time to hit the books.

To make reading more of an active activity, the students can work in pairs. One will read one paragraph, then relate the information to their partner. This is then repeated with the second partner reading then relating. Thus they practice reading, speaking and listening.

Furthermore, they can try to rephrase some lines, a useful ability to have in an IELTS test.

To end, we could show some clips of films, then pause and ask the students what they think will happen next, and to describe what they see in the shot. This helps develop the use of adjectives and discourse markers. And who knows … maybe they will change their habits and actually get up from their chairs.

IELTS Revisited

10th April 2019

I’m now taking my second IELTS class, and the great thing is that I’ve already made lesson plans. Additionally, my class is much smaller – seven students as opposed to 17 – and they seem slightly more motivated and animated.

But there is still room for improvement … and I’m referring here to myself, as a teacher. My centre tries to promote as much student talking-time as possible, ideally aiming for as high as 80% student conversation … ideally. In reality, the teacher has to face a number of obstacles. I’ll save those for another, more general blog, as I want to dedicate this post to extra work, and tips to get the students talking.

First up, I need to make the students take notes (Vietnamese are not in the habit of doing this, as my centre manager explained). Instead, they will often just take a photo of the board. Secondly, once the student has sat down, they generally will not move until it is time to leave … three hours later.

I will now insist that they take out and use notebooks, the rationale being that the active process of writing will help them remember the words or phrases much better than taking a photo (which they may never look at) or relying on their memory.

Likewise, I will strongly recommend that instead of sitting and talking with the same person all class, they get up and move around, practice with different people (“But teacher, I am tired, I am lazy,” – I have actually heard these from people half my age ).

Now, without further ado, some extra work.

In Lesson Two, I started off with some compound nouns, based upon shopping. This was a way to introduce new vocabulary as well as filling time while late students arrive.

My manager suggested that this could be developed into a speaking exercise. For example, using the compound nouns ‘bulk shopping’, ‘window shopping’, ‘binge shopping’, ‘impulse shopping’ and ‘dumpster diving’, make a presentation with questions:

Have you ever made an impulse purchase ?

How often do you go window shopping ?

Do you ever buy in bulk ?

Is dumpster diving popular in Viet Nam ?

Then, what are the pros and cons of:

Typical street market … but is the fruit safe ?
District 7 shopping mall: food courts, cinema, shops and stalls.
Souvenir store in District 1. Are the prices fixed or does it depend on how rich the buyer looks ?

Basically, get the students speaking as much as possible. To help them develop longer, more complex sentences, I’ve given them sheets of discourse markers, and each week we focus on one type and select three words. For example, last week was ‘addition’; instead of saying ‘and’, they could use ‘additionally’, ‘furthermore’, or ‘moreover.’

This gets practiced when they have to link two basic sentences:

I like coffee. I like tea.

They could be linked by a simple ‘and’, but try using new discourse markers.

Sentences can be built up by using adjectives, adverbs, discourse markers, and by the use of clauses. This will entail relative pronouns … but that is for another lesson. The students have two months and hopefully they will see improvements after every lesson.

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 adjectives to describe nouns

adverbs to 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

reasons why 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

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

IELTS: Chunking Express. Final Lesson.

4th March 2019

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:

chunking

noun [ U ] /tʃʌŋ.kɪŋ/ specialized

a way of dealing with or remembering informationby separating it into small groups or chunkshttps://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/chunking

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):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DX8aUixCpek

What film was Wong Kar-Wai making ?

Who was in it ?

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.

A Kindle ebook

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.

My Kindle

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.

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/