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 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

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. Possibly I could show them a clip of English-speakers in Vietnam; what they (the people in the show) think of it, how they react. The clip I have in mind is when the ‘Top Gear’ team arrived, their mission to drive from Ho Chi Minh City to Ha Noi. What could possibly go wrong ?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WY4AjJmvXBk (0.40 – 02.06)

(‘Top Gear’ is a motoring show on the BBC. In this episode, they come to Vietnam and try to buy cars).

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/

IELTS: Have Love, Will Travel.

10th February 2019

Lesson Notes for Monday 18th February

The theme this week is travel, and students will be expected to give an IELTS response to a question given by the examiner. To warm up (and allowing for the ‘rubber-band’ punctuality of Vietnamese), a quick exercise. Three groups of people arrive at Tan Song Nhat airport and want to get to their hotels in District 1. Maybe they have had a long journey, feel tired and disorientated, not knowing where to go.

What advice would you give them ?

What should they look out for ? What are the dos and don’ts ?

How to get from the airport to District 1

Taxis

The cost to District 1 ranges from 150,000 to 170,000 dong. Do not use USD as it is an opportunity to get ripped off. Use only the two most reliable taxi companies, Mai Linh and Vinasun.Make sure you get a metered taxi.

The cheapest way is to take public city Bus # 152.

It takes you downtown to the Bus Station on the opposite side of Ben Thanh market. The fare is 5,000 dong per person and per piece of big luggage. It runs every 20 minutes from 6 am until 6 pm.

Or you can chose the new Bus 109

Bright yellow, to the City Centre. It runs through the main streets of HCM and the final stop is at Pham Ngu Lao. They run every 15-20 minutes between 5:30 am and 1:30 am. Cost for one-way trip is 20,000 dong and the entire journey takes approximately 45 minutes.

What would you recommend for these people:

Australian business men. Arrive at 10.00 am. Have no Viet currency, only $. Very hot and tired, just want a shower and sleep.

Canadian medical students. Arrive at 14.30. Have local currency. Want to save money but be safe.

French backpackers. Arrive 02.00 am. Very little money.

For IELTS, the students should aim to speak for one – two minutes, without repeating, hesitating or going off-topic (not answering the question). Today’s exercise is to describe a journey that the student has been on. They should mention:

Types of transport used and why

With whom they travelled

Good points / bad points

Why the trip was memorable

The exercise needs to be properly introduced, points arranged logically and wrapped up with a neat concluding sentence or two. Coincidently, I’m going to Bangkok tomorrow, so we could use my experience as a model.

My old friend was visiting Bangkok and, as Thailand is close to Vietnam, I decided to take a short holiday and meet up with him.

I flew with ….

Then took the BTS Skytrain

Then a …

To my hotel. I travelled alone, however I planned to meet up with …

The highlights of the trip undoubtedly:

Not forgetting the …

And Thailand is famous for the friendliness of its people…

The only black cloud was how short the break was, and having to …

All good things must end. It was an amazing trip and the fact that I could meet an old friend made it even more memorable. I hope we can repeat the experience, sooner rather than later.

The students must flesh out the notes, using adjectives, discourse markers adverbs and interesting expressions. Along with this, the voice must depict excitement or disappointment, indicate what is factual and what is an opinion.

And, to link with the title, an appropriate travel song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20S_kwNb4rg

The Sonics ‘Have Love, Will Travel’.

Getting students talking can be a problem, so a simple ‘word bomb’ exercise could be a way of breaking the ice. I shall board the work ‘airport’ and try to elicit as much information or ideas as possible. However, one has to be sensitive to the background of the students. Many are young and would not have had the opportunities to travel that many western people take for granted.

The latter part of the lesson is dedicated to reading. To make this more interesting, I will recommend that the students work in pairs, take turns reading a paragraph, then report to their partner. This is repeated with the partner now reading and reporting to the original speaker.

Winding down, I’ve found some blogs written by non-native speakers which are positively riddled with mistakes. The students can then correct and improve the text, then read it to each other, or the class if they are feeling brave, for pronunciation exercise.

To end, we can look at some funny holiday clips from YouTube and ask if any of the students have had interesting travel experiences, all the time encouraging them to speak in longer and better composed sentences. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XyXZL9nRvo

Listen for: “You pay good money,” ‘You look forward to …” “seduced by glossy brochure,” “I mentioned it,” “pneumatic drill,” “It didn’t turn out like that.”

IELTS: “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.”

28th January 2019

This quote is from the Austrian philosopher Dr Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889 – 1951) who analysed, among other subjects, the philosophy of language. His works are notoriously obtuse, difficult to read, but some pertinent quotes arise from the vague verbosity, and the above is entirely suitable to language learning. Students often feel frustrated by their lack of vocabulary, their inability to fully express their true feelings. As an examiner, I can sense their embarrassment or anger as they vainly search for a suitable word or phrase. It is so tempting to prompt them but … I mustn’t. Empathy but not assistance.

Tonight’s lesson will focus mainly on listening (there will be a practice test) and reading. However, we start with vocabulary, so I have some exercises aimed at expanding their repertoire, and helping them construct longer sentences.

We shall discuss the Wittgenstein quote and, with the early students, start an informal discussion about how they feel when they speak English. This leads into the first exercise, some new vocabulary and a cloze Test (gap-fill).

New vocabulary

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

messy untidy

laundry / laundromat dirty clothes / a place to wash clothes (collocation: do laundry)

predictable it is possible to guess the answer, people doing the same thing

hawkers

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 ____________ !

This will lead into a general talk (hopefully) where the students can practise some of the new words, and share their experiences.

The next task will be sentence construction. IELTS expects reasonably long and well-constructed sentences. I’ll start with some examples and then give them three themes on which to work.

Sentence building

Use adjectives to describe nouns

adverbs to describe adjectives and verbs – give more information

opinion phrases

linking words to connect positive to positive or positive to negative

reasons why an action is being done

EXAMPLE:

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.

Teaching

I taught a brother & sister; the sister was a bit of a handful always chatting or texting during class. In complete contrast, the brother was a really good student as well as being a young gentleman. I felt he was an ideal student.

Try these:

  • Living in HCM
  • Free time
  • Working and studying.

Finally, there will be some work on suffixes. I’ll focus on ‘ment’ and ‘ness’

‘ment’ or ‘ness’ ?

adjectives = ‘ness’ / verb = ‘ment’

1 The ……. of the court was that he serve five years. JUDGE

2 Hilary couldn’t contain her ……… EXCITE

3 I was amazed at the new iPhone’s ….. LIGHT

4 Getting 95% is a great ……… ACHIEVE

5 Fainting is like losing ………. CONSCIOUS

6 Trying to teach some students is sheer ……MAD

In general to be something = ‘ness’: to be light (in weight) = lightness. If you can just use ‘to’ + word then it will be ‘ment’ e.g. to excite = excitement.

But of course … it is not that simple, as Wittgenstein would be quick to point out. As any English – language student realises, English isn’t 100% logical. Most verbs add an -s in the third person, yet one of the most common verbs ‘to be’ is entirely different (I am, you are, he she it is…).

Most verbs (about 75%) simply add -ed to form the past tense, yet many common verbs are irregular and have to be learnt (or learned) separately. Yet, it doesn’t stop there … even with a regular -ed form, the pronunciation will differ depending on the spelling of the verb. As they say in Sai Gon, “Oi troi oi !” So, while ‘ness’ or ‘ment’ are added to adjectives or verbs, exceptions in grammar can arise.

For example, if someone’s expectations are not met, they are said to be disillusioned. Here, the word is used as an adjective but the noun form is disillusionment. Similarly, an area can be described as ‘overdeveloped‘ but again, the noun is ‘overdevelopment.’

In the last stages of the class, energy is waning so we need to close the books and find an activity. As it is soon Tet Holiday in Viet Nam, I can show some pictures and ask the students to describe what is happening.

May I wish you all chúc mừng năm mới

IELTS: I love it, I hate it, it’s not my cup of tea, it’s OK.

Monday 21st January 2019

Tonight is what we call a ‘mixed bag’; the lesson includes speaking, reading, listening and grammar. It’s Monday; students will be arriving after work, tired, maybe not entirely motivated, maybe not entirely in the mood for a three-hour lesson, maybe committed to watching the clock move it’s intractable hands from 6 to 9. IELTS is a hard course, it requires work, energy, motivation. The teacher’s thankless task is to bring the book alive, motivate the unmotivated and ignore, rise above, the veiled insults and sarcasm that is prevalent in most classes. But, enough, time to put noses to grindstones and upload tonight’s plan.

The first 15 / 20 minutes or so are a French farce of people coming and going, greeting each other, moving chairs, chatting on phones. I do a short warm up exercise, introducing vocabulary or phrases. It provides useful expressions for punctual students, whereas latecomers will not have missed any book work. Tonight it’s going to be common fixed expressions and in which situation they can be used:

This one’s on me Let me think about it    It doesn’t matter Thanks for coming

I don’t believe a word of it  I’ll be with you in a minute As I was saying It was lovely to see you I don’t get the point   I see what you mean

You look great today I’ll be making a move then  Just looking, thanks 

Match the phrase(s) with the situation

You meet an old friend

Compliment someone 

You are asked a question but need time to consider

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

Friends drinking in a pub / bar

You go into a shop but not necessarily to buy anything

A customer arrives but you are busy

You don’t understand what someone is trying to prove

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

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

To continue with a conversation that was interrupted.

These fixed phrases are so important in making students sound like natural speakers, which will result in higher IELTS scores.

The next section will be expressing likes, dislikes or having no strong feeling either way. A good activity will involve different skills being used, so here I will play three songs, in English naturally, but from different countries, and with different accents. I want to elicit the students’ opinions of the music and how much they can understand. First, the presentation, new vocabulary:

Like: I absolutely love … I’m crazy about … I (really) like I’m into I’m a big fan of … I’m quite keen on I haven’t heard (seen/read) this before, but I think it’s great

No strong opinion: I don’t mind I have mixed feelings about …. It’s OK I don’t really have any strong views / feelings either way

Dislike: I hate I detest I can’t stand I don’t really like I think it’s awful I’m not a big fan of … I’m not that keen on …

Secondly, we could play a ‘word bomb’. In this activity, a generic word is boarded, in this case, ‘music’. The students shout out as many words they can, a word-association game. Once the board is full, or the students have no more ideas, we can expand; types of musical genres, instruments, musical terminology, ways of listening to music, of buying music, musicians, bands, solo artists, people who work in the industry. This type of game is good as there are few ‘wrong’ answers and the speed can encourage shyer students to speak and participate (note comparative of shy can be shier or shyer).

First, from Australia, we have Kylie Minogue. The lyrics start at 00.30

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c18441Eh_WE

Secondly, we turn to a Country singer from USA, Mr Hank Williams. The style is markedly different to the previous song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WXYjm74WFI

Finally, The Smiths, from the mid 1980s. here, the accent may be difficult, but it is a slow song, and under two minutes in length.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nxQLJmshak

The students will play the role of examiner and candidate. One will ask questions and the other will be expected to answer in an IELTS-style manner, ie, long sentences, discourse markers, good grammar and syntax, appropriate intonation, eye contact and body language.

I have already given the students tips of ‘buying time’ or filling up ‘dead air’ by employing expressions such as:

That’s a good / interesting question

Let me think …

Well, I would say …

How can I put it … ?

Of course, these mustn’t be over-used. Students will also be encouraged to stretch their vocabulary, and self-check:

Is that the right word ?

By which I mean …

Have I used that in the correct sense ?

After this it’s time to hit the books. As mentioned, the tasks are varied and I want to pace them so that all students feel they have understood before moving on to a new subject. Tonight we also have the three ways of pronouncing the -ed form of regular verbs:

Pronunciation of -ed past tense verbs

Words have 3 end sounds:

‘t’

‘d

‘id’

If the word ends with: 

ch / f / k / p / s / sh / thi The sound is ‘t’ look = ‘lookt’

t /or / d/ The sound is ‘id’ visit – ‘visitid’

Other sounds are ‘d’ bang = ‘bangd’

What is the correct pronunciation for these regular verbs ?

Look = Looked / laugh = laughed / end = 

beg = / visit = kiss = 

brush = / breath = love =

Read these sentences:

He cleared up the mess / He rolled up the newspaper / I have visited Hue

No Homework ! That sounded good / Teacher shouted, ‘No way !’

We all worked hard today / Tom talked so much / The students played many games and laughed till their sides burst.

To end, I like to expose the students to short video clips using a variety of Englishes (as there is so much variance even in the same city with slang, pronunciation, argot, accent, dialect, local words etc). To make it more relevant, I look for a Vietnam-related theme. One of my favourites is this chap, a serious beer enthusiast, who has just discovered a beer from Vietnam, Sai Gon Red.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKr6Cj-Xr9g

I want the students to hear a different accent from mine (I aim for a standard British variety), learn some new vocabulary and also watch the para-linguistics: the expressions, intonation, body language. As my beer-drinking friend has just discovered, to paraphrase The Smiths, “some beers are better than others.”

IELTS: Lesson 3 – ‘May the force be with you.’

Monday 14th January 2019

Tonight’s lesson focuses on reading and listening, quite passive activities so, to offset this, I’ll do some warm up exercises that will be (hopefully) relevant, interesting and stimulating.

The first exercise needs to be quite light and easy. Students arrive at various times and I don’t want the task interrupted, nor have to keep explaining for latecomers. At the same time, it is not fair that those who are punctual should have some unproductive ‘downtime’.

Yesterday was ‘one of those days’ – nothing seemed to go right but I’ll take my own advise and try to turn the lemons into lemonade: I’ll use it as a learning exercise.

I’ll board some information and then show the students a slide of various pictures and see if they can construct an interesting, flowing narrative. Later in the lesson, I’ll have a task where they have to build longer sentences utilising discourse markers, adjectives and adverbs, so this will give me a general view of their capabilities.

The narrative: 6.50 leave for work 7.40 – 9.40 Young Learners class (21 students) 10.10 arrive home 10.11 – 14.30 wedding party across the street 10.30 – 12.00 prepare work online 17.00 – 21.30 another wedding party but much louder, more drunken karaoke singers 18.00 go for coffee BUT 23.30 Tottenham Vs Manchester United (0 – 1) so ‘All’s well that ends well.’

Vocabulary: cancellation / hyper-active / irritating / excruciating /connection / deafening / anti-smoking / culture shock / a real handful / “A plague on both your houses !”





After, we’ll do a sentence-building exercise. I’ll show how to turn a basic sentence into something more elaborate:

Make longer, more interesting sentences:

I like music but I don’t like karaoke.

Although I love both listening to and playing music, I absolutely detest karaoke because I hear it so frequently in my neighbourhood and I find it abhorrent.

Expand these basic sentences:

I have been to Paris but not Berlin.

She liked the film so she read the book.

His girlfriend asked him to stop playing video games but he didn’t listen and she left him.

The last exercise will lead into the book work, (where students have to look at pictures of various people, some world famous, other not so) and attempt to deduce the reason for their fame. I’ll show six photos of famous Vietnamese, from history, sports and the arts. The students should be warmed up by now and be willing to discuss with partners or in groups who the people are, why they are famous, dates, any information.

Non-Vietnamese may not know many but they may be surprised by the last (a clue there) photo; they may know her without knowing it.

This should stimulate some good discussion especially in a mixed-age class. The first four are historical figures, and it’s fairly obvious what kind of person the fifth man is, and why he’s famous. The last figure could stump the students, but if they look at her, maybe they can guess what field she’s in; the way she looks, the manner in which she holds her head.

The answers are:

Võ Nguyên Giáp (General who defeated the French in 1954) Trung Sisters (defeated the Chinese around 40 AD / CE) Lê Lợi ( 15th C emperor) Võ Thị Sáu (Student activist against the French) Hoang Xuan Vinh (First Vietnamese to win Gold at the Olympics)
Ngô Thanh Vân (Model & actress – she was in ‘The Last Jedi’)

Veronica Ngo is Gunner Paige in THE LAST JEDI.
(Ngô Thanh Vân)

NOTE: Võ Thị Sáu could be a controversial figure and living in Vietnam, one has to be sensitive and delicate about certain subjects. I include her because she is a famous Vietnamese woman, with streets named after her.

Tonight’s reading exercise is practising scanning or skimming through a text, to help develop speed reading, finding pertinent information in a limited amount of time. There will be a block of text and students are given 90 seconds or 2 minutes to find the answers to some questions.

The secret is, of course, to read the questions first then just look for the answers, skimming over unnecessary text, in the same way as a listening test requires reading the questions, only listening for those answers.

After break, the lesson changes gear into listening. Many students find this the hardest part, and each track may need to be played several times. I usually play the entire text once through, then repeat but in short segments.

The last half-hour needs to be a ‘wind-down’ section. As they have focused on reading and listening, the activities should be active and fun. A general knowledge test can be entertaining, the class put into groups and points awarded. Depending on the mood of the class, we could try a B2B game – one student has to guess either a famous person or describe a photo or video clip from clues given by the team-mates. A time limit could be set to make it more dramatic.

It is good to see the students leave smiling and exhilarated from the games as opposed to shoulders hunched and shattered expressions from a grammar-overload. The students, like the Force, awaken !