Teaching Note: This could be used as a listening exercise. Read out the following information, then elicit answers. A simple test helps to build confidence, especially as IELTS listening can be very demoralising.
One of my favourite photos is of my friend Peter, who lives in Birmingham, England.
His wife took the photo last March. Peter is playing bass guitar in a studio. It looks like he is having fun. He plays in a band called ‘The Deep Six’.
I keep this photo on my computer in a file called ‘Music in Birmingham’.
What is the name of my friend ?
Where does he live ?
What guitar does he play ?
What is the name of his band ?
Where do I keep this photo ?
Activity 1: The student have to practice forming questions by asking me about the photo.
Activity 2: Read out the following information, then make a contest, who can answer first.
These are two of my friends, Mark and Tony. Mark is on the left, with the curly blonde hair and beard, Tony has short dark hair.
I took this photo last time I was in London, Christmas 2019 at my local pub.
Mark, who has tattoos on his arms, was in the army and now has a security firm (company) in the centre of London. Tony, on the other hand, lives from day to day, he does odd jobs, maybe some painting, maybe some construction, maybe some security work. He likes to gamble on horses, which is a popular activity in the UK.
I shot this on my iPhone and keep it because I live very far from my friends so can’t meet them very often.
As you can see, they are drinking beer, laughing and generally having a very happy time.
Now we progress, giving the information in a different order and with alternate vocabulary.
In this photo, which I was sent by email, we can see my London neighbour Arif and his sister Rita. It made me smile, because the T-shirts are ironic; they just don’t get on at all, in fact they fight like cat and dog.
Arif told me that their mother bought the shirts as a joke, and to make the point that living with them is driving her crazy. All the shouting and arguing, non-stop, 24/7.
Rita’s best friend Suzy was trying out her new camera, a Canon, and asked them to pose for her. The situation is getting complicated because Suzy likes Arif but Rita will be livid if her best friend starts dating her brother. I only received the email last week so I don’t know what is happening now.
I miss both of them, they are so friendly and funny. Arif always helps if I have a computer problem, as he works in IT, while Rita brings me special Indian food, knowing that I love spicy curry. Although she is a marvellous cook, she wants to be a business lady, a ‘mover and a shaker’. I’m sure she will do well, she is very determined and forthright. Maybe too much at times, she hates being contradicted or corrected.
Arif, who sent the email, informed me that after the photo, Rita left the room, changed clothes and threw the T-shirt away. That is so typical of Rita !
1 How did I get this photo ? // 2 Who sent it to me ? // 3 Who took the photo ?
4 Who are they and what is their relationship // 5 What is Arif’s job ?
6 What type of camera was used ? // 7 Describe Rita’s personality
8 If I wanted a physical copy of the photo, I would need to … what ?
Ask students to bring in a photograph which can be talked about it in class.
We are currently using Zoom for online teaching, so students could share photos from their computer and then get a conversation going. Encourage students to elicit more information and to push each other to speak more.
Obviously, only suggest this, as some students may be shy about sharing personal information
EXERCISE: What do you think of this painting ? It is by Salvador Dali; what do you know about him ? Prepare a short presentation for next class 🙂
The Persistence of Memory 1931
How to ‘read’ a painting.
Firstly, as with a poem, the title, not to mention the time it was created, can supply us with vital clues and information.
Memory – how well can you remember what you did last night ? Maybe last week ? Last year ? How about what you did at junior school or even, what are your earliest memories ?
Our memories can be unreliable, a mixture of truth, half-truths and maybe fabrications. Therefore, Dali could be saying that the past, as we remember it, may not be the truth – it can be distorted, warped or mutated.
This can be shown by the main subjects: watches. The closed (protected ?) watch is overrun with ants. Could this mean that the ‘truth’ will never be revealed ?
The remaining watches appear to have melted. Have they stopped ? We can see that two of the watches show different times.
What do you associate with watches; time, naturally. Is Dali warning us about how fast time flies, or how we can so easily waste time ? Alternately, is the artist pointing out that human time is nothing compared to time in the universe, which is measured in millions of years and light years ?
How about the image in the centre ? This looks like a self-portrait, also distorted, of Dali himself:
The ‘Dali’ portrait is covered by a distorted watch. Could Dali be telling us how he feels his own mortality – his time left on Earth – or is he being forced down by forces beyond his control – how we can’t escape time ?
Such possibilities show how we can interpret a work of art.
We can say anything we feel provided we can support our ideas.
This makes for some very interesting points of view; even if we don’t agree with the point, we can appreciate the argument.
Now let’s focus on the colour and background. Dali was born in the Catalonia region of Spain, and take a look at this photo of the coastline:
Do you see, it is not entirely unlike the cliffs in the top right of the painting.
Additionally, we have what appears to be the natural realities of sea and sky.
This mixture of reality and distorted, dream-like images is termed Surrealism. It is not pure fantasy, nor is it strict reality, but a hybrid (mix) of the two.
How about the tree ? It looks dead, destroyed, more like a human skeleton. This could be a reference to the horrors of World War I (1914 – 1918), when vast areas of French forest were bombed and shelled into grotesque nightmares worlds:
Interestingly, many of my young students now interpret the tree in environmental terms, how nature is being destroyed by deforestation, by pollution, by human encroachment on the land.
I find that to be a justification for the importance of art; we project our own concerns and issues, factors that affect our current lives onto art that may have been created hundreds of years ago. The art still speaks to us.
SIDE EXERCISE: Which do you prefer, the painting or the photo ? Or, develop your argument to state the positives of both.
Now, let’s move on to the colours. What do you associate, or what is the symbolism of bright blues and yellows ? Conversely, what do you think of when you see dark colours, deep browns and black ?
Finally, let’s focus on the ‘Dali’ image; it is placed at the centre of the painting, like a sun in a solar system about which, everything moves. We have a hybrid of reality (sky, sea, cliffs) and surreal images (the melted, disfigured watches) not forgetting the (war-scarred ?) tree, both real and surreal.
With Dali being the central image, is the painting saying that is a view of Dali’s imagination ? Maybe a dream (don’t dream have a surreal quality ?), maybe his statement on how the world is going ?
All things considered, how do you react now ? Is this optimistic or pessimistic ? Do you consider it realistic or fantastic or surreal ?
Now you try
I previously mentioned World War I. For the first time, war was industrialised, soldiers died in incomprehensible numbers from heavy artillery, bombs, machine guns, gas, flame-throwers, airplane attacks, as well as hand to hand fighting.
Despite the huge loss of life the politicians and leaders persisted in fighting. As a reaction to this madness, a new art movement was formed in Switzerland, central Europe, and was named Dada.
The Dada artists wanted to attack all in modern life that had lead to, and was prolonging, the war.
This blog was suggested by a special student, Ms Ngoc – thank you for the idea.
London is nearly 2 000 years old. It was founded by the Romans in about the year 50 (We say 50 AD or 50 CE), and the Romans built the first bridge across the River Thames.
The Romans built walls to protect the city, and parts of them can still be seen today:
A very important date in the history of the UK is 1066 – the Battle of Hastings, when the Normans, from France, beat the English and became the rulers.
Very near the Roman wall in the first picture is the Tower of London, built by the Normans:
The oldest part of the Tower was built in 1078, but it was continually expanded for the next three hundred years. The Crown Jewels are kept here:
Moving onto the Medieval period, we have St Bartholomew the Great Church, from 1123:
This church was used in the famous British film ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’
One of the most famous kings was Henry VIII (married six times). His father, Henry VII started the Tudor dynasty (1485 – 1603). The last Tudor was Queen Elizabeth I and under her rule, England started to become a world power. Explorers went to the USA, while at home Shakespeare was writing and acting.
This building, in the centre of London, is from the Tudor period.
The church of St Andrew Undershaft, built 1520 – 1535 with modern Gherkin building in the background.
The Stuarts were the next dynasty, from 1603 – 1714. England had a civil war, and in 1649 King Charles 1 was executed. This took place at the Banqueting House.
The Kings and Queens lived here from 1530 – 1698. The famous ceiling is by the painter Peter Paul Rubens.
A very well-known pub, The Olde Cheshire Cheese, is also from the Stuart period.
How would you like to have a drink here ? Many important writers such as Dr Johnson and Charles Dickens drank here.
Following the Stuarts, who came from Scotland, the Georgians from Germany became the monarch (king or queen). There is a lot of Georgian architecture surviving in London. Here are some examples:
One of the most famous, iconic London buildings is where the monarch now lives – Buckingham Palace
Britain was the first industrial nation, and under Queen Victoria, expanded her empire, including Australia, Canada, parts of Africa and India. The British love tea, so this was an important import. This ship, the Cutty Sark, was built in 1869 and was one of the fastest ships in the world. It is now a museum.
Warehouses had to be built next to the river to store all the goods from overseas. Some of these have been converted into modern offices or restaurants.
However, life was extremely hard for many people at this time. Low wages, hard work and unhealthy living conditions made life in London a constant struggle for survival. This has been captured by the art of Gustav Dore, the social writing of Henry Mayhew and the novels of Charles Dickens
By 1825, London had reached over one million people, and became the world’s most populated city for the next hundred years.
Now we start to get into the modern age. We see the arrival of motor vehicles, cars and buses.
From 1939 – 1945, Britain was at war with Germany. London suffered heavy bombing. This famous picture shows St Paul’s Cathedral, covered in smoke, but undamaged.
Society changed in the 1960s with new films, clothes, and of course, music. Carnaby Street became the place to go for clothes and to hang out and be seen.
London is a mixture of architectural styles, reflecting the different historical periods. As you walk around, you can sense the spirit of the millions of people who went about their lives, just as we do.
What buildings do you like most and can you tell me why
These are photos of real buildings in London. Can you guess what they were / are ?
Can you guess ?
ONE: Tate Modern art gallery – it used to be a power station, hence the large, imposing scale and tall chimney.
TWO: It was the smallest police station; it had a telephone and space for one officer. No longer in service. This is in a corner of Trafalgar Square.
THREE: Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. This is a reconstruction; the original building burnt down in the C17th.
FOUR: Lloyds Building. Lloyds of London are an insurance company, providing financial services.
FIVE: This is New Zealand House, near Trafalgar Square. The building itself is rather nondescript but, for my Vietnamese students, there is a feature of interest …
SIX: A Blue Plaque stating that Ho Chi Minh once worked at a hotel that stood on this site. There are many Blue Plaques around London saying where famous people lived or worked.
imposing– powerful or scary-looking. Normally police stations or government buildings
reconstruction– rebuilding (in this example, made to look like the original The Globe Theatre)
nondescript – nothing special, ordinary, plain
stood on this site- a building WAS here but is now gone (demolished / torn down)
England doesn’t really manufacture – our wealth is derived (comes) from services such as banking, finance, insurance and teaching !
(listening & British pop culture)
Electronic music from the early 1980s. The band is called Human League, the song, a chart-topper (was No. 1 in the music charts), is called ‘Don’t You Want Me.’ What do you think ? Is it up your street (you like it) or not your cup of tea (you don’t like it) ?
Trigger You never know what you’ve got till it’s gone.
Jim Hey ? Yeah, I suppose you’re right there, Trigger.
Trigger I know how much it can hurt. I had a relationship break-up a few years ago. She worked in my council depot. (local government office)
Mike (barman) She was a lady roadsweeper ?
Trigger Oh, no, she was management … real high-flyer … you had to go to her when you wanted a a new broom ! Linda … nice girl, had a funny eye. Never knew if she was looking at me or seeing if the bus was coming. Anyway, she’d heard about this little hotel down Henley-on-Thames (outside London) and she said to me, “How about spending a weekend there ?”
Del-boy (on phone) What sort of money we talking about ? Well, I’ll have to pop down and see you, won’t I, eh ?
Mike Yeah ?
Trigger What ?
Mike What happened ?
Jim Was it a nice weekend ?
Trigger Yeah, at least I thought it was, but she didn’t wanna see me no more after it.
Jim Well, I don’t like to pry, Trig but …
Mike No, no, no … it’s a bit personal.
Del Hang on, Bronco … Trig ! What ‘appened ?
Trigger She got jealous ! I ‘eard later, through friends, that she wanted to go with me.
Jim I’ll have a large scotch, Mike !
What was wrong with the weekend ? What was Trigger’s mistake ?
Do you notice how in parts of London, native speakers drop the ‘h’ so we have “What ‘appened ?” instead of “What happened ?” “I ‘eard, ” instead of “I heard.”
London, my hometown, is a multi-cultural world city. However, there are some problems. For students who live in S.E. Asia, the weather will be awful; grey skies, bitter wind, freezing, depressing rain.
A second factor is money. Unless one has a good job and a good income, London can be a hard place to live.
How does she link her ideas together and keep talking ?
REMEMBER: listening to native speakers in a great way to improve your English. I suggest you only listen to SHORT pieces … maybe just ten or twenty seconds. Write down any new words or phrases. Listen again, then repeat. Speak along with her. Listen to how native-speakers link words and use intonations. Notice how often we use expressions.
What famous buildings or attractions can you think of in London ?
To help you, here’s a video about Top 10 London Attractions
Watch the video then explain how someone can travel on public transport in London.
Now, this video is chockablock (full) of new words and expressions. I’ve selected a sample:
about which more later / bank fees on transactions / hang around
get in everybody’s way / money put onto / top-up / cap
pay-as-you-go / stick (as verb) / as long as it’s nice and fresh / escalator
as far as …. concerned / obvious /on no account swipe
you’ve got to / the thing about …… is / particularly weirdos
get charged / get skinned / reasonable / Routemaster
Now, by listening to the video, and using a dictionary, you try to make some sentences using these new words or phrases.
Here are some examples foryou:
On no account tell anybody your PIN number for your bank card.
Prices are so high in central London, you can easily get skinned (pay TOO much).
The thing about the British Museum is that is can get so crowded.
Don’t stand in front of the escalators or you will get in everyone’s way.
Give a summary of ‘getting around’ London by public transport.
What are the ‘dos and don’ts’ ?
How many different kinds of transport is the Oyster valid on ?
Famous Londonders – real and fictional
Who is the most famous detective in literature ? Most of you would probably say Sherlock Holmes … but have you read him ? This is a great site for English learners – literature but in simple, everyday English
I am an English man, so I always drink damn fine tea. In order to make tea I naturally need boiling water. In my house I have an appliance which boils water. It plugs in to the electric and can boil water in just a few minutes. However, it has no other purpose.
Think of something you use everyday – but don’t make it too obvious.
19th November for 21st November 2019 AEF 2B pp. 18 – 19
Tonight’s lesson will focus on listening, which is always a challenge for the students so, to lighten the load, not to mention the mood, I’ll organise a lot of speaking activities.
First up, a mobile phone survey:
The students will be arranged in small groups. One member will be responsible for gathering the information, then reporting back to me.
Next up – a new persona.
Students are put into two or three groups, with about four in a group. Each member is given a card with some information about their new identity. They read the information to the group who have to try to understand and write down details such as email addresses, phone numbers or Facebook accounts. Example:
Hello, my name is Tony
I’m 23 and I love shopping for shirts and ties.
I’m not into reading or books. I find them boring.
My mobile number is 0943 552 8207
It’s highly probable the other students will need to hear some of the information again, so they can use the following:
I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your phone number (email address etc)
Could you repeat that, please ?
Could you spell that, please ?
Would you mind speaking slower, please.
And then, to book work and listening exercises.
Grammar: Past perfect (for and since)
Why is this young lady so upset ?
Maybe this is the reason …
Her neighbour has been renovating his house the whole day !
He has been making a lot of noise since 8 o’clock in the morning.
He has been drilling for six hours, non-stop !
First, the past perfect formulae
Subject + have or has + been + verbing
Since used for a given time or date
For used to tell how much time.
Example – John joined his company, LPR Productions in November 2018.
He has been working for LPR since 2018
He has been working for LPR for one year.
Students than have a chance to practise by asking each other a variety of questions, on subjects ranging from work or school, to friends, holidays, sports, interests etc.
Just a Minute
Students are put in pairs. They have to speak for one minute on a subject without hesitating, repeating or deviating (speaking about a different subject). This will test the students’ ability to speak fluently, as well as giving opportunities for using discourse markers and new vocabulary learnt so far. Subject are deliberately open, for example:
food // travel // work or study // life in Sai Gon // their family // their house.
Viet Nam presentation – where should I go on holiday ?
Three teams, representing Ha Noi, Hue and Nha Trang.
This exercise encourages team work and, furthermore, allows the students to develop their intonation skills; they will have to sound excited and optimistic.
To assist, here are some words and phrases to embellish their speech:
cultural centre // historical importance // breathe-taking scenery // tranquil // relaxing // hustle and bustle // mouth-watering food // never to be forgotten //unforgettable // once in a lifetime experience.
To give some help, I can perform a quick example:
COME TO LONDON, UK’s magnificent capital city and one of the world’s GREAT cities.
SEE such iconic, historical sights such as:
Buckingham Palace, home of our Queen, Tower Bridge over the Thames river.
Visit the world-famous British Museum to see the wonders of the world, or watch a football match at Wembley Stadium, in the country that invented the sport.
There is something for everyone:
Shops; you can buy everything here, to suit all budgets, from street markets to high-end department stores. To relax, London has so many tranquil parks, right in the centre of the city. Maybe see famous movie stars at one of London’s many, beautiful theatres, or dine out at restaurants cooking traditional British food or anything from anywhere.
‘Tell me what you want, what you really, really want,’ in standard English or –
‘Tell me whatya want, whatya really, really want,’ in non-standard, with the linking sounds as well as the swallowed ‘t’ in ‘want’.
To counter the argument that this is not appropriate for an English lesson, I would say that students need to be exposed to a variety of Englishes … the linking and swallowing of words and letters is how many native speakers speak … as students will discover listening to films, TV and, as is the case here, music. What I listen for in my students, of all ages, is NOT a robotic, flat repetition of an abstract sentence, but intonation, linking and natural rhythm.
Speaking of music … we need (as always) to review previous work, but to make it interesting I’ll try to make the review into a sort of game. Last week, they learnt six occupations. Which one does Thay Paul want to be ?
Next, I will board the remaining five jobs, but scrambled. The students, placed into two teams, must unscramble the chosen word (one student per team). One point for the first to complete, bang the board and shout out the word. Then, to add a variance, I will hold three flash cards, one of which will be the job. If they guess correctly, they earn an additional five points.
1 – a microphone // 2 – a piano // 3 – a paintbrush
Who uses clay, paint or metal in their work ?
1 – a scientist // 2 – a musician // 3 – an artist
Brad Pitt, Kirsten Stewart, Emma Watson and Robert Downey Jr are all famous …
1 – musicians // 2 – game designers // 3 – actors
Angry Birds and Candy Crush and Donkey Kong were made by …
1 – game designers // 2 – actors // 3 – Thay Paul
One student from each team will run to the board and slap a number … they can change their mind for five seconds but then they have to stay where they are.
As a break, a little introduction to the UK and its history and traditions. The beginning of November sees Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night
In 1605, a group of men wanted to kill the King of England, James I. They wanted to blow up the building where the King was going to be, so they hid 36 barrels of gunpowder under the building. However, the King’s soldiers found one of the men, Guy Fawkes, and arrested him. The King was safe ! To celebrate, people made giants fires called bonfires.
We still do this today. Also, children help to make a Guy Fawkes from old clothes and old bags, and then adults put it on the fire. Finally, there are fireworks, sometimes at home, sometimes in parks so everyone can see.
Some young children are holding sparklers – they have to wear gloves and be VERY CAREFUL.
All good things must come to an end … and so to bookwork. Today, the theme is things people want to do (when they’re older, as this is a young-learners’ class). After drilling the six phrases, I’ll show two photos and ask:
What does Thay Paul want to be or do ?
I will give the students boards and they have to write the three future plans. The last one (making movies, make a movie) is from a previous lesson, while the photo was taken in Berlin, Germany … long before my students were even born !
And now farewell … but next week, we leave the planet and go into space …
I actually prepared this for my top students in a Young Learners’ Level 3 (ages from 9 – 11) class; university-level semiotics. While most of the class just do the assigned work – no more, no less – others make no effort at all and are unable or unwilling to answer a question to which I have just given the answer. Then we have the top cats … I’m lucky to have two exceptional students in my class as well as two others who, with some effort, could also reach those Olympian heights.
Today, two classes at level 4. The first is a substitution; I don’t know the students, but on the other hand, I’ll be able to recycle or adapt exiting material to plan the lesson.
The second class is my usual group, from 10.10 – 12.10.
Today should be better as I have stopped my Level 1 class (nineteen students of screamers, shouters, special needs, no motivation, no memory, no idea why there are in a classroom being spoken to by a strange man in a strange language and, of course, some very sweet, well-behaved students who, unfortunately, are being restricted in their learning by the amount of classroom management I have to do). I’m just covering this first class for a week, and I have to do a review of their last two units.
As a warm up, I’ll ask the students what they know about London, maybe using some Google images to help them (possibly British food, Sherlock Holmes, a London football club, a street market).
Recent units have included space exploration, future careers and travel so I’ll kick off with a familiar children’s guide to London:
I will stop the video at key places and elicit responses, and to board new vocabulary. The students will be made to write down new vocabulary and then use them throughout the lesson.
Next up, a board write – small boards are handed out to groups and they have to write down answers. Points for the first team to finish. The questions can be about space (but must be taken from the class book, nothing too advanced).
What do you call a person who travels in space ?
Is that a man or a woman ?
Are people heavier or lighter in space ?
How do people get into space /
What is the ISS ?
Why is this man floating ?
To cleanse the palette, a quick kinetic activity. I shall hide six flash cards around the room and ask the students in pairs, to avoid a stampede, to find them. Instead of asking directly I will give them clues, e.g. if you want to buy something, you need this paper (money), after swimming, you use these to get dry (towels).
Next activity, I prepare four information sheets for the students about New York, London, Norway and Venice. The students, in small groups, will then have to present their city and answer questions. I shall awards points for good questions, to encourage the students to speak.
Julie lives in New York
She is a scientist
She wants to see a show
She takes a taxi
She brings lots of money
Next weekend, she will fly to London and stay in a hotel
Peter lives In London
He is an actor
He wants to ride a horse
He takes a bus
He brings a towel and extra clothes
Next weekend, he will go to the beach and swim in the sea
Anna lives in Norway
She is an astronaut
She is on holiday.
She takes the ferry to get home
She wants to go climbing and swimming
She goes to space by Space Shuttle.
Martin is on holiday in Venice
He is a journalist
He lives in Berlin, Germany. He is going home next Tuesday.
In Venice, he travels by gondola
He wants to see famous paintings
He likes to go on boat tours
The questions from the other students can use the patterns they have learnt, such as, “When is he going ?”, “What will she do ?”, “How will he get there ?” etc.
This should be enough activity before the book work and checking. Hopefully it will be a gentle way into my heaviest day, three classes of young learners. Hopefully …