As I continuously tell my students, being able to form complex sentences, and then say them fluently, is key to passing IELTS.
One way to make longer sentences, as well as introducing subordinate clauses, is to become a master of …
This lady, who wants to work in Australia, is studying hard for her IELTS.
who For people: This is the man who sold 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 Italian car, whose driver was young, won the race.
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.
The 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.
Go that extra mile – extra practice
IELTS, which can be very challenging, tends to be rather formulaicby which I mean it follows a pattern. Students can pretty much predict, with a fair degree of certainty, the type of subjects they will be expected to encounter.
With that in mind, try making complex sentences about these people:
Name: Ms Chen // Age: 19 // From: China // Lives: London // Studies: Business.
Ms Chen, who is studying Business in London, is 19 and originally from China.
Originally from China, Ms Chen, who is 19, is currently living in London, studying Business.
NOW … YOUR TURN
Name: Adam // Age: 24 // From: Israel // Lives: New York // Job: Writer for a magazine and blogger
Name: Boran // Age: 34 // From: South Korea // Likes: drawing manga // Job: singer, rapper and dancer
Name: David // Age: 28 // From: Leicester, UK // Passion: Music // Plans: To live in LA and record a CD
a quantum leap (which allowed me to introduce the idea of quantum mechanics into an English class). My centre is a business, so needs to generate revenue which is accomplished by getting as many students as possible. This is especially vital after the enforced lockdown.
However, not all students who enter an IELTS class are IELTS material … but that is another matter. I’ve decided to treat this class, which I really enjoy, as an IELTS class. Therefore, I push them to use language and style employed at that level.
To come to the crux of the matter, I set a relative pronoun test in the aforementioned class. Everyone was able to do the lesson, the theory, linking two or three pieces of information into a longer, single complex sentence. For example:
Mick Jagger is in the Rolling Stones. He was born in London.
Mick Jagger, who was born in London, is in the Rolling Stones.
However, during the free practice session, the students reverted back to simple sentences.
Allow me to elucidate … wherever possible, I avoid working directly from the book, or using handouts (although that would save me about 80% of my dwindling energy). Instead, I look at the book, see what subjects are to be covered, and incorporate them into my blog.
Naturally, this only works with ‘top cat’ students, those who are motivated and willing to work (and I’ve noticed, telling students we will not be using the books boosts moral and energy off the chart).
To return to the case in point; the students can understand the grammar in theory but totally forget it, in practice, and Tuesday’s class afforded ample opportunity to practice. I showed a picture of a young beautiful Asian lady and a young Asian guy … here, see for yourself:
I wanted to the class to be creative, write a backstory for the two characters (the theme of the lesson was relationships), how they know each other, what are their jobs, how they get on together.
The class, which is only small, elected to work together and I was heartened to see Ms X, who normally spends the lesson playing with her phone, taking an active part and volunteering answers.
The upshot was that the beautiful Asian lady was a model, the guy a photographer and both were Japanese. As to be expected, this being a teenage class, someone (you know who you are) said they went to a hotel … but maybe so – in order to do a photo shoot.
From a teaching point of view, I was disappointed that in their speaking, they didn’t apply relative pronouns, enough adjectives or adverbs, all points that will be addressed in the next lesson … and covered in my next blog.
May a say a heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who visits my site and scrolls through the posts.
4th November for 5th November 2019 AEF 10A, pp. 94 – 95
Tonight we’ll discuss modern icons, titans of the business world, in both USA and Vietnam. It’ll be no surprise that Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, who are both from the USA, are included although Vietnam also has a number of wealthy, super-rich who may not be as well known on the global stage. However tonight, which is a special day in the UK, we’ll warm up with the story of Guy Fawkes whose image is now iconic. He is part of the history of London where I was born. If you don’t know the name, maybe you’ll recognise these:
In 1605, a group of people wanted to blow up (like a bomb) Parliament (where the government meet) during a visit from the King. The group were caught; Guy Fawkes was discovered in the cellar of Parliament with 36 barrels of gunpowder. All the conspirators were executed for treason.
A good history, with notes for English-language learners, can be found here:
Now, without further ado, tonight’s lesson: modern icons and, for grammar, relative clauses, hence the bold font earlier on the words who, where, which and whose.
I’ll be honest with you – this can be a little complicated, although it should be easy:
Who // for a person. Mark, who is from Chicago, is working in Ha Noi
Where // for a place. Ha Noi, where Mark works, is in north Vietnam.
Which // for a thing. The guitar, which is Japanese, was a bargain at £35.
Whose // possessive. The man whose guitar was stolen was very upset.
So far so good BUT … check this out:
London, where I was born, is the capital of the UK
London, which is in the south of England, is my hometown.
In a practice, we have an example similar to this:
London where I was born is the place which I love the most.
I’ve tried to think of a way to explain this in clear simple English … here goes !
In the first clause (London where I was born) we can ask “Where were you born ?” The answer is London. However, in the second clause (the place which I love the most) try the same pattern … “Where do you love the most ?” Here, the answer is “The place.” That is not a suitable answer – it is not a real location, so it becomes a thing – therefore we use which.
Oi troi oi ! English grammar !
Now, let’s put it into practise.
Mark Zuckerberg: born 1984 in NY, USA. Studied at Harvard. Co-founded Facebook. Net worth estimated at 70.3 billion USD (wow !).
Mark Zuckerberg, who was born in 1984, grew up in NY state which is in the USA. Harvard, where he studied, is the oldest university in the States (USA). Zuckerberg, whose net worth is estimated at over 70 billion dollars co-founded Facebook which is used all over the world.
Speaking of Facebook, one of my favourite films is ‘The Social Network’ about how the company was founded. The film, which was made in 2010, is scripted by Aaron Sorkin who is, in my opinion, a fantastic and highly talented writer.
Now try with Steve Jobs: born San Francisco // was a college drop out // first worked at Atari, a video games company // Apple computers were the first to utilise a mouse // co-founded Pixar in 1986 (what is Pixar ?) // died 2011, aged 56.
Now … team work. Class in two teams and they have to make a presentation about two Vietnamese business icons: Pham Nhat Vuong & Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao.
Students may use the internet and their own knowledge to tell me about these icons.
Give me the facts (where and when were they born, how did they get rich, what is their area of business ?) and use relative clauses to produce longer, complex sentences.
Students may, indeed I would encourage them to, use the internet and projector to bring their presentation alive. All members of the team must speak.
Last week we covered negotiation language, phrases such as, “I see your point, but …” “I’m not sure I entirely agree with you,” “That’s interesting, however have you considered.
Today, the topics will be:
Do people spend too much time on Facebook ? Is it a good or bad thing ?
I need a new laptop; what should I buy, an Apple or Windows ?
I want to hear different points of view and people playing Devil’s advocate (arguing or making a point, even if you don’t personally believe it … just to encourage the opponent to develop their idea).
To encourage students, and to give them lexical resources, elicit some answers and ideas first, and board them, as well as introducing new concepts. What are the pros and cons ? The decisive factors ? What points should I consider.
With Facebook – is the answer binary (yes OR no ?) … it’s more interesting to discuss the middle ground, and illustrate it with personal examples.
I recently went on a short break to a nearby beach resort where I took many photos. I need to upload them to Facebook … or do I ? Does anybody REALLY care ? Can I really afford to spend the time doing it ? Or is it relaxing and pleasurable ? Does it enable my European friends to see a little more of my life here in Vietnam … what do YOU think … ?
Tonight I want to focus on forming complex sentences in order to boost the speaking prowess of my students. Being able to speak in long sentences, with subordinate clauses and relative pronouns, linked by appropriate discourse markers, will improve their scores in the speaking tests, along with use of stress, intonation, chunking, and a liberal smattering of expressions and vernacular, thereby demonstrating a familiarity with different uses of English.
So, without further ado … complex sentences. Let’s kick off with some basic information about my friend Pete:
Pete’s family are Irish. He was born in Kent, south England. He loves music especially Jazz and he can play saxophone, keyboards, guitar and bass. He is 40 years old. He is bald, and wears glasses. Currently he plays bass in a band called ‘The Deep Six’. They have a video on YouTube. In the photo, Pete is with the famous 60s drummer Kenny Jones. He was in The Small Faces. Later he joined The Who after their original drummer died.
Pete, who was born in Kent in the south of England, is of Irish heritage. Although he is just forty, Pete looks older, probably due to the fact that he is bald, as well as having to wear glasses. His great passion in life is music, especially Jazz, but his interest is not merely passive; he plays several instruments. In addition to saxophone and keyboards, Pete is proficient on guitar. Having said that, he actually plays bass now in a band named The Deep Six, who have a video on YouTube. Pete is seen here with the legendary drummer Kenny Jones whorose to fame in the 60s as drummer for chart-topping band The Small Faces before joining The Who following the death of their original drummer.
I am sure if you watch the video, give it a ‘thumbs up’ and ‘like’, Pete will be tickled pink.
Now, a quick practice:
This is Wei Minzhi. She was born near Beijing. She was chosen to be in a Chinese film called ‘Not One Less’. She was 13. She played a substitute teacher but had no experience teaching (and no experience acting). The area is very poor. Some of the children have to leave school to work. The film was shown all over Europe, even at special film festivals. She was famous. She did no more acting. She studied in USA. She lives in Hawaii. Wei is married and has two children.
Students have five minutes to reorganise this information into a style more suited to an IELTS student.
Now – a Socratic activity; students are arranged in small groups, selected by choosing a card (Ace, 2 or 3), given a task and have to collate information and present it to the class, utilising the resources available, namely internet for facts, images or videos. Let’s revisit some old friends; first one of my favourite authors, Dr Franz Kafka:
Born: 1883 Prague, Czech Republic (at the time, part of the Austro-Hungarian empire) // Died 1924 in Austria. Never married, engaged twice. Had three sisters. Was vegetarian. Difficult relationship with his father. Famous for writing, but only produced three novels, all of which were published after his death. Most famous of these is ‘The Trial’ which has a famous opening line, “Somebody must have made a false accusation against Joseph K., for he was arrested one morning without having done anything wrong.” This book is seen as a warning about totalitarian governments. He lived in Prague which is Czech and Protestant, but he spoke and wrote in German, and he was Jewish. He is one of the most influential writers of the Twentieth Century, and his name has become an adjective, ‘Kafkaesque’ meaning impenetrable, convoluted, mysterious and unsolvable. More information can easily be found online, for example:
Now let’s turn to John Lennon, seen here with his Japanese wife, Yoko Ono (also an artist, but more avant-garde).
John was born in Liverpool, during World War II, in 1940. Liverpool was a port, so was a target for German bombers. He grew up very poor. At school he was rebellious, but liked art. When he first heard Rock ‘n’ Roll, he knew he had to be a singer. He formed The Beatles. His guitar playing was enthusiastic but basic. He wrote many songs which have become classics. When The Beatles split up in 1970 he went solo. His most famous solo work is the ‘Imagine’ LP. The title track has the lyric, “Imagine there’s no countries It isn’t hard to do Nothing to kill or die for And no religion, too.” He protested against the war in Vietnam. He was shot in 1980 outside of his New York apartment. He has two sons, Julian by his first wife, and Sean from Yoko.
The third group will get NO help from me – they shouldn’t need it. Their subject is “the father of the Indo-Chinese people, and his name is Ho Chi Minh.”
This task involves the students working together, assigning tasks, then producing and presenting their report. All members of the team have to speak. Furthermore, they should be encouraged to use English during the preparation stage, only resorting to Vietnamese for clarification or translation of new words.
Quick end game: After the book work, which I have to teach, my hands are tied, we can unwind with some speaking practice.
Using discourse markers: I give teams two words which they have to incorporate into a sentence, for example ‘therefore‘ and ‘subsequently‘.
having said that & furthermore
moreover & consequently
initially & eventually
likewise & specifically
meanwhile & notwithstanding
on the whole & instead
What Difference Does It Make ? : I give students a paper with two words or phrases that are related but different. They have to clarify the distinction, for example
teacher / headmaster
educate / bring up
take an exam / retake an exam
do homework / do housework
quite common / ubiquitous
required subject / optional subject
similarity with / disparity between
skim / extrapolate
And to play us out, let’s go back to John Lennon and his iconic song, ‘Imagine’. The music starts around 0:40:
From watching the Vietnamese beer review, we learnt more expressions:
Let’s dive in = let’s go, let’s start !
more than likely = everyday expression meaning very possible
whatsoever – used to strengthen a sentence (“The beer has no taste whatsoever.”)
head = the white foam on top of a beer
aroma – the smell, usually for wine or coffee
Quick warm up game: use those words in a sentence. Try to use extended sentences including clauses.
For example: As it’s the rainy season, it will more than likely rain tomorrow.
Now for a relative pronoun and supporting clause:
The young blonde entrepreneur, who was convinced his idea was genius, left the meeting empty-handed.
Students can work together to come up with three sentences including one with a supporting clause.
Quick grammar review – there were some concerns about using past simple and present continuous n the same sentence:
Were you wearing the new tie when you met the manager ?
Here, everything is in the past tense (were / met) BUT we use the continuous ‘wearing’ because we were doing something at that time. Furthermore, we only use one past tense verb (here ‘were’ serves as the first past tense verb).
Did you go (swim) this morning ?
We ate pancakes and John was (talk) all the time
I saw a film and my girlfriend went (shop)
When did you start (learn) Mandarin ?
Then we covered some personality adjectives in an activity but time was against us, and we’ll carry on at the start of this lesson. I have five friends and the students have to guess their personality and occupation. Naturally, they don’t know them, so they have to use phrases such as:
In my opinion / for me / I feel that / he appears to be / I get the impression that he … / he looks like …
Personality adjectives: Positive – mature / reliable / dependable / confident / life and soul (of the party) / generous
Negative – over -confident (hubris) / aloof / arrogant / mean (nasty or not generous) / awkward / bossy.
Occupations: estate agent
consultant (here the lady, who is of Asian origin, is a recruitment consultant).
Speaking practice. The handout is dialogue used in a coffee shop, which means I get to use one of my favourite clips, from ‘Twin Peaks’ :
Here’s a great chance to use words such as ‘aroma’, atmosphere’, ‘crowded’, ‘comfortable’, ‘free wifi’, and then types of coffee
And them onto today’s set lesson. If time allows, we can use some left-over activities from last week, namely the desert survivial:
Two teams, both have a number of items to help them survive in the desert after a plane crash. From the list of 18, they have to choose just 5. They must learn and practice negotiation language such as:
I see your point
I respectfully disagree
That’s an interesting choice, however …
You’re argument is not without value, having said that …
Activity – small talk. A list of general topics and the students have to try to keep the conversation going as long as possible. As with all speaking exercises, give examples or models first:
What do you do ? // I’m a student . // Really ? Where do you study ? What do you study ? How do you find you class ? What do you like best about your university ? What are the biggest challenges ?