A lesson for all ages and all levels, just adapt to suit your students’ ability. First, show the photos and try to elicit what the buildings are for, or their original function.
For Speaking Level 3 or IELTS-standard students, they can explain their reasons and use target language, adjectives, adverbs and LFW (low-frequency words). Furthermore, it shows students a different aspect of London (it’s not just Big Ben, London Eye and Tower Bridge).
Now, without further ado, the photos:
Was built 1947 – 1963 to be used as a power station (designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott who also designed Battersea Power Station and the iconic red phone boxes).
Gallery opened in 2000 by the Queen
Shows British and international art
One of the largest museums in the world
in 2018, there were 5.8 million visitors
Was built 1599, burnt down 1613.
Rebuilt and opened in 1997
Has plays by Shakespeare, as well as modern plays.
Has 857 seats and 700 standing spaces. People who stand are known as ‘groundlings.’
“To be or not to be,” is from Hamlet.
Was built in the 1920s
Only big enough for two people
Has a telephone inside
Made from an old lamppost
Now used for storing brooms
Completed in 1986
Architect was Richard Rogers
Lloyds are a world famous insurance company.
The lifts are on the outside to make more space inside.
It is 95.1 m tall or 312 ft.
New Zealand House
The building was opened by the Queen in 1963
It is the only tall building in the area.
The House has 18 floors.
However … there is something very special for Vietnamese … can you see the blue circle ?
There used to be the Carlton Hotel here, but is was destroyed in World War II
Ho Chi Minh worked in the kitchen at the hotel
Stick fact sheets around the classroom. Students, in groups, have to collect information about basic facts such as when the building was opened, and an interesting fact, then present to the class.
Adult Speaking Classes
Elicit uses of bulidings, then ask them if there are any similar buildings in their city. What interesting buildings would they show tourists ? A student has to describe one of the buildings and the other have to guess which one.
Students are assigned a building and they have to make a presentation of up to two-minutes in length (to practise for the speaking test). They may be allowed to use the internet for additional information but they are NOT allowed to merely read verbatim from Wikipedia !
As this is an IELTS exercise, we are looking for;
Good, strong introduction
Creative use of adverbs + adjectives
Anecdote or a personal review, giving reasons for their thoughts
Various exercises for you to practise grammar, both past simple and past continuous. Answer follow the photos.
Past Tense exercises
Past simple: most common way of talking about the past.
Regular verbs just add –ed e.g. walk = walked / look = looked / play = played
Past continuous: was / were + verbing e.g. I was playing / We were looking
Irregular verbs not used in past continuous e.g. we were seeing a film OR we saw a film NOT we were sawing a film.
Present perfect– talk about an action that happened in the past
subj + have/has + verb3 (past participle).
Past perfect – talking about two actions, both in the past, one before the other
e.g. I had listened to the CD before I saw the band play live.
Subj + had + verb3
The verb ‘to be’
I am / I was // you are / you were // he, she, it is / was // they, we are / were
Past tense / Shakespeare exercise
Change these lines into the past:
1 In Act One, Romeo ….. (is) in love with _________
2 Benvolio ……… (try – past continuous) to stop the fight.
3 The Prince ………. (demand – past perfect) to see Capulet before seeing Montague.
4 Romeo, Mercutio & Benvolio ……. (are) in the street talking.
5 The two families …… …. (be, present continuous) been fighting for years.
6 Romeo ….. (ask) the Nurse who Juliet is.
7 Mercutio & Benvolio …… (do, not) know Romeo was in love with Juliet.
8 The famous ‘balcony’ scene … (take) place in Act 2.
9 The Friar ……. ……. (go, past perfect) out collecting flowers.
10 At the end of Act 2, Romeo and Juliet …… (are) married.
1) was (Rosaline) 2) was trying 3) had demanded 4) were 5) have been 6) asked 7) did not (didn’t) 8) took 9) had gone 10) were
Past tense exercise
Change the verb form – can be:
past simple (think about regular & irregular verbs)
past continuous (verb + ing)
present perfect (subject + have/has + verb3)
past perfect (subject + had + verb3)
It is …. a hot, Sai Gon night. The wind blow …….. up from the river, but the humidity drive ….. me crazy. Sweat pour ……… down my back.
I were walk …………. by the Old Town, lanterns were light ……. and sway ….. in the breeze. I … visit …….. an old friend before I decide ………. to take this long, steamy walk. I …. live ……….. here over two years, but everyday, I am almost
kill ……. by crazy motorbikes. I need …. .. a coffee and see …… a cafe over the road. As I were cross ……………….. the street, a motorbike race …….. towards me. If I ……. jump ……… aside, he would …present perfect…. hit …. me. But that were …… his idea.
He turn ….. around and pull …… out a gun, aim …… and fire ……… . I ……. ……….(be) present perfectshot at more times than I care to remember, I know …….. the score; duck and run. I run …… .I ………did, (negative) have time to think. I can … think later – if I am still alive. I make …. it into the coffee shop, and were look ……. out the window across the street.
The shooter were dress …… all in black and keep …… his helmet on. He were walk …………. this way. Quickly, I look ……. around. Were there another exit ? Can …. I escape by a back door ? Yes ! I ……. be (past perfect) ……here…before. I remember ………. a fire exit on the first floor. I leap …… for the stairs, just as the shooter were about to open the door.
Answers: was / blew / drove / poured // was walking / lit / swayed / visitid / decided / lived // killed / needed / saw / was crossing / raced / jumped / have hit / was // turned / pulled / aimed / fired / I have been shot at / knew / ran / didn’t / could / was / made / looked // was dressed / kept / was walking / looked / was / Could / had been / remembered / lept
Here are 7 verbs in the PRESENT. Choose the correct verb AND use it in the correct tense.
teach / live / go / see / drink / am / have
Harry (1) …….. drinking tea yesterday, when he (2) ……. an idea. I haven’t (3) …….. my neighbours how to drink tea. I am sure they will be happy. They have not (4) …… to the UK yet. I have (5) …. in many cities in England. Now I am in Viet Nam. I have (6) …. many wonderful sights, but I have never (7) …… a cup of good, English tea.
Answers: 1) was 2) had 3) taught 4) been 5) lived 6) seen 7) drunk
Put the present tense verbs into past continuous
EXAMPLE Linh drinks tea – Linh was drinking tea
1 Tina watches TV
2 Sam shouts, ‘Oh, no!’
3 My father plays football
4 Bella designs a beautiful dress
5 The cat sings karaoke all night long !
6 Paul listens to The Beatles
7 Anna buys an Apple.
Answers: 1) was watching 2) was shouting 3) was playing 4) was designing 5) was singing 6) was listening 7) was buying
75 % of verbs are REGULAR – just add -ed to form past tense
The following clips are provided not only for listening practice but also for speaking: try to copy, to imitate, the speakers. Listen out for the intonation, stress and rhythm of these native-speakers.
And now, without further ado, the first clip:
Every Christmas, The Queen addresses the nation (make a ten-minute TV appearance). This clip has subtitles so you will be able to follow what Her Majesty says, looking up any new words.
For pronunciation practice, I suggest listening to very short extracts and trying to copy the voice. The Queen, naturally, speaks Queen’s English (the most prestigious form of standard English).
Actor Benedict Cumberbatch
Do you know this actor ? How much can you understand ?
This includes the famous opening lines from Richard III
Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York
The phrase ‘winter of our discontent’ or ‘winter of discontent’ has entered the language and is frequently quoted in newspapers, blogs and everyday conversation.
In the quote, Richard is referring to the new king, Edward IV, from the York dynasty. He plays with the words ‘son’ and ‘sun’, comparing the new king with the spring sun chasing away the misery and despair of an English winter.
The playlist is a mix of Jazz, Blues, Soul, R ‘n’ B & Rock ‘n’ Roll. However, in terms of an English lesson, listen to his narrative between songs. Although Pete lives in Birmingham now (central England), his accent betrays his Kent, (south-England) origins. Listen to how his voice deviates from Standard English.
A Propos (speaking about) of music, my last lesson featured two songs, one Nubian, the other a 50s Rock ‘n’ Roll number:
Now, time to get down to work. I introduced the class to some expressions; therefore we need to revise and practice:
between you and me // let’s get it over and done with // my hands are tied // off the cuff
I would like to let you go home early but …..
……… I think students have too much homework
Jazz musicians are famous for their spontaneity; they often play ………..
Oh, man ! We have to clear up after the party. Oh, well, ……….
collect / raise / undertake / boycott
Charities run campaigns to ……….. money
I’m going to ……….. shops that treat their staff poorly
Scientists need to ……. further research into the Corona Virus
There is little recycling, if any, in Vietnam. We need to ……… awareness of the importance to the planet.
Giving opinions – remember, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer; the exercise is to help you express what YOU feel when you see these works of art.
It’s not my cup of tea // it doesn’t appeal to me // I just don’t get // I see no artistic value // I have no time for it.
OR … positive:
It’s very uplifting // the picture speaks to me // I’m drawn to the image // it is ineffable (unable to be expressed in words) // it transcends language.
NOW – a curious point … how can a civilisation that can construct these:
only represent the human form like this:
How perfect are the Pyramids ?
“The builders of the Great Pyramid of Khufu aligned the great monument to the cardinal points with an accuracy of better than four minutes of arc, or one-fifteenth of one degree,” Glen Dash, an engineer who studies the Giza pyramids, wrote in a paper published recently in The Journal of Ancient Egyptian Architecture … ” https://www.livescience.com/61799-great-pyramid-near-perfect-alignment.html
Now, take a look at his ariel view, showing the layout:
At this juncture, let’s take a little diversion, from ancient Egypt to ancient Greece.
The night sky has 88 constellations, many named after characters or creatures from Greek mythology. I’d like to focus on one, the giant hunter Orion. This is his constellation, and is one of the more easier groups to see, especially at this time of year:
These random stars (which may in fact be many millions of light years apart) were seen by the Greeks thus:
You see the hunter with his bow and arrow, but I wish to draw your attention to the three stars arranged diagonally in the centre, the ‘belt’ of the hunter. Compare those with the arrangement of the Egyptian pyramids:
How would you account for this ? Coincidence or conspiracy ?
Let’s leave the last word to our National Poet, William Shakespeare, with this famous quote from Hamlet:
Object: encourage creative thinking and sentence building.
Vocabulary: expressions related to money
What would you do IF you were a millionaire ?
What would you do IF you were a millionaire for a day ?
Second conditional – this is used for a situation that is not impossible … but not very probable.
If I had a million pounds, I would … (stop working !)
If you had a billion $, you could … (buy an island)
If + Sub + had …, Sub + would / could
If you had unlimited money, what would you do ?
Plan a luxury day
How would you spend a luxury day ?
To develop narrative writing / speaking – use words/phrases such as:
Firstly, initially, I would start, it would kick off with …
secondly, thirdly etc
after that, afterwards, following that, and then …
for a change, as a contrast, for a break, to take a break from all the …
lastly, I’d end up, I’d round the day off with
To kick off, I would have salmon breakfast at a five-star … no, seven-star hotel. After that, I would go shopping for some suits and ties and then drive around London in a Rolls-Royce car, chauffer-driven, of course.
To take a break from the hustle and bustle, I’d relax at my hotel spa, then go for afternoon tea at another top hotel.
Lastly, I’d round the day off with a helicopter trip around the city and then fly direct to a stadium and go to my VIP (Very Important Person) seat to see one of my favourite bands play live.
OR add your own ideas
Where would you go ? What would you do ? What would you buy ?
Expressions connected to money
A ton of money = very much money
Having money to burn = having more money that someone needs
It costs an arm and a leg = something very expensive
Money talks ! = having money can solve many problems
Rolling in it = having so much money (‘it’ refers to money)
Swanky = slang for very expensive or elegant (it’s a swanky restaurant)
However, as Shakespeare said,
Would money make you happy ?
Can money buy you health, love or happiness … maybe that is for another lesson.
Tonight is a new class, a block of four lessons, and phrasal verbs dominate the session – they almost take over. These, like idioms, can be very confusing for a learner, yet are an integral part of everyday English. Don’t give up, keep on trying and you’ll pick it upin next to no time.
First, as a warm up, we’ll go over some recent lessons and see how much of the lingo (slang for language), the students have picked up. They recently had a lesson about choice, confusion and making decisions … or not making decisions. Being unable to act, or to decide is known as procrastination … and is a flaw in one of Literature’s most famous characters, the prince of Denmark; I’m referring to none other than Shakespeare’s Hamlet. This quote may be familiar …
Shakespeare is a world-famous writer, and a great example of British culture … but what about Vietnam ? If I wanted to read some classic Vietnamese texts, what would the students suggest ?
The task is for the students, in small groups, to decide upon one suggestion for each of the following.
To begin with, the Great British seaside. the sun rarely peeks out so when it does, we rush off to the seaside. What can you see here:
The seaside is associated with building sandcastles, donkey rides, deck chairs, paddling, pier, sun cream and ice cream. I want to visit a typical Vietnamese beach town. Where is the best … and why ?
Now, seasides and travelling help us build up an appetite … so what to eat ? What do the students think of a traditional British breakfast (not that I’ve ever eaten one ! It’s not exactly vegetarian-friendly) ?
Again, I want to try a traditional Vietnamese breakfast. What should I eat, where should I go, what should I drink ?
Now, being British, and a teacher to boot (as well), I enjoy a beer (or two …). Here’s a typical British pub:
I’m not sure such places exist in Vietnam, but what do I know ? Maybe the students can help me ? Where could I go to drink beer and which is the best Vietnam brand ?
This is just a quick game to occupy the first part of the lesson (while students are still arriving). Let’s keep the theme of being decisive, tied in with phrasal verbs. We’ve had Shakespeare and ‘high’ culture; now it’s time to be more ‘popular’. British people over a certain age and yes, that includes me, will recognise this number (slang for a song): The music doesn’t start until around the 0:30 mark.
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
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
The students, first in small groups, then as a class, have to decide upon five items to help them survive in the desert. Some items are multi-purpose, for example, a CD is useless in terms of listening to music, but the reverse could be used as a mirror, to reflect the sun, while the sides are sharp and could be used for cutting. Cigarettes are loathsome and not usually associated with long life … however … in the desert, they could save your life. Snakes hate cigarette ash so, at night, light the tobacco and sprinkle the ash in a large circle, then you can safely sleep inside.
And then time to hit the books.
The early bird catches the worm … do the students understand this saying ? What do they think it means ?
To end the lesson, we could try a Family Fortunes game … in small groups, I ask questions and require four answers. They will usually be about me, for example, what four instruments can I play, what four sports do I do ? which four places have I been to in Vietnam, what do I like most about Vietnam, etc ….
And … not forgetting … what quote from Shakespeare do they know ? And they’re not going home until they say it.
Tomorrow night is the last of the four-week series of lessons with one of my favourite classes. Next week they have a test, so a lot of the lesson will be taken up with review work, some reading and grammar. Very important, but can be a tad dry. I want to get the students speaking English as much as possible yet this, I regret to say, can sometimes be a challenge.
I’ll write another blog specifically about the issues I’ve faced trying to motivate my Vietnamese students but, for now, the lesson plan.
The main theme is the actor Sir Ian McKellen. Immediately, we have two interesting points about his name, namely, what does ‘Sir’ mean and why is his name spelt ‘McK …’ ?
‘Sir’ (‘Dame’ for a lady) is an award given by the Monarch (king or queen) for services to the country. It replaces ‘Mr’ so instead of Mr McKellen, he is now called Sir Ian. The ceremony can be viewed here (Ringo Starr of The Beatles is being knighted by Prince William):
As for the ‘McK’, Mc is Gaelic (Irish & Scottish) for Mac or son of. Therefore McKellen means ‘son of Kellen’.
Sir Ian has had a long and distinguished career, in both theatre and film. I was lucky enough to see him on stage in London in a play by the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett, ‘Waiting for Godot’, but he is surely more famous, worldwide, for being in some Hollywood blockbusters.
So first, to warm up, a word bomb game. I’ll board the word ‘cinema’ and see how many words, phrases and names can be elicited from the class.
Then we’ll move into a quick Present Perfect review. I’ll write:
I have see many films.
What is the error here ? What would be the contraction of ‘I have’ ? How would the negative be formed ? How could this be turned into a question ?
The present perfect is formed by subject + have or has + past participle (verb 3). Thus, I have seen, not ‘see’. The contraction is ‘I’ve’, the negative becomes ‘I haven’t seen ‘ while the question form is ‘Have you seen ?’ After this modelling, A few exercises for the students.
I have (meet) Sir Ian
You have (read) ‘Lord of the Rings.’
We have (study) a lot of expressions
She has (go) to the cinema many times.
The students have to give the three forms of these short sentences. Now we’ll turn to Sir Ian. Some students may recognise his face, but I’m sure all of them will know him from at least one of these films: This clip is nearly ten-minutes long, so I’ll just show the top two films, the ‘X-Men’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (7:19 – end).
I like using ‘real-life’ videos, as they are great for hearing English being used naturally. The problems in listening can be offset by the benefits in learning new expressions, and many videos actually have subtitles. I often play a short excerpt from a video several times, breaking it down so the students start to recognise the patterns, then practice among themselves.
In the whole clip, I would highlight the following expressions:
We’re counting down
There’s a lot to choose from
A great opportunity
Stole the film
Then, to practise, match them with these sentences:
Some people love Justin Bieber, some people hate him. He ……..
What food shall we order, ……………
The test is in five days, ……..
Brad Pitt was so good he …………
Going to Australia will be a ……………. to learn more English.
At this point, the book work can commence. They’ll learn about Sir Ian, and read a short interview with him. Questions fall into six categories and he gives succinct answers to each. So now it’s the turn of the students to get up from their chairs (they always need motivating to do that despite my continual promulgations that moving around will create energy and lessen the boredom of a three-hour lesson), speak with different people and practice English. It generally falls on deaf ears. A teacher needs to be patient; it’s part of the job.
The questions will be based on but amended from the interview they have just read:
What Kind of music do you like ?
Can you name any plays by Shakespeare ?
What time do you usually get up ?
How do you relax ?
Can you play a musical instrument ?
What skill(s) would you like to acquire ?
What is the best thing about HCM City ?
What is the best book you’ve read OR the best film you’ve seen ?
There is a lot of book work tonight, so it’s good to break it up with some games or a complete change of pace. I used this still last night in my IELTS class, where it met with a pretty luke-warm reception. I showed them how to ‘read’ a picture. First, ask what the students think is happening in this shot. What do the characters feel about about each other ? I mentioned the emotions evoked by the use of colour; here dull – blue and grey, but as we get closer to the lady (Faye Wong), the colours turn red – the sauce bottles, the Coke machine. Then look at the symbol of her T-shirt, look where her eyes are staring ….
We could then move onto film genres – make a class survey by dividing the teams in two and assigning one captain to each. They have to collate information such as favourite type of film, Vietnamese or American, how often do they go to the cinema, do they ever stream films at home and with whom do they go to the cinema ?
To end, the Family Fortune game seems very popular, where the students are put into small groups, given a board and marker, and have to come up with four answers to various questions.
Additionally, I could use some photos from an internet search, about Vietnam, and ask the teams to tell me an interesting story. I will encourage them to expand their sentences by employing adjectives, adverbs, idioms and expressions.
Then, to quote Prospero in Shakespeare’s ‘Tempest’