Kindergarten:Surfin’ Safari Level 1

2nd March 2019

Last week was my first meeting with this class, so I had to familiarise myself with what they studied so far, what they could and couldn’t do.

The TAs at my centre are amazing, and I am assigned two for each of these KG (Kindergarten) classes. They informed me that the children could speak but not write. In a nutshell, they knew basic colours, numbers and instructions (‘hands up’, ‘sit down’ and the like). Also, the ABC was still being learnt, so last week I began with a great video using characters created by Richard Scary. The ABC starts at 3:20, ending at 4:00: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nog9FBW9cTo&t=284s

I was given a book by Richard Scary back when I was four (I’m NOT saying what year that was !) and still have it. I made the class sing along, then do a ‘Run ‘n’ Write’ game, each student running to the board to write an assigned letter. It is a kinetic activity and involves all the students.

Some characters from Richard Scary.

The pattern for young learners is to do many different games and types of games, to maintain attention and interest. It’s the ‘montage of attraction’ I’ve referred to in previous blogs; basically how the separate parts all fit together as in engineering or film editing.

The advantages are that the students like routine and repetition, so the same games can be played most weeks, allowing for some variation. The objectives are to get the students producing English: speaking, writing, listening and eventually reading. Listening cannot be under-estimated. At this age, the students are like sponges – they absorb everything, so learning occurs at at much faster rate. This dwindles with age, hence I’ve been in Vietnam over three years and can barely form a sentence.

New vocabulary, expressions and pronunciation can be acquired just by listening to the teachers, so I ask my TAs to use key words repeatedly (e.g. ‘excellent’, ‘good work’, ‘well done’) thus expanding their lexical resources (sorry, I just didn’t want to repeat the word, ‘vocabulary’). Music too has a tremendous impact. An inane Europop song can be a wonderful learning opportunity as the lyrics are repeated AND are learnt in a fun way. As such, last week I used this song, which, I have no shame in admitting, I actually LOVE: Eiffel 65 with ‘Move Your Body’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nog9FBW9cTo&t=284s

Clip from the original video. Repetition of basic sentences is a great learning device.

And so … to tomorrow’s lesson:

It’s a basic class; the students know some vocabulary, colours and numbers, and we’re developing their sentence-forming skills by making them say their names (either ‘My name is …..’ or ‘I’m …… ‘ featuring the contraction of I am).

First, it’s good to do a quick and energetic warm up. We did Musical Statues (Freeze) last week, so today we’ll try Musical chairs. This class is not so large (about 11 or 12) so we’ll have the class in two groups walking around their table. The TA will make sure they understand the rules, but we are also drilling common classroom features such as chairs and tables. This seems a great video, as today we’re introducing the word ‘train’ : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYhKyqQ3zXg

When the music stops, the students race for the chairs. Thos who are unlucky have to answer a question, then we continue. While the children are standing, we can do a ‘Teacher Says’ game, basically a ‘Simon Says’, but here used to drill simple expressions such as ‘clap your hands’, ‘sit down’, ‘stand up’ etc and then acting out animals (which is always fun).

Leading on from this, another game and a chance to learn new vocabulary. I’ll prepare a slide of new animals. The children form two teams and have to throw a sticky ball at the board, aiming for the names animal. The aim (ah-hem) is to get one team to tell the other at which animal to throw. Ideally they’ll be able to say, “Throw at the chicken,” but it may just be, “Chicken !” It’s a start. My new animals will be:

Water buffalo, common in Viet Nam
Panda to practise the plosive ‘p’ sound.
Shark to practise the ‘sh’ sound.
Chicken for the useful ‘ch’ sound.
A tiger, so they can learn different types of big cat (they already know lions).

Moving on, we come to the lesson and focus on numbers. Around the room, I’ll stick various flash cars depicting numbers. I’ll ask for two students to find me a number from one to four. They will run like little nutcases and grab the card. They then have to bring it to me and say, “Here you are,” and then write the number (just figure) on the board.

I like to make the students speak to each other in English as much as possible, and it’s fun to make one student ‘thay’ or teacher. That student will hold the flash card and ask the class to show him or her 1 or 2 etc and the class will hold up the right number of fingers.

The book work reinforces new vocabulary and numbers. To break the book work, they will colour a train picture I have prepared for them:

I also like to play a short video to show life outside of Vietnam. Here’s the London Tube at rush hour:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8LRlwCx4yY

There is no underground system in Viet Nam, so this should be an eye-opener. We can also see if the students are able to understand any of the instructions the guard say.

If time allows, we can watch the ABC video again, or just focus on some of the letters, giving the letter, the sound and an example:

B – bbb (sound) – ball.

At this age, we can’t overload them with work, so there could be some colouring, but still looking for any opportunity for the class to speak English.

And then, my weekend is over and I can go home … to prepare lessons for tomorrow, my last IELTS class before their oral test but that, as they say, is for another blog.

IELTS 4/5: Speaking Class

Tomorrow evening, 7th January, the class will focus on speaking, pronunciation and present simple/continuous grammar. I aim to get the students speaking as much as possible with as many different people as possible. I intend to kick off with a warm-up exercise, something light while late students arrive.

I’ll show some new compound nouns to do with shopping

window

binge

bulk

impulse

dumpster diving

After defining, and demonstrating the pronunciation, I will ask the students to match with the following photos:

Did the lady go out to buy this top or did she decide only when she was in the store ?

And after some binge or impulse shopping, this could be the reaction:

To encourage students to speak, I’ll ask them what they think is happening in the photos, then elicit more and more information. Describe how people look, what they are doing (to link with the present continuous grammar), why they are doing it and how they feel about the types of shopping.

This can be an activity for the whole class to join in, relax the students and let them feel confident to shout out answers. We’ll then turn to working in pairs. I’ll show four slides and ask the pairs to tell me the story:

DISCLAIMER: THIS IS A STOCK PHOTO FROM GOOGLE IMAGES (NOT ONE OF MY STUDENTS !)

I’ll ask two or three pairs, but the basic story is quite straightforward. To make it more relevant to IELTS, we’ll see how we can develop a basic sentence into a more elaborate, interesting one, using adjectives and adverbs.

Many students, when describing a photo, will use pronouns – “She is asleep.” This should be replaced by naming the subject, (a girl) then giving more information (age, clothes, surroundings, appearance etc) and by employing discourse markers to link the ideas into longer, IELTS-friendly sentences.

An example would be: A young girl with long, brown hair is sleeping at her school desk. She appears to be a public school student due to her uniform of white blouse and blue skirt. Furthermore, she sits in an old chair with a thin wooden desk, typical of schools. Additionally, she has a black ribbon in her hair but her face is covered by her arms. It can clearly be seen that other students are also finding it hard to stay awake.

After this activity, we’ll move onto an IELTS-style speaking test. In pairs, preferably new couples, they can act out a Part One test. Here, the examiner will spend four to five minutes asking basic questions of the student, subjects such as where are you from, interests, job, studies, family etc. However, these are just leading questions, there is no interaction.

The examiner will be looking for answers that are relevant, neither too short nor too long, use correct grammar, employ good vocabulary and are given in well-structured sentences.

After this, it’ll be a case of ‘hitting the books‘. Students need to realise that in many cases, a teacher’s hands are tied – we have to teach certain pages or subjects and it can’t always be entertaining or wildly interesting … but we can try. One reason why teaching is so exhausting is that the class depends on the energy radiating from the teacher (who may well feel under par) even when we are confronted by bored faces, unmotivated students, loud yawns, mournful sighs and obsessive, repetitive, pleading looks at the clock … which never seems to move.

To end, I may try a ‘Family Fortunes’ (FF) game or eyewitness. I’ll show two slides of faces, give them two minutes then ask them to describe what they have seen, as if giving a report to the police. It’s interesting to see what students find as important. It can also be fun to use a famous person in the ‘line up’; in Vietnam, I use the singer / TV personality Hari Won.

Hari Won

At the end of the lesson, the students should have learnt: new vocabulary, which words are stressed in normal conversation, should feel comfortable using present simple or continuous … and have spent most of the lesson speaking and listening to each other.