Part One: “Always look on the bright side of life”
Eric Idle 1979
First, a thank you to a blogger friend in USA, Haoyan Do, who asked me about Zoom classes, and how they differed from the physical classroom or, in plain English, real life. I had already decided to put a positive spin (more neologisms) on the current situation but, in the interests of fairness, I shall also explore the other side of that metaphorical coin in a future blog.
Now, without further ado, the benefits of teaching on Zoom
“If the rain comes, they go and hide their heads …”
The Beatles ‘Rain’ 1966
Not easy to capture a monsoon on a cheap mobile (cellphone) but you can see the grey sky, the clouds and the mournful trees trying to shelter from the storm. So, advantage number 1 …
1: Avoid going out in the rainy season
My IELTS students, not to mention my Top Cats from younger classes, will know the idiom ‘it’s raining cats and dogs,’ and then some ! When it rains here, the heavens open and streets get flooded. I’ve had to wade, knee-high, in swampy rain water to get to my campus. I lost an iPhone in the rain, and nearly get my foot stuck in a pothole in the middle of the main road. Now, I can watch the rain from inside, safe and dry.
Moving on, I haven’t posted many teaching blogs recently, leading to advantage number 2 …
2: No lesson planning
I only have Young Learner classes, students aged from 7 – 11, which are two-hour classes. We work from the set text books, but my manager prepares all the warm up activities, games and vocabulary reviews on ppt slides. I present them and conduct the lesson.
Some students may be rather vocal, and twelve enthusiastic youngsters can be, as we say in London, GBH of the ear’ole, meaning pain from so much noise or excessive talking (GBH stands for grievous bodily harm in English criminal law). Thus, advantage number 3 …
3: MUTE & MUTE ALL buttons
I love these options, the teacher’s friend. A student who is sitting by a blaring TV, a mummy and daddy having a shouting match, someone who wants to disturb the lesson by humming into the mic … just hit the MUTE button … bliss. Furthermore, we have a Waiting Room facility. Any student who is disrespectful or does now meet my standards of behaviour can be kicked out of the class for five minutes. This action can be repeated. I also have the option to permanently remove them from the class (though I have yet to use that feature).
Thay Paul, can you give us an example ?
Can I ? Oh, yeah, in spades ! Just last weekend, I was going through the online class rules, one of which was not to play with the Zoom features, and not to use a Zoom filter background. No sooner said, then one student began playing with Zoom, flashing said background. In my class, that got him a BLACK STAR. Student, typically, denied the accusation, although everyone had seen, and thereafter was in a bad mood, not answering when the TA called and refusing to take part in a game. Therefore, I put the student in the Waiting Room. Upon return, the student began taking part very enthusiastically, even earning stars for good work.
Next advantage is more indirect but ultimately beneficial to us all
Schools closed, traffic greatly reduced leading to less pollution. Naturally people are using more electricity at home, but in many cases, lights, computers and A/C would be on anyway. Additionally, I spend more on electricity but this is offset by not spending money on petrol (gas) or Grabbike (similar to an Uber service).
So there you have it, four benefits although nothing of real pedagogic value. The Zoom classes are a way of providing some level of education during this lockdown period, to make sure students are exposed to English: listening, speaking, reading and writing.
Teachers need to be extra patient and calm, understanding and compassionate. However, we also have a job to do, and I endeavour to make sure all the students have had an opportunity to practice English, leaving the class having learnt something of lasting value.
The following websites are good for listening practice.
What are the pros and cons of each one ?
What do you like or dislike about them ?
How helpful do you find them ?
Try to use complex sentences in forming your answers, giving reasons and your thoughts.
Example: For me, the best site was (Speakgood.com) because it was well designed, easy to use and extremely helpful. I especially appreciated the subtitles which enabled me to understand what was being said.
This was recommended to me by my Brazilian friend, Ana (also a ESL teacher). Small news stories are told at three levels of English, and you can listen first, then read the text. Also a good way to learn new vocabulary. Having said that, the speaking is rather flat and lacking in intonation.
Elvis appears. He goes over to the TV’s and repeats his movements from Act One, but without any enthusiasm. Finally, he goes to a chair and slumps down. On a table he sees an old pizza box, with some left-overs. He picks one piece and eats, but mechanically, his jaws moving in a uniform rhythm, also without enthusiasm or pleasure. There is more debris in the room and rubbish on the floor. After his food, Elvis just sits staring vacantly into space.
Enter Colonel, slowly, with a sideways glance, a look of pity and confusion rather than disgust.
Col: Well, I’m still here. I was re-instated in my post. For the sake of peace and quiet, I apologised and promised not to do it again, a promise I have every intention of keeping, I might add … my back was aching for days afterwards. I left my girlfriend or at least tried to … she wanted to break up with me. Something about me not being so much fun anymore, no sense of adventure. Work’s the same. I no longer bother to speak about what’s going on in my life … I merely listen to others drone on. I’ve developed a whole series of gestures and non-committal phrases like these …
(demonstrates various movements of head and body to match his words)
You don’t say; no, really ? Well, whatdoyaknow ? How do YOU feel about that ? What do YOU want to happen …Thanks for coming, hope to see you again, real soon … When I come home … it’s this. The work has dried up and so has he. No-one seems to want an Elvis, anymore. I felt in some way responsible for his depression. I tried to cheer him up by doing things like this …
Hey, Elvis, I put some flyers around town and some adds in papers, how about leaving Graceland for a while and going back on the road ? You know your public needs you.
we got a little response … we were put on a short list for a walk-on part in a TV add … Elvis likes TV, but they chose to go with a George Michael look- a-like in the end.
Elv: Won’t they get a surprise when they go to the can !
Col: Right ! Who needs it ? Walk-on parts ! Opening shops selling any old tack.
Elv: You know, I think you’re right there, boy. I shouldn’t be limiting myself to small commerce. I have a higher calling. Doggone right, you know, I’ve got it, I know what I have to do … call the Limo, Colonel, we’re off to … the Reichtstag ! (1)
Col: Say what ?
Elv: Yeah, I’m gonna offer my services to the state, hell knows they could use them. What do those politicians know about real life ? C’mon let’s go see ol’ man … er, who’s the big boss man, these days ? Is that big mother still there ? (2)
Col: No, there’s a new kid on the block. And that kid’s a woman.
Elv: Hilary ? Man, she’s cute. Love that hair-band thing.
Col: No, not Hilary. Not cute, either.
Elv: But a woman ?
Col: More or less. Give or take, though you’d probably want to take more than give. Name’s Merkel.
Elv: “Urkel” ? Oh, well, I be damned if I’ll go then. Wait till they get a President worth clambaking … can’t have a man like me wasting photo-ops with a two-bit cow-faced in-bred hillbilly.
Col: (To audience) Then I had an idea and bear in mind that I’m getting increasingly desperate. This is something I tried a few weeks back.
Hey, Elvis, Paul McCartney’s outside, he wants so much to meet you. Can you find the time to give him an audience ?
(A mere nod fromElvis. Colonel goes off stage and returns presently, dressed as a Beatle, dark suit and Beatle wig. Throughout, he speaks with an exaggerated Liverpool accent.)
Col: All right there, Mister Presley, honour to meet ya, like, it really is, fab, gear and groovy. Me and the lads got all your records, we really love you, we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you, like every time we write a song, we think, “how would it sound if Elvis sang it ?”
Col: Hey, you could be right there, Cock.
Elv: Bet your arse I’m right.
Col: So, which one of us is your favorite … everyone has a favorite Beatle ? Is it me ?
Elv: None of you.
Col: Oh, ‘ey, ain’t you a one, hey, a right Bobby Dazzler. Is it me ? It’s normally me. All the girls like me.
Elv: Boy, you sure as hell look like a girl. Whoa … I like the drummer … Bongo. He’s all right. ‘Course, he’s not the best drummer in the world.
Col: “In the world” ? He’s not even the best drummer in The Beatles. Ta-da ! An oldie but goldie. But can I ask you, where does your talent come from. People ask me all the time to …
Elv: Stop talking ?
Col: Oh, you do like a laugh, oh, ‘ey, fab, like, gear, WWHHHHOOOOOHHHHHHHHH
Elv : No, boy, I mean … stop talking ! You can get a signed photo on your way out. It’s my time to commune with the higher power now. An’ if you wanna know where my gift comes from, well, I suggest you get your skinny, white arse down to the local Baptist church. Randy Scouse git !
(To audience, as he removes his Beatle garb)
I gave it my best shot, what do you expect ? It got to the point where I was past caring, I thought I’d just let him rot, what’s it to me ? If he couldn’t pay his rent, I’d sling his fat arse out of the joint. ‘Course, I might need some help, someone with a JCB, maybe, but then … something happened. I was at work, drying glasses, when this guy comes in. He orders a beer and we strike up a conversation, you know, I’m thinking about the tips, well, this guy, he’s talking about his house and he’s got some light switch, which, I dunno, either it worked, or only sometimes, doesn’t matter … this guy’s talking to me … about light switches ! I don’t know the guy and he’s not drunk, he just goes on and on and on, he presses the switch one way, on comes the light, then when he tries it the opposite way, the light stays on, that kinda thing … and I’m LISTENING TO HIM ! I’m trying to follow him, see where he’s going with this … then it struck me … OK, the Ku’Damm (3) is hardly the road to Damascus, but this night, could I honestly say that my flatmate was any crazier than this guy, Mr Off-Switch ? Or any of the others in that sad and sorry place ? The guy playing video games all day long ? The girl who puts all her hope in computer-dating ? Anyone who’s ever gone to a Karaoke bar ? Maybe he had the answer … he felt that his life simply wasn’t good enough so he did something about it … little extreme for some tastes, I grant you, but … he did something. He was happy … was … so who was I to judge ? He made people laugh and, for a time, forget their own lives, their own problems. You know, I think people envied him. Really. He had the balls to be what they wanted to be. HE’S NOT ELVIS … he knows that. Did I have any better solutions, any answers, any … thing ? The next day, a letter arrived which gave me an idea. It was actually a bill for 46 Euro that’s 45 for the pizza and 1 for the stamp. I phoned and put a little proposition to them. They could have Elvis eat there every night for a week. I got him a booking …
Elv: What’s that you say, boy ?
Col: Elvis, you listen and listen good.
(Speaks in a heavy, Southern accent)
I’m an old army man and I’m used to discipline. Now I’ve been good to you, almost too good, lettin’ you enjoy the fruits of your labour, an’ all. But heavens to Murgatroyd, they want you ! Your public’s crying out … they’ll be banging on the doors… Elvis, you’ve got to throw a little bone once in a while. I’ve got you booked into a week’s residency and by golly, you’re gonna do it.
Elv: A gig ?
Col: You betcha a gig.
Elv: Enough to keep us here, safe in Graceland ?
Col: More pizza than even you can imagine … but ya gotta get back into shape, son, back into motion.
Elv: Yeah, I have to … warm up a bit, that’s all. Why I can hear the crowd now … faint but expectant … murmuring. I can feel the excitement mounting … the lights, the make-up people running around, the choir doing their scales, musicians tuning. I gather my children around me for a little prayer, the audience getting louder and louder, sweat beginning to pour. I’m calm, gotta keep my people under control, but my heart’s pounding. I owe so much. People living their humble, God-fearing lives, have this one night to get a taste of, a glimpse of … something … higher. They need me … they need me to show them the way, to give them hope, belief, happiness … they need my love … they deserve … my love.
(Colonelslowly exits during Elvis’ speech. As Elvis reaches the end, ‘If I Can Dream’ comes on so that he can go immediately into his routine. He mimes along to the entire song. There should be no parody in the performance. Elvis can give out towels or flowers to women and as the music ends, the play finishes and lights go down.)
(1) Reichtstag – the German Parliament building.
(2) A reference to former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl
Richard awoke and, jolting up, looked around the strange flat, wondering where the hell he was. Then it came back to him, with the audio aid of Chris’ snoring. He looked on the sofa and saw that Chris hadn’t moved for … he looked around, feeling for his watch, but it was too dark to make out the time. The next stage was to search for his wallet. It was in his jeans pocket. He opened it and though depleted, there were still some Deutsche Marks remaining.
Domestic noises from behind the large, double doors; footsteps on creaking floorboards, a tap running, a container lid popping open.
A door slowly opened, and Burkhardt peeked in, raising his hand to Richard’s wave. Richard got up, put on his jeans and went to the bathroom, grateful that he always had a travel toothbrush with him.
He would have preferred waking up next to a beautiful German girl, but that would have to wait.
After brushing, and washing his hands and face, he went into the kitchen, where the coffee was waiting for him. Burkhardt offered him one of his Marlboros.
“Your friend is still sleeping. I hope he is OK. I was going to look at him, to make sure he was breathing, then he began snoring. Was it that loud all night ?”
“Oh, yes. The brandy really helped.”
Burkhardt had to go to his shop, so Richard thanked him for his help, and went to wake up Chris But, again, the irresistible force of Richard’s shaking met the immovable object of Chris’ comatosed slumber, until Burkhardt suggested leaving him to sleep it off.
“Well,” said Richard, “that may take a few hours.”
“Do you want to see my shop ? I have to make office things, but we can play records and drink coffee. Just leave a note, saying we’ll be back later.”
“Good idea, but I’m guessing he’ll still be asleep.”
“Haha. We can see.”
The small shop was on Stargarder Strasse, at the Prenzlauer Allee end, which Chris considered the poor man’s Schönhauser Allee. The two north-south main roads ran almost parallel, tapering into Wilhelm Pieck Strasse at the southern end, were linked by the S-Bahn, and dissected by the dreaded Danziger Str.
It was mid morning, and apart from the occasional bakery and general paper-drink-sweet shop, everything was closed and quiet.
Burkhardt opened up, turned on the lights, and told Richard to feel free to look around. Then he went behind the counter to turn on the sound system.
“We have a CD player, cassette deck and stereo, of course,” he laughed, waving his hand over the carefully arranged racks of vinyl records. “Please, play anything you like and I’ll make some coffee.”
“Can I smoke in here ?”
Burkhardt came back and with an expression indicating what he thought of such a silly question, answering,
“Ja, of course!”
Richard looked around, acquainting himself with the organization of the shop, the different areas for different genres.
Records, tapes, books, magazines and CD’s were everywhere, yet clearly ordered. The walls had various picture discs on them, or posters and magazine covers. Behind the counter were more records, either Burkhardt’s choices or rarer pieces.
Richard moved over to the Jazz selection, a small, but quite comprehensive collection, with most of the giants represented. He picked up a Miles Davis disc, ‘Star People’, turning it over in his hands, then a Dizzy Gillespie compilation, a Mingus LP and was studying a Charlie Parker double set.
Burkhardt came back with two mugs of coffee, a Marlboro firmly grasped in the corner of his mouth.
“Anything you want to hear ?”
Burkhardt had on black leather trousers, a shirt of bold colourful vertical stripes, leather jacket and thick square glasses. Richard was expecting some hard-core industrial German noise from the early Eighties. Instead, the jaunty, almost twee introduction of The Beach Boys’ ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice ?’ came on, the thump of a bass drum launching the song into its infectious verses.
“Sixties music is my passion. I try to buy everything I can from that time. It sells OK. I don’t have anything really rare, just some interesting albums from different countries. I wish I had been there. Imagine, living at that time, all this great new music coming out. Not knowing what was going to happen next.”
Richard moved over to the book section and saw that most of them were indeed about Sixties artists.
“Have you read these ? Some of them ?”
“All of them. I’m very boring, I know !”
“No, not at all.”
“But they only tell a part of the story, they only focus on one particular artist, but I think the power of The Sixties was that they were all part of a much larger scene, it was all connected, they all influenced and helped change each other.”
“Like The Beatles hearing Dylan, The Stones hearing The Beatles ?”
“Yes, but much more, much … “ Burkhardt searched for the appropriate word in English, but his gesture and expression were eloquent enough.
“That is what I want to do; write a book on all the music, how it all fitted together. I always read the same things, as you said, Dylan went electric after hearing The Beatles, who began writing longer songs, then The Stones made their concept album. What I want to show is how all of the competition lead to greater and greater music and creativeness.”
He broke off to listen to a particular section of the ‘Pet Sounds’ record that was playing. He continued,
“Let’s take the big three: Dylan, coming from the Folk background, The Beatles from Rock ‘n’ Roll, The Stones from Blues. The Beatles take their influence and give it something of their own. This gives an example to The Stones, to write their own music. The Who follow The Stones, seeing that it was possible to be successful, without looking like Paul McCartney, and that writing original songs was what separated the great bands from all the others. Meanwhile, in America, The Byrds listen to Dylan and Folk, but see ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and Roger McQuinn goes to buy a 12-string Rickenbacker and make one of The Sixties most iconic guitar sounds. They cover Dylan, making his name bigger. He already has critical approval, now comes mass success. All the time the music is going back and forth over the Atlantic, The Beatles hear all these great words, and feel embarrassed by their simplistic lyrics, and Dylan loves the power of the beat. He goes electric at a folk festival, the crowd go crazy, half love it, half hate it, hate him for doing it. Meanwhile, we have these boys, The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson writing, playing, producing. He gets into a contest with Lennon-McCartney, who can write the most perfect, sophisticated pop song ? The Beatles, listening to Dylan, listening to The Byrds, mix jangly guitars with deeper lyrics, come out with ‘Rubber Soul’, The Beach Boys hear this, as well as Dylan’s ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ and start working on Pet Sounds.
Burkhardt pointed off behind him at the music coming out of the speakers.
“The Beatles hear Pet Sounds and realize the bar has been lifted, not by a small amount, but higher than they thought possible. McCartney calls ‘God Only Knows’ the best song ever written. They have to top it. Meanwhile, Mr Dylan releases ‘Blonde on Blonde’. In August 1966, The Beatles put out ‘Revolver’, what a collection of songs, what a cover. German artist, naturally. Brian Wilson hears this, begins work on an album to be even better. The first result is soon heard: ‘Good Vibrations’. They use a theremin, and create a totally new sound. Now the race is really on. Who is going to win ? The Beatles are working on what will be ‘Sgt. Pepper’ but rumours come over about a project called ‘Smile’, a work so powerful that it will blow the minds of all who hear it. Then The Beatles had ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘Penny Lane’. Brain Wilson, for … whatever reasons, put the ‘Smile’ project aside. And it was never released.”
Burkhardt let out a sigh, a requiem for all the great music that never was.
“Some songs crept out, some bootleg recordings of backing tracks and finally a watered down version, to fill the contract. Never more would The Beach Boys be a major band. Their following LP’s sold bad, some not even making the Top 100.
“Music is like an arrow that never falls, but carries on, forever. Bands get to ride along, for a while, then fall away. After ‘Smile’, The Beach Boys fell away.
“Meanwhile, The Beatles won the contest. ‘Sgt. Pepper’ came out in 1967, the ‘Summer of Love’. Of course, I have seem photos, they recorded it in the freezing cold London winter. Then what happened ? No more Brian Wilson, Dylan had disappeared. And they bring out ‘Magical Mystery Tour’, not exactly a flop, but no masterpiece. And The Stones continue to follow The Beatles, and release ‘Their Satanic Majesty Requests’. I’m a Stones fan, but even I have a hard time listening to that. It seemed as if the arrow has fallen. What better time for Mr Dylan to reappear. Missing all of the hippy scene, in January 1968, one of his best, ‘John Wesley Hardin’. People always write about The Stooges, or The Ramones making simple Rock ‘n’ Roll, or stripping down the music to the bare essentials and starting again. Ah, Mist ! (bullshit). I love those bands, but it is shit, they played like that because they couldn’t play any better ! Johnny Ramone said, in interviews, “We didn’t play any covers, because we couldn’t play anybody else’s songs.” It was Mr Dylan, and The Band who really stripped music, cut out all the excess and brought it all back home. And after Mr Dylan comes back ? The Beatles make ‘The White Album’ and The Stones make ‘Beggar’s Banquet’.
“Then we have the trio of Rock deaths, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. But what about the other trio of drug casualties ? Pink Floyd’s Sid Barrett ? Peter Green, a guitarist as good as, if not better than Clapton ? And, our old friend, Brain Wilson ? If he had finished ‘Smile’, how would he have followed it ? What would The Beatles have written in response ? Not ‘I Am The Walrus’, I’m sure. Who knows what great music was waiting to be written ?
“Do you know what the first bootleg was ?” Burkhardt asked, rather abruptly.
“Yeah, it’s Dylan, ‘Great White Hope’, I think.”
Burkhardt smiled and gave a single nod. He moved over to a corner, to the Classical section that Richard hadn’t seen, and pulled out a record with a dark sleeve, showing a wooden Crucifix.
“Good answer, but not right. This: ‘Miserere Mei’ by Allegri. Do you know the story ?”
Richard didn’t, so Burkhardt changed The Beach Boys for the new disc and waited for the first notes, so as to adjust the volume.
“It was kept by The Vatican. One of the Pope’s thought it was so beautiful, that it mustn’t be allowed to leave Rome. Not only that, it was only to be played in the Sistine Chapel, only at Easter. One year, a young man was able to hear it, maybe once, possibly twice, but certainly no more than that. He went straight to his room and wrote it out, note by note, from memory. The boy’s name was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He was facing excommunication from the Church, but the new Pope was so impressed by his talent, that he permitted it. And if Mozart hadn’t been there, in Rome, at the time, maybe we wouldn’t be able to listen to it today.”
They sat in silence, just listening to the extraordinary heavenly singing. Burkhardt spoke, but no longer to Richard, his remarks were addressed to an unseen audience.
“I like to think that the arrow continues, that other bands can get a little of that creativeness and inspiration and, who knows, maybe again, we will have a Golden Age of classic after classic, after classic.”
After the piece had finished, Burkhardt caught up on paperwork, and Richard played Pet Sounds and John Wesley Hardin.
When they returned to the flat, Chris had only just woken up and was feeling hideous. He refused a coffee, made a very embarrassed ‘thank you’ and left with Richard, who agreed to re-visit the store in the near future. He kept putting it off and when he finally did go back, it was gone, a Head Shop taking it’s place, a store selling Oriental merchandise and marijuana paraphernalia.
On returning home, Chris went straight to his bed and was asleep immediately. Richard took a shower, then went to the Kino (Cinema) and later to a few bars in Kreutzberg, just hoping to bump into Monika and therefore Lorelei. But he saw no one and drank alone.
On September 28th 2004, a re-recorded ‘Smile’ was finally released.
The ability to use complex sentences, fluently and naturally, will greatly improve your IELTS score (in both speaking and writing). Therefore here’s a little exercise I used in last night’s class. Test your ability to speak in IELTS-style sentences.
Quite simply, take a basic subject and see how complex you can make it by adding information to every noun.
Good idea. Here is my friend Tony:
Tony is from Liverpool. He is 32. He is a reporter. He works on ‘The Daily Talk’. This is shown on ICB network.
Remember, relative pronouns who / which / where / whose
Tony, who is 32, is from Liverpool, which is famous for football as well as The Beatles. He occupation (or profession) is reporter, working for ‘The Daily News’ which is a show broadcast on the ICB network, which is located in London, where Tony now lives.
You wouldn’t usually include so many clauses, but it is an exercise, similar to a musician practising scales. Ideally, in the speaking test, you will be able to use complex sentences at the drop of a hat.
NOW … YOUR TURN
Make a complex sentence about your hometown.
Sai Gon / Tp HCM
Sai Gon: in southern Viet Nam / largest city in VN / population over nine million / many museums (such as History, War Remnants, Independence Palace) / traditional food (such as Phố) – what is Phố ? What is it served with ?
Next, tell me about someone in your family.
Who is that person ? What relation to you ? Where do they live, what is their profession ? Describe their physical appearance and personality and try to add an anecdote, to make your presentation more personal.
Finally, in last night’s listening practice, there was mention of the Hearst Castle in California:
William Randolph Hearst, who was a very famous newspaper tycoon, lived in this castle, which is in California. Hearst was immortalised in the film ‘Citizen Kane’, a classic movie from 1941 by Orson Welles, who directed and starred in the film which is often cited as being the best film ever made.
New vocabulary and expressions:
Last night’s class produced these:
The weather is Sai Gon is sweltering and terribly humid
monotonous (mono = one) = very tedious
I don’t give a monkey’s = I really don’t care
occupation (better word for job) / profession = need to be qualified such as doctor, nurse, lawyer, pilot, chef etc
most notably = Orson Welles made many films, most notably ‘Citizen Kane’.
A typical, run of the mill IELTS question will be about your hometown or about your neighbourhood.
First, some new vocabulary. I will expect you to learn these:
gritty / industrial
quite / safe / residential
boring / peaceful / suburban
bustling / vibrant / city centre
apparently – something you believe to be true
conversely – the opposite, on the other hand, however
actually – saying something that is surprising or is the truth
bear with me – please wait a very short time
bit of a sore point – something that makes you sad or angry
like a madhouse – a place or area that is crazy, too noisy, too busy etc
run of the mill – ordinary, typical, unusual, boring
you take your life in your hands – doing something that is extremely dangerous
NOW … your turn
Tell me about your neighbourhood
Remember, give me a great introduction, have a positive point, a negative point and a short conclusion.
Use some of the new vocabulary
Well, that question is a bit of a sore point with me because I live in a terribly noisy gritty industrial area. My apartment is near the Cat Lai port which is one of the busiest in Vietnam. Consequently, we have containers driving past, day and night which, as you can imagine, creates so much pollution.
However, allow me to talk about the good points. Firstly, it is significantly cheaper than, say, District 1 or 3, as it is quite far to the centre. The shops, also, tend to be on the cheap side. Additionally we have some street markets where I can pick up some very cheap food and fresh fish. We are well-served with several convenience stores although, in my opinion, Family Mart charges an arm and a leg.
Conversely, my friends avoid visiting me because it is so dangerous to ride a motorbike here, we really take our lives in our hands every time we go out. Furthermore, I love fresh air so I open my windows, yet I have to dust and clean every day because so much dirt comes in. Finally, we have open-air karaoke nearly every night and street wedding parties most weekends which means loud and terrible singing. It’s like a madhouse, I really detest this horrible noise.
I am lucky with my neighbours, and the apartment is really spacious. Having said that, the area is so bad that as soon as possible, I will leave and find somewhere cleaner and safer.
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
I want my students to know present and past tense of common verbs, a range of adjectives (both positive and negative) and a good selection of nouns. Additionally, I’d like them to be able to put them together in long sentences, and start to use English contractions.
And so, to kick off (to start), a past tense exercise.
Ask your neighbour, “What did you do today ?”
I will give present tense verbs – students must use the past tense.
This morning, I go out and drink coffee: This morning I went out and drank coffee.
Later, I meet an old friend and we have lunch together and talk and laugh.
In the afternoon, I sit in the park, play guitar and sing songs.
Adverbs – these make your English more interesting and give more information.
Sai Gon is hot. Sai Gon is so // very // extremely // incredibly hot.
Sai Gon has delicious food – Sai Gon has extremely delicious food and it’s so cheap.
NOW – sentence building:
I love Sai Gon because it’s so hot. Additionally, the food is incredibly delicious and very cheap. However, it can be extremely noisy, dirty and polluted.
Tell me about Nha Trang: Speak about hotels / food / how to get there / things to do
Tell me about these clothes and the people:
Language to use:
beautiful / stunning / eye-catching
cotton / silk / leather / straw / denim (jeans)
short hair / medium-length hair / shoulder-length hair / long hair
17th September for 23rd September. AEF 3 pp. 50 – 51
Last week, we covered past tense – simple, continuous and perfect. However, that is a lot to take in, especially for students who are not so confident. Looking at charts and learning the jargon can be daunting and far too theoretical.
This problem has long been identified and addressed; grammar, as theory, reduced to a minimal. Grammar, used in writing and more importantly speaking, maximised.
Therefore, my policy in this block of lessons (four per block) is to reduce book work, simplify the theory and try to allocate at least half the lesson to student-talking time.
Last night’s lesson seemed to work well; the Socratic approach which makes the students collect information and then collate it into a presentation. This was followed by students reading to each other in small groups, with some useful expressions to use … and repeat and repeat and …yeah, you get the idea.
Let’s go to work !
But first, back to basics. Some students are not fluent in the three forms of basic verbs:
Grammar – verb practice
Here’s the 15 most common:
infinite \ present // past // past participle (verb 3)
Regular verbs, just add -‘ed’. However, as you see, in this list only one common verb, ‘want’, is regular.
NOTE: ‘to be’ is different: I am hungry You are hungry She is hungry.
Now, practice: In groups of three or four, they have to ask each other questions in order to feel more natural using the past tense. Lets’s start simply with the simple past:
What did you do today ?PAST SIMPLE
Each student takes turns describing their day. Always give ideas, as some students spent too much time thinking of what to say, whereas the purpose is to speak.
I will also board: buy / drink / surf the internet / help parents / cook / do homework
To make it more interactive, the students can ask follow-up questions, such as, “What did you eat for lunch ?”, “What time did you start school ?”, “How did you get to work or school ?” etc. Groups can monitor each other to make sure past tense is being used properly.
NEXT: Past Continuous. Subject was doing something in the past ….
Example: Last night I was listening to T-ara:
However, we usually use past continuous to say we were doing something WHEN something new happened.
EXAMPLE: I was listening to T-ara when someone knocked on my door.
The structure is Subject + was or were + verbing, followed by past simple
Try this: dream // alarm clock ring
He was dreaming when the alarm clock rang.
Now – practice: Make a sentence from these pairs of photos:
Finally, the past perfect. Two things happened in the past, one before the other.
The students ‘met’ Dr Kafka last week.
Dr Franz Kafka had lived all his life in Prague until he moved to Berlin in the 1920s.
Subject + has or had + verb 3 then use past simple.
John Lennon – in The Beatles / goes solo in 1970
Dali – paint over 1 500 paintings / dies 1989
Bringing it closer to home, Bac Ho (Uncle Ho Chi Minh) – work London / meet these young Germans.
Finally, for presentation, the students can be arranged in four groups (draw playing cards so students work with new partners). I will give them ten minutes to work together and make a short presentation, with all members speaking, about the above four historical figures. Those who draw Ho Chi Minh should have an advantage, so I will be expecting more from them.
Presentations should include:
Date and place of birth.
Why there are famous
Give examples of their most famous works or activities
Where they lived
When and how they died.
ALSO – why we should remember them.
Then, I will turn to the books and hand-outs, before returning to some speaking practice before the end.