IELTS – Get your motor runnin’: fluency, stress and intonation

15th October 2020

Get Your Motor Runnin' Head Out on the Highway | Donald Trump Meme on ME.ME

Our plan for the next semester is to develop speaking skills – presentation and delivery – as well as, naturally, increasing vocabulary, colocations, phrases, idioms … in short, the whole nine yards.

New idioms

I don’t want to overburden the class with too many idioms, so these are what we’ll be using over this semester. That means using them repeatedly until they become second nature and the students, of whom I am very fond, will have another string to their bow … oh, heck – ANOTHER idiom !

Another string to (your) bow – a new skill or learning experience

bear with me – please wait a very short time (usually spoken as opposed to written)

bit of a sore point – something that makes you sad or angry

down in the dumps – depressed, unhappy, feeling gloomy

hit the ground running – to start something immediately and with all your energy

like a madhouse – a place or area that is crazy, too noisy, too busy etc

run of the mill – ordinary, typical, normal, usual, boring

up in arms – to be very angry about something, to protest strongly

you take your life in your hands – doing something that is extremely dangerous

NOW … your turn … what idioms fits ?

Lunatics Paradise: Australia's Renewables Fiasco Like Living in a Madhouse  – STOP THESE THINGS

At breaktimes, all the younglings come pouring out of their classes, screaming their little heads off …

it’s ___________________________________

Students protest against tuition fees - BBC News

Students are unhappy about tuition fees

They are _____________

You still can!': Music teacher champions adult students learning violin

She can speak five languages, do karate and is now learning violin

She has added __________________________

Yawning Girl Reading A Boring Book Stock Photo, Picture And Royalty Free  Image. Image 19559231.

She thought the novel would be extremely exciting.

Unfortunately, for her, it’s just a ___________________ story.

Street Photography in Austin - Assignment Chicago

Some areas of downtown are no-go areas.

You really _________________________________________ if you go after dark and alone.

buster-keaton-396846_640

Poor Buster is so funny, yet he always looks _______________________

Oh, dear …

This beautiful young lady seems to be upset about something.

Possibly something the man said is a ______________________ with her ?

Excited Motivated Multiracial Business Team Stock Footage Video (100%  Royalty-free) 1037298239 | Shutterstock

We’re going to have a tremendous success with our new product which we shall be launching in Europe, the US and parts of Asia.

We’re really going to ________________________________

Marcello Mastroianni

Excuse me, I have to take this call _______________________

Part two:

How would you describe these neighbourhoods ? I want full sentences, as complex as you can make them, bursting with idioms, expressions and Low-Frequency Words. Give your opinions – would you like to go there, or even live there ? Explain your rationale.

Old Manchester pubs and cinemas from the '60s to '90s
Manchester, north-west England
Inmueble en venta - Earls Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN4 | Knight Frank
Tunbridge Wells, south of London
Birmingham UK Industrial scene | Birmingham uk, Birmingham, Industrial
Birmingham in the British Midlands

Rural Retreats | Wales Cottages
Rural Wales
The Edinburgh festival is cancelled: long live the festival | Scotland |  The Times
Edinburgh, capital of Scotland, during the festival

Part three:

Practice making complex sentences, with two clauses at least, from these simple sentences.

Example:

Cinema Paradiso getting Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray release in UK – Film Stories

Johnny always went to the cinema when he was a child.

As a child, Johnny always went to the cinema.

GRAMMAR NOTE – the first word after the supporting clause has to be the subject.

We always played games when we had Mr Tony as our teacher.

He speaks English well although his written work is rather poor.

The Who | Discography | Discogs

The Who were formed in west London in the early 1960s. They are a very famous, influential bands despite never having a Number 1 hit single.

Asian Woman Selfie stock photos and royalty-free images, vectors and  illustrations | Adobe Stock

My neighbour only works in a convenience store. She thinks she is a big star. She is constantly taking selfies.

And … to end, let’s start copying some classic movie scenes:

https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn%3AANd9GcQBhjzqbLv-Fe17vj4O7Ep4GZ4je0erYx6AXA&usqp=CAU

The lines to copy are from 0:14 – 0.37

Here’s the first of the day, fellas … to old D.H. Lawrence … yyahhhhhhHHHHHHH … NIC, NIC, NIC, ffff, fffff … cccahhhh, indians !

IELTS 5- 6.5: All you need is love … and relative pronouns

25th September 2019

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 (left) with drummer Kenny Jones of The Small Faces & The Who

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.

Example:

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 who rose 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.

And here is said video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-_u-W_3jWk&list=LLfquznE0joCgmA3v1PIQ0CQ&index=6&t=0s

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:

Image result for 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:

https://www.dw.com/en/franz-kafka-the-trial/a-45774582

Now let’s turn to John Lennon, seen here with his Japanese wife, Yoko Ono (also an artist, but more avant-garde).

Image result for john lennon

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.”

Image result for Uncle Ho

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:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkgkThdzX-8

Nothing to kill or die for … Peace xx

Young Teens: deeply, madly, truly.

21st February 2019

Yes, it’s adverb time. This class was introduced to them last week, while I was happily sipping a beer in Thailand, a remarkably beautiful country which, despite being quite close to Vietnam, has a significantly different culture, atmosphere, vibe.

Tonight’s class focuses on speaking, so I’m hoping for a lively session with all students enthusiastically participating.

To begin with, there are several types of adverb:

I use a mnemonic device to help me remember the five main types: DF MPT (degree, frequency, manner, place, time).

I shall look at the adverbs they learnt last week and make a ‘run & write’ game. Class will be split into two teams; I’ll board or say a word (careful, fast, angry etc) and one person from each team will have to write it as an adverb.

To reinforce, I’ll select one of the more outgoing students to act out various scenarios, for example the student can walk carefully, speak quietly, eat quickly. Thus the students will have both written and spoken some basic adverbs.

Next, I shall try a new game, introduced by a song from The Who ‘Who are you ?‘ (which people may know as the theme from CSI:Vegas): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_3ks7-OjGc    

I’ll just use the opening bars (some versions have lyrics which are inappropriate for the classroom !)

In this game, I will put the students into small groups, and give one pupil a paper with some basic information on it:

Four People

NAME: Alan NAME: Jane

FROM: Cambridge FROM: Manchester

WEATHER: Mild and sunny WEATHER: Wet, grey, rainy

JOB: Student JOB: Lawyer

LIKES: Reading books LIKES: Shopping online

Rowing Films Badminton Cats

WHY IN VN: Exchange study WHY IN VN: Work for UK company

BEST: Lots of museums BEST: Good wifi, interesting history

WORST: Traffic & pollution WORST: Scams, noise, traffic

OPINION: Great place but too noisy

OPINION: Fascinating but walk carefully

NAME: Peter NAME: Anna

FROM: Birmingham FROM: New York

WEATHER: Grey, cold WEATHER: Very cold, very hot in summer

JOB: Journalist JOB: Electrician

LIKES: Making models LIKES: Sudoku

Travelling Football Piano Meeting friends

WHY IN VN: Writing a story WHY IN VN: Travelling around Asia

BEST: Meeting Vietnamese people BEST: Cheaper prices. Good food

WORST: Too hot. Food too spicy WORST: Extremely hot and sticky

OPINION: Incredibly noisy and humid OPINION: Amazingly fun place.

This is an exercise to help students form questions. A great way to start a speaking exercise is simply to model it first, eliciting as much information from the students. For example, I could board answers and ask the students what questions could they ask to get these answers. To broaden their vocabulary, I will demonstrate various approaches;

To enquire about my job:

What do you do for a living ?

What do you do ?

What is your occupation ?

How do you make a living ?

For my likes:

What do you like doing in your free time ?

What are your hobbies ?

What kinds of things are you into ?

The students ask the chosen student questions, then report back to the class. To make sure all the class are paying attention, I’ll ask questions and award points. It is common situation that students who are NOT presenting have very limited interest in other students who are speaking.

Depending on time, I will add a quick game where I board a basic sentence and the students have to elaborate by adding adjectives and, now, adverbs.

The student is good – The intelligent student works extremely well.

The food is nice / The weather is hot / The homework was hard / My cat is lazy.

And onto the bookwork. Today’s book mentions Cambridge (which they read about before with reference to the boat race), Buckingham Palace in London (which most of the students know is the home of the Queen) and Bristol in west England, which, I am sure, will be unknown to the students: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khM7tjui86Q

This is quite a good video, as it is just visual (thus giving the students a little break, as well as introducing them to a new city), and it can be followed up by asking what people can do there ? What kind of buildings did they see ? Would they like to go there ? What did they think about it ? Interesting or boring … and then use adverbs to make their answers more interesting.

Also, I like to let the students hear different accents because in the real world, they probably will not be listening to English teachers speaking slowly, carefully and in Standard English, but to people from all over the English-speaking world or, more likely, non-native speakers. Locals from Bristol have a different accent to mine (east London but with Standard for work), so here is a short clip illustrating the difference, and it has subtitles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qKBRnyWleU

The students can try to copy the sounds and also learn everyday fixed expressions. All in all, I’m hoping it’ll be an exciting and active class.

In keeping with the emphasis on speaking, in the reading section, one section of the class can read one paragraph, then close their books while the other students ask them questions, so here we have reading with speaking and listening skills being practised.