Top Gear is a famous British show about cars, motoring, driving and crashing !
Here is an opportunity to hear British English being spoken at a natural pace, and to learn new expressions and colloquialisms (everyday spoken words, not usually found in student text books).
Top Gear Vietnam
The chaps arrive in Vietnam are are given a challenge … to buy a car for 15 million Dong. That sounds a lot of money, but it is nowhere near enough to buy a car, not even an old, second-hand one. Instead they decide they can only afford motorbikes.
I actually prepared this for my top students in a Young Learners’ Level 3 (ages from 9 – 11) class; university-level semiotics. While most of the class just do the assigned work – no more, no less – others make no effort at all and are unable or unwilling to answer a question to which I have just given the answer. Then we have the top cats … I’m lucky to have two exceptional students in my class as well as two others who, with some effort, could also reach those Olympian heights.
This is my final class with this group as they have tests next week, conducted by the Vietnamese staff. Therefore it is a review lesson, going over recently-acquired words and practising listening skills.
It threatens to be quite passive (although this class is anything but passive) so I need to start with some energetic team games, focussing especially on speaking.
To begin, a STB game based on the previous unit (‘Special Places’). I’ll show various pictures of world landmarks and ask about them, for example where is this:
Bonus points for naming the mythological creature, and for asking the riddle with which it is associated. Other sites include the Taj Mahal, the Parthenon, a lighthouse, and the recently-discovered Hang Soon Dong cave here in Vietnam.
psycho / palace / famous for / in common / gadget.
As usual, it helps to give a model to serve as an example. I shall use this photo:
In this picture, the British spy James Bond is surrounded by some very scary alligators who are extremely hungry. He tries using his magnet gadget on his watch but it doesn’t work. Bond is famous for escaping from very dangerous situations. Quickly, he runs across the water stepping on the backs of the creatures. Bond films are incredibly popular because they are amazingly exciting. Do you find them interesting or boring ?
Now for the students:
To end the activity section, an opinion poll. This makes the students get up and ask classmates for their views, so listening and speaking skills are utilised – and no teacher-talking-time !
This survey will be based on Special Places. The students are offered a choice of four locations: The Pyramids of Giza, the Parthenon in Athens, The Taj Mahal in India and Buckingham Palace in England.
Which site do you want to visit most ?
What is the weather like there (use adverbs) ?
What can you do there ?
What could be a problem ?
After this, it’s time for the book work and assigned lesson plan. As mentioned, there is a lot of listening and video watching, so that should occupy most of the remaining time.
To finish we need a high-energy game. ‘Family Fortunes’ is good as it makes the students work together, and can be a test of general knowledge. I could ask: name four countries in Europe, four typical dishes from USA, four famous singers etc.
This is the penultimate class before the speaking test, and the assigned work involves a fair amount of reading and listening. Therefore, I want to introduce more speaking activities so the students can practice and I can check for pronunciation and correct use.
We’ll kick off with a warm up – I’ll board some fixed expressions and the students must complete them:
The last expression leads into the second activity, ‘Lonely Hearts.’
I’ll re-use the photos from a class I took last week, where I show three men and three woman with a very brief bio of each one. The students have to match them up, then speculate on what the outcome of the date will be …
After, there will be a quick-fire vocabulary game to go over the meaning of recently-learnt words and expressions.
something that is everywhere, very common, easily found
Quoting a fact from somebody else
An adverb that means much more
An adverb that is mild, a little, a little more
To repeat something
(Again, answers at the end)
The next game is Desert Survival. Students are put into two groups and given a sheet with a number of items. They have to work together to decide upon five items ONLY that will help them survive in the desert.
You need to select five items below to help you survive in the desert.
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
Your case (arguement) is not without value, but …
Have you fully considered the implications of your decision ?
The students have to practice the given language and negotiate with each other, then with the other team. We need to find a consensus of five items.
This will probably be enough to take us to the book work.
The first item is the difference between ’cause’ and ‘make’
Look at this sentence:
There was a recession in 2008 because of the collapse of the housing market.
This can be re-written, to alter the style of writing:
Because of the collapse of the housing market, there was a recession in 2008
The collapse of the housing market caused a recession in 2008.
We can see ’cause’ in because of. Here, we are talking about a thing (the housing market). When we talk about the effect on people, we usually use ‘make.’
The recession made many people loose their jobs.
In the area of Ho Chi Minh where I live, there are a lot of open-air karaoke singers, and a vacant lot hired out for wedding parties.
On Saturday, a wedding party caused a lot of noise.
The guests made a lot of noise
Listening to drunken people screaming karaoke makes me angry !
Additionally, ’cause’ is more informal, while ‘make’ is frequently used in informal collocations:
The delay was caused by heavy traffic. The delay made me late.
The heavy traffic caused me to be late. The incessant noise caused me to be angry
This is a more formal than ‘made me late’ but the sentence structure has to be altered; to be is added before the adjective (late).
After, with about thirty minutes left, the energy and motivation will probably be somewhat low (to say the least), so an activity to wake them up and to encourage them to speak and express their views. I shall simply write two contentious issues on the boards, in the hope of provoking the students:
Vietnamese are so lazy
Vietname should be part of China
I am expecting a vociferous outcry, but the object here is to let the students gather their ideas and verbalise them in a suitable way for IELTS.
They will need to give their opinions, use adverbs, and back them up with reasons.
Finally, we can play a Family Fortune (FF) game. Students are put into small groups and have a set time to come up with four answers. These can be learning based (e.g. four adverbs of degree), new vocabulary or general knowledge questions. To make it more fun, I could ask questions regarding my experiences (I have lived in four countries; which ones ? What are my favourite Vietnamese dishes ? What do I like more in VN than UK ? etc).
Hopefully the class will be happy at 9.00 pm, NOT because the lesson is over, but because it has been worthwhile … probably a mixture of the two !
The answers: see / day / time / day out / everybody
ubiquitous / according to / significantly or remarkably / quite or somewhat / reiterate.
This is a lesson plan for an adult class I teach comprised mainly of professional engineers and mechanics. The level is mixed, as is natural with all classes, but I would place most students at Intermediate level. In order to boost them to the next stage, I will introduce more expressions, higher vocabulary and more student talking time.
I’ll be trying to implement a CELTA-style plan: ‘Present, Practice, Produce’ (PPP) which basically means I demonstrate some new language, allow the students to practice and then use the language on their own, checking for pronunciation, intonation and context. The key word is PRACTICE; whatever your field, whatever natural talent you may possess, you have to be disciplined and work, train … which brings us (neatly, I thought) to our subject – the Olympics.
Aside – the themes aren’t really that important, they are merely a starting point for learning. Having said that, they have to hold some measure of interest for the student. Allow me to quote the C15th monk John Lydgate, “You can’t please all the people, all of the time.” Even if some of the students aren’t big sports fans, they will at least be aware of the Games, and should find the videos interesting and beneficial.
I’ll begin with a video about the Olympics. It’s aimed at young native speakers, which is helpful for English – learners as the language will be easier to follow. Additionally, it will introduce some European history to my Vietnamese learners, and afford them the chance to listen to native speakers at a natural pace. And now, without further ado, the video:
Video: Listening practice
Try to watch before the lesson, and make a note of any new vocabulary.
listen for: gather together/ for the length of the games/ common ground/ truce
in honour of/ originally/ ancient/ off and on/ alternating / interlocking/ myth/
Questions – Ask each other Speaking practice
When were the first Games ? When were the final (ancient) games held ?
Who was Zeus ?
How many events were there at first ? What events were later added ?
What were winners given ?
Where and when were the first modern games staged ?
What are the Paralympics ?
What are gold medals made of ?
Why were the five colours of the rings chosen ?
What is the goal of the Olympics ?
“The most important thing is not to win but to take part.” Do you agree ?
This is from a ‘high-brow’ newspaper and quotes a figure of £8.921 billion. Can Vietnam afford this kind of money ? In China, a lot of money went on infrastructure such as improving airports, subways and roads, and it has been claimed that a profit of $146 was generated. However, Montreal took over 30 years to pay off debts incurred by hosting the Olympics.
What could Vietnam organise for an opening ceremony ?
Make a plan for the next lesson. Think about celebrating the country’s traditions, nature, economy, history, beauty. What would attract people to Vietnam ?