Extract: Adverbs of Frequency

This is a classroom sequence from “Foreign Affairs.” O’Reilly is the Director of Studies. There’s a crisis. Roger has failed to come to work (after a traumatic evening). Cosser has gone to the London School of Tropical Medicine. The septuagenarian Emlyn is off with a bad back. O’Reilly has had to resort to the Head of Research and Development, Leslie.

O’Reilly plodded up the last few steps, and knocked on the door. He didn’t wait for an answer, but walked straight in. Leslie Peckham half rose from his chair, ‘Malcolm! What a pleasant …’

‘Emergency situation, Leslie. Roger phoned me at home.’


‘He’s terribly highly-strung, poor boy. It’s the artistic temperament. I almost think of him as the son I never had,’ said O’Reilly wistfully, ‘He’s having some sort of nervous turn. Something about his wife and kiddies. He misses them terribly. Says he simply can’t face teaching today. He’s taking the day off. First day he’s been off in two years.’

‘So what is this emergency? Surely you have adequate cover.’

‘Cosser Grace-Pitleigh’s had to go to the hospital in London. Tape worm, I believe. And Emlyn’s off too. Lumbago again.’

‘Oh, dear.’

‘Exactly. We can’t cover all the classes. I shall even have to teach myself.’

Leslie clucked sympathetically.

‘Which is why I’m asking you to man the barricades.’

‘What?’ exclaimed Leslie in horror, ‘Teach?’



‘Now. And all day in fact.’

Leslie twitched violently twice, ‘Teach who?’

‘B23. Libyan group. Beginners.’

‘Who are you teaching?’

‘I rather thought I’d take Cosser’s intermediate lesson. I.12.’

‘I’m far more experienced with intermediate than beginners.’

‘No, on the whole I think it best that I teach I.12. There was an unfortunate incident in John Smith’s lesson with them yesterday. Maybe I can pour oil on troubled waters.’

‘But total beginners, Malcolm … I’ve got an M.A. in Linguistics!’

‘All the more reason.’

‘What am I supposed to be teaching?’

‘Roger always does his own material. Excellent stuff. Perhaps you’d better plough on through Monks-Wooldridge One though.’

‘Oh, dear.’

‘Hamish will tell you where they’ve got to.’


Leslie Peckham opened the book, ‘Would you all mind turning to page seventy-one?’


‘I’d like you to find page seventy-one.’


‘Page seventy-one.’

There were mumblings as they compared books. Leslie read out the heading aloud, ‘Adverbs of Frequency. Good. Now…’ he looked at the register, and peered round the class, ‘Ali … what do you think about adverbs of frequency?’

Ali appealed silently for help from his classmates. Nothing, ‘I not think.’

‘Ah. But you must have some opinion on them. Spit it out.’


‘Spit it out.’

‘I do not eat the chewing gum. Mr Keith he not like this in the class.’

Leslie twitched so hard he nearly fell off his seat, ‘Perhaps we should exercise your reading skills. Could you all work silently and underline the adverbs of frequency in the passage?’

He strode to the window and gazed into the car park. The students were motionless. He waited a few seconds, ‘Do you understand “underline?”’

There was muttered affirmation.

‘So what is the problem?’

‘Please. What is the aderaverb of ferequency?’ said Saleh.

‘Good,’ he said unconvincingly, ‘Let’s brainstorm that. Quickly now, tell me some adverbs of frequency.’


‘I see. Just read the text, and write down three questions you wish to ask me. Two minutes.’

After two minutes of reading with moving lips, moving fingers and muttered sounds had elapsed, Leslie tapped the desk, ‘Excellent. Do you all have three questions? Yes, Ali?’

‘Are you teacher?’

‘What an odd question. Of course I am. I meant questions on the text,’ he scanned the register list, ‘Mohamed?’

‘When Mr Roger he will return?’

Leslie began to hyperventilate. It was worse than the twitching. He’d thought that was getting better, ‘Saleh? Do you have a question?’

‘Sorry, my teacher?’

‘Do you have a question?’

Saleh smiled and said with finality, ‘Yes, I have.’

‘Go on.’

‘Please. Ask my friend now.’

‘I’m asking you. Do you have a question?’

Saleh looked rattled, ‘Yes, I have.’

‘Well, what is the question?’

‘This different question than you ask me before, my teacher.’

‘Ask me the question which you have written down.’

‘OK,’ Saleh picked up a crumpled piece of paper, ‘Why we make this stupid exercise?’

‘Right. I can go with that. Taking responsibility for your own learning. Excellent. Does anyone have any ideas on why we’re doing this?’


‘No suggestions?’

Utter silence.

‘Alright. Fine. We’ll resort to more basic methodology. Reading aloud around the class. Ali, you begin…’

‘Where, please?’

‘At the beginning.’

Ali put his face two inches from the book, ‘Misuhter John Sumith alaways get up at seven o’culock on Monerdays …’

Leslie saw the hand go up, ‘Yes?’

‘Please, teacher. I not understand when Ali he reading …’

‘Listen more carefully.’

Ali was hurt, ‘Is better you read, Mister …’

‘That’s rather teacher-centred, ha-ha, you don’t want to listen to me …’

But every one of them was nodding in agreement.

© Three Vee Limited, 2015.


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