The owl and the hat
One of my students, Sebastian, told our Conversation class this experience: “I was on a hike in the Hundred Acre Woods (a forest near campus). It was a beautiful morning. The sun was shining through the tree branches. Suddenly, I heard a wooshing sound near my head. Something attacked my head. And then my hat was gone. I looked up and notice an owl flying away with my hat.”
The Sebastian left the room, and Kenji came in and told this experience: “One day, I was walking in the Hundred Acre Woods. I had a small backpack with my lunch in it. I was wearing a jacket and a baseball hat. All of a sudden, I heard a sound near my head, and before I could look up, an owl took my hat and flew away with it.”
Which of these students, Sebastian or Kenji actually had this experience? Finding this out is the goal of this “Truth or Lie” game. The students love it.
Discussion and Writing Skills
It may surprise some how closely discussions and writing assignments are intertwined in an academic integrated-skills course. The writing assignments are often related to the readings in the course, and the students are required to summarize and paraphrase from the passages. One of the best ways to helps students do this is if they’ve had a chance to talk about the ideas in the passages. In other words, they “orally paraphrased” the readings before they are asked to paraphrase from them in writing tasks.
To illustrate how reading, discussion and writing can be integrated to help students develop each skill, we’ll follow up to the reading passage about why Asians often seem so shy in social situations compared to westerners from Part 1. Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Part 1 Overview) I’ll include some specific activities:
Self-study conversation technique
When I was living in Japan and in Africa, I occasionally met a non-native English speaker who spoke almost fluent English with clear pronunciation, natural intonation and mature vocabulary and had great listening skills. Naturally, I assumed that they must have spent time in an English-speaking country or had English-speaking friends or a tutor, but all of them told me that they had never left their country and had little contact with English speakers. However, I soon learned that all of them had one thing in common: each of them had developed their oral skills through one fairly simple technique.
“That’s interesting!” Photo by Alvesgaspar
Some students (and even some native-English speakers!) think that a good conversationalist is someone who just asks a lot of questions. Anyone who has tried to have a conversation with my former roommate (name unmentioned here) will know that that’s not true.
A: “This is Mt. Baker.” B: “Did you actually climb it?”
Do you want someone to feel like they have interesting idea? Ask follow-up questions.
The second activity involves maintaining and extending the conversation by questions about what their partner has said. It’s called “Using Follow-Up Questions.”
An important ingredient for making pair work activities successful learning experiences would seem to be active involvement on the part of both members; and it seems obvious that certain tasks would produce more involvement than others. In fact, research has been conducted on the type of communication present when pairs are involved in one-way and two-way tasks.
Effective pair conversation
How to teach ESL conversation
One of the most rewarding aspects of teaching a conversation class is that when you teach your ESL students conversation techniques, you get to hear them talk about their culture, their experiences, opinions and dreams.
A student-centered approach doesn’t mean the teacher just puts students in groups, gives them a topic and tells them to talk about it. It doesn’t even mean that the students are put in pairs (Student A/Student B), given two different “information gap” papers and told to complete the exercise by talking.
A student-centered approach to conversation-skill development is much more than that.