Category Archives: FUN activities

Guaranteed Active Whole-Class Discussions (First Technique: Responding to Others)

Discussion responding

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.) 

During a whole-class discussion, one of the students, Santos, made a comment.

Then Mai said, “I’d like to ask Santos a question …”

Then Lan gave her opinion, and Camilo replied, “Lan said something very interesting …

These students were employing a discussion technique “Responding to Others,” which had taken just 10 minutes for them to pick up.

The concept of whole-class discussions can be an alien one to students from non-Western countries. Students are told that participation in class discussions is expected in Western academic settings and that if they are active participants, it can affect their grade in a positive way. Nevertheless, these students don’t know what “active participation” means, other than to state one’s opinion.  For instructors preparing students for mainstream, academic coursework, the techniques introduced in these next postings could help students develop five specific techniques that they can apply to be active.  

                                  Five Techniques
Responding to another student’s comment
Volunteering an answer
Redirecting a question when you don’t know what to say
Reporting what someone else has said
Summarizing what other group members have said

An additional benefit to those students who employ these is that their classmates will feel good about them and future instructors will be impressed.  For research about this, see  Want Your Students to Seem More Likeable? Research Says: Teach Them Follow-up Questions

The first technique and handout is explained below:

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Want Your Students to Seem More Likeable? Research Says: Teach Them Follow-up Questions

Likeable

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.) Follow up questions

This could be one of the most useful researched-backed techniques that your students can learn.  If they want to make a positive impression on others during a conversation, they should ask a lot of questions, especially a lot of follow-up questions.

Karen Huang and her research team at the Harvard Business School analyzed more than 300 online and face-to-face conversations between people getting to know each other.  In one study, participants engaged in a 15-minute conversation with a randomly assigned person.  Some of the participants were told to ask many questions (at least nine) and others were told to ask few questions (less than four).  After the conversations ended, the participants told the researchers how much they liked their conversation partner.  The results showed that the people who asked more follow-up questions were considered more likeable.

A second study and activity for students continues below.

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Discussion Technique to Get Quiet Students Involved (Part 1)

talking passive

Not just listening

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)

There are techniques which guarantee that all students will be engaged in a discussion.  In other words, the discussion will look like a game of table tennsi, in which students react and respond to what their group members have said.  It doesn’t look like bowling, in which one member tell his/her opinion, followed by a second member, then by a third etc., without necessarily even listening to the other members.

Some of the techniques that compel students to listen to each other and actively interact are:

  • asking follow-up questions
  • seeking and giving clarification
  • using comprehension checks
  • soliciting more details from others
  • interrupting others during a discussion
  • helping the leader of a discussion

A great technique to practice early in a discussion course is “seeking and giving clarifications.”  This involves using expressions such “Did you say …?”  “I didn’t understand …”  “Can you explain … more?”

After students have used the two attached handout-activities, they usually find the technique to be a “tool” that they can use not only in group discussions but also when interacting with teachers and others outside the classroom.

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Yes! Fun Learning Subordintion Inductively (Subordination Part 3)

fun

It’s actually fun.

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)

“Now, I finally think I get it,” an adult ESL student told me.  After years of trying to understand the terms of dependent clauses, independent clause and conjunctions and how they work (and don’t work) in a sentence, she seemed greatly relieved.

Instead of using a traditional approach of having students look at the rule and then trying to apply it, an inductive approach to grammar seems much more effective (and even fun) for students.  (This approach is especially affective with ear-learners.  See a previous posting Approaching Grammar with Generation 1.5 Students and Other Ear-Learners  )

To avoid overwhelming them, I have found that starting with just two subordinators “because” and “since” is easily manageable for even the most insecure student.  Once they understand how these work in sentences, it’s amazing how quickly they can apply the concept to other subordinators.

I’m attaching here a handout worksheet that I’ve used with lower-level students, and you are welcome to use too. intro to subordinators pt 3 ex

Please see Subordination Part 1 (Part 1) and Part 2 (Part 2)for more about this most important concept.

I’d enjoy continuing this conversation with you about grammar, subordination and inductive lessons and hearing your perspectives and experiences.  Feel free to click on “Reply” at the top of this posting, and we can continue this discussion.

David Kehe

Fun & Student-Centered  Speaking/Listening Activity: Truth or Lie

owl and hat

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.

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Conversation magic: Two most important conversation techniques (Part 1)

Sandy: I read some interesting research about using a laptop to take notes in class.

Tim (rejoinder): Oh, yeah?

Sandy: Of course, typing is faster than handwriting notes.

Tim (rejoinder): Right.

Sandy: But when we type, we tend to type verbatim notes, every word we hear.

Tim (rejoinder): I see.

Sandy: But when we hand-write, we tend to be more selective, which is more useful.

Tim (rejoinder):  Wow!  That’s interesting!

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.) Rejoinders from CS

Making conversation magic happen

After a colleague used these techniques, she told me with wonder in her eyes, “I saw magic happen in my class today.  My students suddenly became very animated, their voiced rose, and they were laughing!” 

Then she wondered if it was some kind of set up.  In other words, by using these techniques, students have no choice but to feel like someone is interested in what they are saying.

In a sense, she is right.  But isn’t that what we hope our students will experience? These are the two techniques:

1) Use rejoinders to show that they understand what the other has said by giving understanding responses.

2) Ask follow-up questions to maintain the conversation and to show interest in each other..

When someone uses these in a conversation, their interlocutor can’t help but feel like someone thinks they are interesting to talk to.

Use rejoinders and make your interlocutor feel good.

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Conversation magic: Two most important techniques. (Part 2)

Kara: I heard you had a problem with your cat, Charlie.

Mickey: Yeah.  He climbed high up in a tree and couldn’t get down for three days. 

Kara (Rejoinder): Really?  (Follow-up) What happened?

Mickey: We called a tree trimmer, who climbed up, but just as he reached him, Charlie made a huge leap to another three and climbed down.

Kara (Rejoinder): That’s amazing!  (Follow-up)How is Charlie now?

Mickey: He just climbed another tree.  I’m not going to worry about him.

(Based on a true story)

This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.) Follow up questions

The conversation magic: Making others feel like they are interesting people by asking follow-up questions.

Combined with rejoinders (explained in Part 1), this technique is almost guaranteed to engage students in animated and enjoyable conversations.

The second activity involves maintaining and extending the conversation by questions about what their partner has said.  It’s called “Using Follow-Up Questions.”  See Part 1 about Rejoinders  Conversation magic: Two most important conversation techniques (Part 1)

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