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:
Feeling shy in social situations
Why do Asians often seem so shy in social situations compared to westerners?
To illustrate how the subject of cultural differences is the best subject, I’ll include a reading passage about this followed by discussion and writing activities related to this.
This “shyness” topic is an effective one for demonstrating the important aspects of this “best” subject:
“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.”
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.
Integrating the four skills
This is the perfect activity for integrating four skills into one activity. And it culminates in a writing task in which students focus on controlling their grammar and on their sentence style. It’s also one in which students can practice those two aspects of writing without having to spend time thinking about what to write.
These fluency activities can be used throughout a term when instructors would like to have students work on their grammar in a writing context and/or when they would like to add some group work in their writing classes. Also, it’s a good lead-in to teaching paraphrasing skills.