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Seven: Speaking, Topic vs Task

It is generally understood that most people learn a language for the principal purpose of being able to speak it. In fact when you think about it, what do we call people with a high proficiency in the language? Speakers, we rarely boast about our abilities as great Spanish readers or French listeners. This then is the goal and also the frustration for the majority of students who come to the classes at Pagoda, they want to be able to communicate in English and this is a long and difficult road. First of all they are learning it in a country where English is not widely spoken and are limited to the classroom and secondly they will be instructed by a native speaker whom they are desperate to impress as he or she will hear every one of their mistakes. Since along with listening speaking is a major form of communication it naturally becomes a large focus for the students and the one that they often tell us they are determined to improve in as quickly as possible. However all speaking activities in the PIP classroom need to follow a particular structure to be sure that we make the most of them. Too often teachers allow the speaking elements of the class to become too much free talking without a clear emphasis on skill. This is a problem for the students who hope to raise their level so that they can study or spend time in a native speaking country, they need to be taught appropriate and natural language in a structured environment. People can study many parts of the language at home but when they come to the native teacher classroom this is where they must now rely solely on the language and practice it with a definite aim. Practice is the key element to all oral activity and without it new concepts and language are quickly forgotten or mistakes become fossilized. A good teacher provides each class with a lot of time spent trying out and perfecting comments with regular, constructive feedback. In this unit we will be looking at how best to approach the art of speaking in the classroom.

Don't speak, unless you can improve upon the silence – Spanish Proverb


Seven: Speaking, Topic vs Task The Key Ingredients

 The biggest mistake most teachers make in the classroom is failing to organize the speaking activities.  SLE is a conversation-based program, it is designed to increase the students' confidence, ability and fluency in English speaking.  Many teachers regard SLE as a free talking class and this is where the problem begins; free-talking is wonderful for those who already have the confidence, ability and fluency to so this. Everyone else needs to be taught!  There is a dreadful, ugly rumour that has been spread around by the evil troll professor

Baby-Eater BoneCrushingson ; “A conversation class isn't like real teaching, awoooooooooooooooooo!”

 Baby-Eater is very wrong on this point, every class that a student signs up for at Pagoda is a real class, is important, requires goals and needs good nay great teaching.

 Target Language: Every activity that features in the SLE books is designed to practice certain language, as part of your lesson planning you should have identified what it is you want the students to be able to do. What vocabulary and structures do they need in order to complete the activity? Has this already been taught or is it new to the students? How will I ensure they are using the correct language? Have I modeled or given an example to the students?  Participation: The activity needs to be organized in a sufficient enough way that every student has the opportunity to participate. Usually this means ensuring we allow students to work in pairs/small groups to exchange ideas. We always have to deal with different personalities, should we mix the groups up from time to time, perhaps I need to vary the task to make sure everybody contributes something. How much time do they have?  Feedback: Speaking activities are essential to know how well the students are doing in a class what are they strong in? What do they need to improve upon in future? Students also need to know how they are doing, can they be understood? This information and reinforcement can only come from the teacher and should be a regular part of the class.


Seven: Speaking, Topic vs Task

Example Speaking Activities seen in the classroom SLE 1B Feelings and Emotions; Funny Face Teacher: You can see on the page many faces, so tell me how they are feeling and why? Tell your partner if you want.(silence) Go on, together... Student: erm.......number one? He exciting. Teacher: ok why? Student: Maybe...happy? SLE 2B In My Opinion; What is your opinion on.... Teacher: Ok so here you are going to read the statement and then say whether you agree or disagree with the statement. OK? So I'll do the first one, Children should always listen to their parents, I disagree because parents are not always correct. Ok so with your partner you have 10 minutes to do the other 21........ Student: (silence...shuffle) Oh, together? Ahh ok I disagree, Student2: me too..ok next Teacher: no, no you have to say why! SLE 3B Buying Beauty; Made to Order `Teacher: So all over Seoul we can see plastic surgery clinics everywhere and now so many people are having jobs done on themselves. Did you know that Korea now has the largest percentage of people having procedures in the world which is absolutely incredible. So in this activity you are going to discuss which of the surgeries you would and wouldn't have and why? Be honest, have you had any work done? Maybe your friends have ok, so in groups of 3 off you go. Student One:(with an obvious nose job) I think it's people's choice if they have. Student Two: Ahh you have had I think? Student One: No, no, please this is personal question. Student Three: I think it is very wrong to have surgery, god does not like us to do it. Student Four: I would have liposuction because it is easier than dieting. Student Three: I agree. Student One: I want to talk about something else! All of the above are quite typical of what we see in SLE classrooms, let's critique them.


Seven: Speaking, Topic vs Task Critique

Activity One: This is a low-level class, the book presents the student with visuals to help them which would be very necessary at this level. The teacher has already taught the vocabulary it seems but not the language needed to successfully complete the task. Without any modeling of the language or a clear example to follow the students would find this activity difficult to meaningfully complete. It would be better to make the activity simpler by teaching the students how to give reasons (because/as/maybe..etc) with a few examples first and allow the students to practice making correct sentences. The teacher should also be clear about pair work and not give the choice. Activity Two: The second activity is at a more intermediate level and therefore the teacher can expect a much better developed vocabulary and grammar. It's helpful that the teacher gives an example sentence for the students to follow although this would have been much more effective written on the board for the students to follow. Also the aim of the activity has to be established which is to practice agreeing/disgreeing and giving an opinion not simply getting through the (21) points as quickly as possible. Activity Three: The teacher here introduces the topic of the activity and some background to what he wants the students to think about. However the actual task of the activity doesn't really match his opening, he seems to be giving statistics and his own opinions about cosmetic surgery but wants the students to discuss what they would have done. There is no real focus then on any particular language and in fact a raw nerve is hit between the students when they begin to discuss opinions instead of desire. This can lead to friction and might mean the topic is not suitable for the class. A well-organized speaking activity SLE 3A – School Days “Whatever happened to...?” The focus of this activity is to have students reminisce about the people from their school days and to speculate what they might be doing now. For example; The person you envied most, The person you had a crush on, The funniest person etc

Organization: The students will initially work alone for just 2 minutes to choose 5 people from the list to talk about. The list contains 17 suggestions but the teacher feels this is too many for his class. Once the students have chosen they must discuss their choices with their partners who will then ask follow up questions. Each student should present for 2 – 3 minutes and then switch partners. Target Language: As well as using the language points (bully, crush, fraternity etc) students must also speculate on people using the structures “May/might be / May/might have + past participle” the teacher has introduced this and will listen for correcting usage. Feedback: The teacher will monitor the activity to check target language being used and to help students with difficulties. The I will call on two or three pairs to give example answers for all to hear. Mistakes will be written on the board and the corrected as a class.


Seven: Speaking, Topic vs Task

Topic Vs Task (example speaking activities) The SLE books have two main types of activity, both designed to get the students speaking as much as possible at all levels. It is important to find out which type of activity works best with your students and to try to vary them over the month to keep the classes fresh and interesting. Number One: Topic; Discuss the following statement with your partner(s) do you agree or disagree? What are you reasons?

“The recent riots in London show the extent to which moral decay has set in in modern society. A lack of discipline and respect for authority, not anti-capitalism, was the main cause of the unrest” Michael Smackerchops - Editor of the Guardian. Number Two: Task; The following is a list of people arrested during the London riots, each incident and excuse/alibi is given, Do you believe each one or should they be punished? A list of possible punishments is on the right hand side.

Name & Crime


Psycho Jones (21) – stole He needed a laptop to send an 8 Samsung laptops from an email to the police about the Electronics' superstore. rioting, wasn't sure which one would work. Doreen Wilkins (65) – Hit She claimed the policeman a policeman with her knocked her husband to the ground umbrella. and stepped on his hand. Mohammed Naq (34) – Hit 3 men with a cricket bat.

He says they broke into his shop and he was only defending himself and his business.

Sarah McMilland (42) – Led a group of protestors into the Houses of Parliament, many of whom attacked M.P's.

She was only intending to confront the politicians about their policies. The people who attacked were a minority and not connected to her.

Leticia LaToya (16) – Stole $12 worth of plastic jewelery.

“Everyone else was doing it and it's only plastic man!”

 Prison Sentence  Fine of $10, $50 or $100  Community Service (e.g picking up trash etc)  Electronic Tagging & Curfew  Public Humiliation  Acquittal.  Good behavior Classes  Public Apology  Deportation  Suspended Sentence  Execution by Nibbling

The topic based activity relies on a good level of English and the interest to discuss the topic. The second requires students to use speaking to complete the task which in itself is more interesting, involved and easier as the students react to the smaller idea. To make it more challenging you could tell the students that they must agree on the sentences for which they would need some expressions of persuasion. You can easily adapt any topic into task and task into topic with a little creativity and lesson planning.


Seven: Speaking, Topic vs Task

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid them 1.The Hey Presto! - “So what do we think about what's going on in North Korea then? Do you think he'll stay or go? What's the future for the Koreas? Anyone? Many teachers expect far too much from their students ability to express themselves in English and often without any kind of preparation. Don't get into the habit of expecting your students to be able to improvise complete and complex sentences, allow them to work together or write down some answers before sharing with the class. 2. The all-inclusive – Let's look at number one; who can tell me why more people go to Paris than any other city? What's so wonderful about Paris? Give me some ideas. Student One: Beautiful. Very good, it's beautiful, what else? Student One: Romantic Yes, it's also romantic, what else? Student One: It's French. Yes, it's French, good moving on... The problem here is the use of “all class” questions. The teacher hoped that perhaps a short discussion on the allure of Paris would happen but instead got just one student shouting out his ideas and only single words at that. Better again to set and answer expectation using the stronger student and then have them work together to come up with some ideas and then share them with the class. This way more people will have the chance to participate. 3. The Murky Pool - “With your partner do the activity on page 28. (8 mins later) OK guys now do the activity on page 29, same partners. (11 mins later) OK we have 7 minutes left do some discussion questions on page 30.” There is no organization to the activities, the teacher is simply directing what is happening in the lesson with no thought to whether or not the students practice anything meaningful or indeed learn anything other than the teacher appears disinterested in them. The teacher must model the language needed to complete the activity, encourage use of target language and monitor and provide feedback following the activity to keep it a lesson with an aim. Students must at all times feel that the teacher is helping them to build confidence and competence in English conversation. 4. The “mummy! Mummy! Look at me!” - So in this activity we're talking about culture shock. Since arriving in Korea, I've been amazed at how many strange customs I have seen! Well, I mean strange to me not to you. Last week I was taking the subway when an old lady came up and began to touch my hair, wow I was completely freaked out but I didn't say anything, anyway she kept saying something and I couldn't wait to get to my stop. I was telling my friend and she was like “oh my god!” anyway why did she do that? No idea? huh freaky!” While you are, of course, an interesting person with many wonderful experiences that your students may genuinely be interested in hearing about be sure that speaking activities don't become all about you. Teacher's should lead the presentations and lessons but not the conversation activities as you should already have a good level of English and therefore need the least practice. Have a brief example and then let them talk!


Seven: Speaking, Topic vs Task

Pronunciation  How important is pronunciation?  Is English pronunciation difficult?  What is 'correct' pronunciation?

D'ya Ken Me? Learning good pronunciation is essential in any language. The majority of students want to become fluent in a language and perfect grammar and an encyclopedic knowledge of vocabulary will not help them when faced with a native speaker who cannot understand anything they are saying. English pronunciation is ridiculous, it follows very few standard rules and is not in anyway phonetic “ai wud kwait laik a cop ov warta” every word must be taught. Ah, snobs and pedants flee the room. Despite the preference for certain accents the only actual definition of 'correct' pronunciation is that which can be understood by another native speaker whether he be from the frozen wilds of Sasquatchvilleburg or the elegant tea rooms of Galway. Let's start at the very beginning.... Like all languages the first thing you learn are your ABC's:


as in








as in








as in







What an uncooperative alphabet. Well let's try our old friends the consonants


as in

giant gym





as in







as in





So, it should be clear that simply knowing how to pronounce the alphabet is not always going to help you pronounce the words.


Seven: Speaking, Topic vs Task

Sounds in Combination It is important to remember that most of your students are Korean and have enjoyed the pleasures of a largely phonetic language. Vocabulary can be studied and built upon fairly easily. English is a vast language of vocabulary and even words that look similar will be pronounced quite differently.  Through Though Thought Threw  Daughter Laughter Draught Naughty  Here Heard Heart Short vs Long Vowel Sounds The cause of some embarrassing or at best confusing moments for many students, when vowels should be stressed or kept short.  Sit /Seat Chip/Cheap Ship/Sheep Bit/Beat  Cart Cat Cut  walk work would Minimal Pairs Often in English there can be a very subtle difference between two sounds that although clear to native speakers can cause difficulties for foreign students. For example: ai (May) ei (My)  She thinks she's going today to die  I don't want a pie to pay  My house is at the end of the line the lane  I didn't like the white the wait  It covers a big lake Washington like Washington Accents Thanks to movies and TV very few native speakers are unaware of how different our accents can be and although we have occasional difficulties for the largest part we can understand one another. For your students this multitude of accents can be challenging, especially if they have only ever been exposed to one type of accent, it can be useful to bring to the classroom examples of different accents. You can never be expected to know all the variations but a little understanding of the two major schools (British & American) can be helpful, for example:  The rhotic R sound Car vs Car  The plosive/semi plosive D/T water vs water  Irregular vowels saw vs saw can vs can't Plosives and Semi-Plosives These are the consonant sounds that require air to sound them correctly, put your hand in front of your mouth as you say them, then try not to use air, notice how different the sounds are.  Top Blunt Dreamt Put But Can


Seven: Speaking, Topic vs Task

General Problems Rhythm Every language has its own style and pace when spoken, in English this affects the “linking” words such as in the following sentence;  Anne of Green Gables grates the cheese. Prepositions and conjunctions are weaker. This also follows with stressed and unstressed syllables ;  Teacher Station Football


Elision  A sound is missed out word the word for ease of pronunciation e.g correct comfortable vegetable temperature Assimilation  A sound changes due to the sound that follows e.g. sandwich light blue Homophones Words that sound the same but can be spelled differently and have different meanings.  Saw / saw/ sore / soar * Wore / war court / caught blew / blue (item) (past tense)(pain) (to fly) Intonation Like all Germanic languages, English relies a lot on stress and intonation to convey certain meanings, all of which can be confusing to English learners, Try out the following examples;  “Hello” to a friend. ◦ To a friend you haven't seen for 3 years. ◦ To a neighbour that you don't like. ◦ To a 6 month old baby. ◦ To someone you have just found doing something they shouldn't. ◦ To someone on the phone when you're not sure if they're still there.  “How are you?” to someone you haven't seen for 20 years. ◦ To someone who has recently lost a member of their family. ◦ To someone who didn't sleep in their own bed last night ◦ To a friend you had a big fight and falling out with. When the English tongue we speak, why is break not rhymed with weak? Won't you tell me why it's true, we say sew but also few? And the maker of a verse cannot rhyme his horse with worse? Beard is not the same as heard, cord is different from word. Cow is cow, but low is low, Shoe is never rhymed with foe. Think of hose and dose and lose, and think of goose and yet of choose. Think of comb and tomb and bomb, doll and roll and home and some. And since pay is rhymed with say, why not paid with said I pray? Think of blood and food and good, mould is not pronounced like could. Why is it done, but gone and lone, is there any reason known? To sum up it seems to me, that English is a travesty! Happy teaching!

Uber teacher module 7 speaking  
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