March 23, 2011 by k. liz
Our topic for speaking class this week is holidays and traveling. On Monday, our teaching staff had an optional professional development seminar. The topic was “Getting Students to use English in the Classroom.” I left the session thinking about how to effectively use scaffolding in the classroom, and realizing how I had let my students down by not providing them more structure in their language learning process.
My classes are all upper beginner (level B repeaters) university students. Yesterday and today I have been working on incorporating ways to give them the language that they need to be successful in my class. I was slightly surprised at how well they did when I gave them just a little bit more structure. They weren’t speaking paragraphs, but I feel that we were working on more of a “reflexive speaking” idea. I want my students to be able to hear the question and respond without taking 3 minutes to think about the question. I also want my students to be able to string together sets of words rather than thinking of each word individually. So, today I worked on a simple, but effective activity.
When I went into class, I wrote this on the board:
I went to _______.
I bought _______.
We stayed at _______.
I ate ________.
We visited _______.
If you go, you should _______.
I then had the students guess what they thought the topic for today was. I often heard “past” first, and told them that that was a good guess, but the last one didn’t fit. Then, eventually someone came up with travels or holiday. From there, I just went around asking random questions, and eliciting the structures above. After I had practiced with them for a time, I asked them to give me the questions for each answer and wrote them next to the sentence structure. I then asked the questions again, not even listening for their content, only waiting to hear the correct construction. For example, I asked “Where did you go on your last holiday?” As soon as the student said “I went to . . .” I moved on to the next, “Where did you go on your last holiday?” “I went to . . .” and so on. You should periodically make a student finish the sentence though so that they are still thinking of the entire sentence. But, I felt that they were realizing the importance of stringing together a set of words for a specific purpose. When I say “Where did you go?” The answer starts with “I went to . . .”
Obviously I don’t want every answer my students give to be reflexive, I also want them to express thoughts and opinions, however, hopefully this will lessen the answers that come out “I . . . went . . . ne diya ne diya . . . I . . . went to . . .”