Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Teaching Speaking (5)


Simple question-answer dialogues around a given context and object/objects is another elementary method to develop speaking skill in TESOL students.

There are three types of questions in English: yes/no questions, “or” questions, and WH-questions. Consider these questions which illustrate these types: Do you drink tea? Do you prefer tea or coffee? What do you usually drink? What is this?

Perhaps the easiest question to ask is What is this? Have a number of real objects and pictures of objects with you and ask the question What is this? while pointing to the object. Supply the name of the object and the answer for the question. Following this model, repeat the question and encourage the students to provide the suitable answer.

From this simple process of starting a dialogue, you may proceed to ask more complex questions. Note that the Yes/No questions are also easy to answer. The “Or” questions need more practice to answer.

How do we teach a dialogue? There are three types of drills one could use in the class: choral drill in which the entire class participates in one voice with the teacher modeling the utterance; chain drill in which one student asks the question and another answers, and in this way the entire class participates as a chain; and individual drill in which individual students are pointed out and asked to produce the utterance modeled by the teacher.

We recommend that you start with some form of choral drill, then proceed to chain drill, and finally ask individual students to answer your questions directly (individual drill). The class may be divided into two sections, one section repeating the question and another answering it. If role play is involved, assign roles to the sections.

The teacher can assume one of the roles among children. It is always fun when the teacher associates herself with some role and assigns the other roles to students. We can set up puppets, stick figures on the board, pictures, or even live objects for the roles, and the teacher will go behind each of these and produce their utterances as models (Bowen, et al. 1985). The teacher can create pretend situations and give students some model questions to ask these objects. Through dialogue accommodation we modify the dialogues so that the roles and names in the dialogue are made suitable to the participants.

The question-answer dialogue may take the following format: The teacher may write the example on the board or model the example orally. The students will repeat the model. Then the teacher asks questions and the students give answers. The teacher then gives some cues for additional dialogue question-answers. The students ask each other questions. After this has been practiced for some time, the students are encouraged to make up their questions and answers. All these must be done within the limits of words and structures already known to the students.

Long answers are elicited using several strategies. The teacher gives a question and asks for a long and complete answer. What is your name? My name is Susan Madison. A question such as “What do you do in the morning?” generally leads to a long answer. Likewise, a question such as “Tell me about your work” results in a long answer. Questions on the previous lesson generally lead to long answers.

Eliciting long answers helps the student to compose his thoughts in English, search for appropriate words and structures and use them in the appropriate order. This brings out explicitly his grammatical knowledge (knowledge about the structure of English). Note, however, that in normal conversations long answers are not often expected or given.

As their knowledge of and proficiency in using words and structures increase, the teacher can ask her students to talk about real life, about themselves, their friends, things in the world and so on. The teacher can suggest some imaginary situations or the students themselves may assume an imaginary situation and engage themselves in conversation. In such free oral practice, the students may be asked to build the content of a dialogue by giving one sentence each (Doff 1988). There will be some initial reluctance on the part of the students, but such reluctance should be overcome.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Teaching Speaking (4)


Expressions of greeting, gratitude, small talk, introductions and making acquaintance, leave-taking, appreciation, expressions of regret and asking to be excused, etc., are very important communicative acts TESOL students need to master. For one thing, such expressions may take on different form and import in English than the ones students are accustomed to in their language and culture.

These expressions include, among others, Good morning. How are you?, Fine, Thanks, Hello, How do you do?, and Good-bye. These are learned as they are, with some explanation as to their meaning. Unlike other utterances, these are not analyzed into their structural components.
The students may be asked to memorize them and practice using them appropriate to the occasion: Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, good day, good night, etc. You should model their pronunciation and use in appropriate contexts and give students repeated practice so that they can incorporate these in their exchanges with you and other students in the class.
Sentences you teach should be so framed that these are useful and extendable to a variety of real situations. As already mentioned, some cultural information needs to be learned/taught in the use of these expressions. Students may use first names to address one another, but they will be required to use some titles such as Mr. or Mrs. or Dr. when they address adults. They may also use family names to begin with while addressing adults.

Small talk revolves around weather in English. One begins a conversation with another by commenting on weather. Then one introduces himself or herself to the other person. Starting a conversation across the fence, in crowded public places waiting for a game to begin, or in such similar contexts is quite common. This is called phatic communion.

Such phatic communication does not convey a heavy load of information. It functions as icebreakers, to maintain rapport between people, and to signify friendship or lack of enmity. These expressions do vary from culture to culture. Perhaps we, as teachers of English, should learn the phatic communion adopted in the native language of our learners and teach, not only the phatic messages used in native English context, but also incorporate the messages from the culture of the learner as well.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

Teaching Speaking (3)


Substitution of a word, phrase, or sentence by another is an elementary method which helps students to produce new utterances and to develop speaking skill.
Students repeat the sentence This is a ball several times, and then are given some names of objects such as mat, cat, rat, one after another to substitute in the proper place. In place of this, they may be given that and the students make the substitution and produce a new sentence That is a mat and so on.
In this way, a sentence frame is practiced first, then suitable slots in the frame are identified for substitution. When substitution is made, a number of new sentences are produced with ease by students.
The substitution drill has been used very much by teachers of TESOL in the past. Although the substitution drill is highly useful for the production of new sentences, it is of limited value (like imitation and repetition) and may not be used as the chief means to develop speaking skill.
Substitution of sounds in minimally different words is a common practice in listening exercises to develop auditory discrimination of sounds. Substitution of one word or phrase by another in the same slot in a frame is a common practice in speaking exercises at the beginners’ level.
From single word substitution, one may proceed to multiple word substitution in the same slot, without making grammatical changes in the frame: This is a pencil : This is a long pencil.
Consider the following:
Let’s go to the cinema. (theater)
Let’s go to the theater (library).
Let’s go to the library (football).
Let’s play football (hockey).
Let’s play hockey (pizza).
Let’s eat pizza (milk).
Let’s drink milk.
Likewise we may proceed to multiple word substitution in the same slot which necessitates making some grammatical changes in the frame: This is a cat (cats) : These are cats.
Substitution drills can be made more complex as students learn more structures and words. Combining the substitution drill with processes of addition, deletion and transposition of words/phrases makes these more complex and challenging to students.


Teaching Speaking (2) by: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.


Imitation and repetition are important elementary steps in developing speaking skill in English. Imitation and repetition are inter-related, and yet they are distinct.
Imitation helps students to pronounce and produce the English utterance they hear from the teacher as closely as possible to the utterance produced by her. Imitation is not restricted to mere production of the sounds, phrases, and sentences. It includes also the capacity to produce the utterances in the contexts in which the original utterances were produced.
On the other hand, repetition refers to the acts of producing the utterances in as close a manner as possible to the original. Repetition leads to automatic reproduction of the utterance, and, in the process, some sort of memorization of the sound or structure practiced takes place through repetition.
Note, however, that neither imitation nor repetition results in the mastery of any language. These are important steps in practicing the language material, but these should not become the focus of the learning process in the classroom, because ultimately the TESOL speaker is expected to use English in novel and unpredictive ways to meet his or her needs. Children in the process of acquiring their first language use imitation and repetition as props, but not as the main tool for acquisition.
Some of the imitation and repetition exercises may be organized in the following manner: Present some simple sentence, phrase, or word and ask students to repeat after you. If you want them to understand and repeat a conversation, say the questions and the answers and have the students repeat the latter, or perhaps both, signaling the meaning in some way. The meaning can be demonstrated with realia (real objects brought into the classroom), pictures, gestures, or translating.
The teacher may use pictures, gestures, pantomime, translation, guessing, and drawing on the board to make the students understand the meaning. It is important that you use only meaningful words, phrases, and sentences for imitation and repetition. The props you use to explain or demonstrate the meaning should enable the student to learn the meaning with ease, along with the pronunciation.
Ask students to repeat the utterance several times. Some learning takes place through repetition, and the student begins to see patterns at different levels. He may form some hypotheses as to the order of occurrence of sounds in a word, words in a phrase, or a sentence. He may begin to distinguish between statements and questions. He may generalize from what he has been exposed to, and form even new sentences based on what he has repeated so far. He may begin to substitute new words in place of the old in the sentences he has repeated and form new sentences.
In the initial phase of learning and teaching English, repetition and imitation serve to make students familiar with the sounds and structures, get the attention and interest of the students, and focus their effort in the learning process. However, if these are stressed continually, or made as the main process of learning, these soon become boring events, and do not contribute to real learning of English. Naturally, the TESOL student will commit many errors at first. His pronunciation may not be appropriate, or he may not have reproduced all the elements or units of a word, phrase, or sentence. He will be hampered or guided by the structure and sounds of his language. However, imitation and repetition will help him to practice producing native-like utterances at the sound level.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Teaching Speaking (1) by M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.


How do you get a second/foreign language learner to speak English? You may just ask the student to speak, ask him to say something in English. You can even tell him what to say. He may or may not understand the meaning of the utterances he is asked to produce, but he will imitate what you told him to repeat.
Another way is to ask the student a question. He will try to answer if he realizes that he is being asked to answer a question. For this, he should understand what the question is, and he should have some mastery over the English phonology, grammar, and lexicon necessary to frame an appropriate answer. This is a more difficult task.
Asking and answering questions is an essential part of teaching, learning, and using any language. Asking questions and eliciting answers may be used for various purposes. First of all, asking questions enables the student to practice what he has learned. Secondly, you may ask questions to find whether the student understands the new vocabulary and the structures, and whether he is able to use them appropriately.
As Bowen et al. (1985) points out, “successful learners should be able to produce their thoughts in a way that will make their message accessible to native speakers of English who have no special training in linguistics or in the native language of the speaker.” You are a good speaker if you do not attract the attention of your listeners to how you say something, but to what you say.
Remember also that our goal in teaching speaking in English is not developing accuracy of pronunciation. There are several, almost insurmountable, problems that an adult second or foreign learner of English will face if he or she aims at perfect pronunciation like a native speaker of English. It is not accuracy of pronunciation but adequacy of fluency and communicative effectiveness that becomes the focus of speaking skill.
Despite a heavy accent, if the speech of a second/foreign language learner can be comprehended by a native speaker of English without forcing the native speaker to speak in shorter sentences than he normally does, with greater repetition and paraphrase of what he says for the benefit of the second language learner, we may consider the second or foreign language learner to have adequate efficiency in English speech. However, this is only an impressionistic evaluation, at the mechanical level of speaking. Speaking skill in English includes more than adequacy of pronunciation, as already pointed out. The ultimate goal of the speaking skill in English is to enable the learner to communicate his or her thoughts, ideas, and feelings via oral language to meet the needs faced by him or her.





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