Devising a speaking and listening course, I would first consider my objectives. These would depend on who the students were. With perfect students, the objectives become obvious. Such students would teach themselves through interaction in English with me. As a native-speaker, I would be trying to communicate at a deep level with them, trying to establish bonds with them, and trying to initiate them into the culture of the English speaker. With them, I could use a perfect methodology, a communicative, task-based approach, that emphasized autonomous learning and working in groups.

With the students I have been teaching for the last seven years however, such good students are few. These students lack confidence, don't enjoy interacting in English and are not prepared to take risks communicating. My goals with such students would be to promote confidence they can use English to communicate, alleviate the stress they feel communicating in English and encourage more adventurousness speaking and listening to the language.

At the same time, I would be trying to keep these students on-task, preventing them from finding opportunities to avoid using the language, or to avoid confronting their problems with language learning, by sleeping or not coming to class, or not participating in class activities, for example.

Thus my aim would be a light-hearted, fun course, but at the same time, to communicate I had firm expectations that all students would make the effort to learn.

I would try to lighten the deadening effect of midterm and final exams by making them shorter and more informal. Having no assessment, on the other hand, would permit students to avoid confronting their language learning problems, so I would have 4 informal, speaking-and-listening exams in weeks 4,9,13 and 18, each worth 15 percent of the grade.

For classes of good students, this informal exam would be a JigSaw activity. For classes of unmotivated students (and non-English majors perhaps), it would be a pair dictation activity.

Thus these 4 exams would split the semester up into 4 sections. In these 4 sections, the language and cultural material I would be trying to teach would be exemplified in 2 or 3 dialogues that were similar to each other, in terms of grammar or language function, or in terms of cultural content.

The good classes would use the material to do communicative tasks, and other activities oriented to language use, for non-language ends, eg give advice, or solve puzzles. The basic classes would practice the material in different contexts, eg dictation, context-spotting, definitions, and quizzes, that is, in activities directed at language usage.

The dialogues I would choose would be interesting because of conflict between the protagonists, which was resolved, or was expressed, for example. Although the language might be simple, the language functions would be subtle and layered, with complex meanings.

The dialogues would thus be about complex human interactions, expressive of the deep relationships people have with each other, even though the language itself might be quite simple.

Usually, I take my dialogs, specifically, and language and cultural materials, in general, from the textbooks I am given, or have acquired. I don't have any strong preferences.

With the dialogs, I am doing most of my own materials development at the moment. Dictation and the use of cards is a distinctive feature of my courses. Dictation can be boring, but with the computer-generated materials I have developed where students have to fill in letters, rather than words, the students generally find it interesting. This is because there are limited choices and feedback is precise and generally quick. There is less confusion. The confusion that occurs is more easily resolveable. This is motivating.

Class dictations where 1 or 2 students read the passage and the rest of the class, tries to fill in the letters is, surprisingly quite interesting to my lower-level students at the moment.

I wouldn't use dictation as much with higher-level students. With them, communication, or use of language for non-language ends, in other words, listening and speaking AND thinking, must be an objective. With lower-level students, they may resist more than encoding (into speech) and decoding (into a representation of speech), the psychological processes involved in dictation.

Read more about PairDictation.

Cards I have also written about at OnCards.