Trying again–How to get the students to use English


One fourth year conversation class. These classes are all 50-student 2-hour classes. The problem: how to get them to speak English. The proposed solution: if you can’t beat them, join them. Look at language/English as having communicative purpose (which they don’t do), but get them to look at language as something that can be studied as any.. try to fit in with the way it is traditionally studied, ie as an object also use approaches that CLT reacted against. In particular, this semester I want to talk about language, my language learning, education and I want to get them to record themselves doing conversations and I want them to do Nolasco and Arthur feedback activities on these recorded conversations.

So with the two third-year classes Wednesday and Thursday I started with perhaps 20 minutes talking about plans for semester (cooperative groups, recordings) and talking about my reading of Women, Fire and Dangerous Things in Chinese. (How I couldn’t understand a lot, how having read Metaphors We Live By in English helped, how women and dangerous things might be one category or not).

Then I got some two volunteers to come to the front and I recorded them on a cassette recorder I held, doing a dialogue from At Work, Chapter ? in English. (I felt more comfortable in the first class at this point for some reason. In the second class (I had done the same spiel/speech/patter already in four classes then) I felt nervous. I was thinking I had forgotten something.)

(I didn’t handle the recording of the class too well. I wasn’t too sure when I turned it on/off.)

Then I got the class to come to the front to look at the seating chart (a complicated mosaic of groups) and then go and sit in their new seat and meet their new partners (classical cooperative learning assignment). I had them write a contract in their books.

           - Contract -
          I will help my group

and sign each of their partners’ contracts.

I got them to sort a collection of Concentration cards into alphabetical order (a simple task requiring minimal communication. I used it as an icebreaker. The second group (class?) seemed to get more into it.)

This ended the first hour.

Then I had them with one partner practice the dialogue in the book and the pattern drill. I walked round and recorded activity in four corners of the room. I haven’t listened to the tape yet. I talked to people at same time. It seemed some people in second class more than first did try to read the dialogue. Was this too long? That is, were people left free just to talk, chat, not work?

Then I had groups work (?) on the grammar pattern drill on next page.

Will you mail this package to Mr John?
Certainly. I'll mail him the package right away?

Then I had the people return to their original positions and do the quiz which I put on the board: five questions very similar to the one in the book.

Then I had them give the quiz papers to the people sitting next to them while I wrote the answers on the board. Their neighbors corrected graded them and wrote score out of 15.

Then I had them return to the cooperative group positions and calculate their total (group) score and write it on the paper. Then I collected the papers.

Then I gave them homework. Three lines. How can I make you speak English. (I was thinking more of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming)-type homework, but I forgot to make this homework. I think I may have talked about doing this in the first class, picturing, but I didn’t in the second. That may be the thing I felt bad about forgetting.)

I told them at start to bring tapes next week, but they will only need one per two people. I think I told first class I will not accept late homework. I don’t think I told second.

See experimentation book for answers

Plan for 3/1-2

Continue with talking about language (I never considered job to be conversationalist about language. In fact, I considered I need to be able to discuss all subjects but language, language learning, education. I didn’t see students as interested in these subjects (keeping up both my and their end of the conversation, teaching how to sex))

  1. Read Chinese and English children’s book to them. Short talk about listening to Yoko read. Suggest easy children’s book in English.
  2. Imagine reading to friend.
  3. Talk about reading dialogue from book using Walkman.