Monday, 19 March 2012

Getting Learners Speaking in English

Getting learners to speak English regularly in lessons is one of the challenges for TTO teachers. In order to use speaking activities for a CLIL classroom it’s important to focus on the mechanisms underpinning different types of speaking task, so that teachers can then create their own versions of these activities. Here then are three types of speaking activity with some suggestions for variations of them in practice – however, the important point is to appreciate the underlying mechanism motivating communication.

Communication regulators

Communication regulators provide a structure to a discussion amongst students. They are useful in a CLIL lesson in order to equalize communication amongst the members of a group and to give everyone an opportunity to speak. It is also a good idea to give learners time before the discussion to think about what they want to say.

Learners are motivated to speak because the rules for the task require their active involvement and also provide a framework for their contributions. Scaffolding (or support) for the task might be needed, such as a speaking frame which models possible sentences or phrases that could be used. Here are some variations of communication regulators:

Talking Chips
Place students in small groups. Each student is given a chip (for example, they can use a pen). If someone wants to talk, they must place their chip in the center of the table. You cannot then talk again until everyone has placed his or her chip on the table. When everyone has used their chip they can be retrieved and anyone can talk again by placing the chip on the table.

Response Mode Chips
Students are given a number of different chips that each refer to a specific type of response that they can then make in a discussion (for example, asking a question, giving an idea, giving praise, responding to an idea etc.). If a student wishes to speak they must place the appropriate chip on the table, representing their response mode.

Timed Turns
No one can talk for more than a minute and there is a timekeeper on each turn.

Hot Seat
One person is placed in the hot seat and must answer questions on a given topic by the other members of the group. They can only listen and ask questions. Students take it in turns to be in the hot seat.

Information gaps
An information gap is based on creating a situation in which learners need to communicate with each other in order to get some specific information from each other, and therefore to close the gap! The gap might be based on finding out something that someone else already knows (so activating prior knowledge), or the activity might be based on the teacher setting up the gap by giving certain information to a learner that another learner needs to get.

Some ideas for information gap activities in CLIL lessons:

Find Someone Who…
Students are given a list that might be a list of: personal information, facts relating to a topic, opinions about a given topic. They then need to walk around the classroom asking each other questions to find a person that can answer a specific item on the list.

Picture Pairwork
Two students each have a picture of the same scene or image, but each picture has several (small) differences. The students need to communicate to each other in order to discover these differences. Good for learning and testing out new vocabulary and for practising question sentences. The pictures can be related to specific subject content - for example, landscapes in Geography.

Talking Into Drawing
An activity for pairs. One student has a picture and must describe that picture to their partner who then makes a drawing of what they are being told. This activity can be used to practice the use of connectives (first, then, next) and adjectives. This activity can be connected to subject content – for example, describing a diagram or illustration in a science lesson.

Pyramid discussions
Sometimes referred to as ‘think/pair/share’, this type of speaking task is structured in three phases, beginning with the learner thinking on their own, moving to a phase in which they discuss ideas with a partner, to a final phase in which ideas are shared as a class.

The first two stages are important for CLIL because they offer safe wait time to think through ideas and an opportunity to rehearse the language they need before a whole class plenary. CLIL teachers may also need to identify the specific scaffolds (support) that students need for the task. For example, they may need a list of words relevant to the topic or model sentences that can be used in their discussion.
As a variation, think, pair, square puts students into groups of four to share their ideas rather than a whole class plenary. This might be a good way to help prepare students for whole class discussions. It also gives the teacher more opportunities to monitor and observe language use in the different pairs and groups.

Another variation of this uses a ‘placemat’ for the first two stages, a large piece of paper on which learners write down their ideas in response to a question or problem. The placemat can then be rotated so that everyone can read each other’s ideas. A new question is then needed to synthesize the learners’ ideas at the small group stage in some way before going into a whole class plenary discussion.

No comments:

Post a Comment