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Speaking and Conversation with a
Focus at Elementary Level
by Sam Smith
- lesson plan 2

Main Aims:
To raise awareness of and practice features of conversation for showing interest in what another speaker is saying.
To practice narrative skills in the form of an anecdote about a childhood memory and help students tell it better by giving them preparation time, an example to compare with and follow, and a 2nd chance to tell the anecdote.

Subsidiary Aims:
To practice listening skills of: making and checking predictions; listening for specific functional and discoursal exponents.
To raise awareness of students' own performance through self evaluation and peer evaluation.

Assumptions:
The majority of the students have a good enough knowledge of past tenses to be able to tell an anecdote about their childhood and I will be able to spend a lot of time helping the students who most need it.
The activity of speaking about yourself should provide students with the motivation to do so with a relative degree of success.
The fact that the story is about a classmate should provide the motivation to listen, along with the fact that the listener must decide if the story is true or false.
After self and peer evaluation of the 1st speaking task the students should be aware of the need for the components of conversation presented later.
The listening provides good, contextualised examples of the features of conversation in focus and the 2 'jigsaw' noticing tasks differ slightly in difficulty so the more difficult can be given to the stronger students.
The students should be able to cope with the controlled practice as it is tape-script led in the 1st stage and then immediately demonstrated after students attempt to predict in the 2nd.
The last speaking stage should improve the students' performance whilst maintaining their motivation as it is with a new group and they will know that someone is monitoring their performance and will give them feedback.

Anticipated Problems and Solutions:
The main problem I am expecting is a lack of creativity when recalling a childhood memory. All people are different, some are more willing to talk about themselves than others, people's mood on a particular day can also affect their ability to talk about themselves.
To help students, firstly I will provide a good anecdote about myself, which does not paint a good picture of the way I was as a child. Secondly I will be prepared to suggest many different contexts as to where their anecdote could come from: school; their first day at school or when they changed school; a time they were in trouble; a success; a story about a relative or friend; a holiday; the 1st time they....; a sport; meeting someone important and any more as necessary. Thirdly I will tell students that it doesn't have to be amazing. Fourthly I will monitor and help individual students as much as possible. Lastly by asking students whether they think my story is true or false, I will present them with the opportunity of telling a false story about themselves, a poorer solution, but a last resort.

Students could and probably will have problems being able to tell their story due to lack of language knowledge and vocabulary.
I will give them enough preparation time, monitor and help individually, and dictionaries will be available.

The listening might be difficult for some of the learners, but by providing lots of key words and pictures to help them predict the story and then check predictions, the task should be easier, and by providing a chance for students to compare with their partners and then full class feedback, the whole story should emerge before moving on to successive listenings and finally checking with the tape-script the full story will become clear to all.

The 2nd controlled practice stage may prove difficult for the students but I will tell them that there are no correct answers and they will hear the real version of the phrase shortly after making their prediction.

Lastly the whole problem of timing may be a problem. Their is a great difference in levels within the group and some students still have problems understanding instructions which often have to be repeated and re-explained more than once, thus activities can take longer than expected.
I have taken this into account in my lesson timings and deliberately made the timings longer than for other classes. I have also provided written instructions on most of the handouts where I feel it has been necessary. Lastly, if things do take too long, the 1st controlled practice stage can be taken out and the students can repeat the intonation of the interviewer during the 2nd stage. I do not want to do this however as I feel, for the level of the group, both stages are valid and necessary.

Aids and Materials:
The board.
The teacher - telling an anecdote.
The students' own memories.
Self-prepared (by teacher) task sheets: for self evaluation; for predicting the story of the listening; for observing partners when speaking; for self evaluation and feedback on the lesson.
A 2 minute 15 second listening extract about meeting a long lost relative - from Cutting Edge Intermediate Students' Book, unit 2 - not included here.
The tape-script of the extract.

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