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First Certificate Speaking: Part 2. Avoiding
"ermmm": Adding coherence to spoken discourse
using discourse markers
by Jonny Frank
- lesson plan 3

Learners: Strengths and Weaknesses:

Maria
14
+ +
Confident, competent speaker.
Makes a great effort to always speak in English in class.
Accurate pronunciation
Keen to learn new vocabulary and keeps a vocabulary page for each class.
Good pronunciation.
Confident speaker.
Speaks for the full minute.
Uses "like" as a discourse marker appropriately.
- -
Can become overly-flustered if she cannot find the exact word or expression she would like to use in her L1 (lack of communicative strategies)
Lacks effective learner strategies when she can't find the right word.
Spoken discourse can come to a halt as she doesn't use a wide enough variety of discourse markers, such as those for gaining time, expressing contrast and cause and result.
She is inclined to overuse "like" as a marker, and could improve on this.

Blanca
13
+ +
Generally makes an effort to speak in English.
Quite fluent depending on the task
Keen to learn new vocabulary and keeps a vocabulary page for each class.
Attempts to use comparative language (even if not always accurately)
Speaks for the full minute.
- -
Can veer off into L1 sometimes
Lacks communicative strategies when she doesn't know the exact word
Lack of coherence in her spoken discourse. She moves from one point to another missing out discourse markers, leaving the listener quite confused. In particular she needs to include markers of contrast, such as whereas, however.

Rafael
13
+ +
Brings a vocabulary book to class – keen to record new expressions
Makes an effort to speak English
Gives a personal response to the photographs.
Speaks for the full minute
- -
Sometimes reverts to Spanish before trying to convey meaning.
Lacks fluency, which in turn effects his performance in FC speaking tests
Can become silly as the lesson goes on (due to age and time of class)
Tends to describe the pictures rather than compare them.
Fails to use discourse markers to give coherence to his spoken discourse. He is likely to miss out markers of contrast, as well as those to gain processing time ("fillers").

Jorge
+ +
Good at learning and using new vocabulary
Behaves well in class
Has an awareness of discourse markers for gaining time it's kind of...
Speaks for the minute
- -
Reverts to L1 too easily at times
Can become distracted by other learners
Sometimes values task speed over task quality
Especially poor at spontaneous spoken discourse
Over-relies on markers for gaining time, which in turn leaves him with little time to actually compare.
Needs to include markers of contrast, such as whereas, however.

Laura
14
+ +
A very confident speaker
Impressive comprehension
Very fluent
Uses language of speculation well (maybe, this could be..)
Speaks for the whole minute (and more)
- -
Has had behavioural problems already this term – parents have been called
Poor homework return record
Sometimes seeks to distract others by speaking Spanish
Doesn't always listen to instructions and can be found off-task due to this at times.
Spoken discourse lacks coherence.
Transcript shows pauses where she could use markers for gaining time (like, I mean) as well as opportunities to use those for contrast (on the other hand, whereas, however).

Patricia
14
+ +
Very keen learner who makes an effort to use new vocabulary whenever possible
Good comprehension
Speaks about both photographs
Unable to speak for the whole minute
- -
Very shy and withdrawn.
Can freeze if she needs to speak directly to teacher or in larger groups.
Especially poor at spontaneous spoken discourse
Being put on the spot panics her a lot, so she freezes. She could do with using markers for gaining time to help her process her thoughts in order to give more coherence to her spoken discourse.

Leyrey
14
+ +
Confident if not always accurate speaker
Works well in pairs and groups
Speaks about both photographs
Speaks for the minute
- -
Can become distracted and revert to L1
Language produced is not always that accurate (though she more than often gets her point across)
Especially poor at spontaneous spoken discourse
Can sometimes resort to L1 time-gaining discourse markers, like o sea.
Needs to improve her contrasting of the photographs, especially in terms of coherence. Markers such as however and on one hand would have significantly improved her recording.

Irene
13
+ +
Successfully incorporates new vocabulary (phrasal verbs, etc.) into class and homework
A capable speaker
Speaks for the full minute.
- -
Can struggle if spoken discourse is spontaneous
Prefers to revert to Spanish rather than "buying" processing time.
Due to lack of discourse markers she resorts to starting utterances from the beginning. This is not conducive to coherent discourse, and saying "I think" four times is overly-repetitive.
Sometimes falls back on L1 discourse markers such as bueno. Needs to increase her awareness of markers to contrast and gain time.

Jorge
14
+ +
Keen and interested in new vocabulary, and has a penchant for using it in written work
Speaks for the full minute
Uses some discourse markers well: well to start and I don't know to gain time and give the impression of fluency.
- -
Often produces pauses that are too long
Struggles to produce adequate language when asked to produce spontaneously.
Needs to know the meaning of every word, even if he understands the complete phrase.
Can pause for long periods: mmmmmmmmm. He would be better applying some markers to dismiss previous discourse (anyway) and to contrast ideas (however, on one hand).

Pilar
14
+ +
Written work is excellent.
Shy but works well in pairs and small, closed groups.
Learns and uses vocabulary that comes up in class
Uses sequencing which helps coherence (the first, the second)
Speaks for the full minute
- -
Finds it difficult to speak coherently if there is an element of spontaneity.
In spoken discourse can produce too many unfilled pauses.
Lacks discourse markers of contrast, dismissal of previous discourse, as well as causal – tends to rely on simple causal markers such as because.

Alicia
13
+ +
A confident speaker in the right context.
Makes a conscious effort to learn and use new vocabulary
Speaks for the full minute
Uses conjunction "and" correctly
- -
Tends to leave out more complex discourse markers such as "however", "on the other hand", "let me think" in speaking exercises
Needs to amplify the markers she uses. Over-reliant on tried and tested markers such as "and", when could be more specific by using "however", or "whereas" – especially in contrasting.

Esther
14
+ +
Works hard, records and tries out new vocabulary in both written and spoken work
Makes a conscious effort to speak in English
Confident member of the group
Uses some specific vocabulary
Speaks for the full minute Her written and spoken discourse is generally good, and has even begun to use linking expressions in freer oral practice in class. She does, however, need to start using time-gaining markers rather than pausing
- -
Avoids any kind of contrast discourse markers, which would markedly improve her performance.
Neither does she use any markers to gain time.

Juan Carlos
13
+ +
A confident speaker
Fluent even if he uses very simple language sometimes.
Gives a personal response to the question
Speaks for the full minute.
- -
Needs to add markers to his spoken discourse.
Can resort to Spanish if he can't find the word
Annotates his notes with direct translations to L1
His spoken discourse for this part of the FC is devoid of appropriate markers. He needs to use markers for contrast (whereas, on the other hand), or

Alberto
[no transcript available]
13
+ +
Confident at speaking in English
Very high level of oral comprehension
Very fluent
Tends to give a personal opinion too quickly, without comparing the photographs.
Very good at using language of speculation
- -
Poor homework return
Sometimes chooses to speak in L1 first, and will change once prompted.
Quite reliant on translations as opposed to learner strategies to convey meaning
Has presented some behavioural problems – parents have been called
Despite his fluency he tends to rely on discourse markers such as but and so; he could do with expanding his range. Due to his fluency discourse markers for gaining time and dismissing previous discourse less of a priority than causal and contrastive discourse markers.

Emanuel
13
+ +
Very capable student
Good at understanding meaning without a focus on L1 translation
Only member of the group with an additional L1, he speaks French as well as Spanish.
Speaks for a minute
- -
Can over-use new vocabulary seen in class
Speaking and writing carry significant elements of L1 transfer; e.g. "permiss" rather than "let" or "allow".
Very hesitant and gives himself processing time in the test, as seen in the transcript (………). Instead of pausing, he could do with using markers for gaining time, or even ones to dismiss previous discourse in order to relieve the cognitive load.

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