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Applying Discourse Analysis in the
Classroom with a Specific Focus
on Teaching Discourse Markers
by Ceri Millward

- Lesson plan 1

Preliminary information

Time: 60 minutes

Level: Intermediate


Main aims:

To highlight the use of discourse markers (refer to chart on page 3) in context, I shall use a written film review taken from the Internet.

To clarify the meaning, form and appropriacy of each discourse marker.

Help students to infer meaning and correct usage of target language through context by means of inductive exercises.

As part of a three-part lesson dealing with the structuring of authentic written materials, especially focusing on coherence and cohesion, I aim to prepare students to write their own film review.


Subsidiary aims:

To introduce the students to authentic written materials from the Internet.

To develop the skills of reading for gist and scanning for information.

To further develop the skills of listening for gist and information.

To review coherent structuring of texts and give implicit exposure to the cohesive device of referencing, which they will have already seen in the previous class.


Student profile:

This is an intermediate class comprised of a group of twelve young to middle-aged students that, a colleague and myself have been teaching for ten weeks. The majority of the students are not studying for any particular purpose other than as a social pastime, though most of them believe that English will be useful for them in the future to improve their work prospects. Given this, most of the students have cited listening and speaking as areas that they wished to improve, though all agreed that reading and writing are also important.

Elsa, an Art student, has spent some time in Britain and is one of the stronger students in the class. She works well with other students and seems to be very motivated.

Cristina, also an Art student, does not have such a high level as Elsa but interacts well in class and is able to keep up with the rest of the students.

Jordi has just finished a degree in Business Studies and is now actively looking for work. For this reason he is a highly motivated student with a 100% attendance record, though he is quite shy and needs to be paired with particularly talkative students so that he gets involved in activities.

Victoria has a good level and feels comfortable talking freely in open class activities. She, like many other students, is particularly interested in English for travel.

Carmen is an out of work schoolteacher who gives classes at home. Her knowledge of grammar is very good though sometimes she has problems with listening activities.

Nerea, a university student, has a good level but is a little under confident when it comes to speaking.

Irene, also a university student, seems to have the same problem as Nerea though her level is a little weaker.

Maria Teresa, is one of the newer students. Her level seems to be a bit weaker than the rest of the class, although her knowledge of vocabulary is quite high. She seems to be too teacher dependant and does not work very well with other students; she often interrupts the class by asking questions that are not relevant to the lesson. However, I noticed that she appeared to be more integrated with the rest of the class in the last lesson.

Gabriel, also a new student, seems to have a good level and feels particularly comfortable talking during open class activities. He works well with other students and is very motivated.

Antonio and Elena have just joined the course, though both seem to have a good level and work well within the class.

Assumptions:

I am assuming that the students have come across most of the discourse markers before but will not have looked at their meaning, form and appropriacy.

Some students may have seen the film 'Chicago' and some may not, but all would have heard something about the hype surrounding it.

Some students may have seen the Oscar ceremony or know the outcome, these students can inform the others, another opportunity for real communication.

I am assuming that most of the students have been to the cinema recently and I will be able to group together students that have seen the same film for the brainstorm activity. However, even though most of the students have expressed interest in the cinema there may be a few that do not have time to go, so these students will have to brainstorm their film alone and then discuss it with their partners.


Anticipated problems & solutions:

Language problems/solutions:
As I will be looking at a wide range of discourse markers in this lesson, with various subtle differences in meaning and usage, I have decided to break down the problem areas to be looked at, into four different categories -meaning, form, appropriacy and phonology.

Meaning - It is possible that some students will be unable to identify the difference in meaning and function of certain discourse markers, so in stage three they will put the linkers from the text into a table (as below) categorising them into groups with similar meanings. It is also important to point out that discourse markers only highlight logical connections and contrasts if a logical link already exists within the text.

So
Therefore
As a result
To draw attention to the fact that something is caused by, or is the result of something else.
However
Nonetheless
But
Though
Yet
Emphasises the fact that the second point contrasts with the first or highlights contrast of surprising facts.
Overall To generalise about a subject or give a general summary of the text.
And
As well as
Used to add information, or argument, to what has already been said.

Form - It is also possible that students may think that as these linkers have similar meanings they are interchangeable in a text, so it is important to clarify that certain discourse markers are found in different positions within a sentence and that some perform different functions. At this stage, I plan to let the students infer the rules of usage from context, by categorising them into three different types of discourse marker according to their form and function (see table below). I also plan to point out a few features of punctuation specific to certain conjunctions.

Links clauses- usually comes between clauses/in the middle of a sentence
Type 1
Links clauses- can come between clauses or at the beginning of a sentence.
Type 2

Links sentences- usually at the beginning of a sentence.
Type 3

BUT
AND
ALTHOUGH
THOUGH
AS WELL AS
SO
HOWEVER
NONETHELESS
OVERALL
THEREFORE
AS A RESULT



Appropriacy -Students may use some of these discourse markers inappropriately. They may start to use 'nonetheless' in a spoken context, for example, therefore it is also important to stress that some discourse markers, such as 'nonetheless ', 'overall' and 'as a result,' are more formal and are usually only found in a written context. Out of the linkers that I will be teaching 'however' and 'so' are used the most in both written and spoken English, this will also be brought to the students', attention.

Phonology - I believe that this area will cause the least problems for the students as they will have already seen, or heard, most of these discourse markers in context. However, 'nonetheless' may be new to them and for this reason it may need to be drilled and the stress might have to be marked.


Problems/ solutions with tasks:
The class may have problems with the audio-visual activity as the material is authentic and Listening is one of the students' weakest skills. For this reason, I have made the task for this activity very simple, as the purpose of this exercise is merely to motivate the students and create interest in the subject. Similarly, the students may find the reading material a little difficult due to its authenticity, so again I have decided to keep the tasks simple and focus mainly on the target language.

Students will have implicit exposure to other cohesive devices, such as referencing, though we will not have time to focus on them in the observed lesson. Also due to time restrictions, we will not be able to focus on much of the vocabulary and collocations from the text in the observed hour, though I do plan to focus on this in the third part of this three-part class. I believe that this language will be useful for the final draft of the film review which will be the product of these lessons, though the means of arriving at this point using the process method of writing will be the most beneficial for the students.

Timing is also a factor that may affect the content of the lesson as I have designed a short consolidation task for stage six. However, if there are problems in stage five with the clarification of meaning, form and phonology, I intend to go straight to task eight, which I believe will be more useful for the students to prepare their written work. We will be able to revise and consolidate these discourse markers in the final part of the lesson.

Visual aids & materials:

· Video of a trailer of the film ' Chicago' from the Oscar ceremony.
· Cards of photographs taken from the film 'Chicago'.
· Written text from an Internet web site.
· Tables and charts to help clarify meaning and form.
· Cards of discourse markers.


Timetable fit:

The observed lesson will be part of a three part lesson on coherence and cohesion in written texts, something which the students believe may help them with their job prospects in the future. The final product will be a written film review which will be posted on the Internet, although it will be the process of writing and amending this piece of writing that will be the most valuable for the students.

· 1st Lesson - Coherence: look at the structuring of a piece of text and referencing (cohesion). Explain that some strategies can be transferred from their L1 to the L2. Also look at some cinema language to help students with the final result of the three-part lesson, the film review.

· 2nd Lesson - observed class/ Discourse markers.

· 3rd Lesson - We will go over students' written work (homework -film review); Cohesion continued. Students assess each other's work; how have the linkers been used? Have the students been able to transfer 'referencing' from their L1 to the L2? Look at useful collocations for the review. The students will then take back their own reviews and revise them, taking their peers' and teacher's comments, into consideration. Finally, one review from each group is chosen by the students to be posted on an English language Internet site.

Lesson rationale:

Although most of the class said that they wanted to practice both speaking and listening comprehension in their needs analysis at the beginning of the course, they also cited reading and writing as something, which they believed, would be useful in the work place. Therefore, I have decided to focus on cohesion and more specifically on discourse markers in my observed class, as I believe that this is not only an important consideration when structuring business letters and emails but one that can also be transferred to most written genres.

I chose to introduce these linkers through a written review taken from the Internet, as I believe that the students would find this genre more motivating and interesting than a business context. Cinema was a subject that most of the students expressed an interest in at the beginning of the course and as this class will take place soon after the Oscar award ceremony I believe that this will generate an added interest regarding the chosen text.

The purpose of the audio-visual activity, a trailer of the film 'Chicago,' is mainly to create interest in the subject of the text and increase student motivation, so the extensive task has been made simple. Once the students' schema of the subject of the text has been activated they should find the following task - the jumbled reading - easier. The aims of this task are not only to introduce the text but also to enable the students to use their knowledge of coherence, and to some extent cohesion, to complete the activity, this will be revising and consolidating information learnt in the previous lesson.

The following task is a gist reading exercise so that the students understand the idea of the text as well as facilitating task seven later on in the lesson. At the end of this stage the students will have identified the target language by means of an inductive exercise and will then be asked to find all the discourse markers in the text - a noticing activity.

In stage 5 there are two activities that are intended to enable students to infer meaning and form from context. This will be consolidated in the following stage, in which I will give the students a written record of the target language, clarifying meaning, form and appropriacy.

In the final stage there will be some consolidation exercises for the target language and also some useful brainstorming activities for the homework - the film review. This written review will not only give the students the chance to use the new language but will also serve as the basis for the next lesson, in which we will continue to look at cohesive devices. Furthermore, this piece of writing will give me an opportunity to evaluate to what extent the students have understood the usage and meaning of the target language. The aims behind posting the students' work on an English language Internet site are to give the students a real audience to write for and a real purpose for which to write.

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