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THE IMPLICATIONS OF TEACHING CONVERSATION IN THE CLASSROOM WITH SPECIFIC REFERENCE TO ADVANCED LEARNERS AND GENRE by Emma Metcalf
- lesson plan 1

Preliminary information

Time: 55 minutes

Level: Advanced

Aims:
Speaking: To practice expressions used for telling a story or presenting facts in an interesting or dramatic way in the context of life as a teenager. The expressions include the following:

You'll never believe this it, but
This is hard to believe, but
Believe it or not
Can you imagine?
Just imagine
I couldn't believe my eyes/ears!
Do you know what happened then
And then do you know what he said/did?
What do you think he did/said?
Guess what!
You'll never guess what!
And then, to add insult to injury
As if that wasn't enough

Subsidiary Aims:
Listening for gist and for specific information.
Some vocabulary (mainly colloquial)that could be connected to 'teenagers': stroppy/snog/to suck/mumble.

Timetable fit:
My previous lesson looked at the Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 the life of a typical teenager has been looked at. The group have also recently been looking at short stories (written) so it seems logical to practice telling stories orally and looking at expressions that will help the students to do this.

Rationale:
I have decided to look at the skill of speaking with this advanced group because it is an area that I find particularly challenging. I have taught advanced groups over the last year and I have found that, although a lot of speaking takes place in class, it is actually quite a challenge to give advanced students new language input because they can say pretty much exactly what they want. I have therefore chosen an area where the speaker takes a longer speaking turn: that of telling a story or describing something that happened. I have chosen this because it is a difficult task to do and I want to give the students something challenging and also give each student an opportunity to speak for longer in class.

I have decided to begin the class using the video of Kevin the stroppy teenager because I looked at The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole in the previous class. I have used this video before in other classes I have taught and students have always found it funny. This is a nice way to start off the lesson. Some tricky vocabulary also comes up in the video such as mumble and snog so I have decided to look at them briefly.

The questions that will be given after the video clip are connected to being a teenager and, because all the students have been teenagers before and have perhaps experienced some of the feelings seen on the video, it is a good idea to personalise it. Also, because the warmer is quite a 'silent' activity,' this is a good opportunity to let the students speak.

Another reason why I want students to discuss the questions after the video is because this will be followed by another listening. The video and then listening straight after might seem a bit too much. I have tried to make the people on the tape similar to those seen on the video, therefore continuing with the stroppy teenager theme. A listening seems the best way to present the language I eventually want the students to produce and the video has already provided the context. It also seems appropriate that teenagers exaggerate things to make everything more dramatic. I want the students to listen out for any of the expressions and write them down as they hear them. This is quite a difficult task so I will play the tape twice and ask students to compare their answers. Because I have included the expressions in the listening, I have not included any complex vocabulary although I have recycled some language that has come up in previous classes such as do my head in. I will also provide the students with the tapescript after the listening activity because they can see the expressions used in a particular context - the tapescript provides them with a reference they can take home and look at in their own time.

I have decided to look at sentence stress with the expressions because it is important that the students get the stress right in the expressions when telling their stories. Otherwise the expressions used will sound 'odd' or forced. This is again, quite a difficult task and probably one the students are not used to. This is why I will ask them to work in pairs. I also feel this is an area that I have neglected in my classes and one I would like to look at more often. Things like sentence stress and intonation are areas where advanced students can start to think more about as these are the subtle differences that separates a good speaker of English from a highly proficient speaker of English.

I want to give the students some controlled practice before they go into the freer practice. Thus, I have asked students to re-write a dialogue - making it more interesting. I will then ask the students to read out the dialogues so that I can check they know how to use the expressions, and also, how to say them. If these expressions are said in a monotone voice, they will sound strange.

The freer practice allows students to plan what they are going to say. This reflects story telling in gereral because most stories are told more than once, and therefore planned. I want the students to plan in pairs simply because this makes the task a little more communicative. I also want students to think about how they will react when listening to these stories, which emphasises the reciprocity of speaking. The students have already looked at ways of showing interest, back-channelling and so on. The stories they will tell are all related to being a teenager in one way or another.

The students should hopefully enjoy the topic area and the activities but still feel they have 'learnt' something to help them improve their speaking skills.

Assumptions:
The students should not find the listening (either the video or the cassette) too difficult because they have a good level. They all speaki fluidly (and some almost fluently) so the speaking activity at the end should not be too challenging. I am presuming however, that they will either not have seen or thought about using these expressions in this way. Telling stories in a foreign language is a hard thing to do and they will need practice at it.

Anticipated problems: Students may have difficulty with the stress and intonation of the expressions. I want to give the students an opportunity to work out the main and secondary stress on the expressions for themselves but I will check and drill any problem areas if necessary. Students may also find it difficult to incorporate the expressions in the speaking activity. I will make sure that while they are telling their stories, they have the list of expressions with them as a reference.

Class profile: Class generally made up of young professionals, although one older man, Troyano, is present. Students often arrive late and tired because they have been working all day. It is important to keep the pace up in class, changing activities fairly frequently to make sure they do not 'drift off. Students are also receiving the lessons for free,therefore it may be tempting to skip a few classes. The group, so far, consists of the following:

Maria: A lawyer who mainly uses English when reading legal documents. She appears quite serious but participates well, especially with pair work,
Montse: Works in an electical company. Very happy and responsive student, often the first to volunteer an answer. Pronunciation problems.
Troyano: Eldest in group but works well with peers and can be very funny! Has quite a wide range of vocbulary but often not appropriate to context. Has a tendency to ask a lot of questions and can sometimes interrupt and talk over other students.
Beatriz: Fully participates in activities though sometimes does not listen to teacher. Very bubbly. Fluent but this presides over accuracy. Very motivated.
Antonio: Works well in group and a very good level. Asks intelligent questions and is happy to explain things to peers if they have any problems. Has lived in Britain for one year.
Africa: Good level and likes grammar! Also interested in business English. Again, works well with peers.
Pablo: Good level. Reads a lot of English. Gives the impression that he is a busy business man so maybe time to study may be a problem for him.
Yolanda: Very personable. Colloquial/informal vocabulary very good as lived in London for a while. Has a Greek boyfriend with whom she communicates in English because he does not speak Spanish.
Rocio: Recently joined group. Very good level. Has travelled to Britain and to Ireland and wants to return to Britain once she has finished her degree. Extremely motivated.
David: Also recently joined group. Excellent level of English (probably the best in the group) and studies English and American literture at the Complutense in Madrid.

Materials:
Various handouts
Language input taken from Dornyei, Z. & Turrel, S., Conversation and Dialogues in Action, (Prentice Hall, Hemel Hempstead, 1992) p.75

Aids: Video: Harry Enfield
Cassette: Home recording

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