Teaching Interaction Management Directly: Helping Learners with
Part 3 of the CAE Speaking Exam
by Greg Gobel

Discovering an opportunity

While my learners were recently practicing the CAE speaking exam I noticed they struggled most in Part 3, involving ‘[t]wo-way interaction between candidates’ and ‘negotiating and collaborating; reaching agreement or “agreeing to disagree”’(1). Perhaps I should have noticed this problem earlier in the course, but we had been focusing more on Part 2 because the learners had expressed that they felt speaking for one minute was more challenging than the interactiveness of Part 3. Although, we have practiced Part 3 at times, in the context of doing an entire practice speaking exam in class there was a clear discrepancy between their effective Part 2 performance and their less effective Part 3 performance. These areas were somewhat problematic:

  • saying too much about one aspect of the task, thus not allowing enough time to discuss the other aspects,
  • not being comfortable bringing up new topics or knowing when to bring up new topics relevant to the task,
  • being selfish in the conversation, i.e., not giving up the floor to their partner at appropriate times, and
  • not being comfortable to take the floor from their partner with relevant points.

This paper addresses these by looking into interaction management to help learners to improve their conversational skills in preparation for the CAE.

Relating Interaction Management to CAE Speaking Part 3

Cook says there are differences in types of spoken language, i.e., ‘between “one-way” speech (for example, a lecture) and “two-way” speech (for example, a conversation): a division, in other words, between speech with a high degree of reciprocity and speech with a low one.’ (2) In Part 2 of the CAE speaking exam, each candidate speaks for one minute comparing and contrasting pictures. They do not interact with their partner, so this demonstrates a low degree of reciprocity. However, Part 3, which my learners now struggle more with, involves a high degree of reciprocity challenging them to work together discussing and ultimately agreeing on a decision in three to four minutes. Part 3 fits best into Littlewood’s communicative task category called ‘processing information,’ where the ‘stimulus for communication comes from the need to discuss and evaluate…in order to solve a problem or reach a decision.’(3)

This task type makes it necessary ‘for learners to develop skills in managing the interaction at the interpersonal level…’ (4) Bygate proposes focusing on two main areas of interaction management: agenda management and turn-taking. ‘The first refers essentially to control over the content, that is, the choice of topic of an exchange, while turn-taking relates to the obvious aspect of who speaks when and for how long.’ (5) Bygate’s starting point is the idea of the interlocutor’s freedom in the conversation, being able to ‘exercise their rights over many aspects of the interaction directly, and without the intervention of anyone else’ (6) . From observing the learners attempting Part 3, it seemed they were uncomfortable with or unsure of how to make the most of this freedom to help them navigate through the conversation.

Agenda management is ‘the basic freedom to start, direct, and end a conversation without conforming to a script and without the intervention of a third party’ (7) . It involves several rights of the participant: to choose a topic, to choose the way the topic is developed, and to choose how long the conversation will be.(8)Thornbury ‘loosely’ defines a topic as ‘what is being talked about over a series of turns.’ (9) Bygate suggests five useful skills for managing topics (10):

  • knowing how to bring up initial topics
  • developing a topic
  • bringing a new topic as an extension of the previous one
  • switching topics
  • opening/closing conversations.

My learners struggled with bringing in new topics as extensions and with switching/shifting topics resulting in time management problems – none of them ended on time agreeing or agreeing to disagree. Encouragingly, they wanted to continue discussing the task for much longer than the very short four minutes allowed in the exam. They expressed that this time limit was too short to go into any depth. In other words, in the real world these learners would be very willing to participate in lengthy conversation. But, they will have to learn to exploit their freedom of interaction to manage their topics within this imposed time limit. The task provides the general topic, but learners have control over how to manage each smaller topic of the task as extensions from, or contrasts to, each other and how to move from the general discussion to the specific decision-making phase.

To be effective at turn-taking, Bygate says a speaker ‘has to be efficient at getting a turn and to be good at letting another speaker have a turn.’ (11) Rost points out, ‘In most conversational settings, interlocutors switch back and forth between the roles of primary contributor and primary interpreter.’ (12) The underlying problem learners may have is identifying appropriate transition points to allow for the switching back and forth that helps move the conversation beneficially. This is difficult primarily because the exchange structure ‘is worked out during the conversation rather than being pre-planned.’ (13) This element of unpredictability is surely a challenge but learners can work at overcoming it by developing the following skills (14):

  • signaling to speak
  • recognizing the right moment to get a turn and knowing contextually appropriate ways of interrupting
  • using ‘turn structure’ to hold a turn and not lose it before finishing
  • recognizing other people’s signals to speak
  • knowing how to let someone have a turn

My learners had some trouble recognizing their partner’s signals and ceding the floor, instead opting to turn short turns and short long turns into much too long turns. This reflects Nolasco’s observation that ‘[m]any students have great difficulty in…knowing when to give up their turn to others…’ (15) However, Richards says, ‘Conversation is a collaborative process. A speaker does not say everything he or she wants to say in a single utterance.’ (16) For the exam, learners should interact by concisely contributing to the conversation in short turns or short long turns.

‘The inability to take up long turns in conversation is a feature of many second language speakers, who keep to short turns and appear to be less than collaborative conversational partners.’ (17) Although from my experience this is often true, it was not so with my advanced learners. Instead, they felt the need to say as much as possible in any given turn. This is in contrast to Coulthard’s observation that ‘the majority of turns in any conversation consist of only a single sentence.’ (18)I asked them why they did not give their partners more opportunities, and they said it was the speaking exam so they needed to make sure the examiner knows they speak well. I told them that was reasonable for Part 2, but we should consider Part 3 a ‘Conversation’ exam instead, with collaboration as the underlying principle. As Sayers says, ‘Student’s success in two-way conversation does not just depend on what they produce, but also on how effectively they are able to participate in conversational exchanges.’ (19)

The CAE assessment criteria includes four components, one of which is ‘Interactive Communication.’ For this, learners must be successful in ‘conversational turn-taking’ and display ‘a willingness to develop the conversation and move the task towards a conclusion.’ (20) Now, I feel it is important to discuss the CAE assessment criteria with the learners early in the course. Perhaps if I had done so, my learners would have been more aware of the importance of interaction management for Part 3.

Into the classroom

I believe teachers can guide learners to deal with problems they encounter in managing interaction.

Thornbury says there are three main ways to introduce or shift topics (21):

  • using a higher key (perhaps, the most common; ‘High key is contrastive’ (22) so draws attention to the shift),
  • using left-displacement, i.e., fronting a sentence with the topic itself, and
  • using explicit linguistic devices.

McCarthy adds (23):

  • ‘using an element from a just completed story as the topic of subsequent conversation,’
  • short pauses,
  • giving a summary or evaluation of preceding conversation, and
  • saying still.

Thornbury suggests that ‘[c]lassroom activities designed to help learners recognise topic shift require, ideally, recordings of authentic conversations…’ (24) The implication of this is to start with recognition or noticing activities and then move on to productive activities that encourage learners to experiment. McCarthy says, ‘Listening activities can raise learners’ awareness of how speakers mark topic shifts by means of activities focusing on points in the talk where speakers make summaries and evaluations, and on markers and pitch changes.’ (25) Other specific activity ideas include redirecting ‘the conversation by picking up a word or phrase’ of the previous speaker (26), ‘the game-type where a preordained list of topics has to be talked about in a set time with coherent links’ (27) and games where each learner continually tries to shift the topic to ones on her list.

About turn-taking, McCarthy says it ‘…is something that may not need to be “taught”…’ (28) In other words, because turn-taking exists in most languages, the concept is there. However, as turn-taking is often a problem for native speakers, Bygate stresses ‘there are even firmer grounds for thinking that the problem is more acute’ for non-native speakers. (29) Based on my learners’ difficulties with turn-taking, I think that although McCarthy is right that we ‘may not need’ to teach it, I think we should. I have not seen much evidence of it becoming automatic, even for high-level learners. McCarthy adds, ‘…specific linguistic realizations can be presented and practiced and significant cultural differences can at least be pointed out to learners.’ (30) From experience, I think we could also point out significant cultural similarities. I have noticed learners do not always positively transfer relevant skills; teachers, including myself, do not always exploit similarities by raising learners’ awareness of them.

The following signal transition points: slowing down, speaking more clearly, and speaking on a falling tone. (31) Paralinguistic signals are also important signals, from head movement and inhalation (32) to gesture and gaze direction, i.e, looking up rather than down. (33) If a speaker does not recognize the listener’s signals for gaining the floor, the listener may resort to set phrases for interrupting, although not too often as only ‘a certain amount of interruption is tolerated.’ (34) High key tends to be used for these interrupting expressions. (35) Dornyei and Thurrell say ‘turn-taking ability does not come automatically, and needs to be developed consciously through awareness-raising observation and listening tasks involving videoed and/or taped authentic conversation.’ (36) Their plan includes ‘adding specific language input,’ ‘increasing the role of consciousness-raising,’ and ‘sequencing communicative tasks systematically.’ (37) They suggest we need not limit ourselves to using C-R for grammar only, that it can be used for conversational structure, too. Sequencing seems an attractive, efficient way to help by introducing ‘new material while recycling material the students are already familiar with’ by extending ‘a task which concentrates on one area by adding a dimension from another’ area of conversation skill. (38) Sayers shows their plan of teaching conversation directly can be effective ‘for helping the students to analyse and improve the interactional elements of their speaking.’ (39)

Some practical activities include spotting transition points on video, tape, or tapescript and noting which techniques were used; learners being recorded and then making the same observations about themselves to raise awareness of what they do and what they could do; having a list of techniques and trying to use each at least once in a conversation; and, using the same or similar list to monitor peers and give feedback. Dornyei and Thurell also suggest an observation sheet to compare coursebook dialogues with authentic ones.(40)

Basturkmen agrees about teaching interaction skills explicitly and raising our learners’ awareness of them. She warns, ‘By focusing on practice alone, the learner can remain tied to a limited awareness, and a potentially fossilized repertoire of interactive strategies and language use.’ (41) She also proposes a discoursal, text-based approach ‘to raise more advanced learners’ awareness’ (42) of these and to build ‘pedagogic tasks around the observation of texts, guiding learners in observing interaction to help them to recognize how interlocutors structure turns and exchanges, and what strategies and language and turn-taking mechanisms they use in specific contexts.’ (43) She suggests implementation by:

  • ‘studying transcribed turns to identify common patterns…
  • ‘using a recording (audio/video) …
  • ‘transcribing small segments from a recording of naturally occurring talk
  • ‘matching items from a list of communication strategies to a transcript
  • ‘role-playing and recording a cued situation, then comparing it to a recording/transcript of a similar situation in real life using naturally occurring speech
  • ‘identifying…and discussing instances involving linguistic phenomena…on transcripts
  • ‘collecting samples… from outside the classroom of linguistic phenomena, such as how speakers make topic changes…The class then collate and discuss.’ (44)

Clennel proposes a procedure of learners collecting, transcribing, and comparing naturally occurring spoken language. (45) Although this is proposed for pragmatic awareness, we could adapt it for interaction management awareness. Learners could compare similiarities and differences between native speakers and themselves; or, in ESL contexts, they could record naturally occurring speech. The advantage to using Clennell’s approach is that ‘every individual [takes] responsibility for investigating their own communication difficulties.’(46)

Curious about how popular coursebooks deal with teaching skills for managing interaction, I selected three CAE preparation coursesbooks ( Advanced Gold, Focus on CAE, and Fast Track to CAE) and looked at sections meant to prepare learners for Part 3. I assessed according to the ten skills Bygate suggests for interaction management and considered whether a text-based approach is used. The results (47) were disappointing:

  • relevant pages focus almost solely on practice,
  • when attempting to incorporate some interaction management, they focus only on linguistic realizations for developing a topic or extending into a new topic (usually agreeing, disagreeing, expressing opinion, etc.)
  • only Advanced Gold makes attempts at a text-based approach, but only three out of the eight times it focuses on Part 3.

Conclusion

For me, this presents two major implications. First, CAE preparation coursebooks could focus on teaching interaction skills, rather than assuming learners already are aware and use these. By including more analysis of recordings of learners doing Part 3 and of natural language with tasks focusing on management, they would better help prepare learners to interact and thus better accomplish Part 3, in addition to creating beneficial backwash for real-world conversation. Second, until then, teachers preparing learners for the CAE could pay particular attention to whether their learners have and use these skills early in a course.

I believe that integrating direct teaching of interaction management skills can add balance to courses that already have conversation practice. If learners are more aware of how to manage interaction, they will likely be more confident conversationalists and, in turn, participate more actively. Although this paper focuses on advanced learners, we should also more thoroughly intergrate these skills into lower level classes to help learners to control conversation in the early stages of language learning.

1.CAE Handbook: 49
2. Cook, 1989: 115-116
3. Littlewood, 1981: 36
4. bid: 38
5. Bygate, 1987: 36
6. bid: 35-36
7. id: 36
8. bid: 36
9. Thornbury, 1997: 260
10. Bygate, 1987: 36
11. ibid: 39
12. Rost, 1990: 92
13. ibid: 93
14. summarized from Bygate, 1987: 39
15. Nolasco and Arthur, 1987: 9
16. Richards, 1990: 68
17. ibid: 70
18. Coulthard, 1977: 61 in Sayers, 2005: 20
19. Sayers, 2005: 14
20. CAE Handbook: 51
21. summarized from Thornbury, 1997: 260
22. Underhill, 1994: 92
23. McCarthy, 1991: 134
24. Thornbury, 1997: 260
25. McCarthy, 1991: 135
26. Geddes, et al, 1991: 17-19
27. McCarthy, 1991: 135-136
28. bid: 129
29. Bygate, 1987: 40
30. McCarthy, 1991: 129
31. White, 1998: 71
32. McCarthy, 1991: 129
33. Exploring Language, 1996: no page number indicated
34. Dornyei and Thurrell, 1994: 42
35. Jenner and Bradford: 40-41
36. Dornyei and Thurrell, 1994: 42
37. bid: 47-48
38. bid: 48
39. Sayers, 2005: 22
40. Dornyei and Thurell, 1992: 24-27 (‘Turn-taking in conversation’ activity)
41. Basturkmen, 2001: 7-8
42. bid: 10
43. bid: 10
44. bid: 11
45. Clennell, 1999: 83
46. bid: 89
47. see Appendix A for coursebook analysis results

Bibliography

CAE Handbook. Cambridge University Press.
1996. Exploring Language. Learning Media Limited
http://english.unitecnology.ac.nz/resources/resources.exp.lang/turntaking.html
Basturkmen, Helen. 2001. Descriptions of spoken language for higher level learners: the example of questioning. ELT Journal, Volume 55/1, January 2001
Bygate, Martin. 1987. Speaking. Oxford University Press.
Clennell, Charles. 1999. Promoting pragmatic awareness and spoken discourse with EAP classes. ELT Journal, Volume 53/2, April 1999. Oxford University Press.
Cook, Guy. 1989. Discourse. Oxford University Press.
Dörnyei, Zoltán and Sarah Thurrell. 1992. Conversations and Dialogues in action. Prentice Hall.
Dörnyei, Zoltán and Sarah Thurrell. 1994. Teaching conversation skills intensively: course content and rationale. ELT Journal, Volume 48/1, January 1994. Oxford University Press.
Geddes, Marion, Gill Sturtridge, and Sheila Been. 1991. Advanced Conversation. Macmillan Publishers Ltd.
Jenner, Bryan and Barbara Bradford. ‘Intonation through listening.’ MET, Volume 10/4.
Littlewood, William. 1981. Communicative Language Teaching: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press.
McCarthy, Michael. 1991. Discourse Analysis for Teachers. Cambridge University Press.
Nolasco, Rob and Lois Arthur. 1987. Conversation. Oxford University Press.
Richards, Jack C. 1990. The Language Teaching Matrix. Cambridge University Press.
Rost, Michael. 1990. Listening in Language Learning. Longman Group UK Ltd.
Sayers, Peter. 2005. An intensive approach to building conversation skills. ELT Journal, Volume 59/1, January 2005. Oxford University Press.
Thornbury, Scott. 1997. About Language. Cambridge University Press.
Underhill, Adrian. 1994. Sound Foundations. Macmillan Heinemann English Language Teaching.
White, Goodith. 1998. Listening. Oxford University Press.

Also referenced

Coulthard, M. 1977. An Introduction to Discourse Analysis. Longman.

Coursebooks used for analysis

Acklam, Richard and Sally Burgess. 2001. Advanced Gold Coursebook. Pearson Education.
Aspinall, Tricia and Annette Capel. 1996. Advanced Masterclass CAE. Oxford University Press.
O’Connell, Sue. 1999. Focus On Advanced English: C.A.E., Revised and Updated. Addison Wesley Longman Limited.
Stanton, Alan and Susan Morris. 1999. Fast Track to C.A.E. Coursebook. Pearson Education Limited.

Biodata

Greg Gobel lives in Madrid both teaching at Chester School of English and as a freelance teacher trainer. He has been an English language teacher since 1997 and a teacher training since 2000. After more than 7 years in Prague, Greg moved to Madrid in autumn, 2004. You can contact Greg at gobelgj @hotmail.com

Appendix A: Results from coursebook analysis

Key: number = page number from coursebook x = not addressed or used

lr P = addressed or used through linguistic realizations P = addressed or used

  

Advanced Gold

Fast Track to CAE

Focus on Advanced English CAE

knowing how to bring up initial topics

35x

80x

155x

32x

65x

136x

173x

46x

194x

226x

54-55x

130x

161x

40x

95x

154x

185x

108x

202x

  

72-73x

146-147x

 

58x

121x

169x

 

119x

219x

  

developing a topic

35x

80x

155 lr P

32 lr P

65 lr P

136 lr P

173x

46 lr P

194x

226x

54-55 lr P

130 lr P

161x

40 lr P

95x

154 lr P

185 lr P

108 lr P

202x

  

72-73 lr P

146-147x

 

58 lr P

121 lr P

169 lr P

 

119 lr P

219x

 

bringing a new topic as an extension of the previous one

35x

80x

155x

32x

65 lr P

136x

173x

46x

194x

226x

54-55x

130x

161x

40x

95x

154 lr P

185x

108 lr P

202x

 

72-73x

146-147x

 

58x

121 lr P

169x

 

119x

219x

 

switching topics

35x

80x

155x

32x

65x

136x

173x

46x

194x

226x

54-55x

130x

161x

40x

95x

154x

185x

108x

202x

 

72-73x

146-147x

 

58x

121x

169x

 

119x

219x

 

opening and closing conversations.

35x

80x

155x

32x

65x

136

173x

46x

194x

226x

54-55x

130x

161x

40x

95x

154x

185x

108x

202x

 

72-73x

146-147x

 

58x

121x

169x

 

119x

219x

 

signaling to speak

* Masterclass CAE, 11, has tips for signalling

35x

80x

155x

32x

65x

136x

173x

46x

194x

226x

54-55x

130x

161x

40x

95x

154x

185x

108x

202x

 

72-73x

146-147x

 

58x

121x

169x

 

119x

219x

 

recognizing the right moment to get a turn and knowing contextually appropriate ways of interrupting

* Masterclass CAE, 51, has expressions for interrupting,

35x

80x

155x

32x

65x

136x

173x

46x

194x

226x

54-55x

130x

161x

40x

95x

154x

185x

108x

202x

 

72-73x

146-147x

 

58x

121x

169x

 

119 lr P (only 2)

219x

 

use ‘turn structure’ to hold a turn and not lose it before finishing

35 P

80x

155x

32x

65x

136x

173x

46x

194x

226x

54-55x

130x

161x

40x

95x

154x

185x

108x

202x

 

72-73x

146-147x

 

58x

121x

169x

 

119x

219x

 

recognizing other people’s signals to speak

35 P

80x

155x

32x

65x

136

173x

46x

194x

226x

54-55x

130x

161x

40x

95x

154x

185x

108x

202x

 

72-73x

146-147x

 

58x

121x

169x

 

119x

219x

 

how to let someone have a turn

* Masterclass CAE, 11, has tips for letting some have a turn

35 P

80x

155x

32x

65 lr P

136x

173x

46x

194x

226x

54-55x

130x

161x

40

95x

154x

185x

108x

202x

 

72-73x

146-147x

 

58x

121 lr P

169x

 

119 lr P

219x

 

inclusion of text-based approach

35 P

80x

155x

32x

65x

136x

173x

46x

194x

226x

54-55x

130 P

161x

40x

95x

154x

185x

108x

202x

 

72-73 P

146-147x

 

58x

121x

169x

 

119x

219x

 

*I excluded Masterclass CAE from the full survey because I only had access to the 1996 edition with the old version of Part 3.

The lesson plan

Time: 60 mins

Level: CAE

Main Aims: For learners to become more aware of useful turn-taking mechanisms to help them interact more fluently in real-world conversation and in Part 3 of the CAE. (stages 2,3,4)

Subsidiary Aims:

  • To prompt learners to take shorter turns than they are accustomed to doing (stage 1)
  • To increase learners awareness of fixed expressions for interrupting (stage 4)
  • To practice recognizing prominence and tonal movement in expressions (stage 4) and high key, rising intonation and falling intonation for, respectively, trying to hold or gain the floor, trying to hold the floor, and ceding the floor (stage 2)
  • For learners to become more aware of turn-taking mechanisms by monitoring their peers’ attempts at using them (stage 3)
  • For learners to practice Part 3 of the CAE and make some attempts at integrating some turn-taking skills from earlier stages (stage 5)

Assumptions:

  • Teaching conversational skills directly is beneficial for learners.
  • Although these learners enjoy speaking and conversing, they still need some help with interaction management skills.
  • Learners are aware of the format for Part 3 of the CAE speaking exam.
  • It is important for learners to attempt to hear the intonation movements on a recording.
  • Analysing transcripts to help encourage noticing prompts learners to be more actively involved in focusing on language.
  • Even though all of these learners are not taking the CAE this June, all but one have plans to take it within the next year or so, so relating turn-taking to Part 3 of the CAE is relevant even if the CAE is not a short-term goal for all the learners.
  • It is not reasonable to expect learners to immediately automatise language input.

Timetable Fit:

  • Because of the looming deadline of the CAE exam, I decided that I could not wait to start bringing in interaction management skills until this external observation lesson. Also, I decided it would not be practical nor achievable to try to integrate all of the aspects of both agenda management and turn-taking into one lesson. Therefore, over the last several lessons, I have been focusing on bits and pieces to increase the learners’ conversational skills, in addition to preparing for other components of the exam.
  • On Monday, 9 May, my parents and these learners engaged in conversation which was extremely motivating and gave the learners an opportunity to observe the natural interaction that my parents had together to sometimes help each other answer the learners’ questions, developing topics and adding extra smaller topics throughout.
  • In the following lesson, Wednesday, 11 May, we focused on agenda management skills, specifically developing topics and bringing in new topics as extensions of previous ones. Learners analysed short transcripts of authentic, naturally occurring speech. They identified topics and what devices were used for shifting the topics such as left-displacement, high key, the word ‘still’ and the noise ‘mm’, exploiting pauses, and linguistic realizations such as ‘by the way,’ ‘that reminds me of…,’ ‘before I forget,’ and ‘incidentally.’ Learners did the conversation game of trying to shift the topics in the conversation to the one on their lists while attempting to use some of the agenda management devices. Afterwards, we had a discussion about their opinions about the usefulness of these techniques, how they could be exploited in the CAE exam, and the difference between being a fluent speaker and fluent at conversation. We made some comparisons to Spanish, focusing on both similarities (still – ya, pero; pausing; use of high key; the natural shift of topics in conversation in both languages).
  • On Monday, 16 May, learners worked through several tasks creating their an original business, adapted from page 161 in Advanced Gold. So, the business-related theme of today’s lesson is an extension from Monday.
  • Wednesday, 18 May, 20:35-20:45. I will inform learners of the lesson’s objectives. We will set the scene by brainstorming useful work skills in pairs or groups.
  • Wednesday, 18 May, 21:45-21:55. Learners will discuss, in pairs, their thoughts on the lesson and tell me what they learned and what they’d like to continue working on. This will serve as a quick recap and cater to introspective learners.

Anticipated Problems and Possible Solutions:

Affective:

  • Learners may feel uncomfortable trying some of the turn-taking mechanisms. Solution: Reassure them that that is normal and that it is unreasonable to except them to intergrate all the mechanisms in one lesson’s time.
  • Although my director of studies has sat in on this class to observe earlier in the year, some learners may not be comfortable with an unknown observer in the back of the room. Solution: I have told them beforehand that an observer will be in the room for this class, but that the observer is there primarily to observe me, rather than assess the learners. I told them this to help relax them. I will also reiterate this on the day of the lesson.
  • The room often gets very hot and can lead to potential discomfort that could be distracting to learners. Solution: I have to be aware of the heat in the room and open the door occasionally when needed.

Linguistic:

  • Learners may feel that their speaking fluency is somewhat obstructed by their attempts to consciously try out some of the turn-taking mechanisms. Solution: If they feel this way, I can tell them that the long-term benefits outweigh any short-term hesitancy; perhaps a comparison to the retraining that is often done with sport techniques could put this any short-term perception of regression in perspective.
  • Learners may have difficulty identifying the phonological features in the dialogue when analyzing/predicting and in the expressions because they do not hear them while marking them. Solution: They will be working in pairs/groups of three, so their peers may be able to help them. Also, for the dialogue we can play the recording multiple times to allow for more chances to check or identify them. Also, observant teacher monitoring can help to inform when a bit of help may be useful. I can say expressions for pairs that struggle while I am individually monitoring.

Classroom aids-related:

  • In stage 2, the recording of J and T, the two CAE learners from a different class, is a bit fuzzy. It is also possible to hear some of the other learners’ voices in the background. This may make it a bit challenging to focus on the voice changes of J and T. Solution: On one hand, I feel the background noise is a good reflection of speaking in a real-life situation, such as a café, airport lounge, or other similar places. But, I will play the tape in small chunks at the appropriate places to allow learners multiple opportunities to hear the targeted intonation movements, pauses, non-pauses, etc.
  • It may take a bit of time to put the visuals on the walls for Stage 1. Solution: to save time and make for a smooth transition. I will put the visuals up on the walls while learners are doing the brainstorming lead-in activity before stage 1 (see timetable fit, 20:35-20:45).

Time:

  • For the part 3 exam task (stage 5), the candidates are limited to 3 to 4 minutes. Therefore, I have to make sure to keep the simulation exam task to this time limit. Solution: I will keep a close eye on my watch during this activity to make sure it corresponds to the time of exam conditions.
  • The language focus stages (2 and 4) may take longer than expected. Solution: I can break the task sheets up a bit by having some learners start at the top and other start at the bottom. I’ve tried to plan enough time for these two stages, but if learners need a bit more I do not want to rush them uncomfortably. If that is the case, we can cut a minute here and there off the speaking tasks.

Number of learners:

The maximum number of learners for this will be 8, because Nacho and Eva will be unable to attend for medical reasons. Also, Ana and Emilio said they may not be able to make it, so having an even or odd number is a bit unpredictable. Solution: As the CAE sometimes uses groups of three to deal with odd numbers of candidates, this seems to be the natural solution. I will try to make sure, however, that Alberto and Javier are not in the group of three, otherwise they may opt to allow the other two to do all the speaking; it would be best to have each in a pair so that they take a more active role. Depending on numbers, though, that may not be possible.

Lesson Rationale/Commentary

This lesson is designed to help my learners become more fluent conversationalists for Part 3 of the CAE, with washback to real-world conversation. Although active and enthusiastic speakers, these learners have some trouble with indicating that they want a turn and ceding the floor to others. I asked them if they had ever been taught turn-taking techniques in prior courses, at any level, and they all said that they had not. Therefore, even though they are advanced learners, I think it is reasonable and useful to raise their awareness of typical turn-taking mechanisms.

We are progressing through Advanced Gold’s Unit 13, which focuses on ‘business.’ This lesson’s theme is ‘work skills,’ a practical topic because the class is a mix of young professionals and students, who feel learning English will help them with current or future job opportunities.

Stages alternate between conversation tasks and language focus tasks to providing an achievable yet challenging mix of output and input opportunities.

Stage 1: Learners discuss personal work skills they have. This personalized task is relevant as it gives learners a chance to discuss skills useful outside the classroom. The task is game-like as learners can only say one to three utterances before letting their partner speak. This activity is designed to challenge the learners to NOT say everything they want in a given turn. The visual prompts are taken from the real exam practice used later in the lesson.

Stage 2: To focus on turn-taking mechanisms, primarily intonation, learners analyse a transcript (a text-based approach Basturkmen recommends (1) of two CAE learners practicing Part 3. I think it is important for learners to predict the mechanisms before listening so that they are more cognitively involved. We deviate from the work/business theme of the lesson here because Theresa and Javier demonstrate the mechanisms quite well doing a task that this class did earlier in the term.

Stage 3: Learners to try to activate some turn-taking mechanisms from stage 2. Their task here is to relate work skills from stage 1 to jobs they have had, have, or would like to have. It is personalised to keep them interested and motivated. Learners will monitor their peers’ turn-taking mechanisms to increase awareness.

Stage 4: Learners brainstorm expressions for interrupting. Reflecting this, some new expressions are introduced. Stress and tonal movement are analysed. I would prefer to lift the expressions from a natural recording, but so many interruption expressions do not seem to co-occur naturally. I have chosen to introduce these expressions after the turn-taking mechanisms of stage 2 because introducing them at the same time may be too much information at once and the learners may use these linguistic realizations at the expense of the more subtle mechanisms.

Stage 5: Learners practice Part 3 using a past CAE exam task. Although I do not expect learners to integrate all of the turn-taking mechanisms, I feel it is important to give them exam practice while these techniques are still fresh in their minds. (497 words)

1. Basturkmen, Helen. 2001: 10. ‘Descriptions of spoken language for higher level learners: the example of questioning.’ ELT Journal. Vol. 55/1, January 2001. Oxford University Press.

 

Learner Profiles:

  • The class – This particular class is pleasure to work with. The atmosphere sometimes feels like friends hanging out in a living room, just that we are in a classroom instead. That said, these learners work hard, challenge themselves continuously, rise to challenges that I set for them to push them further, give and accept constructive criticism professionally and jump at any occasion to speak. The class has wonderful rapport, even engaging in spontaneous sibling-like banter at times. They love to have a good laugh while learning. They also welcome a variety of tasks and lesson-types. There are 10 learners on the register, and we usually have 8 – 10 in any given class. However, for this particular class, there will be only a maximum possibility of 8 learners because both Eva and Nacho will be unable to attend due to recent medical operations. Also, Ana told me on Monday that she may not attend on Wednesday because of a university exam on Thursday. Eduardo told me that his brother, Emilio, may not make it on Wednesday either because of a project for work with a Thursday deadline. Their ages range from 17 – 35. All of these learners are Spanish with Castellano as their L1.
  • Nacho – Nacho will be taking the CAE in June. Nacho has been instrumental in the idea behind a few lessons already. One example was when he brought a Counting Crowes cd in and asked if we could use one of the songs in class. Nacho, Belen and Ana all go to university together and studied in the same secondary school. They handle this long term relationship maturely in class, benefiting the overall rapport rather than detracting from it. Nacho will probably get a B or C on the CAE. As with most learners, he finds the English in Use paper to be the most difficult, especially the register transfer part. He has asked that we focus on that a bit more in class before the exam. This is a good idea as it is, I feel, one of the most difficult sections in the CAE. Nacho demonstrates that he is aware of the benefits of peer teaching/learning sometimes looking to Eduardo as a mentor, asking for his advice on lexical choice. Unfortunately, Nacho will be unable to attend as he has recently had an operation that limits his mobility; because of this he has missed the six lessons prior to this observation.
  • Belen – Belen wants to take the CAE in December or June 2006. She has felt a bit overwhelmed with her university work this since the New Year and has decided it would be wiser to take the exam when she has more time to prepare more thoroughly. I think this is a good decision for that reason and also because I think she needs a little bit more time to develop her listening and writing skills required for the CAE. In class, Belen never hesitates to give her wholehearted opinion about the topics of lessons and tasks. This is most welcomed as it seems to prompt others to take a more personal look at the topics and helps prompt more personal reactions from her peers. She often tries to express what she does not know how to say lexically, but circumlocutes extremely effectively to get her meanings across.
  • Ana – Ana has also decided to push the CAE back to December because of university work and, more importantly, because of the possibility to do a study abroad programme in either Canada or Costa Rica starting in early June. She is waiting to hear about her acceptance, but had to make a decision beforehand because it was an either/or situation as if she gets accepted she will not be in town when the CAE is held this June. Ana is the type of learner who is perpetually curious about vocabulary and how to say things better. This, however, does not usually affect her fluency because she is often patient to ask after she is finished talking or after the task. I think this is a quite a good stategy as she communicates successfully first, then gets clarification afterwards to update her interlanguage. On the other hand, Ana hates doing homework, so perhaps she would develop increase her proficiency faster if she changed her attitude toward homework.
  • Alberto – Alberto has had no intention of taking the CAE this year. He has been coming to this school (Chester) for years – it is a natural part of his life. He views this course more as an intense maintenance course rather than an exam preparation course. That said, he loves to read and is very analytical and thus loves to do practice CAE reading papers, on which he has always successfully scored higher than 75%. Alberto is a quiet, stoic scientist actively observing the goings on of the classroom while participating humbly in tasks. He rarely chooses to take a long turn, but when he does he generally displays effective discoursal structuring.
  • Eva – Eva is an absolute pleasure to have in class! She has a fantastic sense of humour, the more surreal and bizarre the better. One of her favourite lessons ever was when she got to role play a Raelian priestess arguing in support of the benefits of cloning. Eva will be taking her sense of humour into the CAE exam this June and will likely pass with a C or a B. She fairs well in the practice reading, listening, speaking and writing papers, but hangs around 60% on the practice English in Use papers. Eva is definitely one of the catalysts for the excellent rapport that has developed in this class. Eva will be unable to attend because of an operation that she underwent on Friday, 13 May.
  • Eduardo & Emilio– (Perhaps it is unfair to pair them like this, but I have much the same to say about both.) The first and second, literally – the twins in this class. Eduardo will be taking the CAE in June and should get a B or an A judging by his current performance. He consistently scores in the mid to high 80% range for the English in Use paper and has an average of 94% over six practice reading papers. I have used Eduardo’s writing to model responses for an FCE class this year. Emilio will also be taking the CAE in June. He also scores in the same range in English in Use papers and averages 92% for reading practice exams. Eduardo and Emilio are quite independent in class, almost never choosing to sit next to each other. They are serious and effectively draw on their own experiences to enhance their learning. They have developed some effective autonomous learning strategies. They go see films in English once a week at an English language cinema and speak to each other in English at home several times a week. They have both recently expressed that they consider learning English their most active hobby.
  • Maria – Maria is the youngest member of the class at 16 years old. She is very mature for her age and eagerly jumps at any opportunity to improve her English. Maria has excelled through lower level young learner and teenager courses in the past and is finding some of the grammatical and other linguistic elements at this level quite challenging, but she welcomingly does not get overwhelmed or frustrated by this. Recently I asked her to bring her homework a little bit more often and she has done so very willingly. Sometimes she is a few minutes late because she is chatting with her friend, who is in the class next door. Now, Maria is applying to be an au pair in Canada for the summer.
  • Javier – Javier is in his first year of university. Javier’s older brother is a friend of Nacho, Belen and Ana and this has helped with class rapport. He is very active in standing or mingling activities and pairwork sitting, but he tends to take a backseat in groupwork sitting. Javier has been a little bit negligent in bringing in writing homework recently. I asked him about this and he said he has been busy with his secondary school work and playing basketball. Fair enough – right now for Javier, both of these are higher priorities than English. Also for these reasons, Javier is going to go for the CAE in December instead of June.
  • Victor – Victor is in his second year of university. He may be the least proficient in English in this class, but he makes up for it with perceptive insight. Victor had no intention of taking the CAE this year, instead choosing wisely to use this year as a developmental year coming off his FCE success with a go at the CAE as a goal for 2006. By nature, Victor is very calm, patient, and soft-spoken even in Spanish so he adds balance to a rather boisterous and excitable group.

Classroom Aids:

  • Whiteboard (to deal with ‘things that come up’)
  • Whiteboard pens (to deal with ‘things that come up’)
  • Blue tack (stage 1)
  • Classroom walls (stage 1)
  • Visuals representing work skills (stage 1)
  • Slips (stage 1)
  • Homemade ‘Task sheet 1A/1B’: questions and authentic tapescript of CAE learners speaking about change (stage 2)
  • CD with authentic recording of 2 CAE learners (stage 2)
  • Homemade ‘Monitor cards’ (stage 3)
  • Homemade ‘Turn-taking prompt cards’ (Stage 3)
  • Homemade ‘Task sheet 2’ with expressions (stage 4)
  • Homemade CD recording of excerpt of conversation with interruption expression (stage 4)
  • Real CAE Part 3 visual sheet (stage 5)
  • Real CAE Part 3 examiner task sheet (stage 5)
  • Take home ‘Turn-taking Tips’ consolidation sheet (end)

The lesson procedure

Stage

Time

Procedure

Objectives

1

7 mins

1A. Learners play a conversation game. They can only say one to three utterances at a time, and then their partner does the same. They give the slips to their partner as they say each utterance. They will rotate around the room commenting personally about different work skills (represented by visuals on the walls), saying whether or not they think they are skilled in those areas and why. They do not have to talk about all the visuals. NB: I will likely model this activity after the instruction to make it clearer what learners should do.

  • Interaction pattern: closed pairs (or group of 3 with an odd number of learners); learners standing and moving from visual to visual, all attached to the walls. NB: if learners start to take longer and longer turns before handing over their slips, I may change the partners partway through the activity.
  • Classroom aids: visuals, blue tack, walls, slips
  • Time: 4-5 minutes

For learners to get used to not saying as much as they may want to say at a time.

For learners to interact early in the lesson.

Visuals are used to cater to visual learners.

Hand-away slips are used to cater to kinaesthetic learners.

Learners are standing to energize early in the lesson and to cater to kinaesthetic learners. Also, this class tends to like doing some speaking activities standing up.

2

20 mins

2A. Learners read dialogue (task sheet 1A) between two CAE learners from another class and decide if either dominates the conversation.

  • Interaction pattern: closed pairs (group of 3 if necessary)
  • Classroom aids: dialogue sheet ‘task sheet 1A’
  • Time: 2 minutes

2B. Learners get a transcript with consciousness-raising questions to identify some turn-taking mechanisms by predicting what the 2 learners will do at certain marked spots on the transcript. The focus is on offering the listener a turn, holding a turn, and trying to gain a turn.

  • Interaction pattern: closed pairs (or group of 3 with an odd number of learners)
  • Classroom aids: transcript ‘task sheet 1B’
  • Time: 10 minutes +/-

2C. Learners listen to the tape to compare with their guesses. Teacher will replay important bits to give learners more opportunity to hear the intonation usage.

  • Interaction pattern: closed pairs (or group of 3 with an odd number of learners)
  • Classroom aids: tape recorder, tape, and transcript ‘worksheet 1’
  • Time: 5 minutes +/-

2D. Learners quickly categorize the 8 C-R questions and mechanisms to reinforce their observations from 2A and 2B.

  • Interaction pattern: closed pairs (or group of 3 with an odd number of learners)
  • Classroom aids: worksheet 1
  • Time: 2 minutes

For learners to analyze the turn-taking of an excerpt of an authentic transcript of two learners doing a Part 3 task.

The dialogue is a short extract to enable focus on main features without overwhelming the learners.

For learners to help each other predict the intonation features of turn-taking.

For learners to listen and check their predictions.

3

13 mins

3A. In groups, two learners will converse and one (or two) will monitor. The participants’ task is to decide what sort of jobs they would be suitable for based on their work skills discussed in stage 1. The monitor has a checklist and will observe and tick the mechanisms that the learners attempt. Before speaking begins the learners will have a moment to look over their cards. Afterwards, the monitor will give feedback to the two participants. NB: We will do this task two times so multiple learners have a chance to do the monitoring.

  • Interaction pattern: with 6 learners, 2 groups of 3; with 7 learners: one group of 3 and one group of 4; with 8 learners: two groups of 4
  • Classroom aids: monitor cards
  • Time: 2 or 3 minutes for the task; 1 or 2 minutes for learner-learner feedback

To provide goals for the learners in attempting turn-taking mechanisms.

To prompt learners to consciously try these mechanisms and to raise their awareness of their own output. (I have chosen not to give interlocutors turn-taking prompt cards, as I feel these may be more distracting than helpful.)

To encourage learners to monitor their own and their peers’ output. The observation sheet should help them focus on the turn-taking mechanisms.

4

13 mins

4A. Learners listen to very short dialogue. Their task is to say what B does to A (=he interrupts him). The expression is lifted off the CD, tonal movement analysed. This leads in to 4B.

  • Interaction pattern: Learners-CD/T
  • Classroom aids: homemade CD, remote, CD player notebook/paper and pen/pencil
  • Time: 1 minute

4B. Learners brainstorm expressions that they already know for interrupting.

  • Interaction pattern: Closed pairs (group of three if needed)
  • Classroom aids: learners’ own notebook/paper and pen/pencil
  • Time: 2 minutes

4C. Snappy feedback to 4A, including quick analysis of tonal movement.

  • Interaction pattern: T-learners lockstep
  • Classroom aids: learners’ own notebook/paper and pen/pencil
  • Time: 1-2 minutes

4D. Learners get a list of some expressions for interrupting and work out stress and tonal movement of each. Half the class starts at the top and works down, half the class starts at the bottom and works up. Learners are encouraged to say the expressions to each other aloud to help; mumble drilling is also encouraged. They open the folded sheet to check their work. NB: There are more expressions than they will need for stage 5, but I think it is good for them to have these for future reference.

  • Interaction pattern: Closed pairs/group of 3
  • Classroom aids: recording of conversation; ‘task sheet 2’ with expressions (folded)
  • Time: 8 minutes

To identify an interruption from an audio recording

For learners to work together to recall expressions for interrupting.

To raise learners’ awareness of useful linguistic realizations that can be used to interrupt appropriately as a turn-taking mechanism to gain the floor.

To practice recognizing tonal movement.

5

10 mins*

5A (optional, time allowing) Before instructing the Part 3 exam task, I will elicit from the learners what we’ve covered in the lesson as a reminder and as a prompt for the learners to keep these turn-taking mechanisms in mind while doing the task. I will also elicit, as a reminder, what Part 3 asks the learners to do.

  • Interaction pattern: T-learners lockstep
  • Classroom aids: -
  • Time: 3-4 minutes

5B. Learners do a real Part 3 exam task with the appropriate exam time limit.

  • Interaction pattern: T-learners lockstep for instructions; closed pairs (group of 3 if necessary because of an odd number of learners)
  • Classroom aids: Visual sheet (1 for each pair); Exam question (for teacher); phone with countdown timer (for teacher)
  • Time: 5 minutes (including instructions)

5C. (optional, time allowing) Learners report back to another group about their decision.

  • Interaction pattern: closed pairs/small groups
  • Classroom aids: -
  • Time: 1-2 minutes

* 10-11 mins is the predicted time for this stage if we move through the earlier stages faster than planned and have time for 5A and 5C. If not, this stage will probably be about 5 to 6 minutes.

To re-activate the skill and language focuses of the previous stages of the lesson.

For learners to have an opportunity to try out some of the turn-taking mechanisms mock exam conditions.

I have chosen not to have learners take the role of monitor for this activity so that they all have more opportunities to converse and try out some of the turn-taking mechanisms.

 

The lesson materials

Task sheet 1B

Two CAE students are discussing recent changes. Read the dialogue and discuss the choices/questions with your partner. Then, we’ll listen to the dialogue and check.

What do you think?

1. between climate and because: pause / no pause

2. change : rising intonation / falling intonation

3. warming: rising intonation / falling intonation

4. or: a. rising intonation / falling intonation b. speeding up / slowing down

5. Yes, that’s true: a. what sort of key change? b. louder / quieter

6. and, and, and: a. what sort of key change? b. louder / quieter

7. Yes, that’s true a. what sort of key change? b. louder / quieter

8. summer: rising intonation / falling intonation

J: Yes. I agree with you. … And, what about climate? Because, eh, nowadays it’s been talking a lot about weather change. Global warming. Do you think in the last 50 years, there has been some weather changes, or…?

T: I think definitely. I think for example in Madrid, in our city, we can see for example, the summers are very very hot, more than 50 years ago, I think that some days for example in, eh, two years ago, the heat in July was unb..bearable

-
-
-
-
-
-

J: Yes that’s true

T: and, and, and also, eh, in the winter, this last winter really was very cold becau…

J: Yes, that’s true, last year we, we have had, we had a lot of very, eh, very extreme changes of temperature between winter and and summer.

T: Hmm. So I think really is the, eh, eh, is is true that the climate is changing, is changing

Categorize 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8:

‘Offering’ the listener a chance to take a turn

‘Holding’ the turn, so the listener can’t take a turn

‘Gaining’ the turn; or trying to ‘gain’ the turn


Monitor Card

Please listen to your classmates’ conversation and observe their use of turn-taking techniques. Tick techniques that you hear them use.

NAME:

 

NAME:

 

As the speaker

‘Offering’ a turn to the listener:

  • Slowing down
  • Pausing
  • Falling intonation
  • Gesture with head or arm
  • Rising eyes
  • Asking a question

‘Holding’ and ‘trying to hold’ a turn:

  • Not pausing
  • Speaking faster
  • Using high key
  • Gesture with head or arm

As the listener

Signaling to get a turn

  • Inhalation
  • Gesture with head or arm
  • Clearing his/her throat

‘Gaining’ or ‘trying to gain’ a turn from the speaker:

  • Starting at a pause
  • Slightly overlapping as speaker ends
  • Higher Key
  • Speaking faster

 

 

As the speaker

‘Offering’ a turn to the listener:

  • Slowing down
  • Pausing
  • Falling intonation
  • Gesture with head or arm
  • Rising eyes
  • Asking a question

‘Holding’ and ‘trying to hold’ a turn:

  • Not pausing
  • Speaking faster
  • Using high key
  • Gesture with head or arm

As the listener

Signaling to get a turn

  • Inhalation
  • Gesture with head or arm
  • Clearing his/her throat

‘Gaining’ or ‘trying to gain’ a turn from the speaker:

  • Starting at a pause
  • Slightly overlapping as speaker ends
  • Higher Key
  • Speaking faster

Task sheet 1A

Read this dialogue and answer:
Does either student dominate the conversation?

J: Yes. I agree with you. … And, what about climate? Because, eh, nowadays it’s been talking a lot about weather change. Global warming. Do you think in the last 50 years, there has been some weather changes, or…?

T: I think definitely. I think for example in Madrid, in our city, we can see for example, the summers are very very hot, more than 50 years ago, I think that some days for example in, eh, two years ago, the heat in July was unbearable

-
-
-
-
-

J: Yes that’s true

T: and, and, and also, eh, in the winter, this last winter really was very cold becau…

J: Yes, that’s true, last year we, we have had, we had a lot of very, eh, very extreme changes of temperature between winter and and summer.

T: Hmm. So I think really is the, eh, eh, is is true that the climate is changing, is changing.

Task sheet 2

Expressions for interrupting

We often use expressions for interrupting when normal turn-taking techniques do not work.

Expressions for interrupting are often said using the high key. Notice that the tonic syllabletendsto havefalling intonation so that the following clause settles into mid key.

1. Sorry, can I stop you for a second?

2. Excuse me for interrupting, but…

3. If I could just say…

4. Hang on a minute.

(Hold on a minute. )

5. I’d like to say something here…

6. Wait a second.

7. If you don’t mind…

8. Sorry, but did I hear you say…

9. Sorry to interrupt, but…

10. Let me just say…

/Sor ry,/ can I stop you for a second?

Excuse me for inter rupting, but…

If I could just say

Hang on a minute.

Wait a second.

If you don’t mind

/Sor ry,/ but did I hear you say

Sor ry to inter rupt, but…

Let me just say


Turn-taking Tips
When you’re listening…
  • Keep eye contact with the speaker
  • Look out for typical turn-offering signals (rising eyes, hand and facial gestures)
  • Listen out for pauses, a slowing down of speech, falling intonation or a combination of these
  • Don’t forget, you can signal for a turn by taking a small but audible breath in, with hand or facial gestures, or widening your  eyes
  • You can interrupt, but not too often
  • If subtle ways of interrupting or gaining the floor do not work, you can use one of the special expressions for interrupting
When you’re speaking…
  • Remember, you don’t need to say everything you want in one go.
  • Try not to ‘hog’ the conversation.
  • Invite the listener to speak by slowing down, using falling intonation, or pausing
  • You can also invite the listener to speak by asking questions But, if you want to hold the floor, you can speed up or use rising intonation
  • Also, if you want to hold the floor when someone is trying to interrupt you you can jump to the high key and increase your volume
  • And, if someone tries to interrupt you, you can move to the high key and speak with a louder voice

Final thoughts…

In English conversation:

  • We usually try not to talk over each other, i.e., minimal overlapping
  • We also try not to have long pauses – they feel a bit strange

Good luck and have fun with these tips!

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