Dynamics in Conversational Teaching
How you get a conversation going is vital to a maintaining a discussion group. But the corollary is true as well if a debate can get going then students would be stimulated to take part in a conversation. Here are some keys points in creating a successful conversational group. This information can also assist the new language person appreciate how organization and planning is key to success.
Often I have heard that there are two many girls in the class and not enough boys. When I asked the young lady what she meant, she was referring to the tendency of many young ladies to wait until someone else took the initiative and started the discussion. Not all women are shy but my experience showed that on most occasions women were shier with a male teacher. It takes a balance of guys and girls to get discussions going and that would at least push some of the shyer people to participate and to converse. Children are less equipped to take the initiative, it is as if they miss some of the skills in being able to deliver a certain word flow, as if they are more at ease in following task related exercises.
A Chinese lady once told me she could not converse because she was from that part of the world. I could only surmise that she was referring to the patchwork ability of many Asian speakers and not just from China who spoke in a similar fashion. Many of their sentences would be broken and many were self conscious of their phonetics and accents. It became apparent that one way to break through this self-accusation was to compliment the student on their achievements however small because they would be making an effort to more away from old speaking habits and I would not dwell on whether they sounded more Asian and less North American.
One tool that the Asian student would bring to class would be their electronic dictionaries. I would discourage their constant usage because often the student would not get a clear sense of a meaning as trivial meanings might mask main ones. The dictionary would not offer phrases and the order of phrases the student needed to recognize much as the Italian student would. Both Chinese and Italian had a different syntax and diction. If the student needed a tool I would have them keep a list of irregular verbs out while they were conversing as opposed to having them plug some information into their electronic databases and stall on replying to question or conversing.
4) Getting the student to pretend he is a teacher often stimulated conversation especially if there is a lull in the discourse. A change of class direction also wakes up the student so that he is not only thinking of what to say in his conversation but how to present himself.
A lesson plan is the best thing to have even though one may think that conversation is less involving than getting a student to write and read properly. This would allow for the proper integration of oral exercises to and from the conversation, if the teacher wants to digress and it also allows the teacher to practice some grammatical forms with the group. The plan should not be too complicated at the beginning so that the teacher can refer to without difficulty
The teacher should be somewhat of a coach rather than an active speaker so that the student learns as soon as possible that the teacher will have a minimal role in keeping the conversation going and in directing discussions and steering away from sensitive issues.
It helps if the student at east takes notes while discussing or that he follows the teacher's lead. So if the conversation is on a topic requiring functional English the student will at least learn to see how well he can reproduce information and how the grammar plays a minor role compared to the students ability to record it.
It also helps if the foreigner accepts at least some of their inabilities to reproduce sounds so as to avoid being self-conscious of perplexing facial expressions and be more competitive on the job market. This may happen in the stock industry for example where a stockholder is going to discuss his investment file especially if he is buying new shares.
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