Posted tagged ‘public speaking’

Outlining a Plan: Beyond the Basics

January 19, 2011

When describing a process or plan, it’s helpful to know basic sequence words, such as first, second (and all the other ordinal numbers), next, then, and finally. However, in everyday situations be they at school, work, or home, English speakers make use of a greater variety of sequence  and time markers. How can we present them to upper level students and what forms of practice can help students internalize these structures?

1) Identify words in context. 

It can be helpful for students to hear an actual plan or process being outlined. As they listen, challenge them to identify sequence markers. On video hosting sites, like YouTube, do a search for how-to videos. Examples:

How to Start a Clothing Line  – This is an interesting choice of videos. The woman, Miriam, is a non-native speaker, and she presents a solid model with a few different sequence and time markers: Once…, then you… / Before doing so, you need to… / To sum up,….

How to Trademark Your Logo – An informative video by the well-spoken Mash Bonigala. His speech rate is fast, and the video is long, but from 4:40 on he clearly outlines the process of applying for a trademark. Sequence and time markers include: Before you…, you need to…/ Secondly,… / Once…., then you… / After…, then…  / Then next question is…

The Jim and Jen Show Stay tuned. Jim and I are working on Episode 7, which will highlight outlining a plan.

2) Watch and describe.

Another direction to go is finding a  how-to video that students watch and describe. Provide sequence and time markers as prompts, and ask students to write down the process after observing it. See the suggested video below.

Ben Tries New Things Episode 1: Ligthing a Fire with Sticks – A long, but humorous piece of work by Ben (Benedict Hudson). With minimal talking, he films his personal struggle to learn how to light a fire with sticks.

3)  Oral presentations.

When students have successfully identified a variety of sequence and time markers in context, they are ready to outline their own plan or process. You can invite them to suggest topics and write them on cards. Shuffle the cards and hand them out, one to each student. Allow them 5 minutes to work solo as they write their outline. Give another 5 minutes for students to rehearse in pairs. Partners should give feedback. Then come back together as a class and begin individual presentations. Have fun! Include topics such as how to wash a dog, how to get off a crowded bus, and how to ask someone on a date when they already turned you down once.

Bringing Culture into the Classroom: A Creative Idea for a Pronunciation Lesson

December 14, 2008

I often say that learning a foreign language involves learning a foreign culture. However, there are good reasons and, well, not so good reasons to teach culture in the foreign language classroom. For example, my six years of French studies, though done with great diligence, did not yield success due to the shortsightedness of the language programs at my junior high and high schools. Foreign languages at those schools were taught as academic subjects, not as practical skills, and information about a given foreign culture was presented to enrich our language lessons, not to arm us with knowledge applicable to real life. In college my experience learning Russian and Japanese was quite different, I’m happy to say, and when I made the decision to start the teacher certification program in the state of Pennsylvania, I vowed that I would teach my future students language and culture for the purpose of effective communication, not merely to “enrich” them.

As ESL teachers, we must agree that cultural information shouldn’t be the equivalent of a footnote, but rather an integral thread in language instruction. Cultural information should extend beyond the pages of a textbook and be shared as something real and practical. There are fun ways to do this. Here’s one example from my past:

For a long stretch of time, I was challenged to create pronunciation lessons from scratch on a weekly basis. The students had no textbook. Frequent visits to the local library often stimulated my creative thinking, and I found a wealth of material upon which to build my lessons: children’s literature, documentaries, books on tape, and more. When browsing titles for collections of speeches, I hit upon a delightful idea: making toasts. I was working with a group of adult learners at the advanced level. We had already covered some suprasegmental features: thought groups and intonation. Even a short toast would take a speaker beyond phonemes, and so I decided to plan a lesson that would integrate students’ knowledge of phrasing and intonation and give them some practice in the kind of public speaking the average Joe has to do at least once in his life.

How did I plan this pronunciation lesson? I used a book of speeches and toasts for all occasions, but should you decide to plan such a lesson, you could find material on the Internet. A quick search led to these sites (you’re bound to find more):

Public Speaking Advice

From the library book I copied a few ideas for a number of events. You can choose whatever is most appropriate for your students. Will they role play a retirement party or a bar mitzvah? I chose a few special occasions, but the lesson highlight was a wedding. It gave me the chance to explain common elements in American weddings. The students assumed roles, and they had time to assemble a toast based on my handouts, prepare notes for phrasing and intonation, and…with the help of sparkling apple cider and some disposable champagne glasses…get in the mood for a wedding. Each student took a turn standing, raising a glass, and making a toast. The lesson was an exciting and memorable one, but more important, I was able to make cultural information relevant and practical.


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