ESL Practice

ESL Practice - Thomas C. Anderson, has been an English teacher in Japan for many years now. He teaches at a couple of Japan`s prestigious universities, and lives on one of her more beautiful peninsulas.

ESL Lesson Plans -- ESL Communication Circles

When you teach in Japan, you need a well honed ESL lesson plans for each class. Each class is different, but Thomas C. Anderson discusses a great activity, that works for most if not all English classes in Japan.

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by Thomas C. Anderson

ESL Lesson Plans -- What do students talk about with their partners?

Anything and everything! I have had students talk about such varied topics as sumo, tamagochi, cell phones, friends, dating, and even their Oral English instructor! Students can be given topics by the teacher or can be put into small groups who are told to brainstorm and choose a topic. They then write it on the blackboard and three topics are chosen by the class from the list. Towards the end of the term I sometimes give the students a free topic (meaning they can talk about whatever they want).

When possible, I try to relate topics to textbook themes, vocabulary, and grammatical structures. For example, if we are studying travel, I might use "dream vacation," "favorite trip," and "foreign travel" as topics. With lower level students it often is helpful to write sentence frames (for example, "Where did you----?") and possible vocabulary on the blackboard. Students sometimes ask for the English translation of Japanese words or expressions and these can also be written on the blackboard and mentioned to the class between conversations.

ESL Practice -- Monitoring Students

As I monitor students, I listen for common mistakes (such as "go to shopping," "What do you life food?", or "play snowboard")which I mention to the class between conversations. This information can also be used in planning review lessons.

ESL Practice -- Testing

I give my Oral English students one speaking test per quarter (two for a one semester course or four for a full-year course).Students are assigned a partner and a five minute time block well in advance of the test period. Ten possible topics for the test are chosen from the topics used in the communication circles. Students write down these topics. I usually tell the students two or three topics per period. One of two conversation cirlce times are used as review. Rather than give new topics, students talk with their partners about some or all of the test topics. In addition, I emphasize more than once that there are two ways in which they can prepare for the test. One is to make a list of possible vocabulary and question/answer forms for each topic. A second, and more important way, is for the student pairs to meet together several times outside of class to have conversations in English about topics (ie. the best way to study for a communication test is to communicate!)

ESL Lesson Plans -- Japanese Usage in Class

The question now arises: "What do you do if they speak Japanese?" In the first class period (and from time to time afterwards) I talk to the students about how it is not possible to think and communicate well in English if they are using Japanese. In addition, I stress how using Japanese is selfish because it is a distraction to others and prevents them from thinking in English. As I monitor the students as they communicate, I try to keep my reprimands light-hearted. I might say something like "Some people here are speaking Swahili when they`re supposed to be speaking English!" or "Your Japaneseis very good--like a native speaker--but..." A very effective way to deal with studentpair chatting in Japanese is to stand behind one of the partners and not say anything while waiting. Sooner or later (usually sooner) these students and others get the message. I also remind the students regularly of the purpose of the activity and the fact that it is test practice.

Communication circles/lines, therefore, are not just a "teacher down time." The teacher is kept busy as a cunsultant, monitor, diagnostician, information source/translator, and even participant.

Are conversation circles/lines worth it?--editor

You be the judge!

Here`s another example of this type of activity: The Dumbo Feather and Communication Circles.

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