Teaching English to Adults

Creating Confident Creative Conversationalist with Communcation Circles: Part 2

Teaching English to Adults

"The best way to study for a communication test is to communicate!"

by Thomas C. Anderson

More on Communication Circles

(Pictured: The Mickey Mouse Garden at the "Anne" English School in Kanagawa (Kevin`s English School))

Taking all of this into consideration, let us now look at Communcation Circles/Lines, an activity which has become the mainstay of my Oral English curriculum. The activity, which is very easily modified, can be done both inside and outside the classroom with a minimum of preparation. It is success-oriented and very motivating. A spillover effect occurs when this activity is put into practice. The enthusiasm that is generated continues into other more mundane classroom tasks and activities. For the most part, the activity is student-centered.

Teaching English to Adults -- What are Communication Circles?

Communication circles are NOT "free conversation" (which to my mind, isperhaps a nice way to describe classroom anarchy). The activity involves what is mostly true unscripted one-to-one English communication. It provides the teacher with a buffer zone in which they don`t necessarily have to be "on" and it can easily be used as a diagnostic tool to find student problem areas. Perhaps the most important of all, doing this activity is a very good way to settle down and focus students.

When doing this activity for the first time, students are divided into two groups and stand either in two circles with each student in the outside circle facing a student in the inner circle or in two lines of students facing each other (depending on the size and shape of the classroom). An odd number of students can make a group of three or the teacher can participate as a speaking partner.

For the first quarter or half of the term, students begin their communication with a set "introduction pattern" as follows:

S1: Good morning./Hi. (depending on the time of day)

S2: Good morning./Hi.

S1: (Pointing to self) My name`s ============ (says name clearly). And you are? (points at partner)

S2: ============= ==================== (full name)

S1: Nice to meet you.

S2: Nice to meet you, too. Ss 1 and 2 shake hands)

As I lead students through the routine, I point out that importance of eye contact, body language, gestures, rising intonation, "hinting or signal" language,and even the firmness of the male-male North American handshake! After being walked through the routine once, I have students repeat it and then give them a subject such as "HOMETOWN" to talk about.

The first time students are given a topic in this way, there are usually a few moments of stunned silence (depending on the student level) and then a few brave souls say something to their partner. I cut the students off after a short time-perhaps twenty or thirty seconds and have them say thank you to their partner. One of the groups moves one person to the left or right and the process is repeated. At first I only use two topics twice so that students talk to four different people. Over the course of the term, conversation length and the number of partners and topics is increase (normally I end up having students talk to nine different partners about three different topics).

Teaching English to Adults: Debriefing

After their first experience of doing this communication, I have the students sit down and I do a debriefing session. In it, I emphasize the importance of what they have just done (you said something to your partner who listened carefully and replied--communication in English, in other words). Students are often surprised when they realize that they really did communicate with their partners in English.

Before doing Communcation Circles the second time, students are given a handout (see Appendix) containing eight "communication elements." I go over one point per class (and review previous points covered) before students move into their circles or lines.I emphasize the fact that these are items which I will be watching for and considering when observing and grading their speaking test.




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