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Practising and Assessing Discussions

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Ivana Kirin

on 18 October 2013

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Transcript of Practising and Assessing Discussions

Discussion Skills for EFL:
Practicing and Assessing Discussions

Discussion Test
small group of students discussing w/o teacher input
teacher marking each student individually
chance to assess S's abilities in realistic situations
goals also: promote critical analysis, encourage various perspectives on current issues and learner independence

Discussions in the EFL classroom
many kinds of discussions (brainstorming, exchanging opinions, problem-solving…)
focus: discussion as involving the exchange of opinions
Ivana Kirin
Marinko Uremovic

easy for teacher and students

tailor to your objectives

familiar to students
give choice of possible 3-5
actual choice = random selection on test day
note cards (e.g. 75 words, important vocab)

3 Ss = 5 min. / 4 Ss = 8 min. (based on class time or level of proficiency)
groups unknown to students until test day
one group in testing site at a time
Practice Day
Ss practice topics with note cards
key vocabulary

Practical Applications in Listening and Speaking Skills

two-month online course
8-10 hours weekly
weekly readings, discussions, Skype sessions, audio journals, self-study log, final project

Why / Why Not?
II. Teachers create tools that encourage use of the target language.
checklists of target language so learners can keep track of what they’ve used in their discussions
cards with target language phrases on them to be used in various ways to keep learners focused
BINGO cards so learners can mark off target language as they use it
IV. Clearly explain task & goal of task, then set learners free to do it in small groups.
V. Circulate & monitor groups during task.
Switch things up & do the same activity again!

Switch learners into different groups and use the same topic.
Switch topics and keep the same groups.

Small Group Discussions
small groups of 2-4 learners speaking
not scripted, but spontaneous speaking
teacher is facilitating but not joining groups
should have a language focus / task

How often do you currently include time for small-group discussion in your classes?


Why Not?
learners use L1, not English
shy learners, so no talking
off-task learners
teacher can’t hear everyone

How willingly do your current learners
discuss in English?

always willing
sometimes willing
rarely willing
never willing

multi-way, authentic interaction - autonomy
less intimidating
language at learners’ level
more talk time for learners -→ more feedback

I. Teachers create a list of target language.
Use tools to create interesting tasks for learners that encourage discussion and autonomy.
Cooperation Cut-Ups
Which do you prefer:
A. To divide learners into small groups before giving directions

B. To divide learners into small groups after giving directions

Encourage learners with non-verbal cues (smiles, nods, etc.), but do your best not to join the conversation.
Make one, quick lap around the room to make sure everyone understood the directions and is on track.
At the end of each round, give collective feedback about what you noticed that was positive, and what everyone can improve on in the next round.
Ask learners which cards were hardest/easiest to use. Why?

For added incentive, create an end-of-course assessment of all discussion skills practiced.
Use same format (small groups of 2-4).
Use same target language.
Give learners an ultimate goal to strive for during the course.

Possible Solutions
Relevant Topic
uninteresting, irrelevant topics
student input into topics
textbook - selection of units / phrasing of a discussion question
enough knowledge and resources
Error-Free Silence
imperfect, 'broken' English
important part in everyday conversations
silences or broken English?
Start of a Discussion
strong start - clearly establish topic and direction
discussion topic -proposition that allows for 'for and against' opinions
time to prepare
Silent Rehearsing
anywhere, anytime - focus and concentrate
rehearse opinions - anticipate potential responses & rehearse counter responses - role-play a short discussion in their mind (note things they had difficulty saying)
guided activity /set of questions
group work: select a 'secretary' - brainstorm - write down for and against reasons - pass on paper to next group - add any ideas not currently written - elicit ideas - correct English
Facilitate Learning after a Discussion
(close eyes)
go over what they said
make (mental) note of things they had difficulty saying
go over responses they didn't give but would have liked to
simpler, communicative activities
group work
Baby Steps
Chat about...
Nixon, C & Tomlinson, M.Primary Communication Box, Speaking and Listening Activities for Young Learners. Cambridge University Press.
Venema, J. (2006). Discussions in the EFL Classroom: Some Problems and How to Solve Them. The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. XII, No. 12, December 2006 http://iteslj.org/

Rice, J. & Rice, K. (2007). Authentic Assessment of Discussion Skills. ORTESOL Journal, Vol. 25. http://www.ortesol.org

Rice, J. (2013), Fostering Discussions in the English Classroom (Techniques for Teachers to Try). PALSS Webinar, American English Institute, University of Oregon.
Contact & Prezi

Prezi: http://prezi.com/qpg7dzi2xyaa/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share

Dropbox link (articles, materials, lesson plans...)


weaknesses &
learning opportunities
Thank you!

Any questions?

An Uphill Struggle
There are many ways in which student discussions can break down.
Which ones have you encountered?
Common Problems
My students don’t stay in English.
The students don’t have the language knowledge to say what they want to say.
Students tend to repeat the same mistakes time and again.
The students’ lack of fluency prevents any kind of flow.
Students don’t prepare for discussions in class.
Students do not appear to have any opinions.
Students quickly relapse into monologues with no real interaction.

Some students always dominate while others rarely say a word.
Students don’t ask questions when they don’t understand what a partner is saying.
The students don’t appear interested in their partners or what they have to say.
Some students rarely speak up or always mumble. It is very difficult to hear them.
Students are reluctant to directly challenge or contradict what other students say.

Possible Solutions
What can teachers do to address these problems
and improve
student participation?
Discussion Topic
Teacher-student online interaction should be limited to professional pages only.
Teacher Comments
Some people had not really spoken at all and then they came out in the discussion. They were these wonderful English speakers.

Some of the students who were usually quiet came out. I think that's so important that the other students see that that student can do it.

Good idea with the oral exam. It brings the course together and sets a good goal for students to work towards.
Student Comments
It was good because teacher can graded us fairly.

I had fun speaking with my friends even though it was a test.

It's difficult, but I enjoyed it.

It's fair and enjoyable.

It was very difficult, but if I practice more, I can do good speaking.
Goals & Objectives
Writing objectives
Audience (A) – Who? Who are your learners?

Behavior (B) – What? What do you expect them to be able to do?

Condition (C) – How? Under what circumstances or context will the learning occur?

Degree (D) – How much and to what level?

Given the questions beforehand (C)

the students (A)

will have to speak about the given topic (B)

for 40 seconds and give answers to all questions (D)

Questions asked...
1. What is your favorite free time activity?

2. Describe the activity?

3. Why is it important for you?

4. How long have you been doing it?
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