In the final post in this guest series, Li-Shih Huang, Associate Professor at the University of Victoria, Canada, gives us the final three of her seven tips for teaching academic speaking to graduate EAL students. If you missed the first four, catch up on tips 1 and 2 and tips 3 and 4.
This final post wraps up my top seven tips for teaching academic speaking to graduate EAL students.
Tip 5: Expand learners’ linguistic and strategic repertoires
Graduate EAL students need to participate in academic conversations at advanced levels, and, as such, confidence-building tasks that build on, experiment with, and expand their linguistic and strategic repertoires in class provide them with a glimpse of what they can try when participating in a range of predictable academic interactions, such as the ones listed in Tip 3. The first step is to encourage students to focus on getting their ideas or meaning across and feeling comfortable in using whatever language they already know. Their well-intended high expectations about achieving accuracy and their fear of being negatively evaluated naturally make many graduate EAL learners hesitant about expressing their thoughts and prone to undervaluing or overlooking the richness of their ideas and contributions to the dialogue.
Take dealing with questions and answers, which I discussed in my previous post as an example. After exploring the hidden assumptions regarding one’s approach to answering questions and facing the challenging situations associated with handling Q & A (e.g., multi questions, long-winded questions, off-the-subject questions, “don’t know” questions, hostile questions), request that students consider both strategies and language that they can employ when handling such situations. For handling “don’t know” questions, for example, not only will this exploration help learners become more comfortable saying “I don’t know” or more confident about sharing what they do know that is relevant to the question at hand; learners will also generate strategies and language that they can use to confidently deal with those questions. For example: