Tony Prince is a NILE trainer and has been Programme Manager for Presessional and Insessional courses at the University of East Anglia. Today he joins us to preview his upcoming webinar, A Framework for Communicative Speaking, and discuss clear communicative speaking for ELLs.
Opening digression – Problems and solutions
Often what we see as a problem in the environment, actually has its roots in ourselves.
‘I keep getting interrupted when I’m trying to work.’
Well maybe that’s because you’re afraid to say no when someone asks you for help, or to challenge an ‘urgent’ email that threatens to take hours out of your planned schedule.
Before you protest – explaining how ‘I really don’t understand your context’ – recognise that the beauty of you being the problem (and by you I mean we, including me), is that you are the solution as well.
You may not have control of your options, but you do have the power to choose. There is always a choice, no matter how limited.
To the point – Taking control
What does this have to do with Speaking?
Frequently when students express frustration with their speaking, they frame it as a problem with the environment.
‘People don’t give me time to think.’
‘My classmates don’t let me speak, they just talk.’
Some re-frame this as a problem with themselves:
‘I can’t think quickly enough.’
‘I don’t feel good interrupting other people.’
But few have the insight to see themselves as the cause and the solution:
‘I need to find ways to give myself extra time to think. I wonder what phrases I could use? Should I use gesture more? Maybe it’s my expression. Perhaps I need to make it more clear that I’m thinking.’
‘What is it about me that finds it so uncomfortable to interrupt others. Are there any methods that I could use which would feel easier for me?’
Most frequently, in conversations with students about issues they’re having with their studies, I have to try and get them to understand themselves better: to take more control over what they do and how they do it.
Me: ‘It seems to me, watching the conversations, that you’re happier listening. You don’t show any signs of frustration. You sit back from what’s being said.’
Me: ‘That’s how it seems.’
Student: ‘Oh. So what should I do?’
Me: ‘Well why do you think you do that?’
Student: ‘I don’t know.’
Me: ‘Well I’d say that’s what you need to find out.’
Or with a lower level student
Me: ‘You watch people speak.’
Student: ‘I think slow.’
Me: ‘Why no sound?’
Me: ‘Next time, watch other people. Listen! Tell me what sound. Also think. Why no sound you?’
This is a difficult approach – for both teachers and students to take. But one of the ‘Elephants in the room’ when it comes to communicative teaching, is that what we are encouraging is intensely personal. The issues that students have with communication are often rooted in their own character. Yet much though we may know our students as individuals few teachers are willing to ask students to reflect more about what it is about themselves that is preventing them from communicating, and to suggest that such reflection is at the heart of improvement.
You may be wondering – finally – what this has to do with the webinar that I’m going to be conducting – ‘A Framework for Communicative Speaking’.
During this webinar I’m not going to be suggesting that teachers become psychologists, or even coaches – that’s for another blog post, and webinar.
The objective here is to set out a framework that can provide students with more choice in how carry out the speaking tasks in class. The framework organizes functional language around Bloom’s taxonomy, allowing students (and teachers) to vary the cognitive demands of the speaking they do.
The intention is to provide a resource that encourages student reflection on their speaking problems by providing them with more choice as to how they (and the teacher) structure a speaking task.
Reflection + choice (on how to respond to reflection) = improvement.
If you’d like to attend this free webinar with Tony, please click on the register button below.