Chris Green, Elsie Christopher and Jackie Lam, write in their chapter on “Developing Discussion Skills in the ESL Classroom”, that “discussion skills are often undeveloped" because they speculate of large class size, student's proficiency level, and time, or it may be that we, the teachers, just don't know how to plan for it to happen or we assume that as our student's skills increase, discussion skills will be a natural byproduct. When I think of my own ESL teaching and planning for teaching, I worked hard at making sure that the grammar structures and the vocabulary meanings clear, and we went over the dialogues and I would even try to connect the dialog topics with their lives by asking questions related to the topic under
Let me clarify some terms here. I think that Brecht and Walton’s communication modes which were proposed by the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Language can provide a framework for looking at communication. This framework divides communication into three modes. Obviously these communication modes can overlap but in general they help us analyze the communication process. Interpersonal: This is a first and very important step in the communication process. This mode features two way oral and written communication and negotiation of meaning between individuals like conversations. This can include face to face or telephone or written communication which goes back and forth. We often practice these elements in dialogs and short conversations in the ESL classroom. We read stories or watch movies and ask our students if they have had similar experiences and make connections that way. Often this is the bulk of what we do in in the classroom and even that does not happen as much as it should. Presentational mode focuses on language which is spoken or written for an audience with whom there is no contact such as speeches and lectures. This is important, but not the focus of this presentation.
The third mode is interpretive and this is the one I want to focus on. Students need to be gently pushed to also experience the interpretive mode because this is the one that leads to indepth discussions of ideas which is what our students need practice with. So what does interpretive mode include? Of the three modes, it is primarily receptive. ..listening and reading. It includes not only the literal comprehension of the text but also the interpretation of it including cultural perspectives, personal opinions and point of view. So it is more than just decoding words. It is the ability to read between the lines and predict what might be going on or what might happen. The reader has to bring his own knowledge to the task and can inference beyond the text using that knowledge. In order to do this well the student benefits from extensive modeling by the teacher.
Let's talk about reading theory and how it relates to language learners. We know that there are two types of processing that are going on at the same time. Top down and bottom up processing. Bottom up processing is bringing all of our knowledge about words, sentence structure, semantics, syntax, and grammar and language parts to the document. Many of our students approaching a text by focusing on, translating individual words and sentence parts.They care about every vocabulary word and every piece of grammar and while this is an important part of reading fluency, by itself it is not enough. Top down processing is the knowledge of our world and how it works and our culture that we bring to the reading. The two processes working together are used for comprehension. In ESL we often spend so much time on the words and their meanings and the grammar that we don’t spend enough time doing the top down processing. However research by Swaffar, Arens and Bryans in 1991 shows that contextual information is more important than vocabulary or grammar knowledge when it comes to reading. We tend to not spend enough time on context, teaching students how to think about what they are going to read, and asking about inferences and bringing in cultural background of the material. Mechanical activities often don't result in much comprehension at all. In fact, when we do ask questions, often students can answer them without understanding the whole text. And this leads to students focusing on details when the overall concepts and ideas expressed in the reading material would provide a very worthwhile discussion that uses higher level structures and thinking and develops more vocabulary. So this is one thing that we want to keep in mind for our adult ESL classrooms.
Need to move from sentence and word level to paragraph and idea level interpretationNarrating and describing activities. Telling stories and retelling events in past, present and future. Be able to move from the interpersonal to the interpretative. And do it all in a conversational setting…knowing when to start and stop.Develop confidence.
What types of text should you use? Length. It is not the length of the text that influences the readability of the text, nor the grammatical structures that are unfamiliar, it is the vocabulary and the background knowledge and motivation of the learners that are more important influences. (Swaffer, Arens and Byrnes, 1991) Text needs to have clear literary connections, transitions (such as first, second, next) and summaries are more important for L2 learners. Redundancy, using the same words helps readers. Story format is easier than informational content. Should be interest and age appropriate. Sometimes reading several stories on the same topic helps because the vocabulary is repeated. Vocabulary. Reading comprehension and vocabulary development are connected. Use of vocabulary lists with definitions does not help. (Bensoussan, Sim and Weiss, 1984) It is better to present vocabulary in a prereading phase by showing how the vocabulary is related to the themes and discourse of the text and to the readers’ background knowledge. Students can: Build own vocabulary banks, personal dictionaries, word walls. In class vocabulary practice can provide opportunities to find additional words that relate to the same category. deferred ---put off, do later,
Yes, there are complications, but using them as a reason not to include this kind of instruction is not valid. In fact, Stephen Krashen suggests that we lower our standards a bit and not focus so much on what is “excellent literature in a literary sense” and focus more on what students are truly interested in and use that as motivation. In an article, “The Case for Narrow Reading” he suggests that books like Sweet Valley Twins have provided interest and because they focus on a limited set of topics, have language which is accessible.
Obviously teachers need to gear their selections at the level of the student. Teacher enthusiasm and guidance is a must. Especially at first you must be there to answer questions and walk students through it. This doesn’t mean that you have chosen poorly; it means that you have to model.
Especially at first you must have preplanned places in the reading where you stop the students and have them answer questions and negotiate meaning of what they are reading. This is more effective for understanding and leads to better discussion.
From Shrum and Glisan.
Preparation Phase: This stage helps set the purpose for the activity and activates interest. students preview text, establish a purpose, predict meaning, activate background knowledge, preview unfamiliar content, anticipate new vocabulary and text language. identify main ideas, connect them to details, identify discourse markers and other linguistic features such as new vocabulary. Acquire new information that is needed to understand the document.
Think, Pair, Share.
There is a fine line between not detracting from the discussion and activating the schema by doing a flyover. Ruth Spack in her discussion of this aspect of preparation suggests that a write before reading exercise relating a concept found in the story with something the student has experience or has knowledge results in more than simple comprehension, it also creates awareness that reading and writing are connected.
In this stage, at first you will want to model how they should think about what they are reading, so you may want to use the whole group model first and when they are more used to this type of reading, they will be able to do it better in a small group. Modeling or thinking aloud: Teach your students to talk to the text. How old was he? (perhaps need to explain the idiom “grow older”)Go through the poem line by line. It was a long time ago. (When?)I have almost forgotten my dream. (What dream? Why?)But it was there then, (Once clear…lost now? In front of me, Bright like the sun (the sounds like he was encouraged, happy)My dream.And then a wall rose (what kind of wall? Do you think that the wall stands for something?)Rose slowly, Slowly, (not all at once, show loss) Like the Berlin Wall? Rose until it touched the sky—The wall. Shadow. (darkness? ) I am black, (discuss the meaning of this)I lie down in shadow. (of the wall?) Is he giving up? Tired? Perhaps use sentence stems to make sure that you get at the ideas that you are looking for them to discuss. What do you think the author is telling us about getting older? Encourage students to add to their personal dictionaries any words or synonyms that they didn’t know.
Children’s books so you need to use caution in their use.
Two sides of the same coin with text 2
Two Sides of the Same CoinReading to Promote Speaking in the ESL Classroom Prof. Teresa Renkema Kuyper College firstname.lastname@example.org
Session Goals Review the theoretical backgrounds of reading and speaking to show how they can be connected in classroom teaching. Demonstrate how ESL classroom activities using reading content can encourage and add depth to ESL classroom discussions. Show how using literature in the classroom can increase vocabulary and cultural learning. Lesson plan example
Thesis: English language learners are often adept at interpersonal conversations about everyday topics but making the step to the greater demands of in-depth conversational topics and ideas is a challenge for both the students and the teachers in the ESL classroom. Teachers can create opportunities in the classroom for in-depth discussions by intentionally designing interactions about topics in literature while also drawing on students’ experiences, ideas, and cultural background.
Communication Modes1. Interpersonal2. Presentational3. Interpretive (Brecht and Walton, 1995 )
Interpretive Mode Focuses on the interpretation of meaning when there is no possibility of negotiation of meaning with the speaker or writer. (Shrum and Glisan, 2010) Cultural knowledge and perspectives may be embedded in the materials.
Reading Both top down and bottom up processing occur when we read. ESL teachers tend to focus on bottom up processing, but should focus more on top down if they want to increase discussion.
What Are the Skills Our StudentsNeed to Develop in Reading andSpeaking?According to Shrum and Glisan,1. Move from sentence level/word level to paragraph and idea level interpretation.2. Be able to narrate and describe in the present, past and future time frames.3. Move from their own topics of discourse to topics of public interest and significance.4. Know when to take a turn, how to interrupt, how to end without being abrupt.
Guidelines for Types of Text Longer texts may be easier to comprehend because of redundancy and content clues. Texts of longer than 500 words are effective for activating the use of different reading strategies and recall. (Swaffar, 2005) Story format texts are easier for L2 readers to recall. Another linguistic feature for easier reading is redundancy. Age appropriate and interest appropriate.
Complications with Using AuthenticTexts Teachers think that texts are too challenging for the typical language students. Teachers and students focus on knowing every word. Teachers dominate the conversation. Difficult to find relevant pieces
Guidelines for Implementation Select texts that express basic shared cultural beliefs of the target culture. Do pre-reading activities which activate schema, and review the text features. Do a fly-over. If you need to edit, then edit the task, not the text. Establish a purpose for exploring the text. Tie complex ideas such as symbolism to more concrete examples in student’s lives. Goal is for all discussions to be interactive, collaborative and reflective.
Formulate discussion groups Groups of 4 work best after you have modeled. Students should have assigned roles in the groups which alternate over time. Leader – instigator of discussions. Lays out what must be done and makes sure that everyone has a turn. Vocabulary recorder/note taker Questioner Predictor All students must participate in the discussion.
Preparing a Lesson Plan Using Authentic Text. (Model by Shrum and Glisan, 2010.) Based on three modes of communication
Lesson Plan Model Preparation and comprehension phase (interpretive) Discussion phase (Interpretive and interpersonal) Creative phase (interpersonal and presentational) Extension phase (interpretive)
Preparation Phase This stage helps set the purpose for the activity and activates interest. Preparation Phase: students preview text, establish a purpose, predict meaning, activate background knowledge, preview unfamiliar content, anticipate new vocabulary and text language. identify main ideas, connect them to details, identify discourse markers and other linguistic features such as new vocabulary. Acquire new information that is needed to understand the document.
Interpretation/Discussion Phase Students discuss the content. Guess meaning of vocabulary in context, identify cultural practices and perspectives in the text. Ask each other questions about the content, and the inferences, and create explanations.
Creativity Phase Students use the information obtained to react to the information presented either by presenting, role playing or summarizing.
Extension (if appropriate to thecontent) Analyze another text and compare the two. Other ways to reuse the same information in a different avenue. writing
As I Grow Older – Langston Hughes It was a long time ago. I have almost forgotten my dream. But it was there then, In front of me, Bright like a sun-- My dream. And then the wall rose, Rose slowly, Slowly, Between me and my dream. Rose until it touched the sky-- The wall. Shadow. I am black. I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,Above me.Only the thick wall.Only the shadow.My hands!My dark hands!Break through the wall!Find my dream!Help me to shatter this darkness,To smash this night,To break this shadowInto a thousand lights of sun,
A Plan: “As I Grow Older” Step 1: Preparation phase: (to pique interest, establish goal) P Ask students what they know about poetry and poems and poets. Do they know any poets personally. Ask about the place of poetry in society. In their home country, was it customary to present poetry on special days such as Mother’s Day or Independence Day? Ask if any of the student’s know any poetry from their own country? Maybe you will be lucky enough to have someone volunteer to recite for the class. If not, recite a short poem yourself. Talk about the role of poetry in American education and society. Introduce Langston Hughes, Talk about dreams. Are they real? What is the American dream?
Step 2. Teaching- both interpersonaland interpretive modes. Ask students to listen to you as you read the poem, “As I Grew Older” by Langston Hughes. Then give them copies of the poem and ask them to read along silently while you reread the poem. Talk about vocabulary…dream, shadow, wall, idiomatic use of grow. Introduce the students to Langston Hughes through a biographical sketch. (could be a separate lesson) Rather than asking content questions, ask students to discuss in pairs their interpretations of the poem. They should be encouraged to guess at context and symbolism. Perhaps have them fill out a short answer sheet together. Do a vocabulary worksheet together.
Step 3 Full class discussion Ask each group to give a short summary of what they discussed. (presentational mode) Metacognition – what skills/strategies did they use to get through their roadblocks? Discussion of content and symbolism. Ask the class to list on the board the images that are in the poem. Dream –sun Wall – shadow, black , lie down (give up) no light , thick wall, My hands- dark, I am black. Shatter, break, smash
Step 4. Interpersonal andPresentational (creativity) Use new information acquired from the discussion to participate in a role play or write a summary of the discussion. Reflection on own involvement in the discussion is important.
Step 5 Interpretation revisited. Extension phase Students analyze another text and compare content. Perhaps - “A Dream Deferred”
Conclusions You can and you should introduce your students to and encourage their reading of literary texts in the classroom. It will provide them with an insight into American culture, the human condition, increase their vocabulary and provide opportunities for them to have more indepth discussion through which they will increase their ability to converse in the English language.
Resources “Old Man” by Ricardo Sanchez “Superman and Me” by Sherman Alexi “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber. “Molly’s Pilgrim “*by Cohen “The Babe and I” P by Adler and Widener.
Bibliography Bailey, K. M. “Issues in Teaching Speaking Skills in Adult ESOL Learners.” National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy, Vol. 6, 2006 On-line. Green, C., Christopher, E. and Lam, J. “Developing Discussion Skills in the ESL Classroom.” eds. Richards, J. and Renandya, W. 225-230. Print Krashen, Stephen. “The Case for Narrow Reading.” Language Magaaine, 3:5:17-19, 2004. On line. Schrum, J, and Glisan, E. Teacher’s Handbook, Contextualized Language Instruction. 4th Ed. Boston: Heinle Cengage , 2010. Print
Bibliography -continued Spack, Ruth. “Literature, Reading, Writing, and ESL: Bridging the Gaps” TESOL Quarterly Vol. 19, 4 (Dec. 1985) pp. 703-725. Accessed 27/08/2012 Online