Discourse Analysis in the
Classroom with a Specific Focus
on Teaching Discourse Markers
by Ceri Millward
highlight the use of discourse markers (refer to chart on
page 3) in context, I shall use a written film review taken
from the Internet.
clarify the meaning, form and appropriacy of each discourse
students to infer meaning and correct usage of target language
through context by means of inductive exercises.
part of a three-part lesson dealing with the structuring of
authentic written materials, especially focusing on coherence
and cohesion, I aim to prepare students to write their own
introduce the students to authentic written materials from
develop the skills of reading for gist and scanning for information.
further develop the skills of listening for gist and information.
review coherent structuring of texts and give implicit exposure
to the cohesive device of referencing, which they will have
already seen in the previous class.
is an intermediate class comprised of a group of twelve young
to middle-aged students that, a colleague and myself have
been teaching for ten weeks. The majority of the students
are not studying for any particular purpose other than as
a social pastime, though most of them believe that English
will be useful for them in the future to improve their work
prospects. Given this, most of the students have cited listening
and speaking as areas that they wished to improve, though
all agreed that reading and writing are also important.
an Art student, has spent some time in Britain and is one
of the stronger students in the class. She works well with
other students and seems to be very motivated.
also an Art student, does not have such a high level as Elsa
but interacts well in class and is able to keep up with the
rest of the students.
has just finished a degree in Business Studies and is now
actively looking for work. For this reason he is a highly
motivated student with a 100% attendance record, though he
is quite shy and needs to be paired with particularly talkative
students so that he gets involved in activities.
has a good level and feels comfortable talking freely in open
class activities. She, like many other students, is particularly
interested in English for travel.
is an out of work schoolteacher who gives classes at home.
Her knowledge of grammar is very good though sometimes she
has problems with listening activities.
a university student, has a good level but is a little under
confident when it comes to speaking.
also a university student, seems to have the same problem
as Nerea though her level is a little weaker.
Teresa, is one of the newer students. Her level seems to be
a bit weaker than the rest of the class, although her knowledge
of vocabulary is quite high. She seems to be too teacher dependant
and does not work very well with other students; she often
interrupts the class by asking questions that are not relevant
to the lesson. However, I noticed that she appeared to be
more integrated with the rest of the class in the last lesson.
also a new student, seems to have a good level and feels particularly
comfortable talking during open class activities. He works
well with other students and is very motivated.
and Elena have just joined the course, though both seem to
have a good level and work well within the class.
am assuming that the students have come across most of the
discourse markers before but will not have looked at their
meaning, form and appropriacy.
students may have seen the film 'Chicago' and some may not,
but all would have heard something about the hype surrounding
students may have seen the Oscar ceremony or know the outcome,
these students can inform the others, another opportunity
for real communication.
am assuming that most of the students have been to the cinema
recently and I will be able to group together students that
have seen the same film for the brainstorm activity. However,
even though most of the students have expressed interest in
the cinema there may be a few that do not have time to go,
so these students will have to brainstorm their film alone
and then discuss it with their partners.
Anticipated problems & solutions:
As I will be looking at a wide range of discourse markers
in this lesson, with various subtle differences in meaning
and usage, I have decided to break down the problem areas
to be looked at, into four different categories -meaning,
form, appropriacy and phonology.
- It is possible that some students will be unable to identify
the difference in meaning and function of certain discourse
markers, so in stage three they will put the linkers from
the text into a table (as below) categorising them into groups
with similar meanings. It is also important to point out that
discourse markers only highlight logical connections and contrasts
if a logical link already exists within the text.
As a result
|To draw attention to the fact that something
is caused by, or is the result of something else.
|Emphasises the fact that the second point
contrasts with the first or highlights contrast of surprising
||To generalise about a subject or give a
general summary of the text.
As well as
|Used to add information, or argument, to
what has already been said.
- It is also possible that students may think that as these
linkers have similar meanings they are interchangeable in
a text, so it is important to clarify that certain discourse
markers are found in different positions within a sentence
and that some perform different functions. At this stage,
I plan to let the students infer the rules of usage from context,
by categorising them into three different types of discourse
marker according to their form and function (see table below).
I also plan to point out a few features of punctuation specific
to certain conjunctions.
clauses- usually comes between clauses/in the middle of
clauses- can come between clauses or at the beginning
of a sentence.
sentences- usually at the beginning of a sentence.
AS WELL AS
AS A RESULT
Appropriacy -Students may use some of these discourse markers
inappropriately. They may start to use 'nonetheless' in a
spoken context, for example, therefore it is also important
to stress that some discourse markers, such as 'nonetheless
', 'overall' and 'as a result,' are more formal and are usually
only found in a written context. Out of the linkers that I
will be teaching 'however' and 'so' are used the most in both
written and spoken English, this will also be brought to the
- I believe that this area will cause the least problems for
the students as they will have already seen, or heard, most
of these discourse markers in context. However, 'nonetheless'
may be new to them and for this reason it may need to be drilled
and the stress might have to be marked.
Problems/ solutions with tasks:
class may have problems with the audio-visual activity as
the material is authentic and Listening is one of the students'
weakest skills. For this reason, I have made the task for
this activity very simple, as the purpose of this exercise
is merely to motivate the students and create interest in
the subject. Similarly, the students may find the reading
material a little difficult due to its authenticity, so again
I have decided to keep the tasks simple and focus mainly on
the target language.
Students will have implicit exposure to other cohesive devices,
such as referencing, though we will not have time to focus
on them in the observed lesson. Also due to time restrictions,
we will not be able to focus on much of the vocabulary and
collocations from the text in the observed hour, though I
do plan to focus on this in the third part of this three-part
class. I believe that this language will be useful for the
final draft of the film review which will be the product of
these lessons, though the means of arriving at this point
using the process method of writing will be the most beneficial
for the students.
is also a factor that may affect the content of the lesson
as I have designed a short consolidation task for stage six.
However, if there are problems in stage five with the clarification
of meaning, form and phonology, I intend to go straight to
task eight, which I believe will be more useful for the students
to prepare their written work. We will be able to revise and
consolidate these discourse markers in the final part of the
aids & materials:
Video of a trailer of the film ' Chicago' from the Oscar ceremony.
· Cards of photographs taken from the film 'Chicago'.
· Written text from an Internet web site.
· Tables and charts to help clarify meaning and form.
· Cards of discourse markers.
observed lesson will be part of a three part lesson on coherence
and cohesion in written texts, something which the students
believe may help them with their job prospects in the future.
The final product will be a written film review which will
be posted on the Internet, although it will be the process
of writing and amending this piece of writing that will be
the most valuable for the students.
1st Lesson - Coherence: look at the structuring of a piece
of text and referencing (cohesion). Explain that some strategies
can be transferred from their L1 to the L2. Also look at some
cinema language to help students with the final result of
the three-part lesson, the film review.
2nd Lesson - observed class/ Discourse markers.
3rd Lesson - We will go over students' written work (homework
-film review); Cohesion continued. Students assess each other's
work; how have the linkers been used? Have the students been
able to transfer 'referencing' from their L1 to the L2? Look
at useful collocations for the review. The students will then
take back their own reviews and revise them, taking their
peers' and teacher's comments, into consideration. Finally,
one review from each group is chosen by the students to be
posted on an English language Internet site.
Although most of the class said that they wanted to practice
both speaking and listening comprehension in their needs analysis
at the beginning of the course, they also cited reading and
writing as something, which they believed, would be useful
in the work place. Therefore, I have decided to focus on cohesion
and more specifically on discourse markers in my observed
class, as I believe that this is not only an important consideration
when structuring business letters and emails but one that
can also be transferred to most written genres.
I chose to introduce these linkers through a written review
taken from the Internet, as I believe that the students would
find this genre more motivating and interesting than a business
context. Cinema was a subject that most of the students expressed
an interest in at the beginning of the course and as this
class will take place soon after the Oscar award ceremony
I believe that this will generate an added interest regarding
the chosen text.
The purpose of the audio-visual activity, a trailer of the
film 'Chicago,' is mainly to create interest in the subject
of the text and increase student motivation, so the extensive
task has been made simple. Once the students' schema of the
subject of the text has been activated they should find the
following task - the jumbled reading - easier. The aims of
this task are not only to introduce the text but also to enable
the students to use their knowledge of coherence, and to some
extent cohesion, to complete the activity, this will be revising
and consolidating information learnt in the previous lesson.
The following task is a gist reading exercise so that the
students understand the idea of the text as well as facilitating
task seven later on in the lesson. At the end of this stage
the students will have identified the target language by means
of an inductive exercise and will then be asked to find all
the discourse markers in the text - a noticing activity.
In stage 5 there are two activities that are intended to enable
students to infer meaning and form from context. This will
be consolidated in the following stage, in which I will give
the students a written record of the target language, clarifying
meaning, form and appropriacy.
In the final stage there will be some consolidation exercises
for the target language and also some useful brainstorming
activities for the homework - the film review. This written
review will not only give the students the chance to use the
new language but will also serve as the basis for the next
lesson, in which we will continue to look at cohesive devices.
Furthermore, this piece of writing will give me an opportunity
to evaluate to what extent the students have understood the
usage and meaning of the target language. The aims behind
posting the students' work on an English language Internet
site are to give the students a real audience to write for
and a real purpose for which to write.
the lesson procedure
a print friendly version
to the articles index