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Teaching Interaction Management Directly:
Helping Learners with Part 3 of the
CAE Speaking Exam
by Greg Gobel
- lesson plan 1 - preliminary information

Time: 60 mins

Level: CAE

Main Aims: For learners to become more aware of useful turn-taking mechanisms to help them interact more fluently in real-world conversation and in Part 3 of the CAE. (stages 2,3,4)

Subsidiary Aims:

  • To prompt learners to take shorter turns than they are accustomed to doing (stage 1)
  • To increase learners awareness of fixed expressions for interrupting (stage 4)
  • To practice recognizing prominence and tonal movement in expressions (stage 4) and high key, rising intonation and falling intonation for, respectively, trying to hold or gain the floor, trying to hold the floor, and ceding the floor (stage 2)
  • For learners to become more aware of turn-taking mechanisms by monitoring their peers’ attempts at using them (stage 3)
  • For learners to practice Part 3 of the CAE and make some attempts at integrating some turn-taking skills from earlier stages (stage 5)

Assumptions:

  • Teaching conversational skills directly is beneficial for learners.
  • Although these learners enjoy speaking and conversing, they still need some help with interaction management skills.
  • Learners are aware of the format for Part 3 of the CAE speaking exam.
  • It is important for learners to attempt to hear the intonation movements on a recording.
  • Analysing transcripts to help encourage noticing prompts learners to be more actively involved in focusing on language.
  • Even though all of these learners are not taking the CAE this June, all but one have plans to take it within the next year or so, so relating turn-taking to Part 3 of the CAE is relevant even if the CAE is not a short-term goal for all the learners.
  • It is not reasonable to expect learners to immediately automatise language input.

Timetable Fit:

  • Because of the looming deadline of the CAE exam, I decided that I could not wait to start bringing in interaction management skills until this external observation lesson. Also, I decided it would not be practical nor achievable to try to integrate all of the aspects of both agenda management and turn-taking into one lesson. Therefore, over the last several lessons, I have been focusing on bits and pieces to increase the learners’ conversational skills, in addition to preparing for other components of the exam.
  • On Monday, 9 May, my parents and these learners engaged in conversation which was extremely motivating and gave the learners an opportunity to observe the natural interaction that my parents had together to sometimes help each other answer the learners’ questions, developing topics and adding extra smaller topics throughout.
  • In the following lesson, Wednesday, 11 May, we focused on agenda management skills, specifically developing topics and bringing in new topics as extensions of previous ones. Learners analysed short transcripts of authentic, naturally occurring speech. They identified topics and what devices were used for shifting the topics such as left-displacement, high key, the word ‘still’ and the noise ‘mm’, exploiting pauses, and linguistic realizations such as ‘by the way,’ ‘that reminds me of…,’ ‘before I forget,’ and ‘incidentally.’ Learners did the conversation game of trying to shift the topics in the conversation to the one on their lists while attempting to use some of the agenda management devices. Afterwards, we had a discussion about their opinions about the usefulness of these techniques, how they could be exploited in the CAE exam, and the difference between being a fluent speaker and fluent at conversation. We made some comparisons to Spanish, focusing on both similarities (still – ya, pero; pausing; use of high key; the natural shift of topics in conversation in both languages).
  • On Monday, 16 May, learners worked through several tasks creating their an original business, adapted from page 161 in Advanced Gold. So, the business-related theme of today’s lesson is an extension from Monday.
  • Wednesday, 18 May, 20:35-20:45. I will inform learners of the lesson’s objectives. We will set the scene by brainstorming useful work skills in pairs or groups.
  • Wednesday, 18 May, 21:45-21:55. Learners will discuss, in pairs, their thoughts on the lesson and tell me what they learned and what they’d like to continue working on. This will serve as a quick recap and cater to introspective learners.

Anticipated Problems and Possible Solutions:

Affective:

  • Learners may feel uncomfortable trying some of the turn-taking mechanisms. Solution: Reassure them that that is normal and that it is unreasonable to except them to intergrate all the mechanisms in one lesson’s time.
  • Although my director of studies has sat in on this class to observe earlier in the year, some learners may not be comfortable with an unknown observer in the back of the room. Solution: I have told them beforehand that an observer will be in the room for this class, but that the observer is there primarily to observe me, rather than assess the learners. I told them this to help relax them. I will also reiterate this on the day of the lesson.
  • The room often gets very hot and can lead to potential discomfort that could be distracting to learners. Solution: I have to be aware of the heat in the room and open the door occasionally when needed.

Linguistic:

  • Learners may feel that their speaking fluency is somewhat obstructed by their attempts to consciously try out some of the turn-taking mechanisms. Solution: If they feel this way, I can tell them that the long-term benefits outweigh any short-term hesitancy; perhaps a comparison to the retraining that is often done with sport techniques could put this any short-term perception of regression in perspective.
  • Learners may have difficulty identifying the phonological features in the dialogue when analyzing/predicting and in the expressions because they do not hear them while marking them. Solution: They will be working in pairs/groups of three, so their peers may be able to help them. Also, for the dialogue we can play the recording multiple times to allow for more chances to check or identify them. Also, observant teacher monitoring can help to inform when a bit of help may be useful. I can say expressions for pairs that struggle while I am individually monitoring.

Classroom aids-related:

  • In stage 2, the recording of J and T, the two CAE learners from a different class, is a bit fuzzy. It is also possible to hear some of the other learners’ voices in the background. This may make it a bit challenging to focus on the voice changes of J and T. Solution: On one hand, I feel the background noise is a good reflection of speaking in a real-life situation, such as a café, airport lounge, or other similar places. But, I will play the tape in small chunks at the appropriate places to allow learners multiple opportunities to hear the targeted intonation movements, pauses, non-pauses, etc.
  • It may take a bit of time to put the visuals on the walls for Stage 1. Solution: to save time and make for a smooth transition. I will put the visuals up on the walls while learners are doing the brainstorming lead-in activity before stage 1 (see timetable fit, 20:35-20:45).

Time:

  • For the part 3 exam task (stage 5), the candidates are limited to 3 to 4 minutes. Therefore, I have to make sure to keep the simulation exam task to this time limit. Solution: I will keep a close eye on my watch during this activity to make sure it corresponds to the time of exam conditions.
  • The language focus stages (2 and 4) may take longer than expected. Solution: I can break the task sheets up a bit by having some learners start at the top and other start at the bottom. I’ve tried to plan enough time for these two stages, but if learners need a bit more I do not want to rush them uncomfortably. If that is the case, we can cut a minute here and there off the speaking tasks.

Number of learners:

The maximum number of learners for this will be 8, because Nacho and Eva will be unable to attend for medical reasons. Also, Ana and Emilio said they may not be able to make it, so having an even or odd number is a bit unpredictable. Solution: As the CAE sometimes uses groups of three to deal with odd numbers of candidates, this seems to be the natural solution. I will try to make sure, however, that Alberto and Javier are not in the group of three, otherwise they may opt to allow the other two to do all the speaking; it would be best to have each in a pair so that they take a more active role. Depending on numbers, though, that may not be possible.

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