structure & video lesson plan
by Sandra Bradwell
Time: 1hr 20mins
Class focus: Materials/Resources - Video
We use Advanced Gold as a course book preparing for the CAE
exam and at present are working from unit 9. In the last lesson
we were looking at the variety of tenses in written narratives.
The course book suggests students choose one of the stories
to expand it and tell it to the other students in more detail
to practise extended speaking or long turns. This provides
an ideal opportunity for looking at the discourse features
of story telling which as McCarthy (1991:139) rightly states,
are rarely found in text books. It also provides an opportunity
for consolidating some language for telling anecdotes and
maintaining interest which came out of a listening task in
· to sensitise students to the discourse features of
oral narrative (stages 4/5/6)
· to raise further awareness of the listener's active
role in story telling (stage 6)
· to develop the listening skill: listening for pleasure,
gist (stage 3)
· to widen the students' range of vocabulary and expressions
· to provide an opportunity for students to prepare
and practise story telling (stages 8/9)
Students at advanced levels need to be aware of features of
a variety of spoken discourse to be able to perform well in
this skill. The course book encourages students to tell stories
but offers no linguistic or paralinguistic guidance on how
to perform this very difficult task. I would like to take
this opportunity to widen their repertoire of language skills
and sensitise them, through awareness-raising activities,
to the discourse features of story telling. Having a story
on video provides the additional advantage of illustrating
many of the paralinguistic features of spoken discourse: body
language, facial expressions, eye contact that would be lost
on cassette. I spent a lot of time looking for a video extract
from a film to prepare this lesson but have ended up preparing
a home-made version with a colleague. I think it is sufficiently
natural and hope the quality will not impede comprehension
first five minutes of the lesson I would like to welcome back
students who were not in class on Tuesday and provide the
students who were in class with an opportunity to share information
about the lesson. We will then begin the lesson by discussing
and commenting on prompts around the room in pairs. Not only
will this provide some very valuable speaking practice and
be an opportunity to move around, it will also lead into and
involve them in the topic of the lesson: relating anecdotes
next two stages of the lesson involve listening to a home-made
video where I am telling a colleague a personal anecdote.
The first listening is for pleasure - I only want the students
to listen out for the bare facts of the story. Students will
have an opportunity to share ideas before asking them what
happened and eliciting the story.
the next stage students will see the video and have a copy
of the transcript. As this is the first time I have prepared
a transcript indicating overlaps of conversation and turn-taking,
I will invite students to skim read it to understand how it
is set out before watching the video a second time. Reading
the transcript will hopefully draw students attention initially
to the 'messy' nature of spoken discourse: the hesitations,
false starts, repetition of vocabulary, and incomplete sentences.
While students listen I will ask them to pay particular attention
to the paralinguistic features of spoken discourse: the voice
changes, intonation and body language. They will again comment
on these features in pairs before discussing them as a group.
next two stages of the lesson draw direct attention to the
structure and discourse features of the story telling. I will
hand out a worksheet with information taken from McCarthy
about the structure of stories and details about 'evaluation'.
The back of the worksheet draws attention to the different
strategies a person can use to show they are actively listening.
First of all I will ask students to read the information about
the structure of a story, check they understand it and then
invite them to highlight language in the video transcript
which could fit into each section. I will encourage them to
use highlighter pens so that it will be easy for them to see
the structures during feedback. I have also put letters at
the side of each intervention to facilitate locating structures.
The next stage focuses on 'evaluation' features and on the
use of tenses and vocabulary. I will encourage students to
work in the same way with a different coloured highlighter
pen, again to facilitate feedback. Finally I will ask students
to look at the listener's role to analyse how many different
strategies she uses to show she is actively listening. Students
can compare their results with the back of the worksheet.
I have decided to work on the transcript in depth, hoping
that "..if learners are conscious of the strategies they
could use and the pitfalls they should avoid, if they have
a wider repertoire of set expressions and conversational formulae
on hand , they could make faster progress towards becoming
relaxed, polished conversationalists" (Dörnyei /Thurrell
1992: introduction x Conversation and Dialogues in Action)
stage 7 students will predict the stress on key expressions
for telling stories (the expressions in bold may be new to
students). We will deal with each group of expressions in
turn, students in pairs will predict the stress and intonation,
I will highlight it on the OHP and we will drill it quickly.
After each block of expressions, I will encourage students
to spend a minute repeating the expressions they want to drill
to themselves. There are four blocks of expressions. I realise
that this is a lot of drilling but it is important that students
feel comfortable with the expressions if they are going to
use them later. I will try to keep the activity snappy and
the student 'mumbling' drill will break it up.
the next stage students will have five minutes to prepare
a personal anecdote. Students who attended class on Tuesday
should have prepared this as homework. It will mean a little
less preparation time for the students who were absent. Preparation
may help the students perform more confidently and successfully
in the final stage of the lesson.
will have an opportunity in the final stage of the lesson
to practise telling personal anecdotes and listening actively.
I imagine that the need to concentrate on new language and
expressions as well as trying to put into practise as many
strategies for active listening as possible will affect fluency
in this activity. I hope there will be time to change pairs
and repeat the activity for this reason, to give them a chance
to perform more successfully.
a homework task I will encourage students to practise telling
a different story and to tape it on cassette as oral homework.
We have done this activity with other speaking tasks and some
of the students have found it useful. I keep insisting with
those who have not yet handed it in.
· Some vocabulary may be new to students: to take some
time off, to be up, to turn up, raring to go, to nip up to
the toilet, to get worked up about something, grin
· Students will be familiar with narrative tenses but
not with the use of the present tense in oral anecdotes
· Students are familiar with ellipsis
Anticipated problems and solutions
· I have never handed students a transcript with details
of the overlap of conversation or turn-taking features. For
this reason, I would like to explain the layout and give students
a chance to skim through it before doing the second listening.
· Telling stories is a difficult task. Some students
may find it difficult to speak fluently while incorporating
new features and expressions into their oral discourse. I
will drill the stress, intonation and mention body language
when appropriate and then will give students time to prepare
what they are going to say before they perform the task.
There are 8 students in the class. We meet twice a week for
one hour 20 minutes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from
20.35 to 21.55. The age range is between 19 and 32. I have
been teaching the group since the beginning of October 2002.
Some students in the group have been studying at Chester for
several years, others have just started this year. Marcial
and Eva started classes in January. They are a lively class,
who enjoy English and love speaking. Most students work and
so find it difficult to do a lot of homework. I include a
list of the students and a brief comment about each one.
Elisa - Keen, confident. Good at reading and writing. Interested
in vocabulary, expressions and makes an effort to incorporate
them into work. She has made steady progress in the exam preparation
so far but recently has been very busy. She studies French
too and this sometimes interferes.
Mª Mar - Lacks confidence, gets nervous when speaking
in front of the group. Good at reading, ambitious when writing
but makes mistakes. Keen to do well. She has made steady progress
in the exam preparation so far. She works in a bank and has
been very busy in the two months.
Ana - A shy member of the group who speaks quietly. Good all
round student but a little lazy. She started work a month
ago and has missed a lot of classes since then. She loves
cinema and music.
Javier - Busy at work so doesn't have much time for homework.
He is an engineer and uses English occasionally on the phone
and to send emails. Makes careless mistakes when writing and
speaking. Needs to work on grammar. He likes to provoke students
and joke in discussions.
Carmen - Initially a quiet student in the group but now she
participates a lot. Speaks well, works better in pair/ group
work than in whole group work. Writing so far good. Not done
much homework because she is very busy at work and studies
French too. She has been applying for jobs recently and has
had interviews in English and French.
Marcial - He studies engineering. He is very good at grammar
and knows a lot of vocabulary. He is going to England next
year on an Erasmus scholarship and so needs English for this
reason. He hesitates a lot when he speaks but participates
well in class. He doesn't do much homework.
Estibaliz - She is the youngest in the group and quite shy
and quietly spoken. Her writing and knowledge of grammar are
very good but she sometimes has problems understanding me.
She lacks confidence in the listening and speaking. She has
a sister living in London and so is excited about going to
visit in the summer although she is terribly concerned she
won't understand anything. It will be great for her confidence.
She is lazy about handing in homework.
Eva - She is a journalist and needs English for interviewing
film directors and stars. She also watches a lot of cinema
in English. She changed into my group at the end of January.
She likes speaking and makes notes of vocabulary and expressions
that come up in class. She doesn't hand in much homework but
participates actively in class.
Elisa, Mª Mar, Ana and Estibaliz have all done the FCE
Javier, Carmen and Eva use English at work.
Mª Mar, Javier, Carmen and Eva have all been abroad to
English speaking countries.
the lesson procedure
the lesson materials
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