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Teaching Interaction Management Directly:
Helping Learners with Part 3 of the
CAE Speaking Exam
by Greg Gobel
- lesson plan 2 - lesson rationale

Lesson Rationale/Commentary

This lesson is designed to help my learners become more fluent conversationalists for Part 3 of the CAE, with washback to real-world conversation. Although active and enthusiastic speakers, these learners have some trouble with indicating that they want a turn and ceding the floor to others. I asked them if they had ever been taught turn-taking techniques in prior courses, at any level, and they all said that they had not. Therefore, even though they are advanced learners, I think it is reasonable and useful to raise their awareness of typical turn-taking mechanisms.

We are progressing through Advanced Gold’s Unit 13, which focuses on ‘business.’ This lesson’s theme is ‘work skills,’ a practical topic because the class is a mix of young professionals and students, who feel learning English will help them with current or future job opportunities.

Stages alternate between conversation tasks and language focus tasks to providing an achievable yet challenging mix of output and input opportunities.

Stage 1: Learners discuss personal work skills they have. This personalized task is relevant as it gives learners a chance to discuss skills useful outside the classroom. The task is game-like as learners can only say one to three utterances before letting their partner speak. This activity is designed to challenge the learners to NOT say everything they want in a given turn. The visual prompts are taken from the real exam practice used later in the lesson.

Stage 2: To focus on turn-taking mechanisms, primarily intonation, learners analyse a transcript (a text-based approach Basturkmen recommends (1) of two CAE learners practicing Part 3. I think it is important for learners to predict the mechanisms before listening so that they are more cognitively involved. We deviate from the work/business theme of the lesson here because Theresa and Javier demonstrate the mechanisms quite well doing a task that this class did earlier in the term.

Stage 3: Learners to try to activate some turn-taking mechanisms from stage 2. Their task here is to relate work skills from stage 1 to jobs they have had, have, or would like to have. It is personalised to keep them interested and motivated. Learners will monitor their peers’ turn-taking mechanisms to increase awareness.

Stage 4: Learners brainstorm expressions for interrupting. Reflecting this, some new expressions are introduced. Stress and tonal movement are analysed. I would prefer to lift the expressions from a natural recording, but so many interruption expressions do not seem to co-occur naturally. I have chosen to introduce these expressions after the turn-taking mechanisms of stage 2 because introducing them at the same time may be too much information at once and the learners may use these linguistic realizations at the expense of the more subtle mechanisms.

Stage 5: Learners practice Part 3 using a past CAE exam task. Although I do not expect learners to integrate all of the turn-taking mechanisms, I feel it is important to give them exam practice while these techniques are still fresh in their minds. (497 words)

1. Basturkmen, Helen. 2001: 10. ‘Descriptions of spoken language for higher level learners: the example of questioning.’ ELT Journal. Vol. 55/1, January 2001. Oxford University Press.

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