Just Speak (and Have Fun!)

Before the Individual Oral (IO) was introduced to the current Language and Literature course, students of the old course participated in an Individual Oral Commentary (IOC). Many readers will remember this. The IOC, like the IO, was a spoken assessment task and, for many students, quite daunting. During an IOC exam of yore, one of my students went silent. This happens, and not wanting to distract the student, I did not look up from the text I was scrutinising. However, as the silenced lengthened, I glanced up and was somewhat surprised to see that the student was no longer there. Not quite vanished, she had, unfortunately, fainted and, with remarkable noislessness, slipped to the carpet on the other side of the desk. All ended well. But, the occasion certainly confirmed how challenging oral assessment tasks are for many students. For some students, the challenge begins with just speaking; it fills them with dread. Perhaps this is to overstate the case. Nevertheless, for quite a few students, speaking in English in the classroom is something best avoided. Assessing speaking often only exacerbates this anxiety. This page contains a simple activity that is designed to diminish apprehension, and to encourage confidence and enjoyment in oral tasks. Introduce tasks like this early in your course. It's one thing to respect a student's desire to remain quiet in class, but if a fear of speaking is allowed to fossilize, it can be debilitating for students when they do have to speak.

Procedure

The procedure is very straightforward. Divide your class into two groups. Ask each group to sit in a line at opposite walls (creating space between groups). Cut up the starter 'stems' (see below). Randomly (or not, depending on your preference and knowledge of students), distribute an individual stem to each student. We have, for each of the three rounds of activity, created sixteen stems. If you have more than sixteen students, you will need to create more. Allow students sixty - ninety seconds to consider their stem. Then, in turn, students should stand up, make eye contact with their classmates in the opposite team, and speak for sixty seconds, using their stem as the starting point for what they say. You can alter the parameters if you prefer. For example, you can allow more preparation time, and/or ask students to speak for more than sixty seconds. Further caveats can be added; for example, no hesitating, or no use of the word 'like'. And so on. The activity works best when it is done (more) spontaneously, rather than being prepared or rehearsed. The point is to give students confidence in speaking. The first activity, Just for Fun (below), is intended to be enjoyable! Encourage students to be creative, and allow them to be a little silly. It is likely that even the most reticent of speakers will learn that they can speak in front of others, without feeling intimidated, and may even enjoy it. The first two activities can be done early in your course, and the last one, Reading Literary Works, later in your course to review a literary work studied. Don't forget to ask students to reflect on their experiences in their Learner Portfolio

Starter Stems

Just for Fun

Reading Experiences

Reading LIterary Works 

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