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Thread: Why do native English teachers teach conversation with a book?

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    Why do native English teachers teach conversation with a book?

    I am always amazed to see native English teachers teach conversation with a book. At the end of my last conversation class my students commented that it was the best English class they have ever taken. I asked them what's so special about my class and they said it was the first class they were able to speak.
    I put them in a circle (for smaller classes) hand out some questions and give them some time to think before answering. Thatís it. I correct them and give them vocabulary when needed. What they need and signed up for is conversation and they need the opportunity to use it. So many teachers still put them is small groups and walk around to monitor or teach grammar and lecture all in the name of conversation. The feedback I always get from my students about their previous classes is the teacher did more speaking then the students. I know many schools and language schools force the teacher to follow a book but I think itís one factor why at the end of the day the students canít speak. I have never seen a conversation book but general English books that cover many skills are used to teach conversation.

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    Boss Shaggers Club Array 8ball's Avatar
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    U mus b the wery bestest teacher in the world

    maybe u cud start a class,,,, then,,, teach the rest of us

    how 2 b as good as u

    I-never-dun-a-ting-rong-in-me-life-m8

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    Regular User Array chuck_s's Avatar
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    Why do I use a converstation book.

    Quite simple. With my lesson at school teaching M.E.P. classes, and a combo of private clients, and corporate clients. It's aways good to keep book with you, just in case you get one of those moments were you "really" need the book and your brain decides to take a vacation.

    Simple as that.

    Most English teachers that I met can fly right into a classroom, on full thrusters and put on a suburb performance (short of winning an OSCAR), those who can hope you don't crash.
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    Senior Member Array Classic-Chassis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve the sock b5
    I put them in a circle (for smaller classes) hand out some questions and give them some time to think before answering. Thatís it. I correct them and give them vocabulary when needed.
    That's what most newbies who don't have a clue how to teach do mate.
    Don't worry after a bit of time you'll realise that you're not actually teaching anything and are just conning students out of their hard earned wongga.
    The activity as described above would be use as a production to the lesson that preceded it. If you'd have taught them something prior to doing the activity they would use the target language from your lesson in the activity and it would stick.
    Try doing what you described for a 10 hour course and see if they're still over the moon at the end of it.
    Those that want to read whatever they can want all freedoms, but have to understand they can have freedom, but it must be within the law.

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    Happy Bunny Array Ben2talk's Avatar
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    I find it better to take ideas from the book, practice them (in your circle if you like) orally with the students before they open the book.

    I stand at the whiteboard and help them along - sometimes writing their reply on the whiteboard so they can visually review and correct their speaking errors. Later on, we'll look in the book and discuss what's good and bad about it (e.g. 'What is your name?' often found in the book - you can elicit a few different ways to say that). Another time writing a question on the board so they can modify and correct their answers as they go...

    Books provide structured vocab and grammar courses that can take many years to research, practice and improve. I'm incredibly impressed that you are capable of pulling that out of your head... though I do agree that you should never treat the book as a reference, more as a guideline. It also gives the student an invaluable resource - they can refer to it and refresh their memory when they are not sitting in your circle.

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    Senior Member Array Classic-Chassis's Avatar
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    ^ books are written by groups of authors and accredited by universities. They have a scope and sequence for a reason.

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    Happy Bunny Array Ben2talk's Avatar
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    I am always amazed to see native English teachers teach conversation with a book.
    Definitely, but still leave a lot of scope for discussion. Simply trolling through a book, drilling and practising saying the sentences is enough - practice pronunciation, linking words together (speak english should be read as 'spee' and 'king' and 'lish' if you want them to say it right first time)...

    Done right, just a few sentences will keep them entertained for a good half hour, and if you drive it into them well enough it will provide a strong basic framework to construct conversations in future.

    C.C. : ^ books are written by groups of authors and accredited by universities. They have a scope and sequence for a reason.
    To some extent this is true, but these Universities aren't tailored for Thais or your students, so it's important to open discussion and invite criticism also. I love flashcards, so I might just photocopy a few pictures or use my standard 8 cards to elicit structures. Certainly the books are an undeniable starting point, from which it takes a great deal of good experience before you can deviate and give good value.
    Last edited by Ben2talk; 21st June 2011 at 14:47.

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    Senior Member Array Classic-Chassis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by B2T
    To some extent this is true, but these Universities aren't tailored for Thais or your students
    The book is the foundation of a course. As a teacher you should tailor the content to suit "Thai" learners, but the content of the book as in it's scope and sequence should be the core of a course.
    Obviously as a teacher you have a certain amount of license to skip things that aren't necessary, like ordering food in a restaurant of traveling on the New York subway for example, on the other had you also have the license to add material in order to brake the habitual mistakes made by Thai learners or tailor language that is specific to their needs, but a course should always go back to what's in a book and should be delivered in the order in which it is written.
    TBH i find most modern books very easy to use and full of opportunities for students to speak in class, most importantly using target language from a segment in a unit.If the opportunity is there to do something further with the target language, is should be done if you feel it's needed.

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    Happy Bunny Array Ben2talk's Avatar
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    CC: The book is the foundation of a course.
    Yes, I'm not arguing with you, I'm simply saying how you can use the book as a foundation for coursework, but also that you should allow students to attempt to criticise the book - find spelling mistakes (even Interchange has them) and alternative ways to make similar statements (e.g. for 'My name is Frank' you should get them to tell you they can answer 'Frank' or 'I'm Frank' and for the question 'Where are you from?' you should make sure they understand the right time and place to use questions like 'What is your nationality?' - which is very common for questionnaires and formal documents, but very rare in speech).

    I encourage students to be critical. When I re-sat a maths exam (for me it was GCSE) I had a 4 week refresher course before hand. The course had been running for 4 years with pretty much the same textbooks - and I personally (as a student) found 5 unique errors in the material, which was produced - as you say - by teams of very well qualified professors.

    A little free discussion is also very useful for students to allow them to express themselves and help expansion of language use. It's interesting to find out how many of your students know about western food, but can't tell you what 'somtum' or 'tom yum' is in English.

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    stāj wən pro∑gen∑i∑tor Array IsaanAlex's Avatar
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    Classic-Chassis wrote:
    The book is the foundation of a course. As a teacher you should tailor the content to suit "Thai" learners, but the content of the book as in it's scope and sequence should be the core of a course.
    Obviously as a teacher you have a certain amount of license to skip things that aren't necessary, like ordering food in a restaurant of traveling on the New York subway for example, on the other had you also have the license to add material in order to brake the habitual mistakes made by Thai learners or tailor language that is specific to their needs, but a course should always go back to what's in a book and should be delivered in the order in which it is written.
    TBH i find most modern books very easy to use and full of opportunities for students to speak in class, most importantly using target language from a segment in a unit.If the opportunity is there to do something further with the target language, is should be done if you feel it's needed.
    Good summary of what I was going to post.

    Most good "Conversation" books adequately hit the 4 skills, and provide a good background for a teacher to build on.

    The OP made a good point about teachers speaking too much in the class; I have to work on that one, myself.

    In general, however, I think that, no matter what exactly you do, if you keep the students engaged, motivated, and having fun, (while still being somewhat challenged), then you're probably doing a decent job as a teacher.

    Oh, and if you think books are overrated, trying teaching an (ongoing) class while being PROHIBITED using a book.

    Long story short, it happened to me in Korea.

    As predicted, the class was a total failure and I was sacked, as a result.



    IA
    Last edited by IsaanAlex; 21st June 2011 at 15:52. Reason: added a personal experience

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    freak of nature Array 3leggedkitty's Avatar
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    well this was a very worthwhile read, good debate and rather grown up too! cheers guys.


    but about teacher talk in class, i hit this wall still. it seems to me, that the whole point of paying for an nes is for the students to experience how a language is actually spoken. who in any language does not develop their speaking skills without processing mountains of the target language? most of what i learned of public speaking was through listening to other speakers.

    it would seem to me that the teacher has to, depending on the dynamism or lack of it in the room, to give them ample listening practice, esp. at the beginning of a course and esp. with small groups. sitting in silence waiting for some terrified, stubborn wallflower to make a statement is not exactly giving the customer their money's worth either.

    you're not going to force proper speech from someone who hasn't absorbed enough of the speech to be confident or correct with it. to me it's like yanking up your carrots every day to see if they've grown. do what you can with what you have, it will never be like they told you it would be. and pat answers like 'oh you have lost discipline in your class', or 'oh you are failing as a teacher' or some such might give the advisor a buzz, but nobody else gets a charge out of it.

    or say you have some loquacious students among a group of zombies dominating the talk. with children and teens, the quiet ones always wait for the yappy ones to do the speaking. and when they finally do come round to speaking, their speech is largely modeled on their poorly spoken but outgoing peer, because their nes teacher has been told over and over again to cut the teacher talk, from superiors who have not spent more than one hour with that particular group, and do not know the learning problems attendant to that group.

    most of us don't teach elite or high achieving students. and many good students may be extremely tongue-tied and may need a lot more time than a textbook scheduled course can allow for to begin speaking in earnest. and they probably need to hear a lot more speaking as well. teachers are best left alone to decide what can be done with a particular cohort, and should be judged at the end of a term on students' acheivement, and not have their teaching spirit coached out of them.

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    Happy Bunny Array Ben2talk's Avatar
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    In order to minimise teacher talk, you need to try to use other materials. With KG students I enjoyed 'Magic Time' which had enough songs to do one every lesson that covers ALL of the target language. Students never forgot it, so I never had to teach it.

    I simply sit students in a circle, put a flashcard on the floor and select a student and say 'teach'. If he teaches the target language as well as I could, he gets 3 points. If he manages unclearly (so that only I can hear) he gets one point. This way you set the standard, but the students do the teaching.

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    Established User Array Chris88's Avatar
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    Well, I was hired mostly for conversing with students. But some Teutonic zeal made me hand out chapters of an Enyd Blyton novel and the lyrics to Hotel California. That's the second round of complaints I received.

    When I started, I was assured there would be "no book". Then the Head of the Department came in and I was humiliated in front of the students. The result? There is My World 4. ** Today, in addition to being ticked off for pushing the students too hard in unrelated directions, the original line was reiterated.

    My aim has been to make them get a feeling for rock music, for English beyond "I am fine, thank you". I discussed money and love and received some amazing original stories from the 4/1 crowd. Those who have been complaining.

    By popular vote, I might be the first to leave. What's the point of hanging on when one is not wanted?!?

    The colleagues have been asked for private teaching gigs etc. Clearly, among the Thai teachers, there is a pecking order and yours truly is the blind chicken no one wants.

    At this moment, I'm dreaming of swapping schools with Fleabag.

    Chris

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    Happy Bunny Array Ben2talk's Avatar
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    Any chance to observe the others?
    IMO it's the best way to learn in your situation. FAR better than talking to them.

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    dis member Array zeusbheld's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Classic-Chassis
    ^ books are written by groups of authors and accredited by universities. They have a scope and sequence for a reason.
    while this is true, and the majority of books i've fall somewhere in the 'somewhat worthwhile' to 'highly worthwhile' range, to take your statement as an absolute would be a mere appeal to authority (not saying you intended it that way btw).

    i don't think there's anything wrong with going 'off the reservation,' if you have a plan, and are capable of gauging the students' progress on the fly as well as through traditional means. someone who can't do those things, or can't at least work on developing the ability to tell if a student 'gets it,' might consider something other than teaching.

    one other thing in the plus column for books: parents like tangible signs of progress. quite often (at least in a bilingual program) English isn't spoken much at home, and the kids are already more advanced than the parents. traditional stuff like grades and completed workbooks are reassuring to parents. chances are you'll still have time to do the book and go 'off the reservation.'

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