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University Oral English - "Useful" Homework
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cormac



Joined: 04 Nov 2008
Posts: 629
Location: Xi'an (XTU)

PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2012 12:00 pm    Post subject: University Oral English - "Useful" Homework Reply with quote

Its another year, and I've been looking at many different areas to improve my teaching, however I keep coming up at a blank wall as regards homework. During the whole of last year I didn't give any homework, which while it made me very popular it didn't help their english. That last year has shown me that very few students will take it upon themselves to practice english outside of class (unless a foreigner is on hand). Alas for most of my English majors I only see them once a week, and its not enough to effectively improve their standards.

I've seen plenty of suggestions regarding getting the students to do presentations, reports etc but TBH I don't think they're really useful in improving their actual speaking. Generally speaking the students resort to extremely formal english and worse yet, grab loads of new words which they have no idea of pronounciating. Quick route to a headache for me.

In any case, could those of you in Uni positions tell me the sort of homework you give out?
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Miles Smiles



Joined: 07 Jun 2010
Posts: 1294
Location: Heebee Jeebee

PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For oral English, I devise several situations in which the students are required to accomplish tasks such as ordering a meal in English to planning a party with 1-2 friends, introducing a boyfriend/girlfriend to parents, etc. The complexity of the situation depends upon their skill level. They are required to prectice among themselves between classes. I allow scripts in the beginning, but I have found that as the students gain self-confidence, their reliance upon scripts diminishes.

Students are required to create a three minute conversation.

They are graded upon creativity, volume, and grammar, and they get extra points for humor and ad libbing. Other areas checked are use of vocabulary, sufficiency of dialogue, and overall improvement. Each student is handed a slip of paper with each criterion listed upon it. Each student in the group puts his name on the slip and hands it to me as they come to the front of the room. As they speak, I will either check the criterion area or place a plus sign or a negative sign in that area. Sometimes they're graded, sometimes they're not.

While the group is performing the roles, the rest of the class writes anonymous comments on small pieces of paper that i distribute among the class members at the beginning of class. At the end of each performance, the class' comments are picked up and given to the students. Usually, the class' comments are as interesting to the performers as are my comments.

I allow students to trade situations among themselves so that they can choose topics that interest them.

Don't be afraid to create funny situations. The better speakers will relish the chance to act a little crazy and to show their creativity.
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igorG



Joined: 10 Aug 2010
Posts: 1473
Location: asia

PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2012 5:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The above role-play suggestion may be upgraded to debates on varieties of controversial topics such as Global Warming, Non-Smoking Bylaws, Discrimination etc. Break the class into groups that choose a topic and that prepare for the topic. Preparations/homework may include research and/or planning an approach to the discussion on the given topic.

Grading can be fun, if you have a camera and an opportunity to show the students their overall performance.
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cormac



Joined: 04 Nov 2008
Posts: 629
Location: Xi'an (XTU)

PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2012 8:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Miles, thats great stuff. Thanks. Exactly they kind of material I was looking for.

IgorG, I use debates quite a bit, but find they're still rather limited. And I prefer to get them to prepare for a short time in class for those.
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uh huh



Joined: 14 Oct 2011
Posts: 91
Location: San Pedro la Laguna Guatemala

PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2012 9:35 pm    Post subject: University Reply with quote

Miles Smiles, your ideas are great! I also have students evaluate their classmates' oral presentations, but I never allow writing during them because I think it's disrespectful. I either provide a rubric and allow about five minutes to complete it or ask for comments, always starting with what worked followed by what could be better rather than what was wrong.

Another activity I stumbled upon was a "press conference," which I first did with my classes when the Chilean miners were rescued. We had three groups: journalists, miners, and family members. In another class, the students read an article stating that younger workers were better than older ones. The journisits questioned the two groups (in favor of younger workers and in favor of older) about their positions. I have found these press conferences to be more engaging, realistic, and fluid than debates.
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Non Sequitur



Joined: 23 May 2010
Posts: 2537
Location: China

PostPosted: Fri Jan 27, 2012 12:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I use dialogues as an end of semester assessment and have at least one other mid-semester to break the monotony of that damn book.
Students choose the others they will be working with - mostly pairs but occasional threesomes.
Apart from any discussion as they pair up in class all prep is in their own time.
I usually give three scenarios to choose from. One that boys warm to and another for the girls plus one neutral*.
The first one I allow notes but the subsequent ones must be without.
I am constantly blown away by the inventiveness of these students. Even the boys at the back make an effort. It may be peer pressure that gets them motivated or the topic say 'Let's play basketball after class'.
Whatever - it works!
*My last question set was:
'Help me buy a new winter coat'.
'Let's play basketball after class'.
'Let's plan our trip to Sanya'.
The one for finals I hear with just the presenting students and let the top teams repeat to the class if we have a spare period at the end.
The earlier ones are performed to the class.
I have been singularly unsuccessful in getting any other type of homework out of them.
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roadwalker



Joined: 24 Aug 2005
Posts: 1511
Location: Ch

PostPosted: Fri Jan 27, 2012 4:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great ideas, folks, and timely, as the next term is getting ready to begin. I think I'll try to work in some of the above, depending on which classes I end up with. Even with the grammatically-correct textbooks, building textbook-centered classes is difficult and often pointless. They can, however, be good jumping off points for the topic in general and for vocabulary.

As to getting the students to speak a foreign language after class, I think it is a noble, but generally futile endeavor. I was a foreign language student in the States and never spoke anything but English except in school-related tasks. That's one reason I almost never speak Chinese in front of my students, even downtown. (The other reason is "my Chinese is so poor.") Engaging them after class, and asking about volunteer opportunities to guide foreigners are small ways to get them to speak or put themselves in situations where they must speak. Also discussing the jobs of Chinese people you know who deal with foreigners on a daily basis might nudge them into practicing more. I do draw the line, usually, at eating at the canteen with them. My stomach can't take it! But that is another opportunity that some of them would relish.
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cormac



Joined: 04 Nov 2008
Posts: 629
Location: Xi'an (XTU)

PostPosted: Fri Jan 27, 2012 9:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

roadwalker wrote:
As to getting the students to speak a foreign language after class, I think it is a noble, but generally futile endeavor. I was a foreign language student in the States and never spoke anything but English except in school-related tasks. That's one reason I almost never speak Chinese in front of my students, even downtown. (The other reason is "my Chinese is so poor.") Engaging them after class, and asking about volunteer opportunities to guide foreigners are small ways to get them to speak or put themselves in situations where they must speak. Also discussing the jobs of Chinese people you know who deal with foreigners on a daily basis might nudge them into practicing more. I do draw the line, usually, at eating at the canteen with them. My stomach can't take it! But that is another opportunity that some of them would relish.


I would spend more time with them but I live in the "old" campus and all my students live/have classes in the "new" campus. My university isn't exactly wealthy, so they limit buses between the schools, and went for cheaper land so the two schools are over an hour away from each other by bus (longer at rush hour).

Also since my university is primarily technology focused and English is just for kicks (and funding), I'm the only english speaking foreigner there. So the students don't have any real opportunity to practice outside of the classes themselves. A postgraduate who lived in the UK returned and started an english corner but TBH his accent is horrible.. I mean, I'm Irish, and have serious problems understanding what he says. Ugh.

The problem is that with only 1.5 hours of actual oral english with me a week its not enough to get them to fluency, nevermind accuracy. Oh I can help them with their mistakes, encourage them, suggest movies etc. but ultimately if they want to improve their speaking/listening, they need something more than the classes themselves.

I've attended university at two very different periods in my life, and both times I needed to be assigned homework/projects/assignments to keep me focused. I'd still study but external influence was needed. Alas my majors are business & communications related so i'm a but stuck about motivating them towards useful & practical exercise after class.

The suggestions above are great, and I will definitely apply them. I hope if anyone has other suggestions they either post them here or pm me. I think we all care about our students and frankly they do need more help than we can provide in such a limited capacity.
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sainthood



Joined: 15 Nov 2010
Posts: 175
Location: Somewhere over the rainbow

PostPosted: Sun Feb 26, 2012 3:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Every student has QQ... and QQ has Qchat which is an audio chatroom. There are quite a few English only chatrooms there.

I'm contemplating how to do: the students record a game (basketball, football, whatever), bring it in to class, and do the commentary for it as it plays. I really suppose it doesn't matter what the program is - it can be a TV soap or part of a movie or something. Similar to the above AWESOME suggestion for roleplays, but with an added element, so they don't need to be awesome actors :p
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dean_a_jones



Joined: 03 Jul 2009
Posts: 1140
Location: Wuhan, China

PostPosted: Sun Feb 26, 2012 6:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have done dubbing contests with our students. They form teams, pick a scene from a movie or whatever (3 or 4 minutes) and act out the dialogue. They get extra points for not using subtitles or scripts. It is usually quite fun.

These are extracurricular activities, and the teams perform in front of the other students and foreign and Chinese teachers act as judges (hence my participation). They need to practice a bit for it to work properly, but I suppose it could be something you have them do as homework and perform in class as a small contest.
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kev7161



Joined: 06 Feb 2004
Posts: 5794
Location: Suzhou, China

PostPosted: Sun Feb 26, 2012 7:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

For homework, you could have them journal as to when they use spoken English outside of the classroom. Perhaps some work part time jobs where they sometimes have to speak English to foreign customers. Maybe they are training in a job which requires spoken English. Maybe they talk with another FT about something. Perhaps they practice English with a friend. Maybe they sing English songs at KTV.

Granted, some may fudge on their "actual" English use, but it may get them thinking about how little or how much they use English in the real world.
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Miles Smiles



Joined: 07 Jun 2010
Posts: 1294
Location: Heebee Jeebee

PostPosted: Sun Feb 26, 2012 12:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I allow the students to prepare a script to use during their demo. I have found that students remember things better if there is a writing component in the speaking process. It seems to help cement the language to their minds, and it often helps to relieve their anxiety during the demo. They feel as though they have some sort of safety net. In time, many (if not most) students bring the script with them during their demo, but don't refer to it because they become engrossed in the activity.
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Miles Smiles



Joined: 07 Jun 2010
Posts: 1294
Location: Heebee Jeebee

PostPosted: Sun Feb 26, 2012 12:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kev7161 wrote:
For homework, you could have them journal as to when they use spoken English outside of the classroom. Perhaps some work part time jobs where they sometimes have to speak English to foreign customers. Maybe they are training in a job which requires spoken English. Maybe they talk with another FT about something. Perhaps they practice English with a friend. Maybe they sing English songs at KTV.

Granted, some may fudge on their "actual" English use, but it may get them thinking about how little or how much they use English in the real world.


I am a proponent of journaling for teaching writing in the U.S. classroom (though many teachers have turned away from this practice for one reason or another). I've tried to use this method with usually English majors, but it has not worked for me because their classwork and weekly homework assignment keeps the students pretty busy.

I guess that part of my teaching method is journaling because I require writing students to keep everything that they write in a binder which I pick up at the end of the term to measure their progress.

I have tried to get the students to keep journals, but unless I pick them up after every class, the students don't do the work. When I did pick up journals, I found that carting around 30-40 binders and notebooks too physically demanding and unwieldy.

I also give the students the opportunity to rewrite any assignment that they feel needs improvement as long as it is a revision of the original assignment.
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randyj



Joined: 19 Jan 2003
Posts: 460
Location: Nanjing, Jiangsu, China

PostPosted: Sun Feb 26, 2012 1:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Miles Smiles wrote:
I am a proponent of journaling for teaching writing in the U.S. classroom (though many teachers have turned away from this practice for one reason or another). I've tried to use this method with usually English majors, but it has not worked for me because their classwork and weekly homework assignment keeps the students pretty busy.

I guess that part of my teaching method is journaling because I require writing students to keep everything that they write in a binder which I pick up at the end of the term to measure their progress.

I have tried to get the students to keep journals, but unless I pick them up after every class, the students don't do the work. When I did pick up journals, I found that carting around 30-40 binders and notebooks too physically demanding and unwieldy.

I also give the students the opportunity to rewrite any assignment that they feel needs improvement as long as it is a revision of the original assignment.
For the last year, I have also endured the burden of carting around so many notebooks and binders. So this semester, I am trying a QQ group set up especially for the students. I am not sure how it's going to work out, but at least I may avoid a hernia.
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rogerwilco



Joined: 10 Jun 2010
Posts: 1183

PostPosted: Sun Feb 26, 2012 1:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just ask a student or students to carry the stacks of binders or notebooks. That is what the Chinese teachers do.

Almost every desk I have seen of the Chinese teachers are covered in binders, and the Chinese teachers almost always have the students carry the binders to and from class.
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