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Stopping the parrot training!

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Joined: 14 Oct 2007
Posts: 24

PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2011 8:17 am    Post subject: Stopping the parrot training! Reply with quote

I am teaching english to uni sophomores in China and would like some help in addressing
a teaching method that I find not only ineffective but also counterproductive. That is
the habit that many foreign teachers have of giving what I call presentation exercises for
the students to do. These exercises include presenting their own lesson to the class, making a tv advertisement, sharing a report on a foreign country, etc. Before I go any
further, I should say that I think there can be value in these activities. However, in my uni, as in all uni's in China, the curriculum for English majors all include a one year course in presentation in the English language. Their intensive/extensive reading classes, writing classes and listening classes all call for the students to "parrot back" or "recite" as my students put it, to the teacher. The curriculum is full of these parrot back exercises. It seems that the purpose of the oral English class should be to teach dialogue, i.e. listen to conversation, understand it, prepare an answer (thinking on your feet) and then speak your answer. This is how i define oral English.

I have 2 questions that I would like your help with.

1. Can you help me find appropriate search words to help me research this topic? I have googled on common phrases, i.e. TEFL, oral english, etc and get such a huge response that the search was a waste of time.

2. If you have "two cents" that you would like to contribute I would appreciate your own ideas, URLs, books that have been helpful, lesson plans that have worked etc.

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Sally Olsen

Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 1322
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2011 2:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you use Google Scholar and type in those titles - I typed in ESL presentations and got a lot of hits that looked helpful. I remember a great paper on giving presentations (I think it was from Simon Frazer University in BC) and it broke down the steps that students needed to master to give a presentation. There were a lot of steps that we don't usually prepare students for and I found it helped to go through these with the students and made their presentations better.

I also used groups so the students could start out small and work up to larger groups. You don't say the size of your classes but usually in China and elsewhere it is large in a university and would take the whole semester to get through the presentations if done one at a time. They can get a lot of practice in smaller groups and more feedback over the same length of time.

This looks like a good page:

Parroting does have its place at the beginning, just to get a feel for the words, the rhythm of the language, intonation and so on but I agree with your goals. It just takes a lot more thought to break down these goals into steps to help the students get from parroting to thinking on their feet. That is a very sophisticated talent in any language.
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Joined: 24 Jan 2011
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 12:10 pm    Post subject: Parroting Reply with quote

It seems to me that you are really looking for materials on the communicative approach. Sure, upon first learning a new structure in English, the communicative approach advises giving heavily "scaffolded" activities - gap fill, listen and repeat, etc. but the idea is that with each new activity, part of the scaffolding is removed and students are expected increasingly to produce their own language using the structure.
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