Saturday, March 31, 2007

Giving speaking assignments

By Amanda N. Parmley - Fortune Institute of Technology, Taiwan

In my business English class, when we do the phoning unit, my students are assigned to call me and make an appointment with "Bob Jones." I pretend to be Mr. Jones' assistant. Then I call them right back, and they have to role-play being an assistant for "Susan Smith" who is out of the office.

While conversing with them on the phone, I fill out a chart giving them feedback on what I heard (so they can see if I heard is what they said), tips for what they can improve on, and things they did well. They also record in their "listening logs" (a written account of listening outside of class) what they heard (ie phone number I left with them, my message, and role-played name).

One teacher asked about getting calls at all hours of the day. What I do to prevent this is I tell them what time is ok to call. For example, I tell them I only answer the phone for my fake business on Wednesday and Thursday from 6-8 pm. They can use Skype, my cell number, or home number to reach me.

After this activity, for the remainder of the unit they have to make calls to each other and record them in their "listening logs."

At the end of course evaluations, hands down this is their favorite homework / assignment. And, they always ask if we can do it again.

I enjoy giving them the opportunity to practice their phone skills actually on the phone. But I only do it twice a semester since it is so time consuming.

For my pronunciation and public speaking courses, they submit recordings as mp3 files of different things throughout the semester to my email. I listen and then comment by Email on their recordings. I have tried using cassette tapes and "oral dialogue journals," but I found tapes to be way too time consuming and a logsitical problem in carrying them around.

I am always looking for ways to improve, so I would love to hear what others are doing this area.

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