Sunday, July 02, 2017

Telling Your Stories

(TESOL Worksheets--Speaking, Writing)

Google Drive Folder HERE

A Party: Slideshow (slides, pub) Worksheet (docs, pub)
An Argument with a Friend: Slideshow (slides, pub) Worksheet (docs, pub)
An Embarrassing Moment: Slideshow (slides, pub) Worksheet (docs, pub)
An Exciting Event: Slideshow (slides, pub) Worksheet (docs, pub)
Bad Service: Slideshow (slides, pub) Worksheet (docs, pub)
Describe a Book: Slideshow (slides, pub) Worksheet (docs, pub)
Describe a Film: Slideshow (slides, pub) Worksheet (docs, pub)
Describe an Adventure: Slideshow (slides, pub) Worksheet (docs, pub)
Family Vacation: Slideshow (slides, pub) Worksheet (docs, pub)
Getting in Trouble: Slideshow (slides, pub) Worksheet (docs, pub)
Giving Yourself Advice: Slideshow (slides, pub) Worksheet (docs, pub)
I didn’t think I could do it, but I did it! Slideshow (slides, pub) Worksheet (docs, pub)
I lied. Slideshow (slides, pub), Worksheet (docs, pub)
I was so Surprised: Slideshow (slides, pub) Worksheet (docs, pub)
I was so Worried: Slideshow (slides, pub) Worksheet (docs, pub)
Lost Something: Slideshow (slides, pub) Worksheet (docs, pub)
My Proudest Moment: Slideshow (slides, pub) Worksheet (docs, pub)
Someone I Admired: Slideshow (slides, pub) Worksheet (docs, pub)
Something I Made: Slideshow (slides, pub) Worksheet (docs, pub)
Talked Me Into It (slides, pub) Worksheet (docs, pub)
Writing Mistakes: docs, pub
Homework Re-Writing 1: docs, pub
Homework Re-Writing 2: drive, docs, pub

Explanations and Justification
Admittedly there's nothing really novel in this activity.  (Short prompts to discuss personal stories are pretty common in ESL).  But for what it's worth, the reason I created these, and the rationale for using them, is described below.

I have a couple colleagues who are big into teaching language through stories--both the practice of listening to stories, and the practice of telling stories.  I've been thinking about how I could incorporate that in my own classes.

Initially I was thinking it would be fun to have students make up and tell their own fictional stories.  But after thinking about it for a while, I realized that making up a fictional story takes a lot of preparation time.  (I could do it as a take home writing assignment, but not as a speaking activity).

I then took inspiration from this TEFLology episode, which describes how important story telling is in our every day life.  (As is said in the episode, most of our daily conversation just consists of telling miniature stories.)
So I decided to pivot the idea to just telling mini personal stories.

The other inspiration was from the TEFL show.  I don't remember which particular episode right now, but one of the episodes I was listening to talked about how too often teachers just follow the syllabus in the textbook instead of responding to the mistakes that the students are making.
This activity allows me to respond to the mistakes the students are actually making.

Lastly, this activity takes inspiration from Scott Thornbury's book Uncovering Grammar.  (I'm behind in my book reviews, but I'll review that book soon.  Hopefully).  Scott Thornbury writes about the 4-3-2 technique:

Another task that facilitates grammaring is task repetition.  Simply getting the learners to repeat the task, with different partners, or in the next lesson, is a way of producing more grammatically complex language.  Having done the activity once--as a kind of rehearsal--learners now have more spare attention to devote to the form of their output.  Repetition serves to lower the pressure, increasing the likelihood of grammaring, For example, take the task we looked at earlier: Tell your partner how you spent your weekend.
One way of building repetition into this task is to have them tell as many people in the class as possible, with a view to finding out whose weekend was the most similar / most different to theirs.  Another is through the 4-3-2 technique.  This involves learners performing the same task but withing successively decreasing time limits.  For example, student A talks about a topic or tells a story in four minutes, while his or her partner listens and keeps an eye on the clock.  Student B then does the same.  Then Student A retells his or her piece, but this time in three minutes, and so on.  The repetition of the task encourages greater linguistic complexity, while decreasing time limit is aimed at promoting greater fluency (p.25&27)
I adapted this a little bit.  First of all, I use the 4-3-2 for the total time--i.e. instead of one partner talking for 4 minutes, and then the next partner talking for 4 minutes, both partners have to tell their stories within 4 minutes.  Then 3 minutes, then 2 minutes.
I did this for a couple reasons--one is that it cuts the time of the activity in half, and I wanted to save class time for other activities.  Secondly my pre-intermediate students find it difficult to maintain speaking for 4 minutes.

Anyway, the procedure goes like this.
I present the topic on the Slideshow.

Students are given some preparation time, which I encourage them to use to look up vocabulary words they need for their story.  (Unfortunately, only about half the students actually use their dictionary during this time.  But for the ones who do actually check vocabulary before speaking, I think that this activity works great for increasing their vocabulary knowledge.)

Then, they are paired with a partner, and have 4 minutes for each partner to tell their stories.
I monitor this closely.  I do hot correction where it is relatively unobtrusive (i.e. the mistake is simple and can be easily fixed).  And I do delayed correction for more complex mistakes.
Then they switch partners, and talk for 3 minutes.  I do hot correction followed by delayed correction.
Then 2 minutes.

Then, the students are given the same task to do as writing homework.

Writing homework is a great way to find out what areas of grammar the students are having trouble with, and respond to it.  But unfortunately, correcting writing homework can take a lot of time, and the goal as a teacher is to minimize the amount of time spent correcting.

So I follow the procedure I outlined in a previous post.

The first time, I simply underline the students mistakes, and they are responsible for finding the mistake and fixing it.  (This not only saves time for me, but I think it's better for them to find and fix their own mistakes)  I use this worksheet here (docspub).

Congratulations on being able to write your own story in English.
The next step is to fix all the grammar and vocabulary mistakes.
Unfortunately, if the teacher helps you with this too much, you won’t learn how to write English on your own.  Fixing your own mistakes will help you better remember the grammar for next time.
So, the teacher has underlined the mistakes for you, but not corrected them.  Your job is to try to fix these grammar mistakes on your own.
Don’t ask the teacher for help yet.
Don’t worry.  If you’re still having trouble with the grammar, the teacher will give you more detailed feedback on your next draft.  But first, try to fix everything by yourself.


I supplement this with some whole class discussion about the mistakes.  I take one sentence from each essay, and put it on a handout.  The students work in groups to find and correct the mistakes in each sentence, and then we go over it as a class. (docspub)

The teacher has taken one sentence from each of your homework papers.  Each sentence has some mistakes in it.  With your partner, find all the mistakes, and change them to correct English.
After the students have re-written their essay, I go over it a second time.  Any remaining errors I error code, but I still don't correct.  (drivedocspub)

Almost there.
You still have a few mistakes left in your story.
The teacher has used an error correction code to help you.  Use the error correction code on the back of this sheet to fix your mistakes, and re-write your essay one more time.
Don’t worry.  This is the last time you will have to re-write your essay.  After this, if you still have any mistakes, the teacher will talk to you in person.

Then, the student re-writes their essay again.
If there are any mistakes that still persist, at this point I correct them myself.  (Either in writing, or more usually by briefly talking to the students.)

More Notes
* I don't know if it's obvious from above, but after doing about 5 or so of these, I started to struggle to find good prompts.
I wanted to make this a regular classroom activity, but it's possible maybe that there are only a limited number of good prompts for this, and that this activity has a limit.
Or maybe I just wasn't thinking hard enough.
I started to notice how closely this activity resembled IELTS Speaking Part 2 (tell a short story about an experience you've had) so I began to self-plagiarize my IELTS Speaking Part 2 card collections.

* In the process of going over the writing mistakes in class, I've been getting a lot of grammar questions.  In fact, a lot of my "grammar questions I couldn't answer" from the past few months have come directly from this activity.  See here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

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