Late last year, I presented on this blog a simple coursebook (or handout-style) unit targeting speaking skills. At the time, I was featuring it here as a post-unplugged "coursebook" unit (as in, a handout to follow up from an unplugged teaching session), and then a little later as part of a discussion about a concept I call un)-plug-(un (having an unplugged lesson, following up and reinforcing and/or extending it through a coursebookish unit, and then unplugging that unit again).
In any case, a few teachers have contacted me since those posts to basically say they liked the approach and the material. I promised those teachers a follow up in template form with some guidelines on how to adapt it for their own use. So here it is (and sorry about the slight delay)!
Here's the template in Microsoft Word format (pictured at the top of this post -- it prints very well as a greyscale/black and white document as well):
Basically, the template uses textbox overlays, so you can click on any of the areas in the document to move them around, re-size them, change the text in them, etc. They key is to not insert or embed any text or images into the basic document interface itself (as it will shove everything down and cause you all sorts of formatting headaches) -- stick to using/adapting the existing textboxes or insert more of your own (as well as images, if you like) and ensure you use the "format" menu for objects to "bring to front", essentially so that they can float and move around the document without pushing on anything else already there. If you have any problems working out how to do this, give me a hoy in the comments section below.
Now, I have to stress here that this is not supposed to be the definitive outline on how to address speaking skills on paper. It's just one method, of many that you should be trying out. But for what this one is worth, here's how the different stages of the "unit" basically work (and I'm including ideas for how you might like to adapt them).
In A, we start with a conversation script of some sort. In the posts I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I emphasize building this sort of script around a conversation or topical situation that has emerged as a result of unplugged language teaching (in a previous lesson at some stage). This is great because it allows you to take something that has already emerged in class and build on it, stretching the learners' awareness in terms of language and delivery. Of course, you might like to fully script out a completely new conversation in advance, or even yank one from a (main) coursebook being used, but bear in mind it won't be quite the same as using something that the learners have already invested in themselves (not just in terms of language, but also interest), and the best way to create natural-sounding conversations is to draw on actual conversations (rather than purely hypothetical -- and often highly "sanitized" and contrived -- ones). However, whatever conversational script you come up with, it needs to represent new vocabulary and skills for the learners to notice and work with.
In the sample in the template, I've gone to some lengths to produce a conversation based on how it sounds, rather than with full (written text style) forms. Of course, you don't need to do this for your conversation scripts -- whatever works for you!
You could go ahead and record this script in some way prior to the lesson (perhaps with another member of staff), but the way I would generally apply A is to first deliver the conversation with the teacher and one of the students (or mutliple students, if the script features more than one student), then again just with (different) students, with the teacher assisting and encouraging with accurate delivery.
It's also a very good idea (I've often found) to deliver the conversation (teacher and students or just students) before distributing the handouts! That is, only the people delivering/performing the dialogue have the script, and once it has been performed, then hand out the papers.
The space to the right of the script box can be used in a variety of ways. You can insert a relevant picture, have the learners draw or insert pictures of their own, or just use it as a note-taking space (always useful, I've found).
In B, the focus in my template is on comprehension and vocabulary -- in this case based around the idea of the reduced forms in the original script. You could use this in a variety of other ways of course. For example, you could focus on simple synonyms (or even antonyms) for new or advanced terms you've featured in the text. You might even allow the learners to underline what they find to be difficult words in the script, write them here in the blue box, then attempt to translate into their L1 (because, you know, apparently "translation" isn't necessarily an evil word anymore...). You could also use it to identify stressed or emphasized words, rising and falling intonation, etc.
C calls on students to (1) practice the initial conversation, as it is scripted in A, then (2) think of their own activities (this could be something else like experiences, opinions, etc.) in relation to the situation presented in A, and finally (3) try having the conversation again, adjusting it where and how necessary to incorporate their own content (hopefully identified in 2).
The C stage has always been an important priority for me with speaking scripts, to get them into students' mouths, have them interacting with classmates, then (very early on) working on ways to personalise conversation scripts to make them much more about themselves.
You might like to approach this differently in some way, or replace the whole thing with something else!
D is dedicated to explaining and demonstrating any of a number of relevant speaking skills. I use the term "skill" very broadly here, as it can involve discreet skills or even strategies and simple pointers. This can include why and how certain things are said the way they are, with strategies for understanding, responding and effectively delivering. It could, for example, include things like non-verbal communication strategies. You might not need/want as many as I have put in the template (this was used for a high intermediate level) -- it could be more appropriate for you to feature a smaller number of skills and present more examples for emphasis or variation.
The basic idea, though, is to showcase speaking as a series of skills in simple, noticing-facilitative, reviewable terms, perhaps with rationales when and where this seems relevant.
Of course, you might like to use this space completely differently. Go for it! Experiment!
The point of E, as I've applied it here in the template, is to go back to a central, high-frequency prompt that learners are likely to hear in an English-speaking context, (re)discover ways to give short answers, and (if they are inclined) how to follow that up with more information, featuring a range of (what I hope will be) useful language 'chunks'. I might not put all the chunks in for the learners, leaving half or more of them blank so they can contribute ideas of their own (which we work through as a class and improve if necessary).
Other teachers might like to do something differently here, like put in some grammar rules and patterns, or even feature a sort of drill-like activity (something I outline in depth here).
F explicitly targets pronunciation, drawing on words and phrases initially presented at the start of the unit in the script for A. In the case of this template, I've presented pronunciation practice at three sort of "levels" or tiers: sound-level, word-level (syllable stress), and sentence level (sentence stress, rhythm). I've presented some notes on this general format/approach elsewhere on the blog, including a screencast relevant to teaching unplugged with beginners here, activities oriented around these sorts of pronunciation charts here, and also how to apply this as an (initially) fully blank chart for unplugged language teaching here.
For the sounds, I've found that the original script represented an opportunity to showcase sounds oriented around "o". In other lessons, I might feature consonants, certain consonant clusters, or a combination of vowels and consonants. It doesn't need to always have one focus, of course, but I've found that it's always pretty beneficial to work with sounds and spelling variations, systematically if possible.
At the words level, I want to showcase words with one or two syllables (you can of course go for more syllables than that, if your script features such words). For one-syllable words, I want to target at least some words that only have one syllable when spoken, but based on the spelling may appear to have two (or more) syllables (e.g. cleaned, house), or result in two syllables based on some L1 issues (e.g. beach -- pronounced by learners from some countries "beachi"). For two (or more) syllables, I want to demonstrate the syllable stress for the learners.
At the sentence level, I want to draw on phrases or short chunks from the initial script for some emphasis on rhythm and sentence stress, perhaps also including some attention to things like emphasis or intonation.
There are a lot of creative and active ways to apply a chart of this nature, and I've already referenced a previous post that outlines some of the options in detail (here it is again, if you're interested!).
Some teachers ask me why I feature explicit, targeted pronunciation activity so late in the lesson. Generally I find it more useful to give the learners a chance to wrap their mouths around the words through the other activities first, doing some "soft" correction as a teacher, then really working hard on specific pronunciation towards the end of the lesson. Some pronunciation issues fix themselves up in due course at the earlier stages of the lesson (basically due to modelling), while other ones emerge and can't realistically always be pre-empted and catered to on paper before the lesson starts.
Teachers don't have to do it the way I prefer to do it, and I don't see a lot of harm (in most cases) with addressing pronunciation earlier in lessons. You could go to this section earlier in your lesson sequence, or even do without it completely (as some teachers prefer not to do a lot of targeted, systematic work with pronunciation). Whatever works for you!
So, that brings me to the end of what I've featured in the template. There are, of course, 1001 ways you might like to follow on from here (including the whole idea of just letting it go unplugged/unfettered again), and here are just *some* ideas:
1. Have the students get into pairs/small groups and record themselves having a conversation about the same (or a similar) topic/situation, without using scripts! Based on the recording, they can make a script in writing, work together to edit and improve it, then re-apply some of the activity formats presented in the handout (except now in application to their own conversations).
2. Follow up with a relevant writing task of some sort (in the case of the topic in the template, transferring it to email format would be great), as I find that writing -- in addition to being a different format requiring full(er) use of language forms -- tends to facilitate more in the way of remembering for a lot of students.
3. Have the students help you come up with a list of simple prompts relevant to the topic/situation, from which they choose and ask to several other classmates as part of a "finding out" activity (see my "favourite go-to lesson" for ideas on how to extend this in all sorts of ways as well!).
4. Go task-based and have the learners design a series of weekend activities for families (or teens) in their local area, which they then "advertise" in writing (posters) or even through a recorded broadcast of some sort. Those tasks fit (at least to some degree) the topic I've featured in the template, but for your own you'll need to think of relevant follow up (and hopefully active/creative) tasks!
That's about it, I guess. For now...
Hope something in all this gives you some ideas, anyway!