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Oral communication practice for students who read too much in presentations

Writer(s): 
Nathan Ducker

 
Quick guide

  • Key words: presentations, reading, eye contact, interlocutor feedback
  • Learner English level: False beginners, intermediate and up
  • Learner maturity: University
  • Preparation time: Students can use the contents of a previously carried out presentation to save time or 1 class of research time to develop a topic
  • Activity time: 45 minutes
  • Materials: 1 sheet of white A4 paper and pen / pencil

 
Introduction
Reading from a script in presentations negatively affects many aspects of communication effectiveness such as pronunciation, rhythm, eye-contact, and volume. This activity helps students to understand and practice appropriate communication in preparation for, or in review of, presentation assignments.
 
Note
The physical distance between rows A and B and the noise generated by all students talking concurrently require students to speak clearly, have good eye contact, and use gestures. However, you may need to warn other teachers that your class will be noisy.
 
Procedure
Step 1: Point out that the goal of a presentation is to communicate clearly and concisely with many people for the purpose of expressing your ideas. Distribute one sheet of paper to each student.  Students divide the paper into 6 equal sections by folding it.
Step 2: Students write one key point (a heading or cue) of their presentation in each of the sections of paper. (For example, <introduction>, <title of section 1>, < title of section 2>…)
Step 3: If required, students can add a further 3 helpful phrases to each section.  (For example, under <Conclusion> a student may add <Review S1, S2, S3>, <In the future>, <Thanks>)
Step 4: Divide the class into two groups (A and B) according to your usual method (I use Rock, Scissors, Paper.)
Step 5: Groups line up on opposite sides of the classroom, in two parallel lines, facing each other. 
Step 6: All students in line A attempt to talk concurrently for 5 minutes across the classroom to their partner in line B (A1 – B1, A2 – B2, and so on). While all A students talk, B students make notes about their partners’ information in one of the folded sections on the reverse of their piece of paper. Monitor carefully to ensure that students are speaking clearly and are not just shouting.
Step 7: After 5 minutes, students A and B meet and check the accuracy and quantity of the number of items that B has written. Students award themselves one point for each correct item.
Step 8: Repeat steps 6 and 7 with roles for A and B reversed.
Step 9: After reviewing scores, give some feedback. Students naturally assume that a low score is the responsibility of the speaker. Correct this assumption –focus on the dynamic and interactive aspects of communication which require both speaker and listener to actively contribute. If pairs get a low score, this is a problem for the listener and speaker to solve. This means that:

  • Listeners must give feedback, for example, I can’t hear you or One more time.
  • Speakers must be looking at listeners to check if they understand.
  • As the room is noisy, students need to speak clearly.
  • As the room is noisy, both speaker and listener need to use body language, facial expressions, and actions to communicate as well as a clear voice.
  • Difficult sentences will need to be re-phrased (ad-libbed) to communicate ideas simply.

Step 10: To continue this practice, the first two students from line A (A1 and A2) should move to the back end of line A so that A3 and A4 are now talking to B1 and B2. This practice can continue for as long as teacher feels appropriate.
 
Variations
This activity can also be used:

  • as a warm-up
  • to help shy students gain confidence
  • to improve poor dialogue / interpersonal skills

 
Conclusion
This is a low pressure and fun activity that increases students’ communicative confidence. The physical distance between rows A and B and the noise generated forces students to communicate reciprocally, using hands, facial expressions, and clear, simple English. This leads to improved performance in presentations as well as in other communicative situations.

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