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Techniques for classroom English immersion

Writer(s): 
Carolyn E. Fish & Daniel E. Devolin, Toyohashi, Aichi Elementary School ALT/Queen's Language School

 

Quick Guide

  • Key words: group work, student participation, question creation, task-based learning
  • Learner English level: Intermediate and up
  • Learner maturity level: High school and up
  • Preparation time: 30 minutes at the start of each lesson to collect appropriate samples
  • Materials: TV set

English is a global language and demands a basic knowledge of global issues. The cultural references used in conversation reflect an awareness of current trends and issues and help people better relate to each other, particularly people of different cultures. EFL teachers therefore need to create an immersed English experience, because not only does this prepare students to use English in real life situations, but it is also a valuable motivating tool in the language learning process. The following ideas are techniques in which English immersion in the classroom can be achieved.

Idea 1: Issue a questionnaire at the start of each term. Who are some top English-speaking music artists today? What are three popular English movies released this year? What are the English-speaking G8 nations? Name eight English-speaking countries. At the end of the term, issue a similar questionnaire that would measure changes in cultural awareness.

Idea 2: Issue tasks on a regular basis to keep students continually interacting with English culture. On a weekly basis, students could review news stories to be discussed in class. On a monthly basis, students could write reviews of recently released movies, CDs or books, or comment on new bands or new actors. In class, introduce an excerpt from a movie, play or song. Students could attach emotions to the song or sceneor imagine the next line, scene, or lyric.   

Idea 3: Students listen to an excerpt from a conversation. In groups, they summarise the overall meaning and guess the possible situation. To maximize exposure, the excerpts could be different materials from different countries, varying in context, such as television dramas, games shows, discussions on current affairs, radio show banter, or sports commentaries.

Idea 4: Assign students a hypothetical situation where they must create a conversation, taking care to use the correct vernacular and pronunciation that would typify the language of that situation. Situations could be set in a variety of environments, such as a French student meeting his American homestay family at the airport, an American couple out on a first date, or an Australian businessman booking an English hotel.

Idea 5: The class listens to a taped conversation. Then in groups, students must discuss a preset list of questions. For example, what is the mood? What do you feel? What is your reaction word/gesture? Each group is then required to recreate the situation using the opposite emotion.

Idea 6: As an assigned end-of-term task, students listen to a CD of differently accented conversations, such as radio excerpts, TV clips, or play dialogue. Then students record and compile their own CD, using differently accented examples of similar situations, such as greetings, goodbyes, expressions of shock, or expressions of happiness.

Idea 7: Do the mirror expression relay. Split the students into two teams and, with each team using a mirror, whisper a feeling to the first student of each team (such as bored). The first student then has to express that feeling into a mirror for the second student to see. Once the second student understands, they must do the same expression, all the way down the line, until the last student can express it and shout out the appropriate emotion.

Idea 8: Assign participation in a theatrical performance, or film an advertisement with a video camera. Utilising the theatrical element would be a great way to focus students on emphasising reactions clearly enough to be communicated on stage or camera.

Conclusion

In the classroom, it is the teacher’s responsibility to give the students an immersed experience in English. When teaching English conversation, the focus is on the students being able to relate culturally, actively listen, and give appropriate reactions. The ideas presented in this article provide students with a thorough, relevant, and practical learning experience. Feel free to use and adapt them as you see fit.

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