The purpose of the activity
This activity gives learners opportunities to learn about their own strengths and needs in work, social or community interactions, and to use discussions and role plays to increase their skills.
It is particularly important to relate teaching and learning in this activity to the contexts that matter to learners, for example their work and/or course situations.
The teaching points
- Learners will identify the aspects of conversations they feel comfortable with and the aspects they would like to work on.
- Through a group discussion, learners will gain knowledge about ways to manage interactions.
- Learners will practise using their skills in role plays.
The guided teaching and learning sequence
1. If the learners have done the Listening and speaking attitude survey, review their results. If they have not done this, now would be a good time. See Appendix B.1 (PDF, 27kB) for the survey and B.2 (PDF, kB) for the scoring guide.
2. Work with the learners to identify a small number of areas on the survey in which most would like to develop their skills, for example, expressing an opinion, asking for more information or coping with disagreements.
3. For each area, encourage the learners to engage in a discussion to unpack exactly what it is they find difficult. Observe the discussion without participating yourself, then give feedback to the group on what you have heard and noticed. For example, you can do this by summarising their analysis of the problem and listing the main points they have made.
4. Point out the behaviours you observed that were helpful (such as turn-taking by noticing and using pauses in the discussion; using particular expressions to indicate a different opinion) and ask the learners who showed these behaviours to repeat them (explain that this is like reshooting a scene in a movie).
5. Repeat this with other areas that the learners have identified as difficult, taking time to let the discussion roll. Very often, learners will be able to identify solutions themselves. By asking people to ‘replay’ helpful conversational behaviours, you can reinforce the use of these strategies.
6. List some useful phrases for managing conversations on the board. Examples could include: But can’t we…, Yes but what about…, And don’t forget…, What do you think about…, So you mean…, Sorry, what did you say?
Review the skills that have been discussed. Learners can work in groups of three to role play a variety of scenarios. Two people take roles and the third person acts as an observer and can give feedback when the role play ends. Learners can switch roles and take turns at being the observer.
Learners can suggest their own topics based on experience where they felt (or think they might feel) uncomfortable and would like to perform better, or they can choose from the list below. You may want to put these onto cards for learners to choose from.
- Make an appointment over the phone (purpose, person, date, time to be agreed).
- Discuss a job or an assignment with friends to work out exactly what has to be done and what everyone thinks about it.
- Participate in a meeting to decide if alcohol will be allowed at an upcoming event.
- Try to persuade a friend to join you for a night out.
- Make/handle a complaint about service in a shop, restaurant, garage or other service place.
- Give/listen to instructions about how to use a machine or follow a procedure at work (context to be agreed).
- Handle sexist or racist comments at work (context and comments to be agreed; preferably based on own experience).
- Participate in a job interview (take role of interviewer, applicant or observer and then switch. Job title, context to be agreed).
This activity can be extended in many ways to ensure the specific needs of learners are covered. Needs can range from very basic (for example, with learners whose mother tongue is not English) to sophisticated (for example, as learners become involved in increasingly complex work situations).
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