Предлагаемое вашему вниманию описание подготовки и проведения дискуссии в 11
классе - попытка ответить на наболевший для большинства учителей английского
языка вопрос: Почему они не говорят?
На мой взгляд, чтобы говорить, нужно знать, как сказать, и иметь, что сказать.
Конечно, 11 класс - это уже итоговый этап в отношении обучения тому "как
сказать". А вот развивать содержательную сторону говорения никогда не поздно.
Учить языку означает учить мыслить, то есть тому, чего значительная часть
школьников не умеют, не любят, не хотят. Львиная доля наших,
учителей-иностранцев, проблем лежит за пределами собственно методики
преподавания английского. Это проблема общего развития детей. Я глубоко
убеждена, что имеющий что сказать захочет и сможет найти для этого средства
выражения. Для меня тем и привлекательна дискуссия, что она заставляет детей
думать, анализировать, спорить. Если они этого не умеют - что ж, нужно учить.
Единственное необходимое условие - тема должна быть очень личностно-значимой и
неоднозначной. В принципе, почти любую тему можно так интерпретировать. В
конечном итоге не так важно, какой получится сама дискуссия - важнее процесс
Topic: Dreams vs. Reality.
Target Outcome: Discussion
Discussion is probably the most challenging target in
teaching dialogical speech. The teacher can aim at discussion if the class
meets the following requirements:
a) the students are accustomed to autonomous group work;
b) at least part of the students are slightly above the
average level in their general outlook as well as command of English;
c) the students have been systematically exposed to
functional English in general and etiquette clichés in particular.
Even so, the teacher is to take a great deal of effort and
time when preparing for a discussion. It might be of great help to students to
have some verbal aids to peep into. These aids could contain:
- functional language of agreeing/disagreeing;
paraphrasing; contradicting; asking for an opinion; asking a specifying
question; expressing certainty/uncertainty; expressing doubt, surprise,
disbelief etc.; drawing conclusions; generalising; changing the subject;
compromising etc. Even if functional language has been properly trained it
might escape the students’ memory at a most unwelcome moment. Worksheets with
useful expressions should be somewhere at hand;
- ideas to discuss. These will surely emerge in the course
of discussion in profusion, yet even the brightest kids need a bit of warming
up, something to start with;
- a logical scheme of the discussion. It proves necessary
if you don’t want your discussion to turn chaotic. Anyhow, it’s a frame and
might meet some opposition with certain students – the ones which are
excessively independent. Usually such students are not numerous and can be
allowed to work on their own. As for the rest, a logical scheme is usually a
great help. It can look like ‘asking for an opinion – providing opinion –
expressing disbelief + specifying question – expressing agreement/disagreement
Stage 1. Lead-in + Warming up.
This is likely to be the most important part of the whole
series. The teacher has to get the students interested in the new topic,
better even – touch them to the quick. Here no general recipe can exist – it
depends on the class, on your relations with them, on their mood at this
particular lesson. I was terribly lucky once to have intelligent and rather
idealistic kids who were eager to argue about anything as long as they had a
chance to prove their point. They liked challenge – so did I. Generally, I do
believe that every teenager tends to think highly of himself – and it’s a very
convenient thing to employ in language teaching.
Well, I started with something like this:
We know each other quite well already, don’t we? No wonder
– how long’ve we been together? Ten years? Yeah, about that long. Yet there
are things I am not sure of. Do you ever dream of anything? I do not mean when
sleeping. Have you ever wanted anything so much that you could call that ‘a
(Here I was interrupted by a boy who said ‘Right now I
dream of a cake’. There was laughter, mine, too. Then a girl said, rather
haughtily, «Приземленная ты субстанция, Юрка». Процесс пошел)
OK, let us clearly understand what a dream is (Still more
laughter – it used to be our traditional beginning of almost any topic: Let us
clearly understand what a family is, etc.). For you to have a starting point –
listen to a couple of short texts. Do not listen too closely – I would just
like to know what you think of dreams like these…
Text 1. The End of a Dream (tape)
Tired of sleeping on the floor, a young man in Teheran
saved up for years to buy a real bed. For the first time in his life he became
a proud owner of a bed which had springs and a mattress. As the weather was
very hot the young man carried his bed onto the roof of his house. He slept
very well for the first two nights, but on the third night a storm blew up. A
gust of wind swept the bed off the roof and sent it crashing into the
courtyard below. The young man didn’t wake up until the bed had struck the
ground. Though the bed was smashed to pieces he was miraculously unhurt. When
he woke up he was still on the mattress. The young man glanced at the bits of
wood and metal that lay around him, sadly picked up his mattress and carried
it into the house. He put the mattress on the floor and promptly went to sleep
Got it? More or less? (Short checking of comprehension,
half in Russian to save time)
Text 2. Everything Except the Weather (tape)
My old friend Harrison had lived in the Mediterranean for
many years before he returned to England. He had often dreamed of retiring in
England and settling down in the country. He had no sooner returned than he
bought a house in the country and went to live there. Almost immediately
Harrison began to complain about the weather, for even though it was summer,
it rained continually and was often bitterly cold. After so many years of
sunshine Harrison got a shock. He acted as if he had never lived in England
before. He had hardly had time to settle down when he sold the house and left
the country. The dream he had had for so many years ended there. Harrison had
thought of everything except the weather.
What I’d like you to do is: when speaking of these two men
and their ‘dreams’ let’s try and understand ourselves better. Speak Russian
when you are short for words, I’ll help you. To have a kind of system in our
ideas, I suggest making a table. Do not forget putting down the words that are
new for you.
Dream as we have just heard Dream as I see it.
(I don’t remember everything we arrived at when filling in
the table. The idea was to make them think and to elicit thematic vocabulary.
There were synonym rows like ‘wish – desire – aspiration – ambition – longing
– dream – passion’; ‘common – usual – everyday – trivial – trite – plain’;
‘unusual – lofty - eccentric – extraordinary – unreal - unattainable’.
Finally, somebody came to the conclusion that there is quite a difference in
the way the Slavonic people dream and the British do. Not bad, was it? This
work took the better part of the lesson, was rather noisy, not for the
on-lookers, but useful.)
At home, please, do some constructive thinking and collect
a few ideas – not much, let us say, ten. But I want you to organise your
thinking a bit: arrange your ideas in two groups: pros and cons dreaming.
(They came up with more ideas than I wanted)
Stage 2. Controlled discussion.
1) First, we remembered some ways of expressing agreement,
- That’s exactly what I think!
- Dead right!
- I bet.
- You and me, we think the same.
- You’ve got a point there.
- I couldn’t have said better. Etc.
The task was to agree with something said – and then to
paraphrase the original idea or to confirm it with another one. As soon as
they had their ideas written, confirming didn’t seem difficult, but
paraphrasing took some writing. Again, more functional language was being
- More than that…
- To make matters worse…
- In other words,
- Do you mean to say…?
- If I got you right…
- Let me put it like this…
- To put in into plain English… Etc.
For example (very approximately, of course, it was 4 years
St1: If you ask me, I believe that people who never dream
of anything are usually rather dull.
St2: I bet! They want nothing, they are pleased with
everything, especially with themselves.
St3: Do you mean to say that those who never dream are too
St1: Maybe. Or maybe their dreams are too pragmatic.
St3: Then they are not dreams, I’m sure.
2) The same task with disagreeing and re-asking.
3) Group work (4 + 4 + 4 + 3): attempted mini-discussion
after a scheme. There was even a quarrel in Russian, I had to intervene and
change partners. My fault.
4) Introducing Subjunctive Mood – a very convenient topic
to deal with Subjunctive.
5) Home assignment: Answer any of the three questions below
in not less than three sentences each.
If you had only 24 hours to live, what would you do?
If the whole world were listening, what would you say?
If you could be a bird, what would you choose to be?
If you could be a plant, what would you choose to be?
If you could be another man or woman for a day, who would
If you could be another person for a day, who would you be?
If you could be invisible for a day what would you do and
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it
If you could choose how you were going to die, what would
you choose your death to be?
If you could choose to live on a different planet, which
one would you choose?
If you could commit any crime and get away with it, what
would you do?
If you could date a celebrity, who would you choose?
If you could hear what someone is thinking for a day, who
would you choose?
If you could live anywhere, where would you live?
If you could meet any famous person, dead or alive, who
would it be and why?
If you could take a vacation anywhere in the world for any
length of time, where would you go?
If you could travel back in time, where would you go?
If you discovered a new island, what would you name it and
If you found a suitcase full of $1,000,000, what would you
Stage 3. Discussion proper.
The class chose three leaders to begin their discussion and
worked on their own in three groups of five students each. I was listening,
sometimes prompting a word. They were talking. The condition was not to say
anything discussed at the previous lesson but use homework freely. The
greatest problem was to give marks afterwards. Another problem – everyone
wanted to hear everyone, so after a while we decided not to work
simultaneously but in turn. They said a lot of interesting things like:
It’s the ability to dream that makes us human.
The person who is too absorbed in his dreams never really
The one who is not capable of dreaming stops living long
before he dies.
Love is the greatest dream of Man and the most unattainable
Dreams are useless, they only make reality cheerless.
If you don’t dream, you will never learn disappointment.
Dreams are like drugs, but worse.
One has got to be a realist and make something of oneself
instead of wasting times on dreams (by a girl!)
What is there to dream of? I’ve got everything I want.
Dream is the heart of all human art. Artists are the
Unfortunately, I haven’t written down everything. Anyhow,
the game proved worth the candle.
If I skipped through any stage too schematically, I’m ready