Дискуссия Dreams & Reality

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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 ее подготовки

 

 

Topic: Dreams vs. Reality.

Grade: 11

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 – compromising’.

 

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 dream’?

 

(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 again.

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.)

 

Home assignment

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, like:

- 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 trained, like:

- More than that…

- To make matters worse…

- Moreover…

- 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 ago):

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 pragmatic?

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 you choose?

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 why?

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

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 why?

If you found a suitcase full of $1,000,000, what would you do?

 

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 gets anywhere.

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 one.

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 greatest day-dreamers.

 

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 to provide more comment.

 

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