Thursday, October 19, 2006

Conversation Hour

In class yesterday, I asked my students to write for ten or 15 minutes on the topic:

How I Plan to Get the Most from Conversation Hour

I have been telling them that the assistants who volunteer to spend an hour or two every week talking with them could be considered a resource as much as dictionaries, books, computers, libraries, newspapers etc. And to get the most of a resource you need to 'use' it wisely.

Anyway, I am posting a summary of everyone's ideas for them to read on my blog today. Perhaps they will think of some things that may have been missed. Certainly they will benefit from reading other people's.

George said that conversation hour is one of his favorite times at school. He says there are many reasons. It isn't only a lesson for him, but a relaxing time. He can practise pronunciation, listening and speaking. He can repeat things and ask about what he is unsure of. He sees it as the opportunity to gain confidence in speaking with Kiwis, and that this is the best time to practise it. He feels the hour is too short!

Eun Sook read aloud from a Reader's Digest magazine and her assistant checked her pronunciation. After that he read a few lines as dictation for her to write down. Even though he read slowly and clearly it was very hard for her to catch the words.

"I found it was easy to miss out [words] such as the, a, an"

Eun Sook will try hard to speak more during conversation hour.

Mikyung is also new to our class. She was impressed with her conversation mate's interesting questions about local knowledge for example where to play tennis, and how to join the yacht club. She thinks it is a good idea to prepare some questions herself so that she can ask about living in Dunedin because the conversation assistants are "all experts".

Fauzia thinks it is best to focus on one topic at a time instead of speaking on too wide a spectrum of subjects. Perhaps she could bring such a list. She thinks it is important to be corrected so that she doesn't repeat her mistakes. She pointed out that sometimes assistants do too much of the talking and that it would be better for the students to take a more active role.

As for Carol, she finds it very useful to focus on pronunciation. She really wants to get more practice with pronunciation and speaking. I agree with her that that would be a good idea.

Hedi really enjoyed her conversation hour yesterday. She was very happy that she could understand almost everything that her group talked about. She appreciated it when her assistant asked the students to explain their understanding about various words and expressions. The hour was a very useful one for her.

Jason and Kyung Hee have obviously thought hard about the topic together. Both make some great suggestions. Kyung wrote that group members could or should prepare a topic before the hour. She really wishes that we mximize the time. Students could practise talking with each other berforehand and then repeat that discussionwith the assistant, who could then correct the grammar and pronunciation.

Jason agrees and adds that students sometimes don't prepare. If the teacher gives out a sheet to follow, students may not actually read it. He also wrote - and please correct me if I didn't fully understand - that if students are able to catch the meaning of new words then they will have a "comfortable time". Perhaps a 'profitable time' is a better way to say that.

David and and Alice have also written their thoughts.

David thinks that it depends on the student as to how he or she can get the most from conversation, and he thinks the first thing for each person to do is find out their shortages. He thinks that all assistants may not be all the same, and may be better at giving advice in different areas. Possibly the most important thing to do is be active; you improve in proportion to the work you put in.

Alice repeats the points that others have made, such as preparing questions beforehand, asking directly for pronunciation feedback, and speaking as much as she can herself. An interesting point she raises is that it could be good to speak with the same assistant each week so that that person can more deeply understand the needs of the student(s) in their group.


Cindy said...

Thank you for visiting my blog. That firework picture does not I create. I just copied form website that took from someone. ^^

Anonymous said...

Hi William!!

We had a coversation time with assistants in yesterday as well.
But it was something different from former class. Most students prepared for their class and by themselves. I think it is good for
them and also good for our assistants. Anyway I would like to say to you "I always thank you!!"

Jason Park