Monday, January 17, 2011

Making Language Learning Real

Making it real.

For my speaking classes, I have been using core texts and rely on Market Leader Beginner and Pre-Intermediate (Oxford) for in class speaking activities. I like the task based flexible usage of these texts. To this I add a flexible seating arrangement making sure that Korean and Chinese students are paired as much as possible and as infrequently with the same partner as possible. I have evolved to this as I have found students do not seem to get to know many other classmates without encouragement. I also resist assigned seating for the same reason. When you are dealing with forty it is a zoo out there.

Regular weekly email assignments include discussion questions similar to those at the Oxford supplemental website which focus on chapter topics, a handful of vocabulary specific to international trade English and listening activities sourced from the BBC Six Minute English series. Last semester I added a randomly selected core small group study assignments schedule with ten outside class hourly weekly meetings. The materials used are up to the students and each team has a captain however I do provide free copies of Business Communication Games (Lloyd & Preier, 1996) and direct them to download resources from various free esl activities websites like bogglesworld. They must report their activities briefly either through short journal or email or even cellphone photographs.

Midterm and final exams test knowledge on homework topics previously covered in weekly assignments. Presentations pair-work focus on short easy to read articles with an international trade focus from google news selected by students and pre-approved by me (to avoid plagiarism) to construct a 300 word presentation (150 words each) supplemented by a five slide ppt. These activities are then presented in my office a week early to scan for construction issues. So far this is as real as I have been able to make it.

For my business correspondence courses samples of various cycles (Eg. enquiry letters, order letters, credit letters, etc.) are presented in class in lecture format. Accompanying short texts describing the purpose and use are supplemented by brief written questions. Standard full block business letter style and format are practiced throughout the term with selections of top twenty-five emerging market global businesses as hypothetical senders or receivers of various letter types. This requires students to visit those company websites to extract details, descriptions and specifications of products. Similar midterm and final exams include a written portion reviewing previously identified points as well as ppt presentations which require a constructed letter identifying its purpose and useful vocabulary and phrases. Of my two courses this one is much drier and is to hopefully be the focus of my improvements here. The content is fairly prescribed by department as well as the output of homework. It is a "look but do not touch" kind of course and sadly is the way many Koreans approach English. I sneak practical application in where I can.

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