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Three ways to help A-level students enrich their spoken language

One of the benefits of leading exam board training sessions is that you get to pick up new ideas from the attending teachers. In this case, while leading a session for AQA with teachers in York today, I was talking about ways to get A-level students to produce more sophisticated language in their speaking assessments.

I suggested that one way of varying pair work practice on an A-level sub-theme was to interrupt pairs of conversing students after, say, four minutes, then to display on the board five idiomatic phrases or complex syntactic structures which the students have to include in their conversations with a new partner for the next four minutes. Then, four minutes later, you add another five phrases or structures and ask students to include all ten chunks of new language into their next conversation with a new partner. And so on until the task runs out of steam.

Example phrases could be:

Ce que je trouve intéressant, c'est...
Il va sans dire que...
J'aurais plutôt l'impression que...
Qu'on le veuille ou non...
J'estime que...
Ça ne m'étonne pas que... (+ subjonctif)
D'un côté... en revanche...
Un argument clé à mon avis, c'est...

This is a good example of giving a "twist" to a lesson, getting pairs of students to repeat a task with a slight variation with a new partner. It's a bit like classic speed-dating with an extra element. The result is that students repeat and recycle language, adding new elements as they go along.

One of the teachers present then suggested a variation on this. Instead of writing up new phrases for pairs to work on, you can get students to work in small groups around a table and place cards (about a dozen) with structures and phrases in the middle. Each time a student uses a structure on a card they get to keep the card. The winner is the student with the most cards when they have all been used. (You could keep supplying new cards while they are conversing.)

A third variation suggested by another delegate was to give each student the equivalent of a bingo card with at least a dozen phrases and structures on. Each time a student uses a phrase on the card they get to cross it out until all the phrases are used. After each "round" you could hand out a new bingo card.

You could probably come up with other variations. In all the above cases you get to "gamify" conversation and to make it a little more engaging while broadening the students' repertoire of language. I have found that students enjoy the extra little challenge of artificially working in new language. It is quite likely that the phrases they have deliberately included will become. a permanent part of their conversational repertoire.

In all these cases you would be wise to model the use of each new phrase at some point.


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