Archive for the ‘debate’ Tag

Exposure and Context Make All the Difference in ELL’s Use of Academic Language   5 comments


Just finished viewing my listening, speaking, reading students’ debate on whether plastic surgery benefits outweigh the risks. I recorded the debate on a flip camera and saved the files on my ePortfolio using Evernote. Recording oral presentations helps me in ways similar to my ELLs listening to recordings; in that I play and replay as often as I need to until I’m confident I have found the items I was looking for.

I evaluated my students on a 3-point scale on the following items: clarity of argument, opening and closing statements, delivery, organization and research (planning), following debate rules, and time.

Apart from the fact that my students were totally invested, and did a great job in debating each other in front of an audience, the best part was an aspect that is often the “icing on the cake” for this type of pre-academic exercise. While watching my students’ debates, I began to notice how often they were using signpost language to signal agreement, disagreement, and sequence of points, in addition to topic-specific academic vocabulary.

The content vocabulary was great, but not unusual for this high proficiency level. The class had spent a lot of time preparing for the debate. They had researched the issue on the Internet, listened to interviews about plastic surgery, and conducted in-person surveys of other community college students’ opinions about plastic surgery and the perceived benefits of being physically attractive. I had also given them explicit instruction on signpost language, but their exposure to this was not as extensive as it was to the content of the debate. My reasons for focusing more on content than on form was to improve my students’ background knowledge in the subject, and therefore improve their fluency.

What I wasn’t prepared for was how often they were using the signpost language so necessary for debates to work both for the opposing team, but also for the audience who are evaluating them. My students were saying things like, “for these reasons,” “in addition,” “to the extent that,” and “this is why I believe…”

Wonderful job! I’ll post the video soon.

Creating their own content   Leave a comment


What a great class today!

To prepare for their debate on plastic surgery, students discussed and wrote interview questions aimed to gauge respondents’ opinions on the benefits of physical attractiveness and plastic surgery.

The students recorded their in-person interviews on their iPhones and Blackberries. My hope is by incorporating recreational activities such as using mobile devices as video/audio recorders, i will engage students in the process of data collection and research as prep for a debate. My hope is that both they and I will achieve the following:

1. higher buy-in rates by students
2. more in-depth level of research
3. higher rates of fluency in spoken English
4. more vigorous debates

Today they listened to and collated small-group then whole-group data, looked for trends, which spurred their Internet search. Students busily sent each other news links related to their position as we finished up the class.

Awesome job, guys!

Posted March 26, 2011 by Cyn Hatch in Ed Tech, ESL Teaching

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