- Keywords: Vox populi, language of control, clarifying, confirming, rephrasing, interrupting
- Learner English level: Intermediate
- Learner maturity: University
- Preparation time: 1 hour
- Activity time: 1 hour
- Materials: Cards with recent quotes from people on various topics, worksheet
Language instructors struggle with this question: “How do you make an activity meaningful?” Part of the answer, at least, may lie in exposing the student to culturally relevant, real life situations or issues (Vosniadou, 2001). In this lesson, students practice exchanging and expressing opinions on real, recent quotes from people of various cultures, backgrounds and professions. The purpose of this activity is to give the students the opportunity to practice discussion skills with authentic material, but the activity also gives them practice in using language of control (e.g., interrupting, clarifying, confirming, spelling, asking for meaning, rephrasing, asking for repetition).
Step 1: Prepare a simple worksheet on which students can take notes for each of the quotes they hear from another student.
Step 2: Select quotes and put them on cards. Make sure the teacher-designated topic (e.g., Cool Biz) and/or the question related to the topic (e.g., What is your opinion of Cool Biz?) is written at the top of the card, and that the topic and language on the quote cards suits the student’s level. There are websites that offer daily/weekly/monthly quotes in a vox populi or have-your-say section from mainly well-known people on a variety of topics (e.g., timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/NHK-World/quotes). However, it is recommended that quotes found on English websites in Japan, such as quotejapan.wordpress.com, be used, as they offer quotes from well-known Japanese newsmakers who Japanese students may be more likely to relate to.
Step 3: Prepare four to five cards per student.
Step 4: Give each student the cards during the class before the day of the activity. For homework, have the students read over the cards and check the meaning of any unknown vocabulary.
Step 1: Review the language of control and opinion language before starting the activity.
Step 2: Get students in pairs. Have students put their topic cards on the table. Student A picks up a card and reads the topic of the quote and the quote itself to Student B.
Step 3: Student B listens to the quote read by Student A at regular speed. Student B takes notes on the worksheet.
Step 4: While Student A is reading the quote aloud, Student B may interrupt at any time using language of control to make sure what is read is well understood. The instructor walks around to various student pairs to check that the students are using the appropriate language of control.
Step 5: Student B reads back what Student A has said from the worksheet.
Step 6: Student A confirms or corrects Student B.
Step 7: Have both students give their opinions on the given quote. The instructor listens to various pairs of students in turn to check that they are using the opinion language.
Step 8: Switch roles (Student B picks up one of his/her cards and reads the quote to Student A).
The use of authentic material in the language classroom can be problematic, partly because the material is not simplified and sometimes demands that the learner has a large vocabulary. However, this activity can use real quotes that are brief and somewhat familiar to the student, and the instructor can select quotes that either limit the number of unknown words or use mainly pre-taught vocabulary. Still, it could be modified for higher-level students by asking the learners to paraphrase the quote. In any case, this activity has some important features: it introduces a topic, encourages students to practice key language skills (listening, reading and fluency) and useful language (language of control, opinion expressions) and, perhaps more importantly, it lets learners share and convey their opinion on recent and real information.
Vosniadou, S. (2001). How Children Learn. Educational Practices Series, 7. International Academy of Education (IAE) and the International Bureau of Education (UNESCO).