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An Effective Technique For ESL Speech Production: "Rounds"

It is nice for a teacher to read creative work, but it is even better to find a way for students to share their creativity. We have been using a simple technique that enables students to show their creative ability orally to a great number of their classmates. It is called “Rounds”. The idea is for each student to present his/her work to as many different students as possible. In short, each student is assigned a letter by the teacher and looks at a chart showing the combination of letters he or she will be working with during each round and the number of the meeting place. The teacher should indicate where these meeting places are located in the room preferably by putting a paper with the corresponding number in each area—this saves time. At the beginning of each round the students go to their designated meeting places and introduce themselves saying for instance, “I am ‘G’. Are you ‘B’ and ‘D’?” The others respond with “Yes, I’m B. Nice to meet you and this is ‘D’.” This is good oral practice with the letters of the alphabet, and students find the situation amusing.

Rounds with short oral presentations

Rounds function very well with short presentations—about one minute long. We recommend using topics such as a film summary (cf. Film_Summary.doc), a biography (cf. Biography_Assignment.doc), an event in history, etc. Either you rely on the students to copy information in correct English from the Internet. It is a good idea, though, to tell them to simplify complicated wording so that classmates will understand the vocabulary. Or you can turn it into a written assignment and ask the students to revise their work once you have corrected it. In any case they memorize the final 150-word text and get ready to present it orally. They deliver their oral presentations not just once to the entire group but several times in rotating groups. Thus each student speaks with different classmates every time they switch groups—thanks to the chart. With three rounds, each student will speak three times to six different students, and with four rounds four times with eight different students.

Charts for rounds

Teachers can check the different charts for rounds (cf. Rounds_Students_9_Letters.doc / Rounds_Students_12_Letters.doc / Rounds_Students_15_Letters.doc) to see various groupings for this rotation technique. It can be used effectively for many kinds of exercises and with classes of eight to sixteen students or even more. Instructions for this activity are to be found in the templates. The key point is ISST—Individual Student Speaking Time . Instead of reciting in front of the whole class or reciting just once to a partner, each student recites his or her presentation several times—once in every round—to two different classmates each time. If it is a film summary, the other students can guess the title of the film—when the student has finished the oral presentation. If it is a biography, the question will be “Who am I?” If you have more than 19 students, you can break the class into two sub-classes and use two different grids at the same time. By combining two grids (you can choose one the second one from the charts called ‘Prime’), you can work with all numbers from 8 up to 32. And each day of rounds can focus on a different grammar point and theme:

  • Present tense (in the 3rd person)—after writing a film summary (cf. Film_Summary.doc)
  • Simple past tense (in the 1st person)—after writing a celebrity biography (cf. Biography_Assignment.doc)
  • Simple past tense (in the 3rd person)—after writing the description of a famous event
  • Hypotheses: “If I lived… I would…” or “If I had lived then, I would have…”— after an assignment about one’s reactions to a hoax such as in Orson Welles’ radio play of 1939, The War of the Worlds
  • False friends—a very short presentation after the assignment using ten False Friends (cf. False_Friends_Assignment.doc)

Of course, each student has to learn his or her text by heart, either the corrected written assignment or simply material found on the Internet.

A quick evaluation of oral work

It is also possible to evaluate the students on their oral performances while they are doing these rounds. Special charts with the word “grading” will tell you to which meeting place you should go for each round and which students you should listen to in order to evaluate all of them when they are in groups of up to 12 and most of them when they are more numerous (cf. Rounds_Students_12_Letters_Grading.doc). In the beginning you will probably just want to try out the system of rounds without evaluating any one. Later on you will undoubtedly want to reward the students for their good work. Using rounds may seem a bit confusing in the beginning as students understand what to do and where to go, but all the students will be speaking and the activity will be appreciated by all.


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