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Examination of discussion as a method of teaching a foreign language

Communicative language teaching focuses on language as a medium of communicationWe use language to get things done. It recognizes that there is something that we need find out, or something that we want to say and communicate and it takes that as the reason why we speak language, why we want to communicate with others. For this reason communicative language teaching concentrates in fulfilling specific language functions or tasks, for example such as greeting, introducing yourself, you may want to express likes and dislikes, you might want to enquire about somebody’s hobbies, interests, you might want to find directions to someplace.

Speaking a foreign language is the most difficult part in language learning because pupils need ample practice in speaking to be able to say a few words of their own in connection with a situation. This work is time-consuming and pupils rarely feel any real necessity to make themselves understood during the whole period of learning a new language in school. The stimuli the teacher can use are often feeble and artificial. The pupil repeats the sentence he hears, he completes sentences that are in the book, he constructs sentences on the pattern of a given one[1, p. 53]. These mechanical drill exercises are, of course, necessary; however, when they go on year after year without any other real language practice they are deadening. There must be occasions when the pupils feel the necessity to inform someone of something, to explain something, and to prove something to someone. This is a psychological factor which must be taken into account when teaching pupils to speak a foreign language.

In deciding how to structure and what to teach in oral skills class, questions such as the following should he considered: Who are the students? Why are they here? What do they expect to learn? What am I expected to teach?

One basic consideration is the level of the students and their perceived needs. Level may lie determined by a placement test administered by the institution or by a diagnostic test given by the teacher. Information on learner needs can be obtained by means of a student information sheet on which they report the amount of time they spend speaking English, their future goals, their goals for the course, and their assessment (perhaps a four-point scale from “poor” to “excellent”) of their overall speaking ability, confidence in speaking English, their pronunciation, social conversation, and listening ability.

With low level adults, the teacher may need to find LI speakers to help him or her get information on student experiences, educational background, and needs. It will be especially important with this student group to build on their experiences, to share expertise, and to use in order to keep learning as concrete as possible. More often than not, oral skills courses for nonacademic adults focus on survival English and basic communication functions based on a strong structural component.

On the other hand, academic learners will need practice with different sorts of activities. Based on survey responses from university faculty, Ferris and Tagg (1996a, 1996b) suggest that, in general, what academic ESL students need most is extensive authentic practice in class participation, such as taking part in discussions, interacting with peers and professors, and asking and answering questions. In fact, these students may be facing some sort of exit examination at the conclusion of the course that will determine whether or not they are competent to teach in English, to take other academic courses for credit, and so on. As a result, these learners take their course work seriously and have high expectations of the teacher. Yet even these students can probably benefit from (and may even ask for) some instruction on the more interpersonal aspects of oral communication.

Nowadays, oral skills classes at all levels are often structured around functional uses of language. In a nonacademic context, these might involve basic greetings, talking on the telephone, interacting with school personnel,

shopping, and the like. In New Vistas: Getting Started [2, p. 12], a book for beginners, students learn to introduce themselves and greet other people; give and request personal information, directions, and prices; talk about family members; tell time; give and accept invitations; describe clothing; and give and accept compliments.

With academic adults, practice in activities such as leading and taking part in discussions and giving oral reports is needed to be done. For example, in Speaking of Business[2, 13], a text for high-advanced learners in business fields, students learn to plan and conduct business meetings, give speeches, make oral presentations, participate in conferences, and socialize with colleagues. With (prospective) international teaching assistants, course activities may be even more specific simulations of teaching a lab section, holding office hours, or interacting with regular faculty.

In more informal conversation courses, the content can be structured around speech acts, which are actions such as greeting and apologizing that are encoded in language in “routinized” forms (e.g.“hi” and “hello” for greeting, “sorry” for apologizing). One of the standard textbooks for this purpose is Speaking Naturally: Communication Skills in American English[2, p. 15], which has chapters covering opening and closing a conversation, introducing and addressing people, giving invitations, expressing thanks, apologizing, complimenting, getting attention and interrupting, agreeing and disagreeing, controlling the conversation, and getting information. Teachers may, or may not, be given textbooks or materials for teaching the oral skills class. Buyer beware: Not all materials live up to their claims about what they promote or teach in terms of language content, teaching methodology, and textual/ task authenticity. In an analysis of a number of ESL speaking texts published between 1976-1995, Lazaraton and Skuder (1997) found that even the most recent texts fell short on the authenticity criteria used (formality, turn taking, quantity of talk, etc.). For this reason, teachers need to become critical consumers of published materials by asking questions such as the following: Is the text appropriate for the level/audience being taught? What sorts of content/topics are used, and are they appropriate for this group of students? Is the focus onauthentic communication? Does the text integrate speaking, listening, and pronunciation? More often than not, teachers will decide to pick and choose activities from a variety of sources and create some of their own materials as well.

The problem of teaching a foreign language as a means of communication gets the specific relevance in a modern methodology. Recently such types of teaching which stimulates intellectual and moral development of student, makes active his/her potential opportunities and forms critical thinking takes more distribution. Personal activity and communicative approaches corresponds to such type of training. It is difficult to teach pupils to communicate (orally and written), to teach to express own thoughts accurately and logically, to be able to convince, to prove the position and at the same time to listen and understand the speech of the interlocutor, also complicated that communication not only verbal process. Besides knowing of the language, good results also depends on a set of factors: conditions, situations and culture of communication, speech etiquette, speech behavior, knowledge nonverbal forms of expression (mimicry, gestures), existence of profound background knowledge and many others. The process of communicative competence formation is possible to refresh effectively by problematization of educational process with the use of information sources, methods which are problematic in its nature. Research, search, debatable methods, method of role-playing games belong, method of projects are refer to them. Among problem methods it is dwelled on discussion method. Sociolinguistics and pragmatically competences are most effectively formed during discussion. At the same time, pupils learn to consider a problem in all its aspects, to argue and formulate their point of view. Besides, trainees have to clearly realize, what is required from them, to be exact conclusions on studying problems, instead of enumeration facts; argumentativeness and laconicism of answers, instead of indistinct argumentations, where isn’t visible an essence. These requirements allow creating a certain standard of speech, for example, to listen to the interlocutor up to the end not interrupting; ask questions, to disprove its judgments or, opposite, to agree with it developing thought. The discussion also allows forming conscious attitude to discussion of put-forward problems, activity in its discussion, speech culture, an identification of the reasons and installation on their solution further. Here is realized the principle formations of critical thinking. Thus, language is purpose and tutorial at the same time. The discussion method helps being trained not only to take possession all four types of speech activity, but by means of a language situation against a problem into the sociocultural sphere to find the reasons of the arisen situations and to try even to solve them. The interest to an independent solution is an incentive. Accordingly, sing a method of discussion allows stirring up cognitive activity of pupils, their self-sufficiency forms the culture of constructive operational thinking, creates conditions for use of personal life experience and the knowledge gained earlier for assimilation of the new. However discussion can be successful at a lesson only when teacher know a technique of using and in condition of care of preparation for its use. Discussion as a form of educational activity not always successfully hacked by teachers in the native language. That is why it is especially important for teacher to define ways, receptions; the conditions that can provide success if learners statements are based on foreign language. Using discussion as exercises, most brightly and fully reflecting psychological features of the communicative speech in learned language has to answer a number of methodical requirements. Discussion will pass more successful, when there is set less difficult cogitative tasks for pupils; when it is less go beyond concepts and representations and when students have enough experience in discussion in their native language. In the structure of educational discussion V.L. Skalkin allocates: subject, exposition, speech incentive, directing questions, keywords, speech reaction of the speakers. Each component will be distinguished in detail.

Discussion subject. The themes of educational discussions are extremely various. In order to call a desire to speak, it is necessary to choose those subjects, which are the most interesting to pupils, which contains various life situations, causing in them desire to tell and communicate, state the point of view, the understanding of a discussed question. In the senior classes it is possible conducting discussions on such subjects, as: School and life; Education, choice of profession; Role of a foreign language in human life; Person and his inner world; Science News and technicians, space exploration; well-known people, heroes, feat; Art, news cultural life and many other subjects. Sorting stages of conducting discussion, we will stop on the subject «Teenager of a present day». This subject – is interesting, actual, it is diverse, allows pupils to state and reason the point of view, forms critical thinking. Organizing discussion on this subject, for example "Whether it is easy to be young?", it is necessary to break it into micro subjects and to discuss most important aspects of life of the teenager. This is a Teenager and school; Personal freedom; Friends; Youth organizations; Pastime; Problem of fathers and children; Teenager and work, etc. In the course of discussion of these subjects, pupils form certain positions [3, p. 36]. In order that discussion was not persuasive and more effective, it is possible to offer learning to choose scope of discussion by means of questioning. In this case pupils will get more willingly into discussion, expressing their point of view, explaining them, disproving or agreeing with opinions of interlocutors about interesting problem for them.

Exposition. It is that actual material, that information and related perspective which is served as basis of any discussion. Main components of expositions are material and the problem formulation. Depending on that, whether the specified components are expressed in an exposition, there is allocated following versions:

  • Exposition which is a statement, both material, and problems discussions;
  • Exposition with not expressed problems;
  • Exposition with the set problems, but not expressed material discussions;

The exposition with a statement of a material and a problem of discussion can be offered pupils in the form of a short message, some case, an episode, occurred to this or that person, the aphorism of a known dictum, in connection with by problem is put. Organizing discussion on the subject "Teenager and His Friends", we can offer the following exposition: "Nowadays having a close group of people to depend on seems more attractive and more secure than one exclusive relationship with one other person who can be devastating if it goes wrong. Do you have the same opinion or to have just one close friend is safer for you? Having discussed this problem, it is necessary to offer pupil some more situations for discussion, that the subject "Teenager and His Friends" was not turn out one-sided. For this purpose we offer expositions, containing following problems: "Age of friends""Quarrels with friends""Strong and weak qualities of friends""How should look a true friend? ""What is the meaning of a word to be friends? ""what does friendship give you?" and others. Among several problem situations each pupil will surely find for himself which excites him more and with big desire will get into discussion. When the teacher offers to pupils the movie, the story, a theatrical performance, press materials, true-life stories, it is a question about an exposition with not expressed problems. Some material is offered to pupils for discussion, and it is composed so that there is no need a special problem statements. Such exposition, naturally, imposes big requirements to thinking of pupils as they have to take from it subject discussions. Therefore, this type of an exposition more successfully will be used in more prepared classes. Even here pupils feel difficulty in maintaining discussions and often begin discussion with the general seen or read assessments without argument (For example: "I didn’t like this movie"). If such situations occur, the teacher should offer a number of leading questions. For example, after watching the movie about the youth subculture, you can ask the following directing questions: What are the main principles of this subculture? What can you say about their style of clothing? Does their music attract you? How can you characterize their behavior? -What are your arguments for and against this subculture? – Would you like to join this subculture? Why (not)? Exposition with the set problems, but with not expressed material of discussion relies on life experience and knowledge of pupils, on their abilities to imagination. For example, discussing a problem “What things are the most highly valued by modern teenagers?”, pupils will rely on their life experience. And discussion the prob-

lem "What makes teenagers TR and get addicted to such evils as drugs, drinking alcohol, smoking or gambling?probably, will be based on the events occurring in public and social spheres of life.

Stimulus. A speech stimulus in educational discussion always has natural character. The stimulus causes the speech reaction and depends on quality of an exposition. The delivered question or problem is interesting, the exposition is more interesting, it is easier to excite conversation and keep up. If the exposition is not interesting, it doesn't excite any stimulus for conversations. And vice versa, the stimulus can be excessively strong, causing the big emotional excitement from pupils it leads to convert effect trying to express the relation to a problem, pupils, despite protests of the teacher, move to the native language. However it is necessary to add that the stimulus arises not only from initial exposition, but also from speech reaction of pupils who give various points of view on a discussed problem. Directing questions. As it was already noted, exposition which is not absolutely successfully formulated cannot cause a proper response from pupils. Therefore, during preparation of educational discussion the teacher has to think over, along with exposition, also questions which will help to begin discussion and will give it necessary the direction, thereby supporting speech stimulus of pupils. Successfully put the directing questions of the teacher detailing a perspective of discussion can be fruitful and cause vivid discussion. If exposition, formulated on the subject "Personal liberty", didn't interest pupils, the teacher can offer the following directing questions: What does personal freedom mean to you? What and who can restrict your personal freedom? Do you have personal freedom at home? Can the internet, if not restricted, be dangerous? What restrictions at your school can you name? What is your attitude to the school uniform? Do any restrictions make you angry, unhappy and prevent to express your individuality? Do you agree that sometimes it is necessary to restrict your personal freedom in order to live harmoniously and not to get into troubles?

Keywords. If the teacher organizes discussion in less prepared class, skillfully made list of keywords can be useful and will facilitate learners to make out their thoughts in a foreign language. For example, for discussions of the subject "teenager and work", the teacher can offer pupils following keywords and phrases:

  • to take a job;
  • work experience;
  • to realize a value of work;
  • to help financially (financial help);
  • to save money;
  • can (can’t) concentrate on academic work;
  • to be helpful for future career;
  • time-part job;
  • to teach self-discipline;
  • to budget one’s time;
  • to help to decide what to do in future;
  • to distract somebody from studies and homework;
  • to make too tired to do homework, etc. Speech reaction. Speech reaction in discussion has various forms. 1)Short remarks of several pupils 2) monological statements of the various duration H) the monologue of one pupil interrupted by separate remarks and questions of others, and so forth. However, speech reaction is impossible without maintenance of special colloquial lexicon which gives to discussion a natural character. Therefore before starting discussion as a joint discussion of a problem in a group, it is necessary that the teacher make sure that pupils own colloquial lexicon, are able to interrupt skillfully the interlocutor, to take an interest about his opinion and correctly state the point of view. We will give examples of the colloquial phrases necessary for pupils for maintaining discussions: you express opinion I think (that) …; I guess (that) …; I suppose (that) …; I feel (that) …;As I see it …; My view is that

…; My opinion is that …; If you ask me …; I’d say that …; In my view …; In my opinion …; I’d rather not say anything about it, etc.you agree – Just so; I quite agree here; Certainly; Sure; Exactly; I should think so; That’s just what I was thinking, etc.; you aren't sure – Yes, but; On the other hand; I’m afraid I don’t agree; I don’t think you are right; I can’t agree with you here; I’m not so sure, etc.; you don't agree – On the contrary! It is natural that the leading role in discussion belongs to the teacher. The task is not only "to provoke" conversation, but also to operate. The teacher to summarize a course of a discussions, expresses the opinion by separate provisions, makes comments on those ideas, which were insufficiently investigated in performances of pupils. At the same time follows to avoid that summing up conversation turned into reading notations to the pupils who have stated inexact or even disputable judgments. The teacher has to tactfully correct them; it is desirable friendly, with humor, at all without muffling in pupils of desire to discuss. It should be noted also that discussion is possible only in the presence of the certain lexical and grammatical background. That is why in development of each colloquial subjects large volume of a lexical material, since lexicon flexibly is put and quickly reacts to all changes of social, cultural and public life, as it is a criterion, an indicator of the general level of development of pupils, it outlook. The more a lexical stock of pupils, the wider its opportunity for selfrealization, disclosures of the creative potential by means of the foreign language.


  1. Skalkin V.L. Communication exercises in English. New York: 1983. 17c.
  2. Harmer, J. 1984. The Practice of English Language Teaching. London: Longman.
  3. http://iteslj.org/

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