lunes, 16 de mayo de 2011

Want A Fight?

This speaking lesson concentrates purely on arguing and debating. The material looks like this:

The original document is this pdf. [edit - this link is faulty - will sort it out ASAP. You get the general idea from the screenshot opposite :) ] Of course you may prefer to modify  them or write your own statements. Remember to express them as a single opinion which is very clearly on one side of the debate.

Cut up the document into separate cards.

This is what I say to the students:

You're going to practise disagreeing, debating and arguing. Let's get into pairs.

In a moment I'm going to give you a slip of paper with an opinion written in it. But first - did you or your partner get up earlier this morning? [Pause to find out] Okay, earlier riser is going to agree with the opinion on the paper, and late riser is going to disagree. You can't switch sides and you can't agree with each other! [Check they understand this part.]

Here is your opinion card. Five minutes to debate. You're not allowed to ask me for help - we'll do that after." 

And hand out the cards randomly one to each pair.

And then I simply monitor (which I prefer to do as unobtrusively as possible) and take notes for subsequent feedback and scaffolding.

We usually have time and energy to repeat the whole thing 2 - 4 times in a class.


I try to encourage an atmosphere of fun and games, rather than serious debate. I like to think of it as a kind of verbal table-tennis.

Also, I try to space the pairs as far apart as possible.

The feedback/scaffolding/consolidation work will depend on what the students say, of course, but often I find they are short of rhetorical devices like:


You can't be serious!    No way!    Come on!

          interrupting and resisting interruption:

Wait a minute...    Hang on a second...    Let me finish...

I've used this lesson many times, and repeatedly with the same classes, and the cards are always on hand in my classroom just in case. However, it was brought to mind again by Martin Sketchley's very informative video'd lesson here, and especially his reference in his post-lesson comments to 'devil's advocate' arguing.

STOP PRESS Having just read Sandy Millin's reflections on observe-hypothesise-experiment, an alternative model to PPP, I think lessons like this have a relevance.

3 comentarios:

  1. Great post Alan. I love this time of year just coming up to their speaking and listening exams. An excuse to do lots of fun speaking lessons like this! :-)

  2. Oh and I love the illustration... very creative :-p

  3. Do you have any fluency exercises for FCE-style exams, Anna? I think that's where this came from originally.

    I did some UCLES oral examining a few years back, and I definitely got the impression that challenging and disagreeing stimulated the mind more and drove the discussion further.

    I know, very Western thinking.

    Oh thanks for the compliment. It's hard to draw a fist :-p