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Previewing & Brainstorming

Conversational Fluency

-Bringing It All Together-

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Previewing 

  Preparing the students for the ConFluency Card Game is important for two reasons:  

  First, younger students especially often seem at a loss for what to say (one reason they can't or won't speak English?!).  If students have a ready reference in front of them, lapses in conversation while someone is thinking of what to say can be avoided.  

  Second, because the ConFluency Card Game is a student-centered speaking activity, it is with either a Conversation Primer or a Brainstorming pre-activity that the teacher maintains control of the students' conversations.  Focusing the conversations' grammatical and/or subject content is easily accomplished with either of these activities.

  A Conversation Primer or the freer Brainstorming previewing activity are important tools for the teacher.  It is with these simple preview activities that the teacher can control or focus the students' speech in an otherwise free-speaking activity.  The activities are simple, but need to be given sufficient thought and preparation by the teacher

  • 1) to make conversations not overly difficult for the students;
  • 2) to motivate the students by giving them an opportunity to choose the content of the conversations; 
  • 3) to make the ConFluency Card Game an effective review activity; and
  • 4) to ensure that students are practicing all of the conversation skills contained in each card set.

An Important Note for Teachers and Students

  We are very careful to remind students again and again that the Conversation Primer or the content of the Brainstorming activity are starting points for their card game conversations.  From there they are free to create their own conversations.  But if they don't know what to say next, or want to change the topic, then return to the Conversation Primer or to the Brainstorm.

  We suggest you also remind your students of this point again and again.

 

  Conversation Primer

  A Conversation Primer of about 5 questions and/or sentences needs to be carefully and thoughtfully prepared by the teacher before each ConFluency Card Game activity (or a Brainstorming Activity may be used instead).  Choosing subject matter that will be of interest to the students is of course primary.   But also choosing question-, answer- and sentence-patterns that contain blanks for the students to fill in makes a very effective Primer.  There are three reasons for this: 

  • One, students completing their own prints feel a sense of ownership and investment, and this lends itself to commitment by the student, and enhances motivation and enjoyment.  
  • Two, if the teacher leaves strategic words or phrases blank on the Primer, students are more free to choose the subject matter of the conversation, while at the same time maintaining a grammatical focus.  (For example: Have you ever ______ ?)
  • And three, by leaving blank the target grammatical word or phrase, teachers compel the students to think about it beforehand at the slower speed of reading and writing.  This works to enliven the editor or monitor function in the students' awareness, and hence encourages accurate production.

  Writing a Conversation Primer

  Card Set One

  Questions and answer (both short and long, or A + 1, answers) are the focus of Card Set One.  Questions need to form the bulk of the primer, but A + 1 Answer practice needs to be included as well.  Leave blank lines in strategic places in each question or answer so students can fill in their own words.  One or more Wh- question needs to be included on each primer.

  Here are some ideas:

  • When the target language is grammatical, a verb tense for example, often it is the sentence pattern that requires the verb change (Did you play tennis yesterday?  Yes, I did.  I played tennis).  The A + 1 answer pattern requires students to use the target pattern.
  •  Choosing a theme, such as last winter, or next summer, or yesterday or tomorrow, can make an interesting PrimerVerb tenses also control how we talk about time, and the Conversation Primer can be a good place to practice special time vocabulary.

  Card Set Two

  A Conversation Primer for Card Set Two needs to include mostly sentence patterns, since these are the focus of the second card set.  If Follow-up Questions have not yet been included, they should start to be included now.  And depending on students' performance and abilities, the question and answer patterns from Card Set One can also be included (or included for review, which students always need).

  Generally the same ideas and suggestions above for writing Card Set One Conversation Primers are true for writing Card Set Two Primers.  On a short primer you probably can't include all of the different conversation skills that are used in the card game, so be careful to include the full variety of skills in successive Conversation Primers.

  If you are writing Conversation Primers for Card Set Two, you should already have a lot of experience writing the Primers.  Do you have any good ideas you'd like to share?  Click here to go to the Ideas page to submit your idea.

 

  Brainstorming

  Card Set Three

  By the time students have advanced to this level, their own conversational ability makes it possible to do a freer form of previewing.  We sometimes use a Conversation Primer for Card Set Three, especially if there are particular grammar items we'd like to target.  But as time goes on, we more often use a Brainstorming previewing activity before starting the card game.

   A Brainstorm is a more graphic representation of a student’s or students' thoughts, ideas and experiences about a subject or theme (click here to download an example).  Choosing a theme, such as sports or winter, helps to narrow the focus of a conversation, making conversations easier for the students.  Choosing a theme can also focus students' conversations on particular grammar patterns; for example, The First Time I..., or  If I Win the Lottery... .

  Teaching Brainstorming

  At first we have all the students in the class take turns to write one or two ideas on the blackboard.  The teacher first writes the theme on the blackboard, such as Last Summer.  Then, the first student in each row comes to the blackboard and writes his or her idea.  They sit down, and the next student in the row comes to the blackboard.  We continue in this way until all of the students have had a turn.  By this time the blackboard is usually full of ideas and the students can be separated into groups and begin playing the ConFluency Card Game.

  As students' understanding and abilities at Brainstorming increase, they can begin to do Brainstorming in small groups or individually. 

  • Small groups use a single large size blank paper, and take turns Brainstorming and writing an idea connected to the teacher-given theme.  The paper stays at that groups' desks as the students later rotate to new groups during the card game. 
  • For individual Brainstorming, each student writes on their own blank paper, with the theme provided by the teacher.  These can be expanded on and developed over time, as students’ abilities increase.  Students can collect the Brainstorm sheet in a folder or file for later re-use.

Downloads

Conversation Primer Example

  a .pdf document for card set one.  print, then cut it in half.

Brainstorming Example  

  a .pdf document (289 kb)