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25 June 2013

Creating and Challenging Arguments

As I've mentioned before, my intermediate integrated skills class (listening/speaking/note-taking; ELI 071) is using Mosaic 1 this semester. One of the speaking strategies learned is "Asking for Confirmation to Challenge Excuses. You can see a photo of the "Strategy" from the book. Basically, the book teaches students to summarize what they speaker is saying and than challenges that excuse. I don't always use the suggested activities in the book, as I usually add multiple elements to practicing strategies; however, their suggested activity turned out so superbly that I had to share with you!

From Mosaic 1: Listening/Speaking

The book suggested a role play: one person be the student and one be the teacher. Here's the pattern they suggest:

Student: Make an excuse for something you don't want to do. *
Teacher: Ask for confirmation, questioning the truth of the excuse.
Student: Make another excuse.
Teacher: Ask for confirmation again, questioning the truth of the excuse.

*I told the students it could be any excuse students make... And they make a lot!

Some of the students excuses were spot on... exactly what they say in class and in office hours. For example, one student had an excuse for being late; another had an excuse about not finishing his homework. The surprising part of this for me was the fabulous challenges the students had for the excuses! Some of them were better than anything I could have ever come up with. For example, one "teacher," whose student had an excuse for being late because her sister took her shoes, challenged her about not having another pair and putting fashion before class! Another "teacher," whose student couldn't do his homework because he was homesick and couldn't connect with his family on Skype, asked whether or not his family did his homework for him and if all ELI students could skip doing homework because they missed their families! Some students took words right out of my mouth, such as "I don't want to hear any excuses" and "What were you doing all day after class that you couldn't complete your assignment." Not only were the students' excuses spot on (they have a lot of practice, trust me :-), but their challenges were as well. I have decided that I am going to start asking them to challenge their own excuses so that I don't have to!

I think this was a valuable interactive lesson because it got students communicating with each other. They had to negotiate meaning with somebody else and create excuses or challeges for those excuses. This activity really helped them understand this strategy, as they all did very well on this portion of their chapter test. Now to get them to stop making excuses in real life... 

Do you have any interactive role-play activities that have helped students improve their communication skills? I would love to hear (and implement) them!