I wrote most of these articles and conference reports while I was doing my M.Ed.(CI). Originally put up on the website TeachAsiaOnline.com (defunct since 2009), I have decided to archive them here as I think most of the information is still relevant and useful for others. (2012) I'm now picking up where I left off to write about more recent seminars I attended.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Bringing Real Conversation Skills to the Classroom

Speaker: Em. Prof. Michael McCarthy
Organised by: CUP, Bangkok
Date: 27 January 2015
Location: Windsor Suites, Bangkok
Promoting: Touchstone / Viewpoint course book series, From Corpus to Classroom

In his second lecture of the day Prof. McCarthy explained how to apply the corpus of English in the classroom. 

Based on analysis of corpus sample conversations, key features of a real conversation are
  • Show that you are listening  (Uh-huh)
  • Answer questions and queries
  • Express interest, surprise (Oh, did you?)
  • Evaluate
  • Continue
  • Check understanding
  • Co-construct utterances (A: “We could go to the pizzeria…” B: “…if it’s open”)
Prof. McCarthy pointed out that all turns in conversations are actually responses to the previous speaker, with exception of the first one. Thus his “golden rule” is that teaching conversation is teaching how to respond (and then say something). Teaching conversation is teaching speaking AND listening.

Not all common words and phrases should be brought into the classroom (e.g. the f-word).

Class activities should first create awareness, followed by cloze exercises, then personalisation.

Based on the most frequent responses (“turn-openers”) from the corpus he discussed some sample dialogues with words and phrases like “well” (to change the direction of the conversation), “or something”, “stuff” and ”you know what I mean” (vague expressions that are not explicit and assume a common (cultural) understanding).

Again Prof. McCarthy stressed that by using these words and phrases we “reach out and touch the other person” because “we are human”.

(c) 2015, cafavier

Lecture 1: Teaching the Vocabulary of Conversation

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