English in Kyoto #3

After just two weeks in the classroom, I feel like I have already heard noticeable improvement in most students’ fluency and confidence when speaking. I believe that this largely has to do with the fact that students have gotten more comfortable with us and that students have become used to our expectation for full sentences (a request we began making after our first day experiences).  

As a student in high school and university German classrooms, I was always astounded that teachers didn’t emphasize full sentence answers. If the purpose of these foreign language classrooms was to get students speaking as much as they could, despite the limitations of the classroom context and the non-target language environment outside the classroom, then why wouldn’t they ask students to produce as many words as possible? Beginner-level language learners often spend most of their time asking and responding to simple questions like “Where are you from?” and “What do you study?” and “What are your plans for the weekend?” I recognize that native speakers rarely answer such questions with full sentences, but language learners can gain so much more practice with vocabulary by doing so!

Above all, full sentence answers give students significantly more time to practice speaking. It allows them more time to hear their own voice in the target language and it often encourages elaborated answers. For instance, when I ask a student, “What are your hobbies?” rather than just responding with, “Running,” the student will tell me, “My hobby is running. I often run by Kamogawa River.” Secondly, full sentences give language learners a chance to practice the little words that we, native speakers, take for granted. For instance, when I asked students about their summer vacation plans and followed up with the question, “How long will you go for?” students practiced saying, “I will go for two weeks,” instead of simply, “Two weeks.” And lastly, full sentence responses give educators a better ability to assess students’ fluency.

I must admit that full sentence responses can take away time from the lesson. For example, if one student has a particularly hard time responding with a full sentence, the remaining students will have less time to answer the same question or our group will be unable to answer all of the questions on our to-do list. I must also confess that, because native speakers rarely answer with full sentences, reminders for full sentence responses can be rather tiresome for more intermediate-level students. Nevertheless, the benefits still apply and I find that the pros outweigh the cons! What do you think?!

One thought on “English in Kyoto #3

  • June 4, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    I really admire that you are encouraging your students to provide full sentence answers. This type of practice, as you mentioned, will provide valuable practice as they move on to more advanced level work. Are there other activities you are implementing in the classroom to engage students who are a bit shyer or hesitant to practice public speaking?

    Additionally, in case it may be of interest, I’m including a U-M Library ESL resource http://guides.lib.umich.edu/c.php?g=282791&p=1888120. Hope it’s helpful!



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