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Speaking - Textual Awareness - Oral Texts
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Strategies for Oral Practice:
Developing Textual Awareness & Communicative Strategies
+ tips for Speaking Tests

By michelle 2007, rev. 2009

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Throughout the course, you should expand these notes, collecting useful language.
If you do, please send it for publication. We can create a podcast episode too.
There are 3 podcast episodes with useful language for communicative strategies.
Check out the TP Podcast external link and then click on the tag called "communicative strategies".
You can also check out our section here (above) Useful Language.

Breaking the ice. Finding your place in the setting, acknowledging people's existence.
Hello. Shall we take a seat? I'm .../So, am I candidate A?

Getting started... Introduction to the activity, introducing the topic (not your opinion! First things first!)
I'm going to SPEAK about ...(monologues)
Tomorrow is Peter's birthday. We need to get him a present. I would like to get him a book. (dialogues with a practical aim)
Lately I've been hearing a lot about changes in the levels at Language Schools. Have you heard about it? (dialogues analyzing topics) Later, you can start asking others.

Turn-taking (for dialogues only) Turn-taking & accompanying the one using his/her turn with comments.
Remember: balanced dialogues! If one person speaks a lot and the other doesn’t speak much, that will be bad for both people, so avoid it. If someone is quiet, do something! Invite him or her to speak, e.g. You’re very quiet (smile) What do you think about all this? / What would you do? / Do you like the idea?
Remember: accompany people with some expressiveness in your face (!) and with little comments, e.g. Oh, I see./Yes, I understand/ Oh, yes, I love that. / That's annoying / Sure / Oh well...

Moving on and changing subjects
If you see you are running out of time, you can even say so, adapting that idea to your situation, e.g. We're running out of time and we need to deal with another issue. What...? (actual=real, applicable to the reality in class) / I need to leave in five minutes. Could we talk about...? (pretend, you roleplay)
If somebody is going on and on about the same point, and somebody else hasn’t spoken yet, you can help out, e.g. OK, then, I think that's clear. (To the silent person) What do you think? // OK, then. Can we agree on that? + (explain what)

Recapitulating. A summary repeating the main points briefly. (You can also check you got it right.) This brings us back to the intro, in a different way, acknowledging the previous discussion.
So, we'll be getting some clothes for Peter, then. We'll meet next Friday afternoon to go shopping and you will call Mary to ask her if she wants to share expenses with us. Is that right?
So there are more sides to this topic than I could think of! It's been an interesting discussion!

Signalling the end. Signal the end, please, so everybody knows the exercise is over. Also, if you haven't spoken as much as others, use the end to make up a story with one sentence!:
OK, then, I've got to rush. My mum's waiting for me to go shopping.
So that's it. / That's about it. See you tomorrow then.

Tips for dialogues at Oral Exams

Defending your position doesn't mean prevailing, or fighting to prevail. It means EXPLAINING your point of view. You should also LISTEN to the other people, and "accompany" them with little signals that you are following. Don’t state your three points one after the other. Pose one, everybody considers it, then somebody else introduces another, you all discuss it, and so on. Proceed to reach a consensus ONLY AFTER you are all aware of each other's positions (i.e. you understand them). Your consensus or solution to the problem doesn’t necessarily have to be any of the points you were given to mention. You can create your own arrangements!

Practice timing yourselves in class, in small groups, to get the feeling of how long developing a couple of ideas takes in all, in turn-taking, and how long reaching a consensus takes in all.

If you don't understand someone's English, relax and try to notice the words that are most clearly pronounced or stressed. You can also ask them to repeat, or, even better, you can ask specific questions to get a specific word you need to reconstruct their message (communicate!) – in this way you wouldn’t make the person repeat it all, just the part you really need to understand to continue. Use your knowledge of the world and your info about the activity to do so.

Teachers cannot talk to you. They take notes to be able to share them and agree on a final mark for your exercise. So they need to concentrate a lot and take notes. Their notes are also about the good things in your exercise, not only about your mistakes.