Teaching spoken language

Essay title: the validity of using artificially constructed written text as the basis of language learning activity at the acquisition of oral skills is being increasingly questioned.

How do you use intensive text study in your teaching to practise oral skills? Do you think the methods you use are valid ones?

The use of short texts for production purposes

[ Notes from a teacher development session given by Robert O'Neill in 1980 ]

Why use short texts?

1. Easy to use [ Life history / Typical day / Future ambitions / Descriptions of towns & places / descriptions of appearances ]
2. Compression
3. Transferability [ Dialogue to Text or visa-versa ]
4. Permanence of record [ unlike dialogue ]
5. Can generate more ideas
6. Can focus on a particular range of ideas.

What kind of texts?

A) Parallels
B) Rhetorical transformation e.g. complaint to a shop from letter to telephone conversation (one sided dialogue)
C) Discussion & Extension.

A) Parallels:

I was born in … … is a city/town in the West/East/South/Central part of ...
When I was ..., I attended ... for ... years.
When I was ..., it was my ambition to ...
For the last ... years, I have been ....

B) Rhetorical transformation

Example 1: Text of your letter, but you decide to complain by phone. The manager's side of the conversation is given.
Example 2: Read description of an experiment. Now change the description into a set of directions (Passive to Active)


English in Situations by Robert O'Neill [ Oxford University Press 1970 ]

This book broke new ground in the use of short texts for grammar presentation. It brought Robert O'Neill to the attention of English language publishers, demonstrating a thorough command of the situational contexts in which language forms most frequently occur Robert's approach to structural syllabus design (the ability to generate language forms) tied to situational context and narrative (understanding meaning and use) led to the immensely successful Kernel Lessons series, published by Longman. If your school is still lucky enough to possess audio cassettes for Robert O'Neill's Kernel Lessons - Plus: Laboratory Drills and Tapescript and Kernel Lessons: Intermediate Recorded Drills: Tapescripts, then you have some of the best self-access material that you could offer learners who wish to produce grammar orally instead of plodding through written exercises confined to testing receptive knowledge at an unrealistically slow pace.