Just what I was thinking

Just what I was thinking -Fluency practice lesson

What are students thinking? And how can we get them to express that in the classroom?  Being able to give your opinion and support your viewpoints is very valuable when speaking and more importantly when having a discussion.  Discussions and debates can sometimes lead to arguments if we have difficulty expressing ourselves and that’s why it’s important to equip our students with the proper tools so that when they do engage in a discussion, they can do so with a far lesser chance of being misunderstood and getting into an argument.  In my experience, native speakers could sometimes use a refresher course on some of this language 😉  So let’s get to it.

Here is a scan of the lesson lay-out from Speakout Upper-Intermediate, but I’ve adapted it a bit to make it more practical for a 60-minute lesson: just-what-i-was-thinkingccf11082016_00000


Start by getting students to read the three opinions below the pictures and ask them to tell you what the topic of discussion is for each opinion given.  This can be tricky so be prepared to rephrase the question.  The first extract is about the value of having cosmetic surgery, the ethics of downloading from the internet and finally, the ban of cars in the city center.  Ask students if the opinion for each topic is for or against (plastic surgery, downloading, banning cars).  Establish here that when there is a topic of discussion we can express our opinion by saying: I’m for/against it.

From here move to the four categories of functions we use:

Expressing Opinions/Agreeing/Disagreeing/Partial Agreement

Don’t worry if you don’t have the audio for this.  Just put students in pairs and ask them to try and complete the functions.  Admittedly, this is a lesson for Upper-Intermediate students and higher because they need to have some knowledge of this stuff.  If you teach business courses or English corporate courses usually the employees are of a high level but need fluency practice so this works well for them.  Once you’ve given them a couple minutes on this then get feedback and help with the rest.

Giving opinions: I’m really for/against it. / I’m in favor of it. / The way I see it. / I feel… / It seems to me that…

Agreement: I suppose so. / I see what you mean. / Exactly! / That’s right. / I agree.  /

Partially agreeing: You’ve got a point there, but… / I agree to some extent, but.. / I take/see your point, but.. / Fair enough, but…

Disagreement: I totally disagree. / I’m not so sure. / I’m still not convinced. / I don’t agree with you.

I have added the expressions from the box as well.  Make sure you emphasize how these expressions can be used to sound diplomatic in your discussions and help avoid conflict.  It’s also important to emphasize that these expressions are meant to enhance students fluency by providing additional options and not just sounding repetitive by saying:  I think…, I think…, I think…., I thinkRepetition of words can be distracting and listeners may lose the plot. 

Once you’ve covered the additional expressions from the box you can do an exercise for practice and the one in 5A is a duzzie! I find that these types of incomplete sentence exercises are great practice for students to practice sentence construction in general like word order, prepositions etc.  Even if they are advanced, they will need a good few minutes to complete this task. Once you check the answers in feedback get students to discuss one or two of the topics that we started the lessons with and encourage them to try and use the expressions just learned and reviewed.  Monitor and correct as appropriate.

From here you go to exercise 6 which introduces ways of supporting our viewpoint! Brilliant.  Introduce the exercise by writing on the board the three categories:

To give an example: Take case of…, such as, like, for instance…

For facts which you have read or heard: it’s been shown that…, it’s a well-known fact that…

For facts which you have read or heard when you are not sure if it is true: Apparently, According to…

My Polish students tend to overuse “for example” a lot in their speaking because it is quite common to use in their L1 but I remind them that it is necessary to “mix it up” a bit and use a variety so as not to sound repetitive.  Spend some time giving examples of how to use apparently, and according to because the additional examples you provide will really help students understand how useful they can be when trying to show that a view is not your own but information you read or heard from another source and can’t potentially verify. Very useful and beneficial for students.  You don’t have to do the practice exercise with them, get them to speak about the third topic from the start-off point using these expressions whenever they can.

Finally, quickly cover the opinion adjectives in exercise 8A.  Emphasize how learning adjectives like this can be a very effective way of communicating a lot with just one word! Example: It’s going to happen sooner or later, that’s for sure – INEVITABLE!  Upon completion of this task go straight to the speaking and ask students in new pairs or small groups to choose some of the statements and to use all the expressions and words just covered throughout the lesson in their discussions. Here are some additional statements for a follow-up lesson or whatever you choose (you can put them on strips of paper and put them face down in front of the pairs or groups):

Social networking sites are a waste of time

Having as many children as you want is not a basic human right.

Climate change is the world’s most serious problem

Everyone should pay less tax

Women can ‘multi-task’. Men can’t.

People who drive in cities shouldn’t drive big cars.

Children should learn more useful subjects in schools.

Sportsmen and women receive too much money.

Men are better drivers than women.

So, that’s a wrap for this lesson peeps.  It’s one of my top lessons because of how it forces students to really make an effort incorporating new language into their conversations/discussions.  The language can help their speaking fluency and offer them a confidence boost! J Go get ‘em.





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