I had an Ielts class with a new learner and I decided to start with a speaking session. I thought this would give me a better picture of my learner’s level and a first idea of what I needed to focus on when choosing material.
What I already knew about my learner
Adult, engineer, post graduate level learner who wants to do an MA in the UK. He already had a B2 level language proficeincy certificate and used his English occasionally.
The day of the lesson came.
After a bit of small talk,
How are you? (that’s the end of the small talk)
I then took out the Ielts Practice Tests book and went to a speaking test. Of course, my first lesson was not going to be a mock test, but I did want to use ‘authentic’ exam questions.
to give the learner an idea of the speaking questions (topics, level and activities).This is going to be a crash course (intensive course?). We started this week and the learner will be taking the test in March. I needed to know the weaknesses asap, and I thought a speaking sessions would allow me to do that. This was going to be my productive skill needs analysis session.
I also wanted:
to have a communicative lesson (because they are more fun) + a lesson that focused on a productive skill..
to focus on a skill that is a bit more relaxed compared to the others.
The lesson: some thoughts and reflections.
I found a speaking test about being famous. In my mind, talking about being famous yourself, and other people who are famous, is probably a topic everyone can talk about because famous can be defined in so many ways. We also live in a day and age where being famous is not that hard.
Task 1: Ice Breaker/ Intro Questions
I started off with the first part of the Ielts test which is the ice breaker. Talk about your self, your friends, neighbourhood, life / work.
This actually was a good task cause I got to know my learner much better.
I did not stop him or time his answers, I went with the flow. I did not make error correction either. unless it was something major that impeded communication. Instead I lifted up my notebook and took notes. I said to my learner that I would jot down good points and corrections.
I noticed my student was making pronunciation mistakes and grammar mistakes, so I made that the focus of my notes. My needs analysis speaking lesson was in progress.
After we finished the 1st part, we talked a bit about his mistakes. He took notes, and wherever possible he corrected the mistakes he made. If he couldn’t find the correct answer, I told him.
Part 2 The Card
I then gave him a card with questions (this is the 2nd part of the Ielts oral exam). I told my learner he could think as long as he wanted to, take notes and then tell me the answer to these questions.
Again, I took notes, then at the end, we corrected mistakes, discussed issues.
Part 3: Open ended questions
This part was tricky because it required:
Longer turns/ monologues.
Digging deeper into the question and elaborating.
My learner had difficulty answering longer/ open ended questions, so I gave him an example and told him how I would answer a question like that. He then did answer the questions. This part showed me that when asked more complex questions my learner struggled, so now I had info about pronunciation, grammar and expressing opinions/ holding monologues/ longer turns.
On the downside
My learner did look at me while I was writing, so while I did tell him that I was taking notes of good/ things and weaknesses, he wasn’t really convinced and there were times when he asked,
What are you writing now?
There were others where he felt a bit discouraged by the questions, so I did stray off the original exam type questions.I do not think that is a downside though (just to be clear). There was a lot of brainstorming and scaffolding in the last part.
In fact, the last part of my lesson allowed me to see how easy it is for my learner to come up with ideas and organise thoughts.
So, by the end of my one hour course, I had a first impression of what my learner needs help with. I have already made a list of some of the grammar points that need to be addressed in future classes as well as ‘sounds’ my student needs help with. By the end of this first lesson, my learner was also aware of what the Ielts speaking part is about.
All in all, I was happy with this type of ‘needs analysis’ speaking session. It was very hands on, dealt with ‘real language problems’. As this is a crash course, I really need to be very focused and have clear objectives. I always think that my 1st lessons are flops, a lot of let’s meet and become friends vibe and this was
Let’s meet, become friends and get down to business.
That’s all folks.
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