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Handy Anecdote Hints

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First a little background to this activity. I've been teaching ESL for about three years and have developed my own approach to teaching conversation. Basically, I've divided conversation into three main aspects which can be discussed and on which exercises games etc can be based and selected. The three areas are 1) Asking and Answering Questions 2) Description and Narrative ( Telling stories/jokes)
3) Discussion and Debate. I mke clear through demonstration that a discussion invlolves different opinions while a debate involves opposing opinions. I also distiguish between a debate and an argument. In my model an argument involves a personal aspect and can simply invlove negating, whereas a debate must be rational and is never personal only about the ideas never the person.Arguments,for me,are a seperate form of discourse. I also point out or elicit that the most common form of discussion relates to future plans ( lot's of oppurtunities to practise Future forms, particularly the use of 'will' and 'going to', here)

Anyway I have an activity that I've developed to practise the second aspect of conversation in my template. It's designed to ecourage description and storytelling using a personal anecdote. The idea for this activity actually came from a journal I read years ago when I first started teaching, basically you write a series of leading questions to do with a common experience eg holidays and allow students time to answer as many of the questiions as the can. I then demonstrate by telling my own anecdote on the topic before pairing or gruoping learners to tell each other. This activity usually works well and encourages students to talk. It also helps them to develop fluency. I sometimes get them to practise in several differnt groups before telling the whole class, to demonstrate how personal stories can become an important part of our conversation repetoire. Below is an example of one such activity. I hope it is useful and inspires you to adapt or write your own.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR LAST TRIP AWAY!
1 When was it?
2.Where did you go?
4. How did you travel there? And back?
5. What did you do there?
6. What did you see there?
5. Who did you go with?
6. What was it like?
7. Did you enjoy the experience? Why? Why not?
8. Would you go there again? Why? Why not?
9.Would you reccommend this place to your friends? Why? Why not?
10 Have you reccommended this place to anyone yet?

This activity can be used again and again to help build fluency,confidence and practise description and narrative. Other possible topics are "Your time at High School"
" Your first home"
" The last book you read/movie you saw"
" An experince from your childhood"

Hope you find these ideas useful. I've chosen these tasks as I feel telling stories is often a neglected aspect of conversation and these can cause very funny or poignant moments in the class. Good luck

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