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Practicing Speech: What Does It Really Mean?

In the past, I've heard students asking their teachers for more speaking practice during class time. It's a very common request. However, some of the teachers made a point to give the students plenty of opportunities to speak and practice their skills. The sad truth, though, is that most students don't use the time for practicing speech. Rather, they misuse their time to summarize.


So, why is this? If the students want to practice their speaking skills, why aren't they practicing their speech, instead of just summarizing? Maybe, just maybe, the teacher isn't really giving them time at all. Because: if the teacher were giving the students time for speaking practice, then, the students wouldn't be asking for it. The situation seems to be a serious problem of misunderstanding.


Think for a moment of the following question:

                                            What do you think?


If your teacher asks you this question (What do you think?), he/she is NOT asking you to summarize the text or lecture. They are, however, asking you to take your understanding and give your opinion on the topic. This small 4-word question is a transition into - you guessed it! - speaking practice. How a student chooses to answer this little question is up to them. Choosing to restate facts from the topic that were already mentioned is a way for a student to practice different ways of saying something (summarizing) and to fully realize their understanding of the topic; however, choosing to relate the topic information to his/her own opinions and thoughts is a way to elivate the student's understanding, as well as incorporate abstract reasoning (speaking practice). Misunderstanding this one question is the most common break-down of communication between a student and teacher!


So, let's look at a few more examples of how a teacher might initiate "free speech", spontaneous speech, and speaking practice in class.


"What are your thoughts... ?"


"Tell me your opinion."


"What's your opinion... ?"


"What is your interpretation... ?"


"What did you get out of... ?"


"What is your perception... ?"


"What's your understanding... ?


All of the above questions are probing you for information. All of these questions are asking you to LOOK AWAY from the material and just TALK about it in a normal conversation - be it in academic or everyday speech.


For example:



The Aki Matsuri festival in Japan is a celebration of the Autumn season and reminds Shintoists the importance of the divine spirits (Gods) and nature. It is held every September and incorporates aspects from the Shinto religion, including 20 men carrying a replica of a Shinto shrine.



So, what are your thoughts? How would you interpret this statement?


I like that appreciation is given to nature, which, in my culture, we don't really think about. I know that I've personally taken it for granted in the past. It's definitely strange for me to consider having a festival dedicated to the aspect of nature, yet, it makes me stop and consider the true meaning of what nature really "is". You know? I would question, though, why the Japanese only celebrate nature in the Fall - once a year - instead of seasonally or year-round. Also, I don't know what a Shinto Shrine is or what it may look like, but having 20 men carry it sounds like the shrine may be very large or just very heavy. My question is why would they have men carry this massive "thing" around in the first place. What is its importance?



THIS is a GOOD example of a student who is practicing their speaking skills. They are not just summarizing the text but are referring to the ideas of the text; and, they are intermixing their own thoughts with the understanding of the material. They are having a conversation now, rather than just regurgitating facts already said.


Now, let me ask you:


                                     What's your understanding of this?




Can't wait to hear your thoughts and interpretations!!

                                                                            ~ Bre


Oct 13, 2012 11:15 PM
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Language Skills
English, Latin
Learning Language