For the past few weeks, I have been experimenting with some new ways to teach speaking. As a rule of thumb, in every speaking lesson, teachers are supposed to (1) facilitate students’ ideation process and (2) provide students with appropriate structures for language production.
One common practice for ideation is mind map drawing in which students are asked to come up with as many relevant ideas as possible and make clear the correlation between them. In a lesson whose objective is to help students talk about necessary life skills, for example, I did ask them to discuss in groups and draw a mind map, listing at least 5 life skills that they find crucial in modern society, and they did it quite well (although, as usual, it’s impossible to engage everybody; there were still some guys who simply had no interest in doing anything).
When it came to describing a cooking recipe, however, to avoid repeating the same old technique, I let students draw a hamburger, and had them annotate the name of the ingredients. This activity turned out to be a good one (as I see it; I’m not sure how each student thinks of it) for it provides us with several little bits of jokes about the shapes and size and colors of the ingredients. We also talked things other than just the recipe. And by annotating the ingredients, I taught them about the subtle differences between salad and lettuce, which is a common mistake of Vietnamese students, and the differences between hamburger bun and loaf/slice of bread, ketchup and tomato sauce, and so on. And certainly, the grammar topic that perfectly suits this vocabulary topic is countable and uncountable nouns. Then, with some more expressions provided, students can talk about a recipe in one minute.
In another lesson where they have to describe their bed room, I also asked them to draw their bed room and annotate the objects they have in the room. Then the pictures they have drawn are shown to everyone on the interactive board. It was also a good activity, I think, as everybody seemed to pay considerable attention to their friends’ talks.
Drawing can also be applied to teaching writing. In a lesson where students are expected to write a letter asking for more information about a learning course, I had my students draw a poster of a course. Some chose a cooking class; others preferred skateboarding, karate, singing or make-up courses. Then they have to write a letter to ask for two important pieces of information that they cannot find in the poster. It was good, too.