Activities to teach Intercultural Communication Competence - part 1

Recently, I observed a lesson in which the text below along with the comprehension exercise (Listening 1) were used to help a pre-intermediate group of learners practise their listening skills. 

 ©Straightforward, Pre-intermediate

Did you notice anything strange about the dialogue and the exercise? If you were Ali, what would you think of your friend, Charlie, and his reluctance to put you up for a couple of weeks?

In other words, this conversation reflects something much more important than simply finding specific information ignoring the actual content of the conversation; that is, Charlie does not want Ali to stay with him for one reason or another and tried to do his best to make sure Ali would not want to move in with him by mentioning the 'dirty kitchen', etc.

Without, of course, discarding the exercise to practise listening comprehension, let's look at an activity which could be added to the existing materials to raise the learners' awareness of other areas of language as well - areas which would be equally important in real-life and reflect what is known as Intercultural Communication Competence (ICC). 

Below you will find four types of questions that can be used to help both teachers and learners analyse any given text to teach ICC. 
  1. Language-based, e.g. What does "X" mean?
  2. Function-based, e.g. Why is (s)he saying this phrase?
  3. Comparative, e.g. Do you use the same phrase in similar situations in your country/mother tongue/specific social group, etc?
  4. General speculative, e.g. Do you think the conversation would be exactly the same if they were talking face-to-face rather than over the phone?

So, the activity that could be designed and be added to the materials I mentioned above might look something like that:

Language-based questions
·   What does ‘I don’t want to put you off…’ mean?
·    What does ‘I get no independence’ mean?
Function-based questions
·   Why does Charlie say: ‘Oh, by the way, the kitchen is a bit dirty, I think it’s my turn to do the housework’?
·   Why does Ali say: ‘No. Anyway, let’s get that food.’?
Comparative questions
·   Do you confide in your friends in the same way?
·   What would you do if you were Charlie?
·   What would you do if your were Ali?
General speculative questions
·   Do you think Charlie and Ali are very good friends? Why (not)?
·   Do you think Charlie should put Ali up for a week?
·   Why does Ali change the subject fo the conversation?

Obviously, the learners will come up with a variety of answers to the comparative and the general speculative questions above. The important thing is to remember to acknowledge all answers, treat them with respect, and exploit the learners' views for further discussion and speaking practice.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below to let me know how the activity went if you decide to add it (or a version of this activity) in one of your lessons. 

Till next week! 😊

Lesson Plan Tips #3: Solutions to Anticipated Problems - part 2

This post is about problems and solutions related to reading and listening. As always, if you have any problems which have not been mentioned below, feel free to write a comment and I'll do my best to help. 😊

The text is very long.
·   Leave a part of the text out without risking it not being coherent
·  Insert short comprehension tasks dealing with short chunks of the text each time to break it down
·  If it’s listening, pause the recording to make it easier to deal with.
The text contains difficult vocabulary.
·  Pre-teach these words before the learners start doing the exercises that go with the text
·  Before the learners start doing the exercises that go with the text, explain to them that they do not need to understand every single word in the text
The learners stop reading to look words up in their dictionaries OR they stop to ask the teacher for unknown words.
·   See solutions above
The students cannot find the answer to a difficult comprehension question.
·  Monitor to check which questions/items give learners a hard time
·  Narrow down their options by telling them which part of the text they should read to find the answer
·  (listening) replay or read out loud the specific bit of the text to help them spot the correct answer
The accent is difficult OR the participants speak very fast.
·  Before the learners start doing the listening exercises, raise their awareness of the main features of this specific accent, e.g. Scottish hard /r/ sound.
· If the learners speak fast, pause the recording or ask the learners to count how many words they heard, etc.
There is a lot of background noise in the recording.
· Instruct the learners to focus on the information they need to get from the text and avoid trying to understand everything.
The learners do not know much/anything about the topic of the text
·  Build on the learners’ knowledge by giving them the information they need to deal with the tasks in the lesson; again, this could be done through short exercises based on topic-related texts, videos, news stories, etc.