Difficulties in finding topics

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Difficulties in finding topics

Postby Icon » 10 May 2012, 16:56

So, I am trying to teach a conversation class, without my books which I foolishly locked in storage. The problem, I've come to realize, is that topic wise there is so much you can cover.

Examples of stuff you cannot elicit a conversation from an average Taiwanese high schooler:
Hobbies: none, no time.
Housekeeping: not help at home, can't talk about cooking, etc.
My student is even worse: her mother does not allow her to watch TV, they have no cable, no newspaper at home. No listening to the radio. All these are distractions that prevent students from being number one in class.
Holidays, talking about the future and future plans -what are you doing this weekend? Homework, studying. Movies? Going out with friends? What is that?

I am really getting to the end of my rope. I had faced similar conditions but this time it is extreme. Any ideas? How do you circunvent this problem? I cannot solve it, I have to work with it.

I've been looking online and realized how culturally biased most of these websites are. Really, not appropiate or too many Western cultural references that most people here wouldn't get. *sigh*
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Re: Difficulties in finding topics

Postby Confuzius » 10 May 2012, 17:00

go to Caves books or ESLITE and flip through a conversation English textbook. Each chapter (from my experience) is centered around a theme (topic as you call it). Get ideas from those. Hell, you may havta buy a book and then make some materials based on the book.

There are tons of topics:
fears
work
family
animals
tv
movies
relationships (romantic)
relationships (platonic)
religion
culture
food

just to name a few that came to me while writing this response
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Re: Difficulties in finding topics

Postby Icon » 10 May 2012, 17:10

Confuzius wrote:go to Caves books or ESLITE and flip through a conversation English textbook. Each chapter (from my experience) is centered around a theme (topic as you call it). Get ideas from those. Hell, you may havta buy a book and then make some materials based on the book.

There are tons of topics:
fears
work
family
animals
tv
movies
relationships (romantic)
relationships (platonic)
religion
culture
food

just to name a few that came to me while writing this response


No work -destiny is already written by parents. Heck, not even mention of romance or future relationships- it's an all girls school. Religion she knows nothing about, that's her parents stuff. Animals are not alllowed. One more time: NO TV! They are not allowed to watch TV. Family goes as far as mom, dad and brother. That's it. Fears? Only failing at school.

I wouldn't be asking for help if it wasn't a serious case. This is a really bad case.

ps.
my specialty is materials development. But I cannot develop stuff if the kid is not going to produce since she has no life to take the experience out from. It is really sad.
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Re: Difficulties in finding topics

Postby Confuzius » 10 May 2012, 17:24

why not then do some roleplay, get her to talk about other people's lives. Maybe start with yours, or create a character who is interesting, some child who plays sports, has animals and does all sortsa cool stuff. Then one of you can be that child (or perhaps create 2 personas-1 for each of you) and when you meet, you meet as these alter egos and discuss these imaginary lives as if they are your own.

It may be a bit of pulling teeth at first, ton of vocab and a lot of prep time, but like you said, its a desperate case.
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Re: Difficulties in finding topics

Postby tatterdemalion » 10 May 2012, 17:30

Since your books are in storage, you might try out some materials-free teaching activities. While I don't think every activity here will work in your situation, there might be a few that work better than trying to have them discuss a topic. These are all from the One Stop English website:

Lesson Sequences
http://www.onestopenglish.com/support/minimal-resources/the-world-around-you/minimal-resources-lesson-sequences/146561.article

Speaking Activities
http://www.onestopenglish.com/support/minimal-resources/skills/minimal-resources-speaking-activities/146560.article

Role-plays and Discussion
http://www.onestopenglish.com/support/minimal-resources/skills/minimal-resources-role-plays-and-discussion/146559.article

Students' Ideas
http://www.onestopenglish.com/support/minimal-resources/students-ideas/

The Immediate Environment
http://www.onestopenglish.com/support/minimal-resources/the-world-around-you/minimal-resources-the-immediate-environment/146562.article
======================================================================
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Re: Difficulties in finding topics

Postby Icon » 10 May 2012, 17:39

Oh, I am raiding ESLcafe, About, TESL nets, anything and everything. Thanks for the links.

It is so sad, you know, when you think about such a sheltered existance, such a one track mind, studies and tests and that's life.
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Re: Difficulties in finding topics

Postby housecat » 10 May 2012, 17:58

You will simply have to talk about the limited things the student has experience of, such as homework, studying, grades and how they're figured, what it takes to get into the "best" schools, etc. Mind numbingly boring stuff. But you might be able to get her to "explain" it all to you, in a lot of detail. Or what all her efforts mean to her family.

The problem is that people like this have such limited capacity to imagine or fantasize. If you try to get the student to make up a fantacy life for herself, or for you, or to imagine a day in the life of some celebrity, or what have you--you may find that this just is NOT possible for the student.

I once spent time trying to help a Doctor better his conversational English, but he could only talk about very clinical things. All he knew was work. He could tell me that he hated his job, that he became a dr. because his parents told him to, but there was NO capacity to imagine any alternative. No RATHER be, rather do. There was only work. We talked about patients and what symptoms were like, so I may have helped him if he ever needed to talk with an English speaking patient. But there was nothing more. There was nothing more to HIM.
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Re: Difficulties in finding topics

Postby asiababy » 10 May 2012, 18:14

I find Scholastic books really useful in this situation. I'm teaching my nieces right now. They are lovely, but at 10 and 12 years old, there is only so much to talk about unguided. I'm now using some Scholastic curriculum material (like reading tests for Grade 3 and 4 kids, social studies and English worksheets), just to give us a structure to the class. I also used "Ideas and Issues" but we finished it. They really like learning the stories of where things are made, famous people etc, and then discussing the material and what they think of it.
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Re: Difficulties in finding topics

Postby Confuzius » 10 May 2012, 18:25

housecat wrote:You will simply have to talk about the limited things the student has experience of, such as homework, studying, grades and how they're figured, what it takes to get into the "best" schools, etc. Mind numbingly boring stuff. But you might be able to get her to "explain" it all to you, in a lot of detail. Or what all her efforts mean to her family.

The problem is that people like this have such limited capacity to imagine or fantasize. If you try to get the student to make up a fantacy life for herself, or for you, or to imagine a day in the life of some celebrity, or what have you--you may find that this just is NOT possible for the student.

I once spent time trying to help a Doctor better his conversational English, but he could only talk about very clinical things. All he knew was work. He could tell me that he hated his job, that he became a dr. because his parents told him to, but there was NO capacity to imagine any alternative. No RATHER be, rather do. There was only work. We talked about patients and what symptoms were like, so I may have helped him if he ever needed to talk with an English speaking patient. But there was nothing more. There was nothing more to HIM.


I do not think both situations are the same. Children are FAR more imaginative than adults (perhaps because they have not had it beaten out of them yet) though it seems this kind is on the same sort of path the dr is.

She could have a HUGE capacity to imagine and fantasize, but is never given the chance. This may be a wonderful opportunity to not only give her some engrish skills, but some human skills too.

:2cents:

You do not even have to create the character from scratch. Though this is for conversation, maybe introduce some age appropriate story books, then try and fill in the characters' personalities and go from there. Not saying it is an overnight project, may take some time, but its better than just discussing homework.
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Re: Difficulties in finding topics

Postby housecat » 11 May 2012, 06:31

Confuzious, for the sake of the student, I really hope you're right. I've just been there and understand the OP's frustration.
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