Advanced language learners need to be able to provide opinions and describe the reasoning for their viewpoints.
It is a wonderful way to develop vocabulary, utilize complex grammatical structures, and engage in interesting dialogues. Open up viewpoints for your advanced learners and learn a lot about them while they improve very important skills.
How to Teach Students to Open up Viewpoints
Teaching students how to use persuasive language appropriately can give them the outlet they need to discuss opinions, world issues, and controversial topics. When presenting persuasive topics you don't have to focus solely on persuasion. It can be productive simply to have students defining their opinions and organizing thoughts while also building confidence. The outcome you want is for them to feel strongly about something and to have the language to communicate it. You don't want students to become argumentative or overly-opinionated during the learning process.
Once you have devised goals with the students, a perfect starting point is ranking exercises. You can come up with any number of topics and ask students to rank their opinion on a scale from one (strongly disagree) to ten (strongly agree). Here you may choose to introduce other language sometimes seen on surveys. These can be things like: indifferent, somewhat disagree/agree, or not applicable. For your ranking exercise present a range of topics. They could be hot-button issues, culturally-relevant topics, or familiar, non-intimidating subjects. Here are some examples:
- If you work hard, you will be successful.
- I can get a higher paying job if I speak good English.
- Foreigners should pay more at restaurants.
- Women should earn the same wages as men.
- Technology has made life better in most ways.
Once all students have ranked the statements, they can begin discussing their opinions in a variety of ways. You could do one big group discussion or put them in small groups or pairs. Before you send them off to start discussion, review or brainstorm some key phrases used when presenting opinions persuasively. Some examples are:
- In my opinion....
- I don't think...is right/positive, because....
- My feeling is that....
- I don't see how....
- I feel very strongly that....
- Frankly, I think that... is wrong/incorrect
These phrases are used to introduce where their opinion lies. Making those statements is the easy part. They must then back up their statements with thoughtful arguments that are heartfelt and to the point. Allow them to practice uninterrupted and observe what happens. Then bring them back together as a group and debrief what their discussions entailed, how many items they discussed, and how they felt they did expressing themselves.
It is important to stress that expressing viewpoints has a time and a place, and students need to also respect the opinions of other people. When starting out, students may get anxious to express their opinions, so be sure to set guidelines for discussion and speaking activities. You may want to address how to interrupt, politely disagree, and how to focus on opinions not personal attacks. Disagreeing politely is an art form, and it creates opportunities for students to use humor, craft meaningful arguments, and challenge each other to defend opinions. It is important to approach the topic of disagreement within an environment of respect. When done correctly, students learn to defend themselves and their beliefs even when it might be difficult or contrary to the popular way of thinking.
One way to practice disagreeing with one another is to create debates where students must argue points on both sides of their beliefs. When they have to defend something they are against, it will show them that there are two sides to every argument and that both sides have good points.
Current Talk Topics
To keep viewpoints in the forefront of lessons continuously, you can institute a daily talk topic. Arrange it however you would like, but ideally a set amount of time each lesson focuses on open discussion of one particular topic. You could also weave the topic into other parts of the lesson if it is appropriate. You can assign a topic of the day at the beginning of class, tell them what it is at the end of the lesson for the following class, or assign the duty to one student per day. Whichever way you choose, be sure that the topic will promote healthy, stimulating dialogue to get everyone interacting. If you want to incorporate reading or writing with your daily talk topic, you could choose a short article to be the jumping off point for discussion and vocabulary. This can work well if the students need some direction initially. A short reading can spark a lot of conversation and really get conversations progressing. You may also want to have students write about the topic before or after the discussion to organize thoughts, expound more on their viewpoints, or to summarize. Daily talk topics should relate to the students' daily lives. Topics would be very different if you are teaching an advanced high school class versus an advanced class of older learners. Make the topics applicable to them so that they have some stake in the conversations. This will motivate learners not only to speak, but to listen to their classmates.
Examining viewpoints for advanced learners can lead to a whole new phase of expression.
Opening up viewpoints in the right format and environment is definitely the way to help students progress and develop.