Did you ever have a problem that you needed help solving? Did you get any useful advice? Who did you ask for that advice? Did you follow the advice that you got? What happened?
If you want to give your students some practice giving and following advice as they learn to speak fluent English, try some of the following activities which exercise listening, speaking, reading and writing skills.
A: How to Teach Giving and Receiving Advice
Delve Into the Problem
Before you can give advice, you have to know what the problem is. In small groups or as a class, take some time to brainstorm some problems that your students face. They might be problems that they encounter every day, like how to get your homework done or how to wake up in the morning, but they can also be problems that are unusual like what to do after you have a house fire or how to get out of a bad relationship. Once you have compiled the list, you may want to keep it for the following activities.
Once your students have a list of some problems, ask your students what they would do if they had any of those problems. Would they talk to a friend or family member? Would they ask a professional? Make a second list with strategies for dealing with a problem. They should not be specific solutions, like get a tutor to help with homework, but generalized solutions that could be applied to any problem like talk to your parents.
Do a Grammar Review
If your students are not familiar with the use of the modal verbs should, would and could, you will want to review them in more detail. For most students though, a quick review will be enough. Remind your students that these modals are used as helping verbs to communicate the certainty of the verb.
☛Could suggests a possibility.
You could call a doctor or take any of many other actions.
☛Should serves as a recommendation and is therefore a stronger modal verb than could.
You should call a doctor. You could do other things as well, but calling a doctor will be the wisest decision.
☛Would suggests a definite course of action.
I would call a doctor.
When giving advice, would must be used with I rather than you. If I were in your situation, my definite course of action would be to call the doctor. Encourage your students to use all three of these verbs when they give advice, and to choose the best one according to the certainty they have for each solution. If they are more experienced in a situation, they will probably use should. If they are uncertain, they would probably use could to give advice.
Get Some Advice
One of the most popular sources for advice over the last fifty years has been Dear Abby. The popular column was syndicated in 1956 and continues today. Just one year earlier, the Ask Ann Landers column was begun written by Abby’s twin sister. This family had a lot to say then and has a lot to say now about lots of problems. Either of these columns is a great written resource for your students when you are talking about giving advice. Give your students several examples from either of these columns or use a local advice column. Point out to your students how the readers first explain their problems and then how the writer answers them. Make sure they notice the grammar that is used in the response.
With the examples in front of them for a model, ask your students to write their own letter requesting advice. It could be on one of the problems you listed in the first activity, or it could be a problem that was not listed earlier. Your students should write about their problems using the form of a personal letter. Once the letter seeking advice is written, collect and redistribute the letters. Now each student should write advice in response to the original letter. These responses can be serious or silly. The only thing that really matters is that your students are using the correct grammar for giving advice.
After looking at the advice columns from one or more newspapers, ask your students if they have ever listened to a radio program that gives advice to its listeners. Discuss with your class whether that would be a good way to get advice for a problem. They will likely say it depends on what the program is as well as what the problem is. If you have difficulty locating an actual radio advice program, you can use portions from the movie Sleepless in Seattle and The Truth About Cats and Dogs. A great television source would be portions of episodes from Frasier in which Kelsey Grammar plays a radio psychiatrist on an advice program. Use portions of these movies and programs to exercise your students’ listening skills. Play the audio and visual for them, and stop the scene after the caller explains his or her problem. Then ask your students what the problem is. Play that portion again now that they know what the speaker’s problems is. Before listening to the advice that the host gives, ask your students to volunteer advice to the caller. What would they suggest the troubled person do? Then listen for the advice that the expert gives to the caller and determine if you would agree or disagree with it.
You can then set up your own radio advice show by asking for a volunteer from the class. This person should sit in front of the class and act as the radio host. Then another student acts out the part of the troubled caller. The first student must then give advice for the problem. As a class, discuss whether the person gave good advice, and ask your students if they would follow the advice. Now the student with the problem becomes the expert advice giver and takes a call from another student. Have your students take turns in this manner until everyone has had an opportunity to be the expert.
These activities will help your students become comfortable with the idea of giving advice to their peers. If you want to take it a step further, ask if there are situations in which it is not appropriate to give advice to a friend who has a problem. You can also discuss what your students can do or say when they do not have any good advice for a friend’s problem.
If you ask us, advice is a great way to get your students speaking and even writing and improve their overall English skills. You should try it.