Course Information/Grading

Conversational English

Course Outline & Introduction

Xuchang University: 2011/12

~ Course Description: This course is classroom based, since spoken language cannot be learned from a book, but only through face-to-face conversation with a partner or in a group. Speaking cannot be learned alone, and only crazy people talk to themselves.

The course is focused on some aspect of “spoken English” (i.e., conversation [with a partner], public speaking [with an audience], drama performances [in groups], & etc.) but will necessarily involve writing, reading, listening, vocabulary and usage, and grammar/pronunciation instruction. Students are encouraged to bring ideas, topics and subject matter from other classes, and to discuss problems in English discovered outside of this class (other classes, internet, books/magazines, TV and movies, & etc.).

The two main priorities will be, first, to review the basics of speaking to discover the areas of weakness and increase the confidence of students when speaking and, second, to give every student the opportunity to improve English vocabulary and speaking ability (pronunciation and usage) through dialogue and conversation practice on common everyday topics.

The specific content of each lesson will be adjusted according to the needs and abilities of the class based on in-class level evaluations.

~ Course Objectives: The class is designed to enable students to:

1 ~ gain the confidence needed to speak in English to a group or in front of an audience

2 ~ improve pronunciation, intonation, rhythm, through conversation feedback and response

3 ~ learn how to summarize and paraphrase from Chinese to English

4 ~ practice authentic grammar and usage in speech

5 ~ express personal ideas and opinions.

~ Evaluations & Grading: I do not grade students; I grade a student’s ability to communicate using spoken English. In spoken English the most important thing is successful communication. Final grades will be based on an in-class participation component (30%), a group activity component (30%) and an individual final exam (40%). Active students who demonstrate good speaking ability during the term may earn an exemption from the Final Exam.

~ Attendance & Behaviour: The class monitor will take attendance at the beginning of each class. Students are expected to attend every class. This may be your only opportunity to practice speaking. Attendance is, of course, your choice, but frequent absence will almost certainly bring down your grade. Remember, 30% of your Final Grade is based on in-class participation. However, whether you attend or not is your business.

While in the classroom all students are expected to participate. If you do not wish to participate, don’t disturb the other students. Better yet, don’t come!!!

Cell phones must be turned off. If you must use your phone please leave the room quietly and use your phone in the hallway.

If you must sleep, do not snore!!!

~ Lesson Plans: The plan for upcoming lessons will be posted on this website. Please read it, there may be some preparation work you will need to do. Print copies will be given to the team captains and/or class monitor the week before.

~ Assignments & Homework: Students may be assigned some homework as preparation for the next class. If you do not do the preparation, then you may find you are unable to participate in the class and may even find the situation embarrassing. If you do not do the assignments, your grades will certainly suffer.

~ Extra Credits: Serious students should bookmark the California Distance Learning Project in their computers at: http://www.cdlponline.org/ , do at least four of these exercises complete each week, and email me the results according to the directions given on the site. You may earn grade credits of 1% for every exercise completed, to a maximum of 10%.

~ Materials & Supplies: All students must bring to every class:

1: English-Chinese book dictionary (you will be using this). The Oxford Advanced Learner’s, 7th Edition, is required to be with you each and every class. This is your main textbook and resource for learning new vocabulary.

2:  pencil or pen (you will be writing)

3:  notebook (you will be taking notes)

4:  electronic translator if you have one (useful for Chinese-English word finding). NOTE: this is not a dictionary

~ Language & Nicknames: Students are encouraged to speak English only while in the classroom, both when talking with the teacher and when talking to each other. It is good practice.

English nicknames are a very useful device; they help you to stay focused on English. I will always use your English nickname when calling on you in class. If you do not have one, get one. Use these nicknames when talking to each other in class.

~ Responsibility & Respect: respect your classmates. Learning a foreign language is very difficult and all of you are in the same boat. Help each other whenever you can and certainly don’t hinder! Never do anything in the classroom that will disturb or distract your classmates. If you must leave the room for any reason, do so quietly through the rear door. When a classmate is making a speech, be a good audience.

We are all adults here. As the instructor I may from time to time need to enforce some rules, but generally you and I are equals. I will not “punish” you for being absent. I will not “punish” you for sleeping. That is your business. But if you are disturbing other students I will ask you to leave the room.

As adults you are fully responsible for your actions and decisions. This is not Middle School, and nobody here cares about you except you! In Middle School the responsibility was with your teacher to teach; in university the responsibility is with the student (you) to learn. If you must be absent from class that is your business and I know it is something important to you. You need not tell me, it is not my business. You are paying a great deal of money to have a seat in this room and I assume you will spend that money wisely and try to get the maximum value for every yuan you are spending here.

But remember, I do not give you a grade, you give you a grade. You decide what grade you want from this course, and then you do whatever you need to do to get that grade. It is your life and your future.

~ Opportunity: take it! Put up your hand, interrupt me and ask questions if you do not understand. Be the first one up here when I give opportunities to speak. Seize the moment.

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Spoken English Grading Criteria

College/University English Major Students

~ based on the assigned textbook and/or materials for the course, appropriate to class year and students’ age:

A : can speak with God-like perfection beyond the ability of any mere mortal. Perfect. 100%

A- : speaks with ease on many topics beyond the course material; easy and fluent conversational speech; wide and appropriate vocabulary; correct grammar and usage; clear pronunciation; very good listening skills. Excellent. 97.5%

B+ : 92.5%

B : can easily and fluently discuss the course material; good grammar; clear pronunciation; appropriate use of words and phrases with good range of vocabulary; expresses opinions easily and clearly; very good listening skills. Very good. 87.5%

B- : 82.5%

C+ : 77.5%

C : can discuss the topics in the course material with only a little difficulty; occasional pausing to think of a word; some poor grammar; can generally express an idea or opinion clearly. Understands well when listening.  As expected for the class. Good. 72.5%

C- : 67.5%

D : can more or less follow what the teacher is saying; can express a basic general idea about the course topics; bad grammar, but not incomprehensibly bad; small vocabulary; poor pronunciation, but still understandable. Satisfactory. 62.5%

Fail : good at playing basketball and computer games. Always sits in the back row on those rare occasions when in attendance.

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Grade Component Requirements

This oral English course consists of three components:1) in-class participation;2) group activities;3) individual exam. These three components are intended to give the student ample and varied opportunities to practice conversational English.

Students will participate in in-class group discussions, group role play and drama performances, public speaking and presentations, and poetry/short reading activities.

Components and Grade Weights:

1) In-class participation accounts for 30% of the Final Grade. The key word here is “participation”. Merely coming to class and sitting there will earn nothing. Students must actively take part, ask questions, volunteer for readings and/or speeches, and generally be a visible member of the team to earn all of this component.

2) Group activities accounts for 30% of the Final Grade. Working in teams, students will produce a number of role-plays (full teams), presentations (1/2 teams), and lessons (1/2 teams). For these activities the group will get the grade and all members of the group will share the same grade.

3) The individual exam accounts for 40% of the Final Grade. Students will have an impromptu conversation in groups of 5 (or 1/2 teams), but will be judged individually on their ability to express personal ideas and opinions clearly and to understand what is being said by others in the group. This will test the student’s ability to have a casual conversation with others about some general, everyday kind of topic.

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