As a LINC Home Study Instructor, my classes are all individual and the students’ levels range from CLB 4-7. I found it difficult to address CLB “Interacting with Others” for speaking and listening – particularly:
- Opening and maintaining a conversation
- Using a range of small talk phrases
- Nonverbal communication
- turn taking
- adding supporting comments etc.
I noticed that a significant part of my own small talk revolved around common posts on social media with Facebook being the most common. I realized that even my husband and I would often start a conversation after work with “Did you see your mom’s post…..” “I saw a funny meme on Facebook…”
I decided to create a private Facebook Group for my students to see if they would respond in the same way. All but one were on Facebook. I required all my students (except the one not on Facebook) to join my group and explained the privacy settings for this group. We also discussed appropriate posts and how much they use English on social media.
Then I started posting various content to see what would interest them. I posted once or twice a week. I was able to check to see how many in the group had seen the post. I posted about, for example:
- Current events in Canada (Ottawa) Winterlude, Canada Day, 2016 Census results, the passing of Bill B-6 (changing citizenship requirements), Fall back/spring ahead
- Funny memes/gifs/videos
- Personal photos of family events/holidays/etc
- Weather and traffic
It didn’t take long for my students to open our class with a comment about what they saw posted on Facebook. I tried to vary the types of posts; different things seemed to resonate with different students. Most use Facebook in their own language so when they saw an English post, they knew it was from me. Many started spontaneously initiating small talk in class! Feeling emboldened, I decided to give them some tools to work with:
|Introducing a comment about something you saw on Facebook||Responding to someone’s comment||Keeping the conversation going||Responding if you didn’t see the post but are a part of the conversation.||Responding if you are not on social media but a part of the conversation|
|Hi Diane, I saw your post on Facebook. That cake looked delicious!||Thanks! It was.||Where were you?
What kind of cake was that?
Did you make the cake yourself?
|Can I see? (I can share my screen or students usually have their phone)|
|Hi Diane, I saw your post on Facebook. Where were you?||Oh yes! We were on the canal.||Where is that?
What were you doing there?
|Hi Diane, Did you see that meme about Thanksgiving? It was funny||Yes. I did. It was a good one.||Do you celebrate Thanksgiving?||No I didn’t. What did it say?||No, I’m not on Facebook. Can you show me?|
|Hi Diane, I saw your post about the new citizenship rules.||Yes, it is great news.||What is the bill about?||No I didn’t. What did it say?|
Many of my students started using these phrases to comment on my posts in class. I never really managed to get the students to post much themselves. The is probably because they don’t know each other and are not comfortable.
Suggestions for F2F classroom application:
Find out how many of your students are on Facebook already. How much do they use it in English? Discuss what kinds of posts are appropriate on Facebook.
Create a Facebook group and ask those using Facebook to join. This can be done in class. The Instructor posts 2-3 posts a week. Students are also welcome to post.
Speaking task: Can be used as Skill building/Skill using/assessment
Friday Coffee Talk 🙂 (done every Friday)
Students can look at Facebook on their phones. Teacher can project the Facebook group on a big screen for those without phones or not on Facebook. Students are required to initiate small talk based on a Facebook post with at least 1 person. More if they are a higher level. After the Coffee Talk, students completed this reflection chart.
|Who did you talk to?||What did you talk about?||What phrases did you use to start the conversation?||What phrases did you use to keep the conversation going?||What did you learn about your classmates?|
Students found this exercise useful and fun. I saw a significant increase in their ability to meet the criteria of this competency. And everybody likes a coffee break! 🙂
Diane Ramanathan has been a LINC Home Study instructor with The Centre for Education and Training since Feb 2014. She is also a part-time professor for the TESL program at Algonquin College.