How to Prepare for ESL Oral Exams
Oral Exams take up a huge amount of classroom time when you have as many ESL Students as I do.
I have noticed that the usual methods for preparing a speech is either that the student copies something directly from the internet and learns it verbatim, or writes out a couple of paragraphs and follows the same technique; of reading it aloud over and over and over again.
If the student does not perform their oral exam within a specific time frame, the short term memory deletes the information and the student fails the examination by being unable to perform and remember the speech that was memorized through rote methods.
If the student does perform the oral exam within the allocated time frame; before the deletion of the record takes place, then the speaker tends to drone on like a mechanical recording device, without any human expression.
Their eyes roam the room in a vacant stare as the speaker searches the record from the short term memory bank. When the students cannot remember and have lost their place in their narrative - they simply stand there - unable to think on their feet and move to another section of the talk.
A few students can show some sophistication with this method and are able to deliver the speech in a more animated fashion until you ask them the meanings of some of the words they are using, and you are met by a blank stare of incomprehension.
Then you realize that they neither understand the content of their speech nor the questions you are asking; even though a highly articulate speech is being delivered with a certain amount of aplomb.
Such is the dismal state of education; a breeding ground for sub normal mediocrity.
This essay goes on to describe how students can take back their intelligence and give an informative, educational and entertaining speech for their oral exam. As well as acquire and retain new information and understanding of their chosen topic and share their knowledge with human animated expression rather than descending to the level of an automaton.
The first rule is that You are not a machine.
You are human beings with the ability to feel and understand, you are not simply recording devices that relay information like a computer, or a tape recorder, without the potential for the lively inner experience of cognizing content.
If you have the choice over the subject matter for your oral exam, pick a subject that you are interested in, preferably one that you are passionate about.
If you have no interest in your subject, you will convey that boredom and disinterest to your audience.
If you are given a topic in which you have no interest, then find an interesting angle. Every topic, even if it was toothpaste, could be made interesting for at least five minutes, which is the length of the average ESL Oral Exam.
Most students have neither the knowledge nor experience of life to speak from their own viewpoint on most subjects so before tackling your topic, make a list of twenty or so questions.
Let us assume you have chosen, or been given the topic, Genetically Modified Food.
Write down at least 20 questions, do not stop to judge whether it's a good or a bad question, just write out the questions as they arise in your mind.
1. What is it?
2. Where does it come from?
3. How is it made?
4. Who is making it?
5. Who is eating it?
6. What are the long term effects?
7. What are the short term effects?
8. What is the effect on the environment?
9. What is the effect on wildlife, bees and insects ?
10. What are the financial motivations behind GMO's?
11. Why are these modifications taking place?
12. Who stands to gain from this technology?
13. Who is likely to be adversely affected?
14. When did this technology first become available?
15. Why is it being invented?
16 What are the arguments of supporters of GMO's?
17 Who opposes GMO's and why?
18 Is it morally acceptable to corrupt the genome of life?
19. What disasters have occurred from GMO manufacture?
20. How will genetic pollution be cleaned up?
21. What diseases and illnesses are GMO's causing?
22. What is Round Up Ready Gut?
23. What choice do humans have over GMO's
Research and understand your topic. Research in your native language as your first priority is to know what you are talking about, so research for understanding.
Later on when you are lying in bed, think about what you read in the library or on line.
Do you agree with it?
What other questions do you have?
What are the gaps in your knowledge?
What doesn't make sense?
Write it down.
Go back and research again, this time in the English Language.
Get answers for your questions, create new questions.
Keep filling in the gaps of your understanding. Think about the subject. Discuss your findings with friends and classmates.
Do you understand the topic now? What are your feelings about it? What is your point of view?
What kind of questions could other people ask you at the oral exam?
Would you know how to answer them?
Spend time ' thinking ' about your subject until the ground work has been thoroughly and properly prepared.
Do you understand all the vocabulary you are going to use?
Will your audience understand all of the words? They will nothave the time to use a dictionary.
Which words should you be adding definitions and explanations to so your audience can understand your speech?
Once you have gathered enough information you are ready to start preparing your oral exam.
As English is not your first language many will feel much more confident by writing their speech out.
Make a new list of 20 or so questions and write them down as they come to you.
On completion look over your list and cross off tenor more of the least interesting questions or those ones you do not wish to address.
Prioritize the remaining questions, putting a number one, a number two or a number three, etc, next to each of the questions in the order you wish to address them.
Write out your speech. You should refrain from learning the speech off by heart, word by word. Have an understanding of what you want to say in each area.
Choose a keyword from each section (the questions you have answered) and associate the keywords together using the techniques described in the Number Sound System
Your natural memory and understanding of your topic will now fill in the surrounding information and the keyword will serve as a prompt should your mind go blank from nerves during the oral exam.
Your final preparation will be again to lie in bed before you go to sleep and visualize yourself in front of the classroom giving your speech to the class.
How do you want to appear?
Practice in your imagination; the way you want to stand, how you will interact with the audience.
Will you slouch over the table and look out of the window or will you portray a confident and dynamic figure?
Visualize it all clearly in your minds eye. How you will walk up to the front of the classroom when your name is called?
How will you deliver your speech? With confidence, animation, conviction and eye contact with the audience?
This kind of practice is invaluable and will enable you to prepare and train your subconscious mind to take control of the situation and deliver an outstanding performance for which at the end you will deserve a standing ovation.
Good luck. It's time to reclaim your intelligence.
Deliver your speech from the level of understanding and not as an automated recording. Deliver your speech with the words you are choosing spontaneously on the day to express how you feel 'now' with the information you have at hand.
Live in the present moment. Be there !