Section 3: Leading & Participating in Academic Discussions:

Activity One: Raising Awareness &
Using Common Discussion Phrases

SECTION
Leading and Participating in Academic Discussions
LEVEL
Intermediate/Advanced
TITLE
Raising Awareness and Using Common Discussion Phrases
AIMS
  • To encourage students to become more aware of the ways academic discussions happen.
  • To familiarize students with common and useful words and phrases
RESOURCES
Printout of worksheets (provided below), and the Internet
ESTIMATED TIME REQUIRED
40-60 minutes

 

PRE-LISTENING ACTIVITIES:

Step 1. Observe others. Listen to other students (or teachers) as they speak in class discussions. Later, write a journal about the things you noticed. Think about how they successfully interrupt, ask questions, clarify their answers, and emphasize their points, and if it is different from what you do. Write down in your journal:

Step 2. Learn transition words. "Transition words" are words and phrases that are used to help connect ideas and make their points clear. These words and phrases are useful because they provide clues about the direction the speaker wants to go. Thus, "transition" words are quite different from "content" words and phrases, which provide the facts or information about the topic. Content words will be specific to the topic of discussion, but transitions are more general, and occur in all discussions.

Click here to download a list of useful transition words. These transition words and phrases are organized in categories based on their function.

  1. Underline any phrases or words you don't know
  2. Use your dictionary to look up specific words you don't know, but remember that the phrases probably will not be in the dictionary. Try to guess the meaning of the phrase based on the function it serves.
  3. Study these words and phrases until you become very familiar with the phrases and their functions, and try to begin using some of them in your own discussions.

Step 3. Become familiar with discourse markers. Along with these transition words and phrases, "discourse markers" help the listener follow what is being said.

Click here to download a list of common discourse markers. These discourse markers are conversational in style and were taken from real lectures. They are organized in categories based on their function.

Study these words and phrases -- remember, your goal should be to become familiar with a variety of discourse markers that may hear others use, while learning a few to use yourself.

  1. Underline any phrases or words you don't know
  2. Use your dictionary to look up specific words you don't know, but remember that the phrases probably will not be in the dictionary. Try to guess the meaning of the phrase based on the function it serves.
  3. Study these words and phrases -- remember, your goal should be to become familiar with a variety of discourse markers that may hear others use, while becoming comfortable with using a few of them when you participate in discussions.

LISTENING TASKS

Step 1. Become Aware. When you listen to lectures, or are involved in discussions, listen for these transition words and discourse markers (and for others, to add to your lists) to help guide your listening. Look for opportunities to use these markers in your own writing and speaking, if appropriate.

Here are two easy ways to improve your awarenss of these discussion phrases:

  1. Re-read a scholarly article from one of your classes, underlining or highlighting discourse markers and transition words and phases.
  2. Ask for permission to record your teachers' lectures, or class discussions, then listen to the recordings and write down any discourse markers and transition words and phases that you hear.

Step 2. Practice. Get a sheet of paper and a pen or pencil, and draw a line down the middle of the page. Then go to the following website:

http://www.trentu.ca/admin/Advancement/lectures

This website lists introductions from several faculty at Trent University, in Canada. Choose one of the faculty and click on that person's link for RealAudio.

  1. The first time you listen to one of these self-introductions, listen for transition words and discourse markers. Do not take notes on the lecture information. Instead, on the left side of your paper list all the transition words and discourse markers that you hear.
  2. Listen again. This time, listen for the function of the transition words and discourse markers that you wrote down. What is the purpose of each word or phrase? To list examples? To introduce a topic? To change the topic? Write the function for each transition word and discourse marker on the right side of your note paper.
  3. Compare your notes with the handouts. Did you choose the same function? Does recognizing these words and phrases help you follow along with the lecture?
  4. Add any words from your notes that are not on the handouts.

SELF ASSESSMENT:

Keep track of your successes in a journal. Save your notes and see if you are improving. Are you recognizing more of these words and phrases? Are you familiar with their function? Is your listening comprehension improving? Do you feel more comfortable listening to lectures or discussions?

SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER STUDY:

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