The Lana Learn instructors in Vietnam conduct peer review sessions for supplementary speaking projects to improve student language skills.
Speaking practice is a critical part of any English language class, yet it is the one skillset which is the most neglected for many English language learners in Vietnam. We emphasize speaking in our US Air Force-funded English language training program at Unit 871. Consequently, I make sure to reserve a significant portion of my class time dedicated to both pronunciation exercises and conversation practice. This past month, I had my students complete short video projects in small groups of three. This week, we reviewed all the videos together as a class, and here were some of the notable trends in their supplementary speaking projects.
The first thing of note was the uniqueness of each video. Each team had a different topic taken from their textbook. Similarly, each team had a different format for how to present each topic. I gave them some suggestions on how to structure their videos but also encouraged them to make them interesting and use their imaginations. One group had home improvement and repair as a topic, and they made a ghost-themed thriller. Another group had weather, and they did a weather report, complete with green screens, news anchors, and on-site reporters. The use of dubbing, multiple shots, sound effects, and jump cuts on videos filmed with mobile phones was quite impressive.
Secondly, the lexical depth in each video was nice to see. Students used a good number of phrasal verbs, collocations, and idioms. One video topic was about fishing and hunting safety and stated, “Safety during hunting cannot be emphasized enough.” The weather reporter used the phrase, “Hold on to your hats folks, it looks like it’s going to be a stormy weekend.” I was delighted to see that they not only used the vocabulary from the book, but also researched other lexical items that were pertinent to their project. Each project instructions sheet gave them additional resources that included examples, further research, and listening exercises relevant to their topics. The students’ use of these materials was obvious in their scripts.
Areas for Opportunity
However, the common shortcoming I noticed throughout their presentations was pronunciation and clarity. As is normal for Vietnamese students of English, there was a consistent loss of final consonants. For example, “likes” became “lie”, or “most” became “moat”. As a class, we have been working on noticing and correcting these errors daily. Although all students can say final sounds during guided practice, once they began to speak at length, they revert to ingrained mistakes such as this.
Another common problem with speech clarity is syllable and word stress. I often give an example of how nearly all students will give the same tone and stress to “fourteen” and “forty”. This sort of stress error may not be problematic if only one word is spoken, but in longer dialogs, multiple words being stressed incorrectly causes a great deal of confusion.
As a result of this video project review, I was able to score each of the projects using rubrics and give meaningful feedback. Additionally, this class project review allowed the students to give peer feedback. This gives them a chance to point out errors and correct them. This is great practice for self-correction, which is integral when learning a language.
We will continue to run these projects alongside the course’s normal curriculum. Adding supplementary speaking projects gives students the opportunity to practice their speaking skills outside of the classroom. In summary, the whole class enjoyed creating the videos and watching their peers’ videos. It also gave me a chance to see what sort of language production abilities each student has as well as the various challenges they deal with that act as barriers to their improvement.