Writing Pre-Test (Topic and Example Response - Part 2: Independent Academic Essay Task)

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Writing Pre-Test (Topic and Example Response - Part 2: Independent Academic Essay Task)

Post  Jason Renshaw on Sun Mar 09 2008, 07:50

Part 2 – Independent Academic Writing Task


A. Read the following essay prompt.


What, in your opinion, are the most feasible and effective methods for promoting spoken English proficiency in Korean public school classrooms?

Present your opinion and support your ideas with reasons and examples.


Use this page to complete some brainstorming notes and an initial plan. Then write your essay response on the pages that follow.

Please note: Use pen only (i.e., please no use of pencil or erasing). Your essay should be at least 300 words in length.

* You will have 10 minutes to brainstorm and plan, and 30 minutes to compose your response.



Brainstorm Notes: (Example)

Planning Notes: (Example)

Changing tests and textbooks – teachers have to prepare students for the tests and have to follow textbooks

Allocating specific classes for speaking – make it part of the set curriculum so teachers know that it is required and doesn’t interrupt other English study

Creating a manageable all-English classroom – gives more reasons to speak naturally during lessons

More conversation practice and training for teachers – if teachers are more confident in their speaking ability they will speak more English in class

Better language lab facilities – students can practice online and with technology

Develop good methods for teaching speaking skills and train teachers in their use – many teachers are not sure how to make good speaking activities or how to run them in their classes


Intro –
New importance for speaking in Korea
Ideas A, B and C

Body 1 (Idea A) –
- Change tests and textbooks
- Korea test-driven, follow textbooks
- Example: situation where there is a set speaking test and textbook, teachers will follow them

Body 2 (Idea B) –
- More practice/training for teachers
- Need more speaking practice, but also training in how to apply speaking
- Example: if teachers spend time abroad or intensive speaking program methodology training, can apply both in their classes

Body 3 (Idea C) –
- Create all-English classroom
- Make speaking natural part of all English classes ( integrated skills)
- Example: range of everyday English classroom events and how speaking can happen

Conclusion –
Speaking can improve, Ideas A/B/C.
Finishing thought



B. Compose your response - Example Response


The new president and government of Korea have started placing much more emphasis on the need for better English speaking skills to meet the country’s global challenges both now and in the future. Speaking skills have become the latest “hot issue” in English education. By adapting tests and textbooks, providing better practice and training for Korean teachers, and encouraging the establishment of all-English classroom settings, Korea can realize the dream of access to better English speaking proficiency in public school classrooms.

First of all, we need to remember that Korean schools are a test and textbook-driven environment. To create better speaking ability, the most effective changes need to happen in the areas of national official testing and materials. If the national tests are adapted to incorporate speaking, government-approved textbooks should also change to meet these needs. With the blessing of both national assessment and textbooks with appropriate activities and materials, Korean teachers and students will take speaking seriously. Furthermore, they will know that speaking proficiency is essential for academic success and college entrance, and dedicate themselves vigorously to mastering this skill. They have already shown what can be achieved through overt focus on grammar and reading skills, so I have great hope that they could achieve similar results in speaking. The payoff can be much improved communication skills for a greater majority of both teachers and students.

Secondly, it is essential to provide more practice and professional training in speaking for Korean teachers. By this I mean they need to improve their own speaking proficiency, but they also need to learn effective methodology and techniques for facilitating good speaking activities in their classrooms. It would of course be costly to give Korean teachers opportunities to go abroad and broaden their speaking skills, but this is exactly what is needed to make them better and it is a worthy investment in our future from an educational perspective. Teacher colleges can also invest in coursework that specifically targets speaking skills methodology, and this should in fact become mandatory. By way of example, imagine how much better our classroom speaking prospects would be if all Korean English teachers spent at least six months abroad in an English-speaking country, and had to complete a special module in speaking skills methodology for every year of their study at teacher’s college? These teachers would be better English speakers, as well as better speaking teachers.

Last but certainly not least, we need to seriously consider the importance of creating English classroom environments where English itself is the language of instruction as well as the subject of study. At present, most of the instruction carried out in public school English classes is conducted in Korean. This promotes the idea of analyzing and understanding English in a passive way, and does not do much at all to encourage fluency and productive skills. If students were required to ask questions and provide responses fully in English, there would be many more chances to practice speaking in a natural, interactive and productive way. Even when the focus in class is on reading or grammar, this is an opportunity to integrate English speaking and listening into the classroom environment and instruction. Students would have more opportunities to speak, and their reasons for speaking would be more genuine. Technically, speaking could become a natural part of every single English class the students attend.

In conclusion, it is possible to improve Korean public school students’ proficiency in spoken English. Changing the approach to testing (and by extension textbook content), facilitating better training and speaking development for teachers, and promoting an all-English classroom are all feasible and effective ways of ensuring speaking becomes a focus and strength in Korean education rather than a relative weakness. Korean students graduating from the public school system with strong English speaking proficiency can help Korea as a nation realize dreams such as improved international trade, better tourism potential, and stronger diplomatic and academic credentials. Spoken English ability is a pathway to future prosperity for us as a nation in an increasingly interconnected world, so it deserves our full attention and commitment.




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Jason Renshaw
Kyungpook National University, Teachers' College, Department of English Education
Daegu City, Republic of Korea 702-701

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