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The University of Michigan Examination for

the Certificate of Proficiency in English (ECPE)

Preparing Students for the New ECPE Speaking Test

Aims of the Presentation
„ Brief overview of the test format

„ Evaluation criteria

„ Focus of Seminar: Helping students meet Level C
descriptor criteria of discourse and interaction

‰ Skills candidates need at each stage

‰ Suggestions on the development of skills needed at each
stage

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Format
„ 2 candidates participate in decision-making task
„ Each candidate is given descriptions of 2 different
options
„ During 5 stages, candidates collaborate to decide
on, present and defend a single option
„ Entire test lasts approx. 25-35 minutes (paired
format), approx. 35-45 minutes (3-way format)
„ Two examiners:
‰ Examiner 1 conducts stages 1-4, participates in stage 1
and gives instructions and monitors stages 2-4
‰ Examiner 2 participates in stages 4 and 5

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Evaluation „ Candidates are evaluated on the following salient features: ¾ Discourse and interaction (development and functional range) ¾ Linguistic resources (range and accuracy): Vocabulary & Grammar ¾ Delivery and Intelligibility 4 .

Spontaneous Speech ƒ Adequately summarizes information. often without prompting ƒ Presents decisions clearly and often appropriately ¾ Engagement in and Contribution to Extended Interaction ƒ Contributes. but are usually repaired 5 . Extended. may rely on written material periodically ƒ Elaborates. defending a position).Level C Descriptors „ Discourse and Interaction: ¾ Production of Independent. to the development of interaction ƒ Usually provides recommendations and/or opinions clearly ƒ Justifies and defends a position adequately ƒ Communication breakdowns may occur during challenging speech events (e. often appropriately.g.

g.Stage 1: Introductions and Small Talk ƒ 2-3 minutes ƒ Examiner 1 begins with introductions ƒ Initiates conversation on general topics (e. leisure activities.) and topic related questions ƒ Candidates expected “to actively participate in the conversation by providing expanded responses and also by asking each other and Examiner 1 questions.” (ECPE Speaking Test brochure) 6 . etc. hometown.

Stage 1: How to Help Students Develop Conversational Skills „ Encourage Ss to personalize the language they are learning ‰ Use language structures and vocabulary to talk about their own lives and opinions „ Encourage Ss to ask questions ‰ In everyday conversation. people listen to each other and respond. often with a question ‰ Questions reflect genuine interest and help keep a conversation going 7 .

Stage 1: Activity 1-Mingling at a Party „ Ss pretend they’re mingling at a party. etc. pastimes. family. find out about someone’s profession. trying to get to know some of the guests „ Each S could be assigned a role or create one for themselves „ Ss move about the room.. and ask relevant questions 8 .

and Fridays.Stage 1: Activity 2 . Wednesdays. And on Tuesdays and Thursdays I work in a café after school.Practice Providing Expanded Responses „ Elaborate on a statement by giving at least one reason: A: What do you do in your free time? B: I don’t have much free time… …because I have private French lessons Mondays. 9 .

not just read list of features under their options ‰ Listen carefully to each other as they may need to ask for clarification ‰ Recommend one of the two options of the other candidate 10 .Stage 2: Summarizing and Recommending „ Summarizing ‰ Each candidate is given sheet with descriptions of 2 options (in note form) ‰ Candidates are given 2-3 minutes to read their sheet ‰ Candidates CANNOT look at partner’s sheet „ Candidates have to: ‰ Summarize to each other descriptions of their options.

connecting them and elaborating on each ‰ Seek clarification „ Recommending an option 11 .Stage 2: Skills Needed for This Stage „ Summarizing: ‰ Determine which bullet point (s) is/are clearly negative ‰ Transfer telegraphic language to communicative spoken form ‰ Organize bullet points.

Stage 2: Skills needed for Summarizing „ In the 2-3 minutes the candidates have to read bullet points. they must: ‰ make mental note of which points are positive and which are negative ‰ transfer the language in note form to the communicative spoken form of language 12 .

Stage 2: Summarizing .Determining Which Bullet Point is Negative Applicant for a High School Science Teacher Position Mary Thompson ‰ 15 years of experience as a science teacher ‰ Good reputation with students and teachers ‰ Creative lesson plans ‰ Does lots of experiments ‰ Organizes many field trips ‰ Has lost students’ tests several times (From ELI-UM Brochure) 13 .

students and teachers ¾ She creates interesting lesson plans. trips „ Has lost tests several ¾ She sometimes can’t find her Ss’ tests. a science teacher „ Good reputation with ¾ Ss and teachers like her. „ Creative lesson plans „ Does lots of experiments ¾ She asks Ss to do many experiments. times 14 .Transferring from Note Form to Communicative Spoken Form Note form: Communicative spoken form: „ 15 years of experience as ¾ Mary has taught science for 15 years. „ Organizes many field ¾ She plans field trips for her students.Stage 2: Summarizing .

She isn’t always organized.Organizing Bullet Points. not spoken form. She also plans field trips for her students.Stage 2: Summarizing . which means she has a lot of experience. Students like her because her lesson plans are interesting. though. „ Note that this text is in written. because she sometimes can’t find her students’ tests. Connecting them and Elaborating „ Candidate needs to connect bullet points and to develop and expand on each one: ‰ This teacher has taught for 15 years. In her lessons she asks the students to do many experiments. How do you think the spoken form will be different? 15 .

I mean.Stage 2: Summarizing . Students like her…teachers like her.well… it’s just one thing. They like to learn that way. So. They go to lots of places. That’s not such a good thing about her. Let’s see what else…Another good thing about Mary. too.Example of Connected. lots of experience.That’s a long time to teach. Developed Spoken Text “Mary has fifteen years of experience as a science teacher. maybe because she does lots of um… experiments in class. she’s creative with her lesson plans. not the same way of teaching all the time. to learn about science…. lots of experience.. like museums. but. she has taught science for fifteen years….” 16 .Places outside of school. is that she has lost students’ tests more than once. Uh…it seems everybody likes her. a good reputation. The bad thing about Mary. Students also like the field trips that she organizes. You know. She does them so that the students can practice what they’re studying. Well then. which is boring. lots of experiments and…uh…field trips…So many good things to recommend Mary.. what else…it says here that she has a good reputation as a teacher. creative lesson plans. Let’s see. though. Losing a couple of tests is serious.

17 .Stage 2: Summarizing .Key Features of Spoken Form „ Shorter sentences „ More repetition „ Simple connectors „ Fillers ¾ The first three features benefit the other candidate. who has to listen and comprehend key information.

Stage 2: Summarizing .Activity 1-How to Help Students Develop Connected. Expanded Spoken Text „ Ask students to work in pairs „ Take the bullet points of two options from a practice speaking test and give one to each member „ Give them time to look at each bullet point and plan what to say „ Write guiding questions on the board: ‰ Can you make a sentence out of it? ‰ Can you say what it means in a different way? ‰ Can you comment on it? ‰ Can you summarize it? 18 .

lots of experience (and summarizes it) Even at the pre-intermediate level. students can practice paraphrasing with an activity like the following: „ Who does the laundry in your house? I mean… (who washes your clothes?) „ What do you do on weekends? I mean…(what do you do on Saturdays and Sundays?) 19 . I mean she has taught science for fifteen years (says what it means). So.Example Activity to Connect and Develop Spoken Text „ Each student turns bullet points into sentences • 15 years of experience as a science teacher Mary has 15 years of experience as a science teacher.Stage 2: Summarizing . Fifteen years is a long time to teach (comments on it ).

Further Classroom Practice „ Incorporate activities that prepare Ss for the test and increase speaking opportunities Example: Give Ss topics to speak about for 1 minute. for 2-3 minutes) „ 3 reasons to buy a cell phone „ 3 activities to do in the summer „ 3 ways to make your best friend happy „ 3 things you can do when you’re bored 20 . (then later on.Stage 2: Summarizing .

using phrases like „ Did you say that…? „ Sorry.Stage 2: Summarizing . „ Do you mean that…? „ Is there any reason not to choose this applicant? „ WHY do students like her? 21 .Seeking Clarification „ Remember. candidates ‰ Are not permitted to look at each other’s sheet ‰ Can read their own options only „ To compensate for this lack of visual information ‰ Candidates ARE free to ask each other to repeat or clarify information. I didn’t hear what you said.

Exploring the Negative Aspect of a Bullet Point „ So far. They must: ‰ Look for a potential negative aspect to bullet points ‰ Weigh the positive and negative features of each option the other candidate has presented and recommend one of the two 22 .Stage 2: Recommending an Option . we have seen that Ss need to be able to: ‰ Transfer telegraphic language into spoken form ‰ Expand on bullet points and connect them in a coherent and cohesive way ‰ Seek clarification „ Ss also need to prepare for and recommend an option.

Stage 2: Recommending an Option . „ “Organizes many field trips” ‰ …may mean students are having fun outdoors instead of learning. ‰ …but maybe the teacher is set in his/her ways. „ “Does lots of experiments” ‰ …could mean that there’s not enough material for a test. „ “Creative lesson plans” ‰ …might mean that the teacher ‘wings it’. coming to class without a plan. 23 .Exploring Negative Aspect of Bullet Points EXAMPLES: „ “15 years of experience as a science teacher”. „ “A good reputation with students” ‰ …may mean that s/he’s too soft/not strict enough.

the partner recommends one of them. I think.Stage 2: Recommending an Option – Making the Recommendation „ After a candidate presents his/her two options. B is the better choice because… 24 . „ Of the two. I would choose B because…. „ I think you should choose B because… „ In my opinion. I would choose B because…. „ I think B would be better since… „ B makes more sense. since…. using the following functions: „ Expressing an opinion „ Comparing and contrasting „ Giving reasons „ Justifying LANGUAGE REPRESENTATIVE OF THESE FUNCTIONS: „ Between A and B.

and why? „ Ask Ss to work individually to decide on one of the two options and prepare reasons for their choice „ Ask Ss to work in pairs and present to their partner their final decision and the reasons for it „ Then each partner makes his/her recommendation „ teachers „ doctors „ flowers „ birds „ music „ art „ mountains „ sea „ health „ wealth „ to love „ to be loved 25 . If you had to choose one of each of the following pairs. things we take for granted may no longer be available.Stage 2: Recommending – Activity „ Give Ss the following situation: In the future. which would it be.

Stage 3: Consensus Reaching „ Candidates come to agreement on single option by: ‰ Telling their partner which of own 2 options is best and giving reasons ‰ Discussing advantages and disadvantages of each option „ Key functions needed to negotiate and come to agreement on just one option: ‰ Disagreeing in a polite way ‰ Maintaining a viewpoint (when someone disagrees with my opinion) ‰ Expanding on ideas suggested by others 26 .

„ That’s a good/valid point. but don’t you „ I’m afraid you’re wrong there. Stress to Ss that they are not all equally polite „ Have Ss work alone to reorder them along a continuum from rude to less polite to very polite and try to determine a principle/formula to follow when disagreeing politely in English „ Then ask them to share their ideas with a partner and decide which is the better formula „ That can’t be right. „ I see what you’re saying. „ I see your point.Raising Awareness of How to Be Polite When Disagreeing „ Give Ss the following expressions for disagreeing with someone. think… „ I have to disagree with you „ But that’s not always the case. on that point.Stage 3: Consensus Reaching . but I also think… „ You’re wrong. Sometimes… 27 .Activity . but I think… „ That’s not right. but… „ No way! „ You may be right.

(Examiner 2 plays role of person of relatively high status) ƒ Formally present selected option to Examiner 2 28 . candidates: ƒ May look at each other’s sheet ƒ Must each prepare to present 2 different reasons why final option selected is the best and explain the importance of these reasons ƒ Are given 2-3 minutes to collaborate with each other and decide who will present the final decision and which reasons they will each present ƒ Are then introduced to Examiner 2.Stage 4: Presenting and Convincing (formal situation) During this stage.

Stage 4: Presenting and Convincing .Skills and Functions Needed „ Planning a presentation „ Collaborating (establishing guidelines about how to proceed) „ Making a formal presentation „ Expressing opinions „ Giving reasons „ Convincing someone that option chosen is indeed the best 29 .

Stage 4: Presenting and Convincing – Planning the Presentation „ When Ss are planning their presentation they should decide the following: ‰ Who is going to present what ‰ Who goes first ‰ How to make the transition from the first presenter to the second 30 .

that… „ …which we think is ƒ In addition to what A said. A is the best one.Stage 4: Presenting and Convincing .Activity 1-Helping Students Recognize Formal and Informal Language „ When candidates are making their presentation they have to use more formal language. „ Give Ss the following and ask them to decide which are formal and which are informal. „ A has more experience…. we strongly believe „ Even though A has better that X is the best option. important because… ƒ Therefore. qualifications…... „ We have decided ƒ Those are the reasons… „ We’ve decided… ƒ So that’s why… „ Our decision is… ƒ A second.. more important „ Due to the fact that… reason for our decision is „ Because we feel that. They should give reasons.. or both. B is… ƒ So. but B is… 31 .

popular with girls. cheated to get A in history. wealthy family 32 .Practice Using More Formal Language „ Ss work in small groups to select one of four classmates for a Young Leaders Scholarship. „ Ss choose one member of their group to report their decision and the reasons for it. Candidates for the Young Leaders Scholarship: ™ Alexander: has high marks. 6 children ™ Evi: learns material easily. shy and reserved. only child ™ Kostas: has high marks. well-liked.Stage 4: Presenting and Convincing – Activity 2 . gets nervous during exams and only gets average grades. from middle class family ™ Maria: has high marks in everything but math. Groups rank candidates from first choice to last. both parents work. a bit self-centered.

Stage 5: Justifying and Defending ƒ Examiner 2 questions candidates about final decision (option) and reasons for decision ƒ Functions needed: ‰ Justifying decisions ‰ Defending decisions 33 .

justifying and defending their decision e.g.Stage 5: Justifying and Defending – Activity - Helping Students Justify and Defend „ Students work in pairs to practice previous stages of Speaking Test using one topic (e. but isn’t it possible she is set in her ways? „ Candidates take turns in answering Teacher’s questions.g. Perhaps… But if she were set in her ways. (if pair chose Mary Thompson): She has 15 years of experience as a science teacher.g. Hiring a High School Science Teacher) „ Each pair presents their final decision and reasons to the teacher (Examiner 2) „ Teacher (Examiner 2) challenges pair’s decision by looking at the negative side of their arguments e. 34 . would her lessons be interesting? Would both her students and colleagues like her? I rather doubt that.

make decisions. look for counter arguments. elaborate. paraphrase. present. seek clarification. justify and defend decisions „ Allowing them to assume greater responsibility in the classroom by having them do problem-solving and decision- making activities in pairs and small groups. reach a consensus.Conclusion Teachers can best help students to prepare for the ECPE Speaking Test by: „ Affording them opportunities to personalize language structures and vocabulary learned in class in conversation with classmates „ Incorporating into lessons activities that help students summarize. then report the collective decision (and reasons for it) to the class 35 .