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If someone hasn't been exposed to the sounds of a foreign language during their early childhood, it will be difficult for that person to accurately hear and produce those sounds later in life. Difficult but not impossible. That's why ESL students need practice listening to specific sounds that don't exist in their native languages. If they listen to entire conversations, they probably won't be able to pick out and focus on the individual sounds they need to work with. That's why they need focused listening practice: just listening to -th- sounds, for example and just comparing -th- to the sounds the students been substituting. The more the student can listen the better, and that means outside of class too. They need to listen in a way that tests their listening accuracy. Did they hear "sick" or "thick"? Students will think they hear it correctly, but when you test them and ask which one you said, they often get it wrong. This sound discrimination component of their... read more

For intermediate level conversation students, I like to use the book "Easy True Stories." It has a sequence of pictures that tell the story and a brief written prose to describe the pictures. I read it with my student and point at the pictures. We lay out any vocabulary that may be new. Then I have my student tell me the story using only the pictures. I write down what s/he says and correct him or her afterward. I point out the major mistakes in fluency and show how to correct them. Then I have the student say the story a 2nd time. And we do another round of correction. I leave the student with my notes so s/he can continue practicing talking about the story at home. Then I ask the student questions about his opinion or what would he do in that situation. Or has something similar ever happened to the student or to someone s/he knows. I'll also share my own opinion or experience and then ask the student to summarize what I said using reported speech.

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