Preparing the “Prepared” Oral Part
Ilias Kytidis, English Language and Literature, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
TIE, as aptly stated in its very own title, is an exam procedure based mainly on interaction. Many teachers cringe when they hear about interaction, as they are not entirely sure how they can work on that, and how to prepare their students efficiently in the classroom. The key, as always, is to adequately understand and fathom the structure and requirements of the test itself. So let’s break it down and have a deeper look on the prepared oral part, in order to become familiar with it, and see ways of successfully preparing our students.
Candidates are called to present and talk about their material, which includes the investigation (mini project), a book and/or a news story. The first thing that you should take into account is a) the length of the presentation. The candidates are expected to talk about what they prepared for more or less 2 minutes. So, one of your first concerns is to edit the material with regard to that matter. After elaborating on how a presentation should look like and you have collected the first versions from your students, you can cut off or condense information according to its importance or even ask your students to provide more, if their presentations seem too short.
When you have made sure that the presentations are of proper length, you can move on to the next level. There are many useful guidelines for presentations in general; however we should never take them for granted. You ought to think that most of Greek students (and also adults), are not familiar with presentations, as the educational system in our country rarely urges them in this direction. Simply put, they never had the opportunity or they were never asked to work on such terms. Thus, we as teachers should help them by providing some useful tips that most fall under one umbrella sentence: b) keep it interesting. Presentations should have a natural flow. The candidates are supposed to talk about things that they are interested in. So, they should be able to look confident (or even excited) about their material and vary intonation in their speech to transfer this mood onto their interlocutor.
Last but not least, you should always check that your students c) know all the vocabulary included in their presentations. This may seem rather self-evident, but there are many cases in which teachers provide the material for their students, with controversial results. The candidates should feel safe and confident with their own presentations and that can only be achieved when they are fully aware of what they are actually saying.
- Answering questions
When the candidates finish their presentations, they are asked questions by the examiner. It is important to know that they are not checked on the accuracy of the content of their investigation. The material is used by the examiner just to guide the conversation. Naturally, they should expect questions that reasonably come to mind in an everyday dialogue. You as a teacher can practice questions and answers with your students, for them to be better prepared. There are numerous questions that can be asked, some of them are for instance: Why did you choose this investigation? Did you learn something while doing this investigation? / What type of book is this? Would you recommend this book to one of your friends? Can you describe one of the main characters? Who was your least favorite character? / What attracted you in this news story? What do you think about the continuation of this story? What sources did you use? What sources did you find best or easiest to follow? And so forth. Use your imagination and try to get into the examiner’s shoes. It is reasonable that the better your students know their own material, the best they can answer. Work with them and guide them to answer each possible question thoroughly and in detail.
- Asking questions
This is a part that shouldn’t go unnoticed. When one candidate finishes their conversation about their presentation with the examiner, the other candidate is kindly requested to pose a question to the first. Urge your students to be attentive and listen carefully to their partner’s presentation. Then, the best tip would be to ask something that erupted based on curiosity. This way the question is – and feels – genuine, portraying a better level of comprehension and/or speech production by the candidate. On the other hand, you could prepare questions with your students for them to use, so that they feel less stressed. Nevertheless, they must still pay close attention to their interlocutor, to avoid unpleasant situations, like for instance asking a question that has already been asked by the examiner. Not only it could be awkward, it could also be a negative indication for the assessor to take into consideration when marking.
- In class tips
You can – and you should – always construct and customize your lesson plan depending on the needs of your classroom. With that being said, it is a great thing to get insight and advise whenever you can. It might prove to be very helpful. So here are a few tips on how to work in your classroom regarding the TIE prepared oral part:
- Work in pairs to create an exam-like situation. Impersonate the examiner and have your students tested on their material as if they were on the exam day itself.
- Assign homework based on a specific aspect of the presentation. Regarding the book, you can ask all your students to write about their favorite character and present it to class, for example. This way you can get them to exercise in detail on their material, and also to shed their anxiety about talking in front of other people.
- Write down notes about details. Accumulate information and divide it into categories accordingly. For example, regarding the news story, have your students write notes about “who would be interested in reading this news story” or “what do you think will happen next?”
- Play games with your students. Even if they are adults, you can ask them to exchange and compare investigations, books or news stories and give feedback on one another. Depending on their age and level, you can make up games that keep them interested and spread enthusiasm and motivation in the classroom.
A solid and thorough preparation is vital to be successful. You should keep in mind all the above and carefully plan your lessons. Do not neglect to work on grammar and enrich your students’ vocabulary. Bear in mind that they should be able to portray their language level based on stimuli. In that sense, the prepared part in the oral examination should be an asset for your students, not an enemy. Make them feel that way. Remember that deeper knowledge of the material leads to confidence. And confidence unblocks all the barriers in our minds.
Enjoy your teaching and try to enlighten your students any way you can. After all, education is what remains after one has forgotten what they learned in school.