In this week’s blog I’m going to be talking about a practice I did which focused on teaching students how to give and respond to opinions. Although the lesson context is designed for a Pre-Intermediate Business English class, it could be used with any class beyond that level, with as little as two students, though ideally there would be a minimum of 4.
The language in use here is phrases for giving an opinion: I think…, I think we should…, I don’t think…, I don’t feel…, I feel…, and, Personally, I…. And phrases for asking for an opinion: Do you agree? What do you think? How do you feel about that?
It also includes agreeing and disagreeing: I see what you mean, but…, I think you’re right, I don’t agree at all, I understand, but…,
Once students are aware of these phrases they can be drilled (in context), and students should be aware the modal ‘should’ (in the bold sentence) can only be followed by the infinitive form of a verb.
The first practice will see students discuss a selection of issues which are printed on cards they will have in pairs:
|Loyal customers should receive discounts.||The best customers should get the best service.|
|The customer is always right.||Customer complaints should be dealt with quickly.|
|We should conduct surveys every month.||We should cold call to attract new customers.|
|We should guarantee all deliveries within one week.||Staff should be searched before leaving every day.|
Before letting students begin their discussions, board this sentence:
P….., ……… staff should always be polite to customers. Do….?
Inform students that whatever someone says, they should always disagree (even if they agree in real life!)
The Teacher then models the task with a strong student:
Student: “Personally, I think staff should always be polite to customers. Do you agree?”
Teacher: “I don’t agree at all. I don’t think we should be polite if a customer is angry.”
In pairs, students then go through the cards and give opinions and disagree with each other. Their objective is to disagree on a subject and continue to explain their reasons. Students only move on to a new card when the teacher gives them the signal to do so.
NOTE: Have the phrases boarded during this activity.
For the freer practice, students will discuss a controversial subject in a board meeting format.
Instructions for practice:
Split the students into two groups. Tell them they are now the board of directors for a large logistics company that deals with shipping both on land and sea. They have been offered a major contract with an arms manufacturer. There are positives and negatives of accepting the contract so the board is split. There will be a debate to decide whether or not the company should accept the contract.
The two groups will take opposing sides of the argument, hand each group one of these prompts:
Your company has been offered a contract with a massive arms manufacturer. The contract will require the use of almost your entire shipping fleet and transport convoy. This contract is worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Half of the board think this is not a contract your company should accept, you need to convince them why you should. In your group, discuss reasons why your company should accept this contract.
Your company has been offered a contract with a massive arms manufacturer. The contract will require the use of almost your entire shipping fleet and transport convoy. This contract is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Half of the board think this is a great idea, but you are concerned about the company reputation dealing with weapons; you are also concerned that if all your resources are allocated to this job, then you will be unable accept offers from other companies during that period. In your group, discuss reasons why your company should not accept this offer.
If the group is particularly large, you could have a third small groups (no more than two or three) who can orchestrate the debate as Chair people. Give them this prompt:
You are Chairmen/women of a logistics company. Your company has been offered a contract with a massive arms manufacturer. The board is split on whether or not to accept the contract. Think of questions you would like to ask both sides of the board. Then, listen to both sides and moderate the discussion. If the two sides seem to have finished you can ask any questions you still have remaining. Ultimately you will have the final say on whether or not the contracted is accepted.
The discussion can then take place involving the whole class or in two or even three groups. Take care to ensure the chair people are allowing both sides to have their say. At the end of the discussion the Chairs will decide whether or not they will take the contract and give their reasons. It is amazing how quickly some students discard ethical arguments or decide profits aren’t everything when it comes to competition!