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IX. "Packaging" the English Spoken
ontent courses, according to Snow (1991), can be "immersion" (conducted completely in unmodified English) or "sheltered" (conducted in English adjusted for the English skills of students). Snow adds that immersion courses tend to be for elementary students, while the English used in adult courses usually involves "'packaging' instruction in ways appropriate to the language learner's developing language system" (p. 322). Enright (1991) suggests ways in which English for content courses is modified into a more accessible "teacher talk," such as speaking slowly, pausing, repeating often, and rephrasing. To this I will add using gestures and putting quick sketches on the board.
It is also useful, just as it is in an academic course taught in the students' L1, to spend extra time with terminology by writing it on the board and defining it, though this should be kept to a minimum. The frequent questioning of individual students is also valuable, not just to maintain attention, and not just as a means of obtaining feedback to see if the students understand, although this is of course valuable: asking questions presents the material another way, and eliciting the correct answer is a form of review for the other students.
Whatever the teacher has to do to make the spoken English comprehensible must be done, for this is at the heart of a successful content course. Still, despite teacher efforts to speak slowly, pause, etc., as suggested above, communication the first two or three weeks is hard to come by. However, both the rate of learning and the speed of the English soon increase, for the spoken English of the lecturer should evolve along with student comprehension skills. In fact, in the fourth and fifth weeks of class the first three lessons can quickly be reviewed in their entirety. The difficulty of the questions the teacher asks can also be increased, "raising the ante," as Enright (1991, p. 390) calls it.
Although the use of handouts to reduce instruction time and improve retention is tempting, I use no handouts. Student mastery of the subject matter is a major goal of the class, but so is providing comprehended oral input, and given student strengths in reading, their attention naturally shifts from oral input to the written input of any handout they receive, and their efforts to comprehend the oral input drop sharply. The use of handouts is further detrimental in that students are more likely to appreciate the theory of English pronunciation as a valuable practical tool, rather than dry theory, if their first encounter with the theory is interwoven with oral examples that they attend to.