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Last updated 26 October 2012 15:30 by NZTecAdmin
Using signpost words (discourse markers) (PDF, 24 KB)

The purpose of the activity

In this activity, learners explore the words used to indicate different parts of a spoken text. The activity allows learners to listen for discourse markers in a recorded text, then consider when and how they use these markers themselves.

The teaching points

  • We use certain words and phrases as signposts when we talk.
  • These signposts help the listener to follow a talk or conversation; they help the speaker to manage the conversation.
  • Learners will identify discourse markers in a recorded text and discuss their effects.
  • Learners will consider the ways in which they can use discourse markers as they listen, speak and engage in conversations.

Audio resources

The guided teaching and learning sequence

1. Explain the purpose of the activity to the learners, defining discourse markers as the words that act as signposts and keep us on track when we’re listening or speaking. They are the words that indicate a turn starting or ending, a question, a new piece of information and many other parts of a spoken text.

2. Play Tutor instructs group through once, then ask learners if they noticed words that kept the talk going. Examples include the greeting, If I could have, But remember, You all got that? Okay, So, Sure. Tell the learners to listen again and try to identify other ways in which the tutor keeps the explanation on track. Play the track again.

3. Discuss the words learners have heard and extend the discussion to include other ways in which speakers help listeners to keep track of what they’re saying.

4. Play Builder's accident 20 years ago and ask the learners to listen for the words the interviewer uses to prompt or direct the talking. What is the interviewer doing when she uses the word “so” like this? How does the builder respond? What other words are used to keep the interview moving along?

5. Explore one or more other discourse markers in oral texts, for example the use of “you know”, or the use of intonation to imply meaning (“Sorry?” on a rising tone may mean “What did you say?” or it may imply the speaker disagrees with what has been said – it can even imply a demand for an apology).

Follow-up activity

Learners can listen to or think about other kinds of speech, for example a debate, a social conversation, a news report, or kōrero on the marae. They can compare the ways in which discourse markers are used in these situations.

Learners can explore the markers that signal questions. These often use intonation to turn a word or phrase into a question (“You’ve been where?”, “She gave you her best t-shirt?”).

Learners can pay attention to their own speaking habits, noticing the discourse markers they use and considering some they might want to vary (such as the use of “yeah” or “ok”) to keep talk going.


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