The Internet TESL Journal

Leaving the Room: An Introduction to Theme-Based Oral English

Stewart Wachs
Associate Professor
Kyoto University of Foreign Studies
6 Kasame-cho, Saiin, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto 615, Japan
Telephone: 075-322-6112

Originally published in
Kyoto University of Foreign Studies Kenkyu Ronso
Vol. XLIII, September 1994

"A traveler in a foreign land best learns the names of people and places, how to express ideas, ways to carry on a conversation by moving around in the culture, participating as fully as he can, making mistakes, saying things half right, blushing, then being encouraged by a friendly native speaker to try again. He'll pick up the details of grammar and usage as he goes along. What he must not do is hold back from the teeming flow of life, must not sit in his hotel room and drill himself on all possible gaffes before entering the street. He'd never leave the room." --Mike Rose1)

The paralysis of which Rose warns, an enmeshing obsession with getting things right, is the standard product of far too many English classrooms here in Japan. Leaving the room --if not in body, then just as vitally, in heart and mind-- is the functional goal of theme-based oral English, a kind of content-based instruction in which students use English (instead of merely drilling) to learn more about themselves, their classmates, and people who live in English-speaking societies. In the theme-based classroom, students tend to get so involved in a topic that they are apt to forget where they are and don't even notice when the school bell begins to ring.

The first principle of the theme-based method is simply to always work with a theme. What is meant by theme is a topic or subject ripe with potential for discussion, which English activities can revolve around and exploit for its language potential. Most traditional lessons are bereft of such content, moving instead through functions and situations with little or no cohesiveness, and all too often, scant relevance to students' real lives. In drill-based classes, even those based on so-called communicative practice, most continuity, if any, is based on tenses, structures, or vocabulary. By contrast, in a theme-based program of lessons, such linguistic concerns operate far less conspicuously. Students focus on meaning instead, and while improved accuracy remains a goal, it takes a back seat to fluency, a crucial developmental skill which has hitherto been largely ignored. Error is encouraged as a valuable sign of fresh effort, of straining against the limits of one's knowledge --in short, as a sign of possible growth.

In the Japanese university, where oral English classes normally meet once a week, a thematic unit might run for two or three lessons --long enough to explore the topic but brief enough to guarantee that interest will not flag. Students' interest, and with it motivation, increases in direct proportion to the relevance of the activities presented,2) and when their own ideas and feelings are courted, when their experiences, opinions, and knowledge are valued as the essential glue of the whole course syllabus, their participation in the course is virtually assured. A sample unit might clarify how such student input works as an element of content.

One unit I teach to university juniors is based on the theme of "marriage". Even the calling of the class roll, which begins the lesson, is tied into the theme: Five short items are written on the blackboard:

_________ got married to _________
_________ got marriaged to _________
(with a line drawn though it to indicate that it is a mistake)
_________ married _________
_________ will marry _________
_________ is married to _________

When students' names are called, instead of responding with "Here," they reply by completing aloud one of the four correct items, noting as well the commonplace error in the second. Kaori may tell us that her sister married a doctor; Ken may predict that Kaori will marry one, too. The variations are endless, and students are encouraged to speak from their own lives (or, if they wish, from their imaginations or senses of humor) and to listen carefully to one another, for the teacher may ask them to report what someone has said. This brief activity, which uses only a few moments more than a typical, meaningless roll call, can teach a new word, the use of a verb, structure, or pronunciation. It is also useful for forging a sense of the class as a distinct community; other activities, which divide the class into smaller groups, are aided by those few which glue the whole together.

Following roll call is a major fluency activity intended to stimulate students' critical thinking. It starts them exchanging opinions on marriage "from the outside in" (by first talking about people outside their society), easing their transition toward a more personal discussion to be held later on with partners they may not know well. The lesson begins with a 12-minute video mini-documentary about the "Moscow Connection" marriage bureau, an agency which links women who want to leave Russia with British men who are seeking wives. The video includes some startling scenes which students always interpret in a fascinating variety of ways. One of the would-be British husbands, for example, is seen bossily ordering his Russian bride (in a trial marriage at his London home) to bring him a stapler, pour him a beer, and tell him what's on for supper. The marriage bureau's catalog is yet another eye-opener, with model-like pictures of Muscovite women ranked into three classes of quality, ladies "on sale" like commodities in a telephone-shopping catalog.

The video is used as a form of stimulus, and so it must indeed be stimulating. "Philosophy," said Aristotle, "begins in wonder. So does education." The tapes I use are authentic TV; recorded from broadcasts here in Japan, but produced in America, Australia, and Britain. They feature, among others, transsexuals, divorcees, autistic savants, survivors of near-death experiences, severely disabled moms and dads --in other words, humans who, if different, are also very like us and thoroughly fascinating to meet. One student, at the end of last year, said he suddenly realized, sometime after summer, that "whatever you show us has something to do with being human." He'd picked up the thread that connects a dozen varied thematic units.

The videotapes have Japanese subtitles on the interview portions, which ensures that all students, regardless of level, can get the gist of a story, while offering a challenge nonetheless in the form of the story's narration, which, being non-subtitled, students must make a keen effort to follow. Towards this end, just before screening I give a brief talk, or mini-lecture, introducing key English words and phrases.

After viewing the video, students are placed, or place themselves, into small groups of about four members (seating arrangements allow for eye contact and easy access to each group by the teacher). The students engage in directed English discussions based on a menu of questions. The use of small groups provides each learner with more time to talk and a non-threatening setting in which to do it. Please see Figure 1 for the menu which follows the screening of "Moscow Connection".

Notice the line near the top of the menu which encourages students to choose questions which interest them most, and take them in any order that they wish. This promotes a vital sense of independence and tends to ensure that discussion will not dry up, but focus instead on the keener interests, stronger opinions, and richer experiences of the particular students forming each group. The menu, in other words, is truly a menu, and no one is required to "order" every listed item. In actual use, most questions are handled, introduced to the group by the member most eager to explore them. For all this free choice, the menu provides a high degree of direction, clearly leading students (in the sample above) to begin critically examining the phenomenon of international marriage. This weaving together of choice with direction runs like a current through most activities in an effective theme-based syllabus, as will be further seen below.

As a rule, the questions used in a discussion menu must be thought-provoking and have multiple answers so that each group member can contribute.3) Question number 5 serves a slightly different function: it attempts to inform as well as to provoke a mini-debate of the topic. By including two "pro and con" lists of the potential strengths and weaknesses of international marriages, this question gives students a starting point, or one might say "food for discussion", while also providing the essential vocabulary needed for such an exchange.

When I tell my colleagues that students discuss the questions on this menu in English, and with enthusiasm, for 40 to 45 minutes, they often wear expressions of disbelief. Yet this is routine in a class of students encouraged to help each other. Students are told from the first class onward to assist one another with vocabulary or phrasing, and shown in detail how to do so. The only real drill in a year of classes teaches every pupil to say two utterances:

1. "How do you say __________ in English?" and

2. "I don't understand. What does __________ mean?"

Armed with these, and good-humored but firm policing from the teacher, students will speak much more of the target language.

The ideas, structures and vocabulary introduced by the discussion menu can be recycled and hence reinforced by an activity such as a role play. Figure 2 shows how this is done in the thematic unit on marriage.

Students choose partners and are given either an A or B role play card. They are instructed never to let their partner see the card's contents, so that each player must carefully listen to his/her partner, even asking for clarification in English if this is needed. While acting their parts students are free to adapt or invent, and encouraged to add a distinct characterization to their portrayal as well. This acting challenge, which may include playing an unsympathetic role, often triggers levity in addition to providing a short, valued break from the rigors of expressing oneself in the group discussions.

In the sample cards shown in Figure 2, the bulleted "reasons" or "concerns" are listed in respective order, so that when the parent, for example, says, "I'm worried that you'll quarrel too much over different ways of thinking," the child can readily counter this (if he/she wishes to) with, "But I could also develop a broader point-of-view." The two partners can then, according to their ability, either argue the point further or proceed to the next listed items. Either way, they are required to produce their own sentences while they act, and this, together with their own individuality, routinely makes for a wide variety of outcomes. Once students grow accustomed to this style of role play, the lists from which they work can be scrambled in order not to correspond, requiring each student to search through the list, recall listed items, or simply ad lib in order to respond appropriately to a partner. Items can also be deliberately omitted, forcing additional improvisation. These latter steps posit higher challenges, which push students upward a notch or two towards greater English fluency.

The embedded linguistic goals of such role plays can vary widely. As I have written above, in figure 2 re-exposure and recycling of new vocabulary are sought; in a different role play, however (please see When enough time has passed to allow for the partners to develop their role plays well (and for some, who finish early, to try switching roles), the teacher "brings down the curtain" and leads the whole class through a short feedback session to review and reveal what has happened. Students by now are usually eager to recount key scenes or lines from the "drama" (or comedy) they have just acted in --one more ripe opportunity to use the targeted words, phrases, or structures. It is also productive to ask some students to compare the role which they or their partner have played with themselves or their own real parents. This re-introduces the primacy of their own experiences and viewpoints, validating them still further as critical thinkers whose judgment of character is valued.

The next step in this sample thematic unit is a reading assigned for homework. I give my students an authentic newspaper feature entitled "Japanese Men Struggling to Shake Oedipus Complex" because it is a) interesting; b)informative; c) rich in vocabulary; and d) a suitable counterpart to the short video I will use to stimulate discussion in the next class meeting. The article (seen in Figure 4, Japanese Men Struggling To Shake Oedipus Complex, by Alice Sakaguchi, Daily Yomiuri, omitted from I-TESL-J because of copyright restrictions. ) describes social changes in Japan which have made it harder for young men here to find wives. It explains how men and women have changed, why women seem now to be so selective, what their criteria for husbands can be (including income, job status, etc.), and the radical steps which some young men take to try live up to these.

The video that follows this reading assignment presents the problems of female African-Americans, especially black women of professional class who greatly outnumber black men of equal status. Currently few such women find husbands, despite high incomes and highly respected jobs. Juxtaposing these two situations --one in Japan, the other in America-- again sets the stage for cross-cultural comparisons, a dimension which is active within the whole syllabus (e.g., the week before, when students compared and contrasted Japanese bachelor farmers with their counterparts seen in "Moscow Connection").

At the start of the unit's second lesson, a short check quiz is given on the newspaper feature. Next, the video is briefly introduced. Figure 5 is the menu which follows this second short documentary. It also includes vocabulary introduced in the brief lecture given just prior to screening. Note how frequently questions in this menu strongly relate to the students' personal lives. By this mid-point in the unit, students are ready and willing to speak about their families, feelings, and viewpoints, as well as to speculate about their futures. When they turn their attention to these sorts of matters, students most noticeably "leave" the classroom behind. While all theme-based activity diminishes their awareness of being at school, and of the fact that they are practicing a language, personal discussion seems to do so most dramatically. This effect is produced by the sense which students have that they are engaged in a cooperative, meaningful transaction --in short, a genuine social interaction.4) Theme-based instruction sets as a goal the creation of optimal circumstances for this crucial change to occur.

Note that item number 9 on the Figure 5 menu is a mini-questionnaire. Such surveys enable students to think more carefully when speaking about themselves as unique individuals within Japanese society, and to compare themselves point-by-point with other such individuals. Vocabulary is readily available within the questionnaire itself. Differences between students' views can quickly be pinpointed and explored, making discussion more lively.

After this second major discussion, students write, as homework, an English essay on the theme of marriage within a set length guideline. This essay is delivered orally in the next class, to a small group of listeners. For this written assignment as well, a menu of topics provides a wide range of choices (shown in Figure 6) which require students to plumb inner resources of memory, knowledge, imagination, and feeling. They are free to depart from (or adapt) the listed topics so long as their essays stay clearly within the overall theme of marriage. Note that the topics listed on the menu often overlap with those raised in the earlier discussion. This provides students who need it a chance to express in considerably greater depth, and with more carefully crafted English, concerns which they may have touched upon, or perhaps avoided due to language restraints, in the give-and-take of the small-group discussions.

In the following class meeting, students present their essays aloud. Each presenter begins by identifying any difficult words which are used, explaining these first to the listeners and making sure that they are well understood before the essay is read. To encourage the groups to listen carefully, as well as promote discussion, student listeners are each required to ask two follow up questions. Early in the year it is wise to give students a "cue card" for forming such questions, such as the one shown in Figure 7. As they gain experience and confidence in asking these questions (and come to realize what fascinating answers they can provoke) students no longer need cues. The time allotted for these oral presentations and the discussions which follow can be increased incrementally throughout the academic year.

The sample three-week, theme-based unit presented here, as taught in my junior-level classes, concludes with the role play shown earlier in Figure 3. The overall course includes additional, related units on divorce and parenthood which build upon the lessons presented here; units on gender roles and employment also touch on the topic of marriage, sharing concepts, vocabulary, and structure.

As should be apparent to readers by now, the theme-based method of oral English instruction integrates all four skills --listening, speaking, writing, and reading. Yet I would suggest the potential for adding one more, for many students have told me that in this theme-based course they first experienced thinking in English. Anyone who has spent enough time in a foreign country to experience a similar breakthrough knows how significant this can be.

The teacher's job in a theme-based course is manifold and rewarding, but since his/her role is greatly expanded, it can be quite demanding as well. A great deal of time is spent outside of the classroom in the systematic planning and preparation of lessons; this includes a continuous search for useful authentic materials such as videos and articles, and at times, the adaptation of these materials to suit a class's language level. Since a given theme (and its content focus) dictates the selection and sequencing of teaching points, the language teacher must learn to exploit such materials for their language teaching potential.5) While commercial language teaching textbooks may be useful for some activities or provide a reference for others, to date most theme-based English language courses are "hand-crafted" with materials which are relevant both to the needs of the students as well as the interests and background of the teacher. Speak Up, a language textbook introduced in 1994 by Lingual House (Longman Group, UK), is organized on a theme-based plan designed to help beginning-level students "to become more proficient in sharing information about cultural topics." Its goals are so well stated that I wish I had written them myself: To help students "become more confident and proficient in an atmosphere of thoughtfulness, openness, interest, humor, and respect for the students' own values, opinions, and ideas."6) I hope that Speak Up is the first of many texts which seek to fulfill such worthy goals. Meanwhile, for teachers working at the intermediate level and above, one way to alleviate copious planning and preparation time is to form materials writing teams and share materials among teaching colleagues.7)

Inside the theme-based classroom, the teacher seeks to create a learner-centered environment, spending just enough time in teacher-led activities to inspire and foster a sense of classroom community, but reserving the bulk of classroom time for group and pair activities. During discussions the teacher visits one group at a time while keeping an eye on how others are doing. While sitting-in with a group, he/she listens with great care and patience, promotes interaction, asks questions, and also takes part in discussing the topic, opening up to share ideas, knowledge, experiences, or feelings, particularly when these may encourage the students to talk through those of their own. Praising pupils who make an effort to express something that may be difficult or perhaps especially meaningful, even when their speech is riddled with mistakes, is more important than simply correcting their errors. Teachers should respect the majesty of small progress, understanding that it is far more useful to echo aloud in appreciation what the student has just expressed, using for oneself the proper grammar or more precise language without becoming a "schoolmarm." This is essential for building confidence and reducing students' awareness of the classroom. After all, when people are struggling to speak from their hearts, a teacher who openly concentrates on the particulars of language --schoolbook grammar, mechanics, usage-- tremendously restricts the scope of what language use is really all about. Those who may harbor lingering doubts about the linguistic merits of a theme-based course might reconsider just how broad that scope can be. The goals I set for myself, for example, in teaching third-year college English majors include abundant oral practice in narrating, explaining, comparing, asking for information or clarification, stating opinions, expressing emotions, speculating, retelling and paraphrasing, expressing agreement or disagreement, commiserating, negotiating meaning, encouraging, praising, showing appreciation, offering suggestions, and diffusing tension. When learning a foreign language, these too are skills which must be honed over time in the sometimes awkward presence of other people. Real fluency consists in mastering these just as much as in knowing a predicate from a subject, or how to conjugate an irregular verb.

All the same, it is true that error marks the place where learning begins. To enable my Japanese students to weed out mistakes in their speech and writing which are clearly caused by grammatical differences between English and Japanese (e.g, forgetting plural), or by the fact they have learned only one English equivalent for a Japanese word (e.g., "My salary is cheap."), I require them to purchase and read at home a textbook entitled 121 Common Mistakes of Japanese Students of English (Revised Edition, The Japan Times 1991). The text's bilingual format makes it ideal for self-study, which promotes a vital sense of independence. Twice annually I interrupt the theme-based program to give tests on this book, and every student must pass both in order to complete the course (re-takes of the test are possible).

Research into language teaching methodology confirms that theme-based instruction is suitable for "virtually all levels" of language proficiency.8) Materials can be designed or adapted to meet the particular needs of the students who will use them. Figure 8, for example, shows a "marriage" unit discussion menu adapted for low intermediates from that shown earlier in Figure 1. Note that the number of questions has been reduced, and that each question is followed by speaking cues or vocabulary which help students begin their responses. This particular menu is used, by the way, without the accompanying video because that program's narration is too difficult for such a class. In other units, however, this is not the case.

The sorts of activities described in these pages are by no means exhaustive; these are simply the ones with which I have had extensive and happy classroom experience. Inventive, resourceful teachers create a range of activities to suit the needs and characters of the students whom they serve. A possible unit on "advertising", for example, might involve learners in a set of activities such as designing and administering a marketing survey, plotting a graph of its results, and discussing the range of consumer attitudes which their research has revealed.9) It might go on to engage these students in producing ads of their own, all the while speaking English to communicate for the project. Possibilities abound, once you decide to "leave the room."

As for how to evaluate in a theme-based course, a two-way approach is a good principle to follow: Consider that how your students appraise your efforts maybe more worth knowing than how you are judging theirs. In any event, the style of instruction outlined above gives one countless chances to observe close-up who is making an effort, stretching their tongues, and limbering up from week to week. Since your primary goal is fluency, make that your yardstick, comparing the learners not to each other, but each to the pupil that he or she was at the beginning stage of the course. You will have plenty of numbers--attendance, check quizzes, tests, homework, and other scraps of that ilk, but use these judiciously, for teaching, like painting, that is done by the numbers ignores the art of it all. At any rate, the same figures you use to score your students can grade your efforts as well: if the class scores low on a reading check quiz, did you select an inappropriate article? Is your quiz poorly designed? If attendance is slipping, are you providing sufficient stimulus?

What students can tell us about our courses can also be solicited directly. A good, anonymous questionnaire goes a long way toward broadening a teacher's view. It should be more than multiple choice, enabling students to write out their ideas in English or Japanese. Which units, activities, and materials are best? What are the drawbacks or problems? What suggestions might they have? How useful was the homework? One of my students wrote of the silence he'd sink in whenever his classmates could not comprehend him. This prompted a change in the methods that we now use for directed discussions in class.

In addition to criticism, your heart may be warmed by the things which young people will tell you. Below are some comments gleaned (and grammatically cleaned) from my questionnaires for the 1993-94 year. Here is some of what students thought and felt about their theme-based course, in particular its social dimension:

For teachers who wish to design their own theme-based oral English courses, the following checklist of basic principles is humbly offered for use and modification, as something one might reflect upon while searching for materials, designing lessons, and living life in the classroom:

  1. Always work with themes relevant to learners' lives.
  2. Weave together student choice with teacher direction (menus).
  3. Promote authentic social interaction.
  4. Stimulate learners with exciting, authentic materials.
  5. Embed linguistic goals; keep students focused on meaning.
  6. Recycle vocabulary, structure, etc.; re-expose as much as possible.
  7. Build on what students have already learned.
  8. Support classwork with homework.
  9. Integrate and challenge all four skills.
  10. Adapt materials to learner levels where needed.
  11. Build a sense of classroom community.
  12. Let the students know who you are; listen and know them as well.
  13. Praise whenever praise is due; respect their every effort.
  14. Diminish learners' awareness of the classroom.
  15. Emphasize two-way evaluation which is primarily verbal.
A few parting words now offered on behalf of the young language students we work with. Like all young people, these women and men are trying to forge identities. For all of the talk I hear among gaijin about Japanese uniformity, the only people I meet in the classroom are individual souls. Their once-rigid notions about social roles, the structure of society, gender, and what gives life meaning seem perched on the edge of an overhaul, a vast potential deepening, if someone who cares comes along and asks them the right sorts of questions. When that person is teaching them English, their relationship to the language can forever be enriched. Yet fear of failure, it must be remembered, is an emotional spasm that attends, and too often impedes, growth or change in a person. The teacher who preys upon students' weaknesses, regardless of good intentions, will never lead them out of the classroom. The teacher who nurtures their strengths has begun to do so.


1). Rose, Mike. Lives on the Boundary. New York, Penguin Books, 1989,p. 142.

2). Stapleton, Paul. "Language Classes: Making the Shift from Form to Content Through Japanese Culture and Current Events". Tokyo, Japan Association of Language Teachers. The Language Teacher, Vol. XVI No. 9, September 1992,p.13.

3. Stapleton, op. cit., p. 15.

4. Little, Greta D. & Sanders, Sara L.. "Classroom Community: A Prerequisite for Communication". Foreign Language Annals, 22, No. 3, May, 1989, p. 279-80.

5. Snow, Marguerite Ann. "Content-Based Second/Foreign Language Instruction: An Overview". Tokyo, Japan Association of Language Teachers. The Language Teacher, Vol. XV No. 11, November 1991, p.4.

6. Kusuya, Bev & Ozeki, Naoko. Speak Up: Conversation for Cross-Cultural Communication. Hong Kong, Lingual House (Div. of Longman Group). 1994. P. 6.

7. Snow, op. cit., p. 5.

8. Brinton, D.M., et. al. Content-based Second Language Instruction.New York, Newbury House. P. 57-81.

9. Snow, op. cit., p. 4.

The Figures

Figure 1

Unit 6: Marriage

Menu of Discussion Questions

(Choose any questions in any order you like)
  1. Did this TV report surprise you in any way? If so, how or why?
    • Which images or information in this video had the strongest impact on you? Why?
  2. What, in your opinion, are the good and bad points of the "Moscow Connection" marriage bureau? Why do you think so?
  3. This video presents two couples:
    Olga & Michael (shown in England)
    Nadia & Marcus (shown in Russia)
    • How are these two couples different?
    • Does one couple seem more suited for each other? Explain.
    • What are your impressions of these individuals?
  4. In Japan, some young men living in rural (countryside) areas seek wives from other countries. Why?
    • How is this situation different from "Moscow Connection"?
    • How is it similar?
  5. Can you think of other possible strengths or weaknesses of internationalmarriages?
  6. International marriages, like any marriages, have their strengths and weaknesses. Below are some points made in favor of (pro) and against (con) international marriages. Discuss them with your group, and explain why YOU generally approve or disapprove of international marriages:
* broader point-of-view* different ways of thinking
* sharing of cultural backgrounds* different customs, foods, etc.
* more straightforward, honest communication* language barrier
* passports for two countries*separation from family, relatives
* bilingual children* children's confusion about cultural identity

Figure 2

Role Play A

You are a young person who has decided to marry someone you love who comes from another country (e.g., America). Today you'll tell one of your parents of this decision, and ask for his/her approval. Below are some of the reasons why you think your international marriage will be successful (think of other reasons by yourself):

You feel that in such a marriage, you will:

You will speak first. Say, "Mother (or Father), I have decided to marry a man(or woman) from (name of country). I hope that you will give your approval."

Act your part! Listen carefully to your partner!

Role Play B

You are the mother or father of a young person who has decided to marry someone who comes from another country (e.g., America). Today your child will tell you of this decision, and ask for your approval. Below are some of the reasons why you think this international marriage will not be successful (think of other reasons by yourself). Argue against the marriage, but in the end, decide for yourself whether or not to give your approval. Below are some of your concerns (think of others by yourself):

You worry that in such a marriage, your child will

Your child will speak first. Listen, then think and respond to what he or she says.

Act your part! Listen carefully to your partner!

Figure 3

Role Play A

You are a husband talking with your wife. You have two young children. You have just been offered a new job overseas. You have always wanted to live abroad, and you believe that this move would be an excellent career opportunity. Your wife, however, does not want to go.

You feel that if you do go, you . . .

You will speak first. (Think now about what you will say first to your wife.)

Act your part! Listen carefully to your partner!

Role Play B

You are a wife talking with your husband. You have two young children. Your husband has just been offered a new job overseas. He has always wanted to live abroad, and he believes that this move would be an excellent career opportunity. You, however, do not want to go.

You worry that if you do go, you . . .

Your husband will speak first. Listen before you respond.

Act your part! Listen carefully to your partner!

Figure 5

This Week's Helpful Words & Phrases:

to outnumber   shortage             "a dwindling
equal status   professional class    spouse    
independent    extramarital affair

Menu of Discussion Questions

(Choose any question in any order)

  1. Both Japanese women and black American women are better-educated and better-paid today than in the past. What is the big difference, however, in their chances of finding a husband? Why is this so?
  2. What are your impressions of the women you just watched? (Explain & discuss)
  3. Do you want to get married someday?
    • If yes, why?
    • If no, why not?
    • If you're ambivalent (you have mixed feelings), why?
  4. What personal qualities will you want in a marriage partner? Why are these qualities important to you?
  5. What kind of person would you not want to marry? Why?
  6. How do you think you will find your husband or wife? Do you worry about this?
  7. In your honest opinion, which word or words below best describe the relationship between your mother and father? Explain why.
    a. friends b. partners c. lovers d. strangers e. enemies f. siblings g. father & daughter h. mother & son
  8. Do you want your own marriage to be similar to or different from your parents' marriage? Why?
  9. Look at the activities listed below. In your future marriage, which do you think will be the wife's responsibility? Which will be the husband's? Which will be shared by both? Mark your answers secretly; then compare answers with your group & discuss.

Household budgeting (finances)---
Cooking meals---
Housework (Cleaning, laundry, etc.)---
Caring for the children.---
Working to earn money---
Socializing with friends & colleagues---
Gift buying---
Vacation Planning---

Figure 6

Marriage: Suggested Writing Topics

Choose one of the topics below, or create an interesting, original composition on a topic of your own, as long as the theme is marriage You will present your essay or story aloud in a small group next week. This time, please make your paper about 30 lines or more on A4 paper.

Figure 7

Good Listener's Follow up Cues

Why? Why do/don't you . . ? Why does/doesn't he/she . . ?
When? When did you . . ? When does he/she . . ?
Where? Where is/are your . . ? Where is he/she . . ?
Who? Who is the most . . ? Who usually . . ?
What? What makes you (think / feel / behave / react / insist ) . . .?
How? (+ well / much / long / jealous / important / etc.)

Figure 8

Marriage: Discussion Questions

Form groups of 4 students each and discuss the following questions in English:
  1. Do you want to get married someday?
    • If yes, why? (I want to get married because . . .)
    • If no, why not? (I don't want to get married because . ..)
    • If you're not sure, why? (I'm not sure because . . . )
  2. What personal qualities will you want in a marriage partner? Why are these qualities important to you? (See the list below for ideas)
    • (I hope that my future husband (wife) will be ______________. This is important to me because . . . )
    • A list of Personal Qualities:
      Intelligent Kind Sexy Hard-working Rich Sensitive Humorous (funny) Ambitious Outdoors-loving Good with Children Traditional Older Younger Beautiful/Handsome
  3. What kind of person would you not want to marry? Why?
    • (I would not want to marry a person who _______________ because . .
    • (I would not want to marry a ____________ person because . ..)
  4. How do you think you will find your husband or wife? Do you worry about this?
    • (I think that I might find my future husband (wife) at ______________.)
    • (I worry about finding a husband (wife) because . . .)

The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. II, No. 1, January 1996