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7±2 conversation cards


Rather than chastise kids or telephone and report them to the police for using non-English L1. We ↓L1 and ↑L2 by using conversation cards.  We start kids communicating in English using these cards from age three years old when they can’t yet read. At this stage a one short utterance Q&A dialogue is written on one card accompanied by an image. The image conveys the concept of the situation and the printed dialogue comprises sight words to develop reading. To develop sight reading in young children, the teacher points to each word on the card and models the dialogue with the child, akin to a listen and repeat exercise-kids are also taught spelling and phonics from day 1 in a separate stage of the lesson. Each card is passed from one child to the next after the teacher has modeled the dialogue and handed the card to the first child (our class size for this age is no larger than 5 to 7 kids). A set of five single Q&A cards is used with this age group.  A snippet of their use in practice is shown here.



As soon as practical, usually from age six years old, the complexity and size of these cards is increased. The method remains the same, in that each Q&A in turn cycles the group, with the exception that each kid retains their own copy of a conversation card containing 5 Q&A dialogues. At this stage, the teacher may continue to point to each word to model the dialogue, but the kids are weaned off this support as their reading improves. An example card is shown below.



In the next step, the kids not only ↓L1 and ↑L2 but practise reading while preparing for EIKEN. The A4 Q&A cards each now have 7 dialogues per side based on the EIKEN 3 speaking test. The kids initially work in pairs each holding a copy of the same card.  They learn to ask and answer follow-up questions or respond with yes or no then follow-up with a reason without being prompted, which also prepares them for EIKEN Pre-2. To ensure their new learning does not displace previously learned dialogues, they are challenged to perform previously learned dialogues without looking at the cards.  Interestingly, the recently acquired language appears to compete with the previously established dialogue language. Here is an example where words from an EIKEN 3 card have appeared during a performance of words from the school card shown below. In psychology we consider this to be a ‘recency effect’.

In the final step, each member of a pair has a different card. This means the person responding to the question cannot see a written answer. Nobody who accomplishes this step fails EIKEN 3. You can download a set of the cards for use in your own school (and even sell them to your customers providing that copyright details are not removed) for a fee of just 1000 yen.



Why 7±2?

Seven plus or minus two was a fascinating topic proposed by the psychologist George Miller. There are 7 basic colors, ROYGBIV, musical notes ABCDEFG, and most people can readily remember this many items when presented with a list of several items. Exactly what constituted one item was hotly debated. Miller proposed ‘chunking’ to explain how one can remember more than 7 discrete items by chunking them into 7 groups of items. There are techniques to enable one to remember much more at one sitting, such as how to remember a list of 100 words in order within a few minutes, and how to remember the order of a full deck of shuffled playing cards (Japanese call them trumps) after hearing them read aloud just once. And even do the same and determine the names of all seven cards that had been removed at random before the shuffled deck was read aloud. These memory techniques are useful to teach high ability students to write and memorize essays and build up a bank of memorized essays in preparation for EIKEN1. But that is a different blog

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