How to organize an English speaking club
A speaking club is fundamentally different from an English language course. The main characteristics of English conversation clubs are as follows:
- The aim of a discussion club in English is development, first and foremost, of speaking skills and, to a lesser extent, of listening skills. Reading and writing skills at meetings of conversation clubs are completely ignored, as well as explanation of phonetic, grammar and lexical rules of the English language.
- Meetings of a discussion club in English are not related to each other thematically, so a participant can skip one of them without affecting the entire programme of the course.
The following are recommendations for organization of an English speaking club, based on our practical experience, but by no means are the absolute truth.
1. It is not necessary to explain why the venue of a conversation club in English should be comfortable for all participants. We only note that creation of an atmosphere, which favours a pleasant communication, can be facilitated by a dim lighting. It distracts attention of participants of an English speaking club from details of the interior and appearance of their interlocutors, which helps to concentrate better on the discussion.
2. Regarding to the number of participants of an English speaking club, the “golden rule” should be followed: when more than 9 people gather, the joint discussion inevitably splits into several conversations. Thus, without taking into account the host, no more than 8 people should be present at a meeting of an English speaking club at a time.
3. Most English speaking clubs practice to inform their participants in advance about the topic of the upcoming meeting, but we do not recommend to follow this practice! First, a meeting of a conversation club should as much as possible stage the real situation of a spontaneous discussion with an English-speaking interlocutor. Secondly, complete lack of preparation makes the brain work faster, “lifting deep layers of knowledge to the surface”, including from the subconscious. Thirdly, as our experience shows, a regular participant of a English conversation club can skip a meeting only because he/she did not prepare, or come, but feels timid.
4. We recommend to start the first meeting of a discussion club in English, regardless of the level of the participants, with the topic "Names". Firstly, it will help you and the participants of the speaking club to quickly remember their names. Secondly, this is the easiest of the speaking topics we offer, and so a discussion on it will inspirate the participants and will give them a positive attitude to visit your English conversation club in the future.
5. The main mistake that hosts of English speaking clubs make, in our opinion, is that they ask a question to the whole group and wait for anyone who wishes to answer it. As a result of this practice, the same extroverts speak all the time during a meeting, and some introverts leave an English conversation club without saying a word! Of course, this is completely unacceptable! To avoid this huge mistake, the host of a discussion club in English should ask the same question personally to each participant and, until everyone gives his/her opinion, does not move on to the next question.
6. Encourage participants of a conversation club to begin their judgments with introductory expressions like 'I think', 'In my opinion', 'From my point of view', as this is common in the English-speaking world.
7. It is not necessary during one meeting of a discussion club in English to go through all 18 questions of the chosen speaking topic. The speaking topics, we offer for an English conversation club are not an academic programme. Rather they serve as a kind of "pusher", which start a discussion in English. Moreover, if after the first few questions, the conversation goes into another direction, the meeting of the English speaking club is successful! Remember, that the most important criterion for a successful meeting of a conversation English club is all participants are interested. If they desire to discuss some other topics in English, but not the one that you suggested, this is just great!
8. Do not allow members of an English speaking club to keep any notes during a meeting. First, let us to repeat that the atmosphere of a meeting of a discussion club should imitate the real situation of a conversation with an English-speaking interlocutor as much as possible. Secondly, keeping notes distracts attention of the participants from the discussion in English. Strictly speaking, this is the very thing that differs a speaking club from an English language course.
9. As to phonetic, grammar and lexical mistakes, made by participants of an English speaking club, they should not be corrected immediately during the discussion. Only if the same participant makes the same mistake more than twice, it is necessary to gently point it at the end of the meeting. If necessary, you can advise him/her to listen to, read or do exercises on this topic.
10. Also at the end of each meeting of a speaking club, it is advisable to remind the participants to read books and to watch films in English, as well as do various exercises between the meetings. If necessary, you can recommend the most useful resources for learning English.