Teaching Problem/Solution clause relations with Headway

There is an activity in New New Headway Upper Intermediate about things you’d miss when travelling (p.14, Tapescript 1.9 – sorry I don’t have the actual recording here cause of copyright). The listening activity as it is presented doesn’t go beyond listening for specific ideational choices: a radio, a pillow, etc. I noticed, however, the listenings do present an excellent opportunity for listening for the Problem-Solution-Evaluation clause relation (see Hoey & Winter in Coultard. In the listenings, ‘things you miss’ when travelling is presented as a problem, a lack of some item, to be solved (it would be interesting to do a CDA analysis of Headway – I’ve noticed that ‘foreign travel’ is often presented as a ‘problem’ to be solved or overcome:). Here is the first listening:

Andrew: Well, the thing I miss most when I’m away from home is definitely listening to the radio. And the way I get round this, particularly when I go away for 2, 3 or 4 months or something, is to take a small short-wave radio that I found and take great trouble to tune in this short-wave radio to get an English-language station, something like the world service, and I’m there waving the aerial around and twiddling the knob and trying to find the correct kind of station but then suddenly, when it all comes in and you can hear it, it’s great – it really makes me feel like I’m back home, back in my bedroom, tuning in to weird programmes on wonderful subjects really.

The thing I noticed first was that it is only two sentences – the first sentence presents the problem while the second, one very long extended clause complex, presents the solution and evaluation. We can divide it thus into recognisable parts:

  1. PROBLEM: listening to the radio;
  2. SOLUTION: short-wave radio, English-language station;
  3. EVALUATION: it’s difficult and feel silly (waving, twiddling) but it’s great.

The listening can then be analysed on all three planes of Context, Content and Expression to see how the speaker signals the three parts of the clause relation.

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About eflfunc

I'm an EFL teacher in Japan and this is a blog to record some thoughts on using Systemic Functional Linguistics in the foreign language classroom.
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