Activity: Consensus decision

A very important language skill is being able to work with others to make a decision or consensus. This is an activity I did with an Intermediate class to demonstrate the use of modality in making a decision. The text comes from the Clockwise series.

First, to set the context, I asked the students to write down a place they’d like to go to in Japan for an Autumn weekend trip away. Then, I put students with different cities in pairs. I then told the students to imagine they were going away together and had to agree on which city – in could be one of the two they’d written down or a third they decide on. As they were talking I made a mini corpus of language they used:

why do you
I don’t go
where do you
anywhere is OK
I have delicious food
There are good
It is a little expensive
How much can we
Autumn is best
We can see
Would you change

We then come back as a group and look at the examples that I wrote down. I point out that it is mainly in Primary tense (in bold) with only three examples of modality in the whole conversation (underlined). While there is some evaluative language (OK, delicious, best), it might come across as a little too direct or strong. Putting them back into pairs, I ask them try and see if they can make them ‘softer’. After that we discuss it as a group.

Then, the listening is of two university students looking at the classifieds and discussing whether to buy a car or a motorbike. We do the listening exercise in several stages, focussing on tenor/interpersonal choices:

1. Genre: What is the goal of the conversation? How does the conversation progress? How does it end (what is the function of the joke)?

2. Register:
Tenor: Who is talking? Power? Contact? Affect?

3. Semantics:
Interpersonal: How does Yvonne give commands, eg ‘ask Ali’, ‘take lessons’, ‘sell it’? What is the function of ‘No’?

4. Lexico-grammar:
Interpersonal: What modality is used? How?


After listening (and look at the transcript perhaps), we look at the mini corpus and discuss what other choices they could have made.

Last, I put them into new pairs and repeat the first exercise of choosing a weekend destination.

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