Book Review

Discussion Strategies
Authors: David Kehe and Peggy Dustin Kehe
Publisher: Pro lingua Associates
Book review published in the Canadian Modern Language Review / La Revue canadienne des langues vivantes
Reviewed by: Viviane Edwards

Discussion Strategies was written by David and Peggy Kehe, the authors of Conversation Strategies and follows and builds upon the conversation skills discussed in that text. Discussion Strategies, however, stands on its own and may easily be used for the development of discussion skills.The activities in this book are designed to help high-intermediate to advanced English second language students develop the skills needed at high levels of communicative interaction. From the outset, students in a step-by-step procedure are given extensive practice in a variety of discussion strategies for leading and participating in a discussion. They are provided with focused practice with a variety of discussion techniques. These include using rejoiners, asking follow-up questions, seeking and giving clarification, using comprehension checks, answering with details, soliciting more details from others, interrupting others during a discussion, recounting something they have heard, volunteering an answer, helping the leader of a discussion, expressing an opinion, referring to a source when giving an opinion, and leading a discussion themselves.

Unlike Conversation Strategies, each unit in this text builds upon and recycles the strategies practiced in the previous one. Teachers using this text would be wise to proceed unit-by unit in the given sequence. The general progression of interaction formats goes from participating in pair work to leading large group discussions. By the final units students are using all the strategies learned in large group or whole-class situations.

In many of the units, newspaper articles based on true stories are used as the basis of discussion. The articles have been chosen for their high-interest contents and do not require any background knowledge by the students. An added bonus is that students from a variety of cultures are able to relate to the selected topics.

The review below appeared in the Nov/Dec 1998 issue of ESL Magazine.
Reviewed by: Virginia D Lezhnev, Ph.D.

I wanted to speak up in class, but I just couldn't."
Either the class discussion went too fast, the student was shy, or the student didn't understand what was said. How many times have we heard remarks like this from our students? Like-wise, how many times have we asked, "How can I get my students to participate more in class discussions?" Help is on the way.

Discussion Strategies
The latest book by David Kehe and Peggy Dustin Kehe, published this year by Pro Lingua Associates, offers step-by-step, interactive solutions to problems of discussion freeze-up. At first glance, the book looks confusing because the content seems jumbled. For example, Student A uses pages 1-66; student B, pages 67-131; student C, pages 133-190. But, in fact, the book is very user-friendly and cleverly arranged in a series of information/discussion gap tasks in which the students learn and practice various discussion strategies. As the students perform these tasks, they learn how to participate in the natural give-and-lake of discussion and how to fill in those gaps when they think that they have nothing say.

In Units 1-27, the tasks are done in pairs or triads. This allows students to practice their discussion strategies within the security of small groups. The roles within the small groups are assigned in the task. For example in Unit 10, A reads the first part of the article; B and C interrupt and ask clarification questions; A clarifies. B reads the second part of the article, and A and C interrupt and so on.

Unit 28 is a summary discussion of all the strategies. Unit 29 is a model, teacher-led discussion. In the final units 30-38, the students lead small group discussions for 40-minute periods.

In most of the units, the discussion centers on an article of general interest such as "Telling Lies" or "Stress." Structured activities guide the use of strategies, and open-ended activities, such as reacting to your partner's opinions, allow the students to express themselves more freely.

A large number of discussion strategies (as summarized in Unit 28) are introduced, practiced and recycled: rejoinders, follow-up questions, clarification expressions, comprehension checks, answering with details, interrupting, words that describe, telling what you've heard, volunteering an answer, summary clarification, telling others' opinions, helping the leader, expressing opinions and referring to a source.

Discussion Strategies is an excellent text for a high-intermediate to advanced communication skills course for ESL/EFL learners interested in practicing and perfecting their discussion skills for either academic or professional purposes. Students gain confidence from small group discussions and progress toward leading large group discussions. The book provides support to help students feel comfortable in performing various discussion tasks. This is a worthy sequel to Kehe and Kehe's

Conversation Strategies
A very successful text for intermediate students.

Discussion Strategies
Offers a solution to discussion freeze-up and opens the channels of communication.

Virginia D Lezhnev, Ph.D., teaches in the Intensive English Language Program, and and teaches Methodology of Language Teaching to Japanese teachers of English at Georgetown University where she is Senior CLED (Center for Language Education and Development) instructor.

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