Valley Peters's March 17 workshop started with a small-group discussion
where the members of each group were asked to talk about
how they would teach a discussion class if they had to.
After some time of discussion, members of each group were
changed and they were asked to tell different members
what they had talked about in their previous group.
Then a video of an example discussion by four people
was shown, in which they were discussing what they
were going to do for the weekend. After watching the
video, the participants in the workshop were asked
if they recognized any of the roles taken by the four in
the video discussion.
The participants named roles correctly and Valley
wrote them down on the black board: Time keeper, Writer,
The participants were then asked to talk about
what the duties of these roles were and what typical
expressions characterized them. Here again they were
divided into groups and were asked to talk about the
Then they were given a worksheet in which there were
the four roles, along with expressions used in the video, and
the participants were asked to match them, working in groups.
Then they were divided into pairs and each pair was
given one of the roles and asked to discuss what
their role dictated they should do in a discussion.
Lastly, Valley introduced the PPU
(Presentation-Practice-Usage) technique which was used in the
discussion classes at Tokyo Jogakkan Junior College, where
Valley Peters teaches. In this PPU technique, students are each given one of the
above roles in small groups (3 to 4 groups of 4 or five students)
and are required to discuss a topic fulfilling their duties
according to their roles.
At the first stage, presentation, students are given very specific
structures to practice, and there is a lot of control over
the language they are using.
At the practice stage, distinct discussion roles are less explicitly
assigned. Students are still expected to perform them, but the group
shares the responsibilities for the roles. For example, the writing
role is taken overy by the whole group as they determine at the
end of each discussion what was most important for them.
As the teacher's control is reduced, students are given increasing freedom
to be creative with the language. Once they have learned the structures,
they can use them in many different ways.
At the final, usage stage, students have natural discussions
in which they participate equally. Each member contributes to the
conversation and has the language skills to express themselves and
respond to others.
The participants realized at the end of the two-hour workshop
that they had been learning how to use the PPU technique by
actually discussing discussion, going through the above three stages.
Report by Etsuo Kobayashi, Publicity Chair, West Tokyo JALT
2002 ESL MiniConference Online