The primary goal for beginning
elementary-stage English majors at Anhui Normal University is to develop basic linguistic
and communicative competence.
To achieve this end in the comprehensive English course,
we have applied the balanced activities approach so that students can benefit from an
all-round development of the four language skills. Among the various activities adopted,
Todays Report turns out to be very practical and effective.
Todays Report is given by one student, in English, during the first five to ten
minutes of each class. Since the student is required to give the report in English, much
preparation is required. To prepare for the report, the student may listen to news reports
on the BBC and/or VOA or watch CCTV English News Service. The student may also consult
English periodicals such as The World of English or The 21st Century or any book available
that is relevant and interesting. The student then selects a topic and draws up a brief
outline of the report. The next step is to give the report to the class. After delivering
the report, the student asks the class questions about the report. At the end of the
activity, the teacher comments on the report and the students presentation.
Todays Report motivates the students
As we all know, "well begun is half done," and a good lead-in paves the way
for the successful conduct of a class. Todays Report, given by a different student
and covering new materials each time, is very likely to attract attention. Here "Be
quiet" is not needed. The speaker who is in front of the class on the lecture
platform becomes the center of attention. Everybody participates voluntarily. The
enlivened atmosphere in the beginning makes it possible for the whole class to get highly
involved. My experience over the years has suggested that Todays Report is an
infallible lead-in to a well-conducted class and a motivating warm-up activity.
Todays Report links to the world
Todays Report provides students with the opportunity to be exposed to the English
language on various subjects and in different forms. We have always believed that many
minds are better than one.
Todays Report can take several different forms such as humor, stories, news
reports, current affairs, commentary, speech delivery, poetry recitation, and even
improvised speeches at the request of the listeners.
And in terms of the subjects or topics of the reports, the students often have
amazingly brilliant ideas. If at the beginning of a new term, student A reports about his
winter vacation, then the coming finals may lead to student Bs talk about her stress
and tension over exams and her expectations for working hard to get good results. If
student C presents a VOA news story on Bosnia-Herzegovina, it is not surprising to hear
student D report the next day on the recent development of the Fourth Womens
Conference of the World held in Beijing.
Students also tend to concentrate on subjects closely related to cultural events and
the sports world. So there are times when we listen to the reports on pop music (for
example, one student focused on "Why I love the song My Deskmate
Girl," an introduction to jazz, a review of The Bridges of Madison County, and
the saddening news of Chinas football team beaten again by South Korea. Todays
Report has opened a window between the class and the colorful world.
Not only have students had their minds refreshed by the ever-changing subjects, the
reports have also contributed to improving their speaking and listening skills. They must
listen, comprehend, digest, and respond. Therefore, the whole process involves the active
participation of the speaker (reporter) and the listener.
Todays Report challenges students
Short as it is, Todays Report is no easy task to carry out. Freshmen, in
particular, often find it difficult to get up enough courage to speak before a small
audience, even though they may be fully prepared for the material they are going to use.
On the other hand, the listeners, who usually are very poor in listening comprehension,
also are very anxious as they try to understand the report. Most freshmen feel that giving
Todays Report is really very demanding and challenging when they give it for the
With the passage of time, students are offered more chances to face their classmates
and speak. Every student gives the report approximately four to five times each semester.
This and other learning activities enable them to get over timidity and improve their
listening and speaking skills. Todays Report inculcates a spirit of hard work and
competition, for the students are constantly reminded that what they have achieved is far
from perfect. Because Todays Report provides everyone a very good opportunity to
show what has been learned, the students make every effort to do a good job.
Todays Report has been used for nearly 10 years and is very popular with our
students. It has been and will continue to be an inseparable part of our Comprehensive
English course adopting the balanced activities approach.