What is a seminar?
Generally, it is a small discussion on a specific topic among a group of students. At university it can be a central part of the learning process from lecturers creating seminars around pre-reading texts or post-lecture discussions. Commonly, at university English language centres seminars have become a feature of testing English speaking though fluency, conversational skills and ability to discuss complex subjects.
Why have seminars?
- explore topics in more depth
- share ideas in a way that will advance your thinking
- learn from other people’s experiences and background knowledge
- improve transferable skills for career development
Students are often given pre-texts and pre-listenings before the seminar to prepare. Students are expected to read and listen to texts carefully by making detailed notes and come to the seminar fully prepared.
A Seminar Test – a seminar test usually…
- Consists of 6 people (one can be nominated the chair person)
- A set of questions
- Lasts for 25-30minutes
- The last 5 minutes summarise key points
- Students CAN use their texts and notes
The seminar process
- The group are called into a room and sit around a table.
- The questions are given out and students have 3 minutes to read and prepare
- The seminar begins with an opening statement – what you are here today to discuss?
- The students then begin to discuss the first question.
- Each student should make a contribution by referring to their notes / texts.
- The Seminar should flow with students adding to what was previously said.
- Once everyone agrees this question has been addressed in full, then they move onto the next question.
- Important: not all the questions have to be answered but they should be discussed in order
- Important: Sometimes choosing a chair person can create problems and it’s better if the students run it collectively.
- Once the students begin to approach 25 minutes they should bring it to an end by each one summarising a main point raised.
key points to a seminar
- It should be a flowing conversation with everyone involved and contributing.
- The teacher / tutor should not intervene if it goes quiet but let the students manage the discussion.
- Students have to show confidence and demonstrate thorough awareness of texts.
- Dominant students are penalised for not sharing and including others.
- Grouping is important (careful consideration is needed on putting students in groups)
- key debate phrases should be used to should conversation skills – agreeing, disagreeing, interrupting, etc…
Seminar Speaking Criteria x2
There is a basic seminar speaking criteria to assess seminar speaking skills which has four key criteria: Language accuracy, language range, pronunciation and communicative effectiveness. Also, another seminar criteria that includes ‘reference to materials’. Example / Level: ***** [B1/B2/C1] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP
Seminar Speaking Cards
Seminar Speaking cards
This lesson has twelve seminar topics on a variety of topics. Put students into groups of four/five. Give out a card and students have 1 minute to plan what they will say. Students then discuss the question for 10 minutes [webpage]. Use the seminar assessment criteria here Level: ***** [B1/B2/C1]
Signposting Language in Seminars: Free Download
This lesson develops students’ awareness and ability to use signposting phrases in seminars. It begins by introducing a list of seminar phrases, practicing these phrases in groups and finishes with a kinaesthetic card game to activate the phrases learnt. Really fun lesson! [webpage] Level: ***** [B1/B2/C1]
Class Speaking Download
Seminar Lesson Download
Speaking Tasks – Analysis & Evaluation
This lessons includes six speaking task cards (halls of residence, speaking English, greener university, plagiarism, congestion, homelessness). In small groups students discuss the situation, analyse the key issues/areas and evaluate which are the most effective (see example). Level ***** [B2/C1] / TEACHER MEMBERSHIP
Seminar Lesson Download
Independent Learning seminar
This worksheet is based on four videos. Students listen and take notes on the videos and then summarise their ideas on the worksheet. Using their new knowledge they formulate an Independent Learning action plan. With all this information they have a 20-30 minute seminar using a set of questions. Videos Level: ***** [B1/B2/C1]
‘Designer Babies’ Seminar Discussion – 1x listening & 2x texts
This is an academic seminar discussion lesson. Students take notes on a short scientific lecture and two short texts. The students use these notes to take part in a 20 minute academic seminar. Example. Use Seminar Assessment Criteria here. Level: ***** [B2/C1/C2] / Video [05.05] / TEACHER MEMBERSHIP
Teamwork Lesson – 1x reading, 1x activity & 1x listening.
This lesson develops an understanding of teamwork. The lesson includes a discussion, a reading on creating a good team, a FUN ‘Marshmallow Challenge’ team-building activity and a short TED Talk lecture worksheet based on the findings of the activity. Example. Level: ***** [B2/C1/C2] / Video [06:44] / PPT / TEACHER MEMBERSHIP
Students start by discussing and writing a possible procrastination definition. This is then followed by a discussion about the causes, effects and possible solutions connected to procrastination. Helpful teacher’s notes to guide the discussion and links to university guides (example) / Level: ***** [B1/B2/C1] / TEACHER MEMBERSHIP
Procrastination Lesson Resource Book
This lesson includes three resources: A definition writing (including a dictation / dictogloss), a discussion worksheet about the causes, effects and possible solutions connected to procrastination, and a TED Talk lecture listening with comprehension questions and PPT (see example). Level ***** [B2/C1] / Power Point / Video [14.00] / TEACHER MEMBERSHIP