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Tips and Techniques for Speaking and Presentation Skills
Sep 19, 2007 Dorit Sasson Improving speaking skills begins with fostering student motivation and effective teaching
What do you do when students don’t want to put that extra mile to do a speaking presentation, so they get cold feet and read from their notes just to get by. Improving speaking skills takes a lot of classroom practice, motivation to speak, and skill. Sometimes it is necessary to think beyond the box, adding creative elements wherever possible depending of course, on the skills of your students and how open they are to creative thinking. Improving the speaking skills of your students may be difficult, but the added benefit is building confidence in students for speaking skills and strategies. Even though the professional years are still way in the future, help your students by starting small. Teach both speaking and listening activities, sometimes even in one lesson, while preparing them for that future presentation. That way, students don’t feel the pressure and burden when it comes their turn to present a presentation due to remembering the fear of those earlier years during those speaking activities.
Teaching Activity Using Speaking Activities
Use picture prompts. Depending on the variety of visual resources and class level and ability, a teacher can brainstorm with the class a variety of sentences, (key) words, and phrases around a particular category or situational context that is the building block for a presentation. Follow-up with a memory game or exercise. Students then work in pairs writing down or translating the words they remember.
Effective Teaching Continues
Another teaching activity involves asking questions or presenting statements that are not true about themselves, and then asking their friends to decide whether they are true or false. Students have a lot of fun with this one.
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Play Adjectives All Around! Students have one minute to present all the adjectives they can in a sentence. This person is _______________________________________________. The other student then tries and guess who the person is. Make sure they include a minimum of five adjectives and no more than seven or eight. A teacher can use this activity to draw the students’ attention to the different categories that make up an adjective.
Additional Tips for Improving Speaking Skills
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Allot a time limit for each and every speaking activity. Take into consideration those activities that involve either group or pair work. Keep the activity fun and simple. Make sure the instructions are also crystal clear. Don’t overdo speaking activities in one lesson. Make sure you aim for a balance between speaking and listening. Have a back-up plan for the entire class and for individual students who are withdrawn. Always reflect on what can you do as a teacher to help students improve their speaking skills.
The more diverse and creative your speaking activities become, the easier it will be for you to train your students to improve their speaking skills and speaking exercises will become much more automatic. Read more at Suite101: Improve Speaking Skills: Tips and Techniques for Speaking and Presentation Skills http://newteachersupport.suite101.com/article.cfm/improve_speaking_skills#ixzz0hnxHn a0B
Teaching Speaking: Activities to Promote Speaking in a Second Language
Hayriye Kayi http://unr.edu/homepage/hayriyek kayih[at]unr.nevada.edu University of Nevada (Nevada,USA)
Speaking is "the process of building and sharing meaning through the use of verbal and non-verbal symbols, in a variety of contexts" (Chaney, 1998, p. 13). Speaking is a crucial part of second language learning and teaching. Despite its importance, for many years, teaching speaking has been undervalued and English language teachers have continued to teach speaking just as a repetition of drills or memorization of dialogues. However, today's world requires that the goal of teaching speaking should improve students' communicative skills, because, only in that way, students can express themselves and learn how to follow the social and cultural rules appropriate in each communicative circumstance. In order to teach second language learners how to speak in the best way possible, some speaking activities are provided below, that can be applied to ESL and EFL classroom settings, together with suggestions for teachers who teach oral language.
What Is "Teaching Speaking"?
What is meant by "teaching speaking" is to teach ESL learners to:
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Produce the English speech sounds and sound patterns Use word and sentence stress, intonation patterns and the rhythm of the second language. Select appropriate words and sentences according to the proper social setting, audience, situation and subject matter. Organize their thoughts in a meaningful and logical sequence. Use language as a means of expressing values and judgments. Use the language quickly and confidently with few unnatural pauses, which is called as fluency. (Nunan, 2003)
How To Teach Speaking
Now many linguistics and ESL teachers agree on that students learn to speak in the second language by "interacting". Communicative language teaching and collaborative learning serve best for this aim. Communicative language teaching is based on real-life situations that require communication. By using this method in ESL classes, students will
have the opportunity of communicating with each other in the target language. In brief, ESL teachers should create a classroom environment where students have real-life communication, authentic activities, and meaningful tasks that promote oral language. This can occur when students collaborate in groups to achieve a goal or to complete a task.
Activities To Promote Speaking
After a content-based lesson, a discussion can be held for various reasons. The students may aim to arrive at a conclusion, share ideas about an event, or find solutions in their discussion groups. Before the discussion, it is essential that the purpose of the discussion activity is set by the teacher. In this way, the discussion points are relevant to this purpose, so that students do not spend their time chatting with each other about irrelevant things. For example, students can become involved in agree/disagree discussions. In this type of discussions, the teacher can form groups of students, preferably 4 or 5 in each group, and provide controversial sentences like “people learn best when they read vs. people learn best when they travel”. Then each group works on their topic for a given time period, and presents their opinions to the class. It is essential that the speaking should be equally divided among group members. At the end, the class decides on the winning group who defended the idea in the best way. This activity fosters critical thinking and quick decision making, and students learn how to express and justify themselves in polite ways while disagreeing with the others. For efficient group discussions, it is always better not to form large groups, because quiet students may avoid contributing in large groups. The group members can be either assigned by the teacher or the students may determine it by themselves, but groups should be rearranged in every discussion activity so that students can work with various people and learn to be open to different ideas. Lastly, in class or group discussions, whatever the aim is, the students should always be encouraged to ask questions, paraphrase ideas, express support, check for clarification, and so on.
One other way of getting students to speak is role-playing. Students pretend they are in various social contexts and have a variety of social roles. In role-play activities, the teacher gives information to the learners such as who they are and what they think or feel. Thus, the teacher can tell the student that "You are David, you go to the doctor and tell him what happened last night, and…" (Harmer, 1984)
Simulations are very similar to role-plays but what makes simulations different than role plays is that they are more elaborate. In simulations, students can bring items to the class to create a realistic environment. For instance, if a student is acting as a singer, she brings
a microphone to sing and so on. Role plays and simulations have many advantages. First, since they are entertaining, they motivate the students. Second, as Harmer (1984) suggests, they increase the self-confidence of hesitant students, because in role play and simulation activities, they will have a different role and do not have to speak for themselves, which means they do not have to take the same responsibility.
In this activity, students are supposed to be working in pairs. One student will have the information that other partner does not have and the partners will share their information. Information gap activities serve many purposes such as solving a problem or collecting information. Also, each partner plays an important role because the task cannot be completed if the partners do not provide the information the others need. These activities are effective because everybody has the opportunity to talk extensively in the target language.
On a given topic, students can produce ideas in a limited time. Depending on the context, either individual or group brainstorming is effective and learners generate ideas quickly and freely. The good characteristics of brainstorming is that the students are not criticized for their ideas so students will be open to sharing new ideas.
Students can briefly summarize a tale or story they heard from somebody beforehand, or they may create their own stories to tell their classmates. Story telling fosters creative thinking. It also helps students express ideas in the format of beginning, development, and ending, including the characters and setting a story has to have. Students also can tell riddles or jokes. For instance, at the very beginning of each class session, the teacher may call a few students to tell short riddles or jokes as an opening. In this way, not only will the teacher address students’ speaking ability, but also get the attention of the class.
Students can conduct interviews on selected topics with various people. It is a good idea that the teacher provides a rubric to students so that they know what type of questions they can ask or what path to follow, but students should prepare their own interview questions. Conducting interviews with people gives students a chance to practice their speaking ability not only in class but also outside and helps them becoming socialized. After interviews, each student can present his or her study to the class. Moreover, students can interview each other and "introduce" his or her partner to the class.
This is a very enjoyable, whole-class, free-speaking activity for which students sit in a circle. For this activity, a teacher starts to tell a story, but after a few sentences he or she stops narrating. Then, each student starts to narrate from the point where the previous one stopped. Each student is supposed to add from four to ten sentences. Students can add new characters, events, descriptions and so on.
Before coming to class, students are asked to read a newspaper or magazine and, in class, they report to their friends what they find as the most interesting news. Students can also talk about whether they have experienced anything worth telling their friends in their daily lives before class.
In this game, students should form groups of four. Each suit will represent a topic. For instance:
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Diamonds: Earning money Hearts: Love and relationships Spades: An unforgettable memory Clubs: Best teacher
Each student in a group will choose a card. Then, each student will write 4-5 questions about that topic to ask the other people in the group. For example: If the topic "Diamonds: Earning Money" is selected, here are some possible questions:
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Is money important in your life? Why? What is the easiest way of earning money? What do you think about lottery? Etc.
However, the teacher should state at the very beginning of the activity that students are not allowed to prepare yes-no questions, because by saying yes or no students get little practice in spoken language production. Rather, students ask open-ended questions to each other so that they reply in complete sentences.
This activity is based on several sequential pictures. Students are asked to tell the story taking place in the sequential pictures by paying attention to the criteria provided by the teacher as a rubric. Rubrics can include the vocabulary or structures they need to use while narrating.
Another way to make use of pictures in a speaking activity is to give students just one picture and having them describe what it is in the picture. For this activity students can form groups and each group is given a different picture. Students discuss the picture with their groups, then a spokesperson for each group describes the picture to the whole class. This activity fosters the creativity and imagination of the learners as well as their public speaking skills.
Find the Difference
For this activity students can work in pairs and each couple is given two different pictures, for example, picture of boys playing football and another picture of girls playing tennis. Students in pairs discuss the similarities and/or differences in the pictures.
Suggestions For Teachers in Teaching Speaking
Here are some suggestions for English language teachers while teaching oral language:
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Provide maximum opportunity to students to speak the target language by providing a rich environment that contains collaborative work, authentic materials and tasks, and shared knowledge. Try to involve each student in every speaking activity; for this aim, practice different ways of student participation. Reduce teacher speaking time in class while increasing student speaking time. Step back and observe students. Indicate positive signs when commenting on a student's response. Ask eliciting questions such as "What do you mean? How did you reach that conclusion?" in order to prompt students to speak more. Provide written feedback like "Your presentation was really great. It was a good job. I really appreciated your efforts in preparing the materials and efficient use of your voice…" Do not correct students' pronunciation mistakes very often while they are speaking. Correction should not distract student from his or her speech. Involve speaking activities not only in class but also out of class; contact parents and other people who can help. Circulate around classroom to ensure that students are on the right track and see whether they need your help while they work in groups or pairs. Provide the vocabulary beforehand that students need in speaking activities. Diagnose problems faced by students who have difficulty in expressing themselves in the target language and provide more opportunities to practice the spoken language.
Teaching speaking is a very important part of second language learning. The ability to communicate in a second language clearly and efficiently contributes to the success of
the learner in school and success later in every phase of life. Therefore, it is essential that language teachers pay great attention to teaching speaking. Rather than leading students to pure memorization, providing a rich environment where meaningful communication takes place is desired. With this aim, various speaking activities such as those listed above can contribute a great deal to students in developing basic interactive skills necessary for life. These activities make students more active in the learning process and at the same time make their learning more meaningful and fun for them.
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Celce-Murcia. M. 2001. Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language (3rd ed). USA: Heinle&Heinle. Chaney, A.L., and T.L. Burk. 1998. Teaching Oral Communication in Grades K8. Boston: Allyn&Bacon. Baruah, T.C. 1991. The English Teacher's Handbook. Delhi: Sterling Publishing House. Brown, G. and G. Yule. 1983. Teaching the Spoken Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Harmer, J. 1984. The Practice of English Language Teaching. London: Longman. McDonough, J. and C. Shaw. 2003. Materials and Methods in ELT: a teacher’s guide. Malden, MA; Oxford: Blackwell. Nunan, D., 2003. Practical English Language Teaching. NY:McGraw-Hill. Staab, C. 1992. Oral language for today's classroom. Markham, ON: Pippin Publishing.
ELT Book Reviews
How to Teach Speaking
Scott Thornbury Pearson Education Ltd, 2005 pp. iv-156
Reviewed by : Robert J. Dickey Gyeongju University, Korea >>Order here The "assumed" skill: Speaking! We can all "speak" -- right? It is, after all, assumed that a normally-healthy human being develops speaking skills, although some learn to do it better than others. It is speaking that sets us apart from other animal, so they say. For the most part, we aren't taught speaking as a distinct skill as we develop our first language skills, unlike reading, writing, and (perhaps) listening. Scott Thornbury's approach in How to teach speaking will surprise you. Probably even the least trained teachers recognize that speaking is more than simply producing orally the planned language we produce in writing. But other than subskills like pronunciation and perhaps the distinct grammar of casual speech, is it really worth this much attention? Well... Surprise, Surprise Sometimes experienced teachers developed established routines or expectations that can lead to rude awakenings in the classroom with a new class of students. So too, we can be
surprised when a book tackles a subject in ways other than expected. That can be good, after the initial discomfort. Scott Thornbury's approach in How to teach speaking will surprise you. Ultimately, in a good way. Take the time to warm up to a new way of doing! Recognizing what we are talking about When we think about it, a "speaking" class and a "conversation" class aren't really the same thing, although we often casually interchange these terms. I was somewhat uncomfortable through much of my initial spin through How to teach speaking because I was expecting a "how to teach conversation" book. And because Thornbury's presentation is rather different than we have experienced in Jeremy Harmer's series opener How to teach English and other major series in basic teacher training, like David Nunan's Practical English language teaching and Kathy Bailey's Practical English language teaching: Speaking. Such surprises can be irritating, at least at first. But remember, it is the irritation in the oyster that generates the pearl. Attacking the issues in a different way The opening chapters deal with speaking generalities, using the first language context, in the same way that Second Language Acquisition is often taught by first examining what happens in the L1. The problem here is that the short introduction to the book doesn't really make clear that we are attacking the problem in this way. A more expansive introductory chapter, or some indication on the back cover, describing this framework, would clarify matters tremendously. Also different, but in a good way, is how Thornbury tackles terminology. Assuming that teachers and teachers-to-be are intelligent human beings who enjoy intellectual stimulation, new terminology is presented in context, with supportive descriptions but without the simplistic or over-technical definitions that burden so many other books. While a glossary is often helpful, the index for this book will guide most readers to the pertinent description should they lose track later on in their readings. Thornbury provides more technical vocabulary than many other texts, which will serve a teacher well as they enter discussions on this topic with peers or continue their readings elsewhere. Avoiding such language is a short-cut to future embarrassment. The practical focus of the book is most clearly evidenced by the fact that the text is not burdened with references to obscure scholarly works. A concise set of further readings are organized by chapter at the back of the book. Those who want to explore more will go there. Once we have worked our way into Chapter three, where L1 and L2 speaking is distinguished, we have grown accustomed to Thornbury's design, and it all begins to make a lot of sense. Awareness-raising, Appropriation, and Autonomy Chapters four through six are the type of things most of us were expecting from such a
book. Activities. The strength of this book is that they aren't a mere hodge-podge of ideas, but are founded on the theory presented earlier. Here the first "practical classroom application" appears, with it's clever little margin icon -- a chalkboard! Really nice stuff here. It's not just photocopiable exercises, which you can find elsewhere. This is structure that allows teachers to understand the “why” and develop their own. It draws upon the strengths of the CELTA design of instructing novice teachers: demonstrating practical classroom devices with imagery and example. Planning and Assessing The final unit could be the first in many contexts. Do we need to teach speaking in our educational context? If we teach it, then, how do we assess? Here assessment refers to both the learner, which of course does make sense at the end of the book, but also, assessing institutional and learner needs. Do we need to teach speaking??? There is an interesting little mention of genre-based teaching as an alternative to taskbased teaching, and here, as throughout, Thornbury's concern for the grammar and vocabulary aspects of speaking are visible. Clearly this is not your prototypical turn-ofthe-century "task is all" approach to teaching speaking. Self-Study Tasks The Task Files at the back of the book provide useful post-reading exercises, with references to the pages where the discussion of the underlying knowledge is presented. Better still, there is a KEY! (So often missing in other books where activities are presented.) Placing this at the end of the book rather than after each chapter is but one more of this book’s alternative approaches. And so... There is always more than one way to tell a story. Sometimes it takes a different presentation before people really get it. Scott Thornbury's How to teach speaking is an important contribution to the teachers' library because it offers a different path. And as Robert Frost reminds us, "that has made all the difference." References Bailey, K. (2005). Practical English language teaching: Speaking. New York: McGrawHill. Harmer, J. (1998). How to teach English. Harlow, Essex: Longman. Reviewed (1st ed.) http://www.eltnews.com/features/elt_book_reviews/2006/03/how_to_teach_english.html Nunan, D. (ed.). (2003). Practical English language teaching. New York: McGrawHill/Contemporary. Reviewed http://www.eltnews.com/features/elt_book_reviews/2008/08/practical_english_language_ tea.html
Speaking English is the main goal of many adult learners. Their personalities play a large role in determining how quickly and how correctly they will accomplish this goal. Those who are risk-takers unafraid of making mistakes will generally be more talkative, but with many errors that could become hard-to-break habits. Conservative, shy students may take a long time to speak confidently, but when they do, their English often contains fewer errors and they will be proud of their English ability. It's a matter of quantity vs. quality, and neither approach is wrong. However, if the aim of speaking is communication and that does not require perfect English, then it makes sense to encourage quantity in your classroom. Break the silence and get students communicating with whatever English they can use, correct or not, and selectively address errors that block communication. Speaking lessons often tie in pronunciation and grammar (discussed elsewhere in this guide), which are necessary for effective oral communication. Or a grammar or reading lesson may incorporate a speaking activity. Either way, your students will need some preparation before the speaking task. This includes introducing the topic and providing a model of the speech they are to produce. A model may not apply to discussion-type activities, in which case students will need clear and specific instructions about the task to be accomplished. Then the students will practice with the actual speaking activity. These activities may include imitating (repeating), answering verbal cues, interactive conversation, or an oral presentation. Most speaking activities inherently practice listening skills as well, such as when one student is given a simple drawing and sits behind another student, facing away. The first must give instructions to the second to reproduce the drawing. The second student asks questions to clarify unclear instructions, and neither can look at each other's page during the activity. Information gaps are also commonly used for speaking practice, as are surveys, discussions, and role-plays. Speaking activities abound; see the Activities and Further Resources sections of this guide for ideas. Here are some ideas to keep in mind as you plan your speaking activities.
Content As much as possible, the content should be practical and usable in real-life situations. Avoid too much new vocabulary or grammar, and focus on speaking with the language the students have. Correcting Errors You need to provide appropriate feedback and correction, but don't interrupt the flow of communication. Take notes while pairs or groups are talking and address problems to the class after the activity without embarrassing the student who made the error. You can write the error on the board and ask who can correct it. Quantity vs. Quality Address both interactive fluency and accuracy, striving foremost for
communication. Get to know each learner's personality and encourage the quieter ones to take more risks. Conversation Strategies Encourage strategies like asking for clarification, paraphrasing, gestures, and initiating ('hey,' 'so,' 'by the way'). Teacher Intervention If a speaking activity loses steam, you may need to jump into a role-play, ask more discussion questions, clarify your instructions, or stop an activity that is too difficult or boring.
Communicative language teaching
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search Communicative language teaching (CLT) is an approach to the teaching of second and foreign languages that emphasizes interaction as both the means and the ultimate goal of learning a language. It is also referred to as “communicative approach to the teaching of foreign languages” or simply the “communicative approach”.
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1 Relationship with other methods and approaches o 1.1 The audio-lingual method o 1.2 The notional-functional syllabus o 1.3 Learning by teaching (LdL) 2 Overview of CLT 3 Classroom activities used in CLT 4 Critiques of CLT 5 See also 6 References
 Relationship with other methods and approaches
Historically, CLT has been seen as a response to the audio-lingual method (ALM), and as an extension or development of the notional-functional syllabus. Task-based language learning, a more recent refinement of CLT, has gained considerably in popularity.
 The audio-lingual method
The audio-lingual method (ALM) arose as a direct result of the need for foreign language proficiency in listening and speaking skills during and after World War II. It is closely tied to behaviorism, and thus made drilling, repetition, and habit-formation central elements of instruction. Proponents of ALM felt that this emphasis on repetition needed a corollary emphasis on accuracy, claiming that continual repetition of errors would lead to the fixed acquisition of incorrect structures and non-standard pronunciation.
In the classroom, lessons were often organized by grammatical structure and presented through short dialogues. Often, students listened repeatedly to recordings of conversations (for example, in the language lab) and focused on accurately mimicking the pronunciation and grammatical structures in these dialogs. Critics of ALM asserted that this over-emphasis on repetition and accuracy ultimately did not help students achieve communicative competence in the target language. Noam Chomsky argued "Language is not a habit structure. Ordinary linguistic behaviour characteristically involves innovation, formation of new sentences and patterns in accordance with rules of great abstractness and intricacy". They looked for new ways to present and organize language instruction, and advocated the notional functional syllabus, and eventually CLT as the most effective way to teach second and foreign languages. However, audio-lingual methodology is still prevalent in many text books and teaching materials. Moreover, advocates of audio-lingual methods point to their success in improving aspects of language that are habit driven, most notably pronunciation.
 The notional-functional syllabus
Main article: Notional-functional syllabus A notional-functional syllabus is more a way of organizing a language learning curriculum than a method or an approach to teaching. In a notional-functional syllabus, instruction is organized not in terms of grammatical structure as had often been done with the ALM, but in terms of “notions” and “functions.” In this model, a “notion” is a particular context in which people communicate, and a “function” is a specific purpose for a speaker in a given context. As an example, the “notion” or context shopping requires numerous language functions including asking about prices or features of a product and bargaining. Similarly, the notion party would require numerous functions like introductions and greetings and discussing interests and hobbies. Proponents of the notional-functional syllabus claimed that it addressed the deficiencies they found in the ALM by helping students develop their ability to effectively communicate in a variety of real-life contexts.
 Learning by teaching (LdL)
Learning by teaching is a widespread method in Germany (Jean-Pol Martin). The students take the teacher's role and teach their peers.
 Overview of CLT
As an extension of the notional-functional syllabus, CLT also places great emphasis on helping students use the target language in a variety of contexts and places great emphasis on learning language functions. Unlike the ALM, its primary focus is on helping learners create meaning rather than helping them develop perfectly grammatical structures or acquire native-like pronunciation. This means that successfully learning a foreign language is assessed in terms of how well learners have developed their
communicative competence, which can loosely be defined as their ability to apply knowledge of both formal and sociolinguistic aspects of a language with adequate proficiency to communicate. CLT is usually characterized as a broad approach to teaching, rather than as a teaching method with a clearly defined set of classroom practices. As such, it is most often defined as a list of general principles or features. One of the most recognized of these lists is David Nunan’s (1991) five features of CLT: 1. An emphasis on learning to communicate through interaction in the target language. 2. The introduction of authentic texts into the learning situation. 3. The provision of opportunities for learners to focus, not only on language but also on the Learning Management process. 4. An enhancement of the learner’s own personal experiences as important contributing elements to classroom learning. 5. An attempt to link classroom language learning with language activities outside the classroom. These five features are claimed by practitioners of CLT to show that they are very interested in the needs and desires of their learners as well as the connection between the language as it is taught in their class and as it used outside the classroom. Under this broad umbrella definition, any teaching practice that helps students develop their communicative competence in an authentic context is deemed an acceptable and beneficial form of instruction. Thus, in the classroom CLT often takes the form of pair and group work requiring negotiation and cooperation between learners, fluency-based activities that encourage learners to develop their confidence, role-plays in which students practice and develop language functions, as well as judicious use of grammar and pronunciation focused activities. In the mid 1990s the Dogma 95 manifesto influenced language teaching through the Dogme language teaching movement, who proposed that published materials can stifle the communicative approach. As such the aim of the Dogme approach to language teaching is to focus on real conversations about real subjects so that communication is the engine of learning. This communication may lead to explanation, but that this in turn will lead to further communication.
 Classroom activities used in CLT
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Role play Interviews Information gap Games Language exchange
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Surveys Pair work Learning by teaching
However, not all courses that utilize the communicative language approach will restrict their activities solely to these. Some courses will have the students take occasional grammar quizzes, or prepare at home using non-communicative drills, for instance.
 Critiques of CLT
One of the most famous attacks on communicative language teaching was offered by Michael Swan in the English Language Teaching Journal on 1985. Henry Widdowson responded in defense of CLT, also in the ELT Journal (1985 39(3):158-161). More recently other writers (e.g. Bax) have critiqued CLT for paying insufficient attention to the context in which teaching and learning take place, though CLT has also been defended against this charge (e.g. Harmer 2003). Often, the communicative approach is deemed a success if the teacher understands the student. But, if the teacher is from the same region as the student, the teacher will understand errors resulting from an influence from their first language. Native speakers of the target language may still have difficulty understanding them. This observation may call for new thinking on and adaptation of the communicative approach. The adapted communicative approach should be a simulation where the teacher pretends to understand only what any regular speaker of the target language would and reacts accordingly.
Teaching English Worldwide: A New Practical Guide to Teaching English
Paul Lindsay (2000) Burlingame, CA: Alta Book Center Publisher Pp. xii + 404 ISBN 1-882483-77-4 (paper) US $25.95 Designed as a comprehensive introduction to the field of teaching English as a second or foreign language, Teaching English Worldwide is a helpful instrument for both those who need a basic self-training in teaching English and those who are planning to take a preservice training course in the profession. Not only does the book provide the main points of the theoretical knowledge that would-be teachers need, but it constantly supports theory with procedures, techniques, and activities useful for the teaching of all aspects of the English language. In his "Note from the Author," Paul Lindsay traces his experience as a teacher of English and claims that an all-purpose teaching method does not exist. Good teachers should be less concerned with methods and approaches than with adapting their teaching to the students, after studying their needs, by choosing suitable materials and practical techniques. His last suggestion is "to keep an open mind on new ideas about teaching and learning. Try interesting new ways but don't get hooked on one method" (page ix). The book is organized into 21 chapters and 5 appendices, plus an answer key for the review questions and exercises proposed for self-testing at the end of each chapter. The first two chapters ("Basic Questions" and "Managing your Classroom") focus on basic issues such as: a) the role of the teacher, considered not as a mere explainer but as a sensitive helper and attentive organizer; b) the nature of the four skills, analysed in detail in the central part of the book; c) the communicative needs of students at different levels of language proficiency; and d) the importance of creating a relaxed learning environment and of organizing positive learning relationships and activities. The third, fourth, fifth, and sixth chapters set out to discuss the preliminary knowledge of language levels that enables teachers to approach the teaching of the four skills: "Presenting Meaning and Context," "Teaching Vocabulary," "Understanding Basic Verb Forms," and "Teaching Pronunciation." In order to help students understand the meaning of the new language it is necessary that teachers convey in very clear and easy ways the meaning and context. This may be realized through a wide range of techniques, from the use of mimic sounds, gestures, and facial expressions to the exploitation of pictures, photographs, objects (realia), and songs. It goes without saying that the meaning of a lexical item depends on the situation of occurrence, thus teachers should always simulate, as best the classroom facilities can
afford, the context of the situation where the word is employed (e.g., authentic material such as magazines and newspapers, or everyday situations in familiar environments such as home, school, friends, shops, and the like). They also should be careful to choose situations that are interesting for their students, since this device helps them remember new words. [-1-] What has been focused on in the previous paragraph can be easily summarized by observing that the teaching of meaning and context is not merely a matter of transmitting a long list of new words or lexical items, but rather the more complex procedure of teaching the vocabulary of a language. This entails recognizing an item in its spoken and written forms, as well as its grammar and pronunciation; knowing both its denotative and connotative meanings, its collocations, and its registers of use. The author suggests various strategies for the teaching of vocabulary. Lexical sets and semantic networks function well when each word refers to clearly differentiated concepts, and the words are presented via an action, realia, or a visual context. On the other hand, the use of synonyms does not work with beginners because it imposes an overloading task on them. Synonyms are instead useful with intermediate students, as are antonyms, or instructing students to use word formation strategies. Finally, the use of spidergrams or mental maps is helpful in tracing a constellation of relations among items belonging to general categories. I would like to add that making associations, exploring ranges of meaning, or learning words in groups provide cognitive strategies that are helpful in order to understand, categorize, and store new items in the mental lexicon. Moreover, teachers should always make the context of use explicit because this inferencing strategy, involving a greater amount of mental energy, allows better retention of words (Mondria & Wit de-Boer, 1991). The fifth chapter is meant to make would-be teachers aware of the different uses and meanings that verb forms may have and of the difficulties that students encounter in understanding basic grammar. The author claims that students need to learn the main points of grammatical correctness, but that this alone does not provide them with the skills necessary to communicate appropriately and to participate in communicative situations. The aim of teachers, then, should be to pay attention to the different illocutionary forces that the same speech act may have depending on the situation and the participants. How to enable students to recognize the different communicative functions of utterances is not one of the purposes of the chapter, and, unfortunately, there is nothing of the kind in any other part of the book. However, in the list of recommended readings that closes the chapter, good references are made to authors such as Close (1992) and Ur (1988). This first set of observations closes with a focus on how to teach pronunciation. After devoting a few notes to sound, stress, and intonation, the author offers some tasks to practice phonemic transcription, so that teachers can become aware of the difficulties students meet when they try to learn correct pronunciation. For each task good pieces of advice are given. A complex matter such as the teaching of pronunciation cannot be approached thoroughly in a few pages. Here again, a useful list of further readings is given for both theoretical references and practical activities. In the teaching of
pronunciation I have found a real help in proverbs because they are usually built on rhetorical devices such as rhyme and repetition. They represent a relaxing way of learning new sounds and can later be exploited in speaking and writing activities. The next chapters center on the four skills in the commonly accepted sequence: "Teaching Listening," "Teaching Speaking," "Teaching Reading," and "Teaching Writing." To develop listening skills, Lindsay provides some useful tips. Teachers should exploit different listening strategies, and select appropriate materials with a specific listening purpose in mind. The main tip the author gives is the need to help students develop listening skills rather than testing their listening ability. To do so, he suggests that teachers should make students more confident about the listening task by introducing the chosen material with global understanding questions and by dividing students into pairs or small groups so that they can share difficulties in finding answers to the proposed activities. Common tasks are listed: putting events or items in the right order, true/false statements, multiple choice questions, note-taking. It is worth emphasizing the importance of teachers being familiar with the crucial role that different types or stages of memory (e.g., echoic, working, long-term memory) play in the development of listening abilities (see Cohen et al, 1986; Smyth & Wing, 1987 ). [-2-] Speaking is introduced through three stages: elicitation of appropriate functional language, intensive oral practice, and developing oral fluency. The first goal may be reached by asking questions, using synonyms and antonyms, giving instructions, using realia and visual aids, gestures, and mime. Intensive practice involves repetition, echo questions, simple substitutions of dialogue prompts, or combining sentences. These activities enable students to become more accurate in specific language structures. Fluency is undoubtedly the most difficult skill to develop since it is highly dependent on interest in the topic and preparation of required vocabulary. Thus it is good practice to let students choose the topics and let them break the ice by starting with warm-up activities. Role-play, games, and information-gap activities are suitable for the development of oral fluency. As for accuracy, Allan (1991) suggested the use of taping a ten-minute talk from notes for self-correction of errors. Reading is seen as an additional exposure to the foreign language, and it contributes to the development and updating of vocabulary. I may add that it is a good device to increase systemic knowledge (syntactic and morphological) as well as schematic knowledge (encyclopaedic, socio-cultural, topic, and genre). Intensive reading is useful in the language classroom to analyse grammatical features, to learn how discourse markers are used to connect parts of text, and to infer the meanings of new words and lexical items relying on the context. These aspects may be elicited by true/false activities, questions, or cloze exercises. Lindsay emphasizes the importance of extensive reading, which has the great value of letting students feel more at ease when they have to develop their writing skills.
Teachers should become aware that writing is useful to their students only when this activity involves tasks that are realistic and relevant to students' lives. In order to help students build confidence in their writing abilities, teachers should make wide use of guided tasks: e.g., giving cue and items, using substitution tables to form sentences, providing model texts, asking students to write a simple letter or a postcard. Advanced students may write longer letters, biographies, diaries, stories and fables, topic subjects, articles for the school magazine. Since writing involves a set of complex cognitive processes, good teachers would help their students, in my opinion, to generate ideas and to direct them towards guided techniques. They should also enable students to develop effective planning procedures and to produce receiver-based compositions. The use of the word processor assists students in learning spelling, in the generation of rapid drafting, and in the easy correction of texts, thanks to the revision facilities that any writing software offers. "How to Correct Errors" is supplementary to the previous four chapters about the basic language skills. Strategies are presented to point out learners' errors. After making a distinction between errors and mistakes, and listing sources of errors, the main types of correction are explained, and for each of them a list of advantages and disadvantages is provided. The chapter ends with useful suggestions about the positive and negative effects that correction has on learners. [-3-] The next set of chapters ("Teaching with Visual Aids," "Teaching with Games," "Teaching with Drama," "Teaching with Songs," and "Learning with Self-Access") places the focus on a wide group of activities that can be used in everyday teaching in an amusing manner. They include: a) visual aids (e.g., substitution tables, timelines, realia, videos), b) games (from warm-up games, action and mime, and vocabulary to games suitable for the development of the four specific skills), c) drama (in its main procedures--mime, improvisation, role-play, and simulation), and d) songs (used for both listening and writing activities). The basic reason for the use of these tools is the need to vary the learning pace, arouse the learners' interest and diminish the students' anxiety. A description of the facilities required for a self-access center is followed by a list of materials which are more effective, especially when this procedure is used as supplementary learning to the classroom. The teacher can ask students to complete individual activities in the self-access center in those areas of language in which they most need practice. The seventeenth chapter ("Testing") describes the main types of tests and ways of testing, e.g., fill-in-the-blanks, cloze, matching, scrambled sentences, and dictation. The chapter closes with a useful grid of the international examination in ESL/EFL together with the abilities each examination is designed to test. The last four chapters ("Using Textbooks," "Planning Lessons," "Teaching Monolingual Classes," and "Key Concepts in Language Teaching") provide: a) a list of advantages and disadvantages of using books and ways to choose a textbook that meets learners' needs; b) suggestions for do's and do not's of lesson planning, with examples of how to make students practice the four skills; c) a stimulus for would-be teachers to reflect on the
differences between teaching multilingual vs. monolingual classes; d) a brief overview of the basic concepts in language teaching and the methods and approaches exploited during the twentieth century. Five appendices close the book. The first one outlines a "General Description of Levels," from zero beginners through false beginners, beginning, high-beginning, lowintermediate, intermediate, high intermediate, and professional users, to expert users. Next, a specimen outline for a beginning level class is provided in "Performance Objectives." The third appendix illustrates a "First Lesson to Zero Beginners." Then a "Placement Test" is provided. Finally, charts of "Phonemic Symbols," both standard American English and standard British English, are offered. The book closes with the "Answer Key" for the review questions that each chapter provides for both revision and self-testing. On the whole the book serves as a practical guide suitable for providing would-be teachers with the basic knowledge and techniques needed for the teaching of most aspects of foreign language. I would no doubt suggest this book to my teacher trainees. What I would like to find, even in a book which explicitly claims to be practical, is a wider discussion of the different cognitive styles and cognitive plus meta-cognitive strategies that students put into use in their learning (Rubin & Wenden, 1997; Ellis & Sinclair, 1989). The teaching of a language is comparable to a re-shaping of mental processes as far as communication is concerned. And this cannot be done, in my opinion, without a constant reflection on the way in which the mind of each student attending our classes works and on the preferential cognitive paths he or she follows. This profound familiarity with all students' cognitive resources enables us to choose among techniques and procedures suitable for each of them individually, and to group students in a way that proves helpful for better and more complete learning. It goes without saying that the author does know very well how important the recognition of cognitive styles in language teaching is. What I want to say is that a constant correlation between activities and cognition is essential even in practical guides, so that would-be teachers are always encouraged to reflect on the particularity that their difficult profession involves. [-4-]
Teaching Speaking & Conversation
In what ways can conversation be regarded as a skill? How might this influence our approach to teaching it? Both motor-perceptive skills and interaction adeptness are usually required in conversation. Many times this pairing calls upon effective understanding of the two in order to implement oral exercises in an effective manner. Motor skills involve perceiving, recalling, and articulating in the correct order sounds and structures of the language. Interaction skills involve making decisions about communication, such as what to say and how to say it. Keeping in mind the difference, the class level should play a large part in determining which of the two skills are predominately used during the course. Generally the situation or setting makes a difference in the way the speaker uses the language, for example, time limitations. Does the speaker have time to "process" his or her thoughts before speaking out loud? Other conditions can also affect the use of language. Does it make a difference whether the speaker is interacting with one person or with a group? Differing situations do have distinct aspects and thus can influence the way in which the speaker uses language. But how do speakers facilitate oral production? Speakers can ease the oral production of speech in the following manner: a) Simplifying structure: Simplifications can be found mainly in the tendency to tack new sentences on to previous ones by the use of coordinating conjunctions: like, and, or but. b) The ellipsis technique: By using the ellipsis technique when conversing the speaker is able to omit parts of speech in order to speak economically. In order to understand the listener must have a good idea of the background knowledge assumed by the speaker. c) Formulaic expressions: Formulaic expressions are found in speech patterns consisting of conventional colloquial or idiomatic expressions. Idiomatic expressions consist of all kinds of set phrases and although such sayings usually flow together in a set conversation pattern, they may lose their meaning when taken outside such context. d) Fillers and hesitation devices: Fillers as well as hesitation devices such as, "you see", "kind of", "you know" can used in order to give the speakers more time to formulate and organize their ideas while speaking. In addition to using simple methods of speech, the speaker can avoid complex noun groups and as a result oral language tends to become less dense than the written language. The following are examples of speech routinely used in conversation which an instructor should be aware of while teaching in the classroom: (a) Interaction routines typically occur in any given situation and are likely to occur in a specific sequence. For example: casual encounter and conversations at parties all tend to be organized in characteristic ways. (b) Descriptions of places and people: demonstration of facts, or comparisons all refer to "information routines." Such routines do not just concern speech, they also occur in written language.
(c) Negotiation of meaning refers to the skill of communicating ideas clearly and includes the way participants signal their understanding during an exchange. This aspect of spoken interaction contrasts most sharply with the written word. (d) Feedback is the method of examining comprehension as the interaction unfolds. From the speaker's position, this may include some of the following: asking the other person's opinion, defining one's meaning or intent with a summarization. From the listener's point of view there is a comparable group of reactions which complement the speaker's opinion, such as: indicating understanding by gestures or facial expression as well as indicating uncertainty by interrupting the speaker where necessary to express one's reservation with the exchange in dialogue. (e) Turn-taking is the knowledge which comes with negotiating the control of a conversation. A speaker has to be efficient at getting a turn and to be proficient at letting another speaker have a turn. Practical turn-taking requires five abilities: 1. Knowing how to signal that one wants to speak. 2. Recognizing the right moment to get a turn. 3. How to use this structure in order to get one's turn properly and not lose it. 4. The ability to recognize other people's signals or desire to speak. 5. The ability to acknowledge other people's signals and let them take a turn. (f) Communication strategies are approaches designed to deal with conversation difficulties. Two such approaches to conversational difficulties are the achievement and the reduction strategies. Both are aimed to compensate for the problem of expression. If the learner uses an achievement strategy, he or she will attempt to compensate for language disparity by improvising a substitute through guess-work or intuition. In using achievement strategies, speakers do not lose or alter any of their message. On the other hand, when using the reduction approach, the learners may reduce their message in order to bring it within the scope of their knowledge or else to abandon their central idea and attempt something more manageable. In addition to being aware of the differing kinds of speech it might also be advantageous to develop a list of some of the important speaking skills you think need to be taught to both elementary and intermediate learners: For elementary students we might consider the following speaking skills of importance: a) The ability to reproduce sounds. b) The knowledge and use of a practical vocabulary. c) The use of idioms (for example: Hi, instead of Hello). d) The ability to respond in sentences. e) The ability to condense verbs (for example: replacing did not with didn't). f) A vocabulary which enables the student to play games. g) Knowing and using familiar "native speaker" greetings. h) The ability to carry on a limited conversation. When teaching an intermediate level the following speaking skills might be seen as significant: a) The ability to agree or disagree. b) The ability to identify people and places.
c) The capability to express preferences. d) The skill to expresses opinions. e) The ability to ask for and give suggestions. f) The ability to report on what people are asking and saying. g) The ability to summarize a conversation. Also of importance are interaction activities which can be used in a speaking class. For example, the processing of information by engaging in problem solving tasks. Such an activity may include placing items in a hierarchy of importance, deciding itineraries, deciding a price range to spend on gifts, developing a story from random picture cues. Problems may arise from the restricted cooperation because of the students' limited vocabulary. However, as students move towards a monologue (or one person speaking, as learners they may begin by not speaking smoothly. The teacher must focus on having students use language in order to complete a task rather than practicing language for its own sake. Another example of an interaction activity may be the development and usage of role playing. Learners first take part in a preliminary activity which introduces the topic and the situation as well as some background information. Such activities may include brainstorming or ranking exercises. An example might be a role play where the students prepare to rent an apartment. Students first interview one another about the available accommodations and their desired living arrangements. Yet, problems can arise when using interaction activities in the classroom, such as a student's inexperience in focusing on a particular topic or a limited vocabulary for developing the necessary explanation. Different cultural backgrounds at times may also interfere with the uniform picture of the situation. For example, apartment searching in Japan varies considerably from that same activity in the U.S. Teachers must carefully monitor its effectiveness when promoting conversational fluency. What is the role of accuracy in a speaking class? How can accuracy be included as a component of a speaking class? Accuracy in a speaking class includes the control of grammar and pronunciation as a part of learning language fluency. For speech to be free of errors the speaker must process and produce comprehensible information. This requires the speaker to generate speech that is acceptable in both content and form. The role of accuracy in a speaking class is created by the teacher's providing opportunities for learners to engage in natural interaction in conversation through the use of communicative tasks and activities. Teachers should generally sit back and let learners engage in the natural interaction process whenever possible. An instructor’s ability to recognize cues in speech patterns and conversation goes a long way in developing one’s classroom skills. Conversation is regarded as a skill requiring the speaker to generate speech that is acceptable in both content and form. Speakers learn to facilitate ease in the oral production of speech in many ways and the instructor must plan communication strategies to deal with conversation difficulties.
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