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LCB Teachers Training College Rodrigo Rouco

Taller Didáctico p. la Enseñanza de Inglés en N. Medio


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Teaching Speaking

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_BSyFo3IFs

a) To what extent does the activity encourage or oblige participation from all of the
students?
b) What examples can you find of conversational adjustments as students try to negotiate
meaning, for example, asking for and giving clarification, repetition, further explanation
through paraphrasing?
c) What examples can you find of students correcting each other?
d) How would you comment on the general level of accuracy in the students’ language?
e) If the activity had a focus on some area of grammar or use of vocabulary, to what
extent did this appear in the students’ language?

a) The activity demanded participation from all the students in the class. As they were
divided in A (landlords) and B (tenants), they would all have something to say (either ask
or give information). It seems that there was not much freedom as to what information to
add because the tenants’ questions were already given and the landlords already had the
information to provide (‘… a sample dialogue to follow and different questions to
ask…‘). Neither of the groups could at least invent 1 or 2 questions of their own. But as
they all moved around, mingled and spoke to different people (a realistic element for the
situation, as you do ask of different landlords when you look for a flat), everyone’s
participation was ensured.
b) Not many conversational adjustments can be spotted in this video. Yet I wonder to
what extent the activity, as it is designed, lends itself for these adjustments. If the tenants
have been given the questions on a card, they just have to read them from there. In the
same way, the landlords just read the information presented in their cards. Because of
this, I think there was not much room for sts to be misunderstood or to fail at conveying
the information, as long as they could follow the cards.
c) No examples of students correcting each other can be heard.
d) In general, sts seem to have produced quite accurate language. The grammar and
vocabulary of their utterances appears to be that of upper-intermediate learners. As for the
pronunciation, here is where most of the inaccuracies can be heard. However minimal,
they do not seem to impede communication. Nevertheless, bear in mind that the questions
to ask and all the lexis were provided, so learners worked with tightly controlled
language. Most of their output was not original, but fed by the cards. That may be the
reason why not many mistakes in grammar and lexis were heard.
e) The main focus was on practising the functional language of finding a flat, so grammar
and vocabulary were determined by this situation. This involved questions to ask for
information (location, cost, size, facilities, etc). The vocabulary focus was that of flats
and furniture. Once again, as the questions and answers had been provided in the cards,
this language appeared prominently in the learners’ production.

I believe that this activity was worth-doing. Although it was formatted as a typical
‘information gap’ activity, which T. Hedge classifies within fluency-based activities, the
production achieved was quite controlled, as I mentioned before. To me this was a more
accuracy-based practice activity: the language and the sts’ output was guided and
predictable. All in all, it does provide some of the basic needs which Hedge suggests for
this type of activity: contextualised practice (a situation where the language is
commonly used), awareness of the social use of the language (featuring social
behaviour and accompanying language), and confidence building (sts having the
language to use and speaking repeatedly to different partners may enable them to build
ease and confidence in speaking - yet it would be difficult to assert that such guided
language can be transferred to the real situation). The fourth need - personalising
language - is the one which does not feature much in this activity: the learners did not
add any language of their own to the dialogues. However, the tenants had to choose, at
the end, which flat they would like to rent. In this final instance, a degree of choice in
what they said (their personal choice and reasons) was the moment when they would
‘personalise’ the activity - at least the tenants! As Hedge puts it, this may render the
activity more memorable and motivating.

Anything to change?

Sts could be presented with the situation and brainstorm what they would want to find
out (tenants) / what information they could give (landlords). In groups/pairs, the landlords
and tenants decide on information and questions.
So as not to turn it into a completely free activity - depending on the degree of support
we would want to give our sts - the teacher could provide cards with prompts, but with
half of the information and questions; the rest should be added by the students. In that
way, the activity would be less controlled and guided and would allow more
personalisation of language and a more real information gap - landlords wouldn’t
completely know what they would be asked, and the tenants could be ‘surprised’ by some
special characteristics of this or that flat). As a result, this could render the task more
realistic, could provide the chance for more negotiation of meaning (with the ensuing
confirmation checks, clarifications, repetitions, elaborations), and a more creative use of
language.