Of the republic of uzbekistan karshi state university foreign language faculty


CLASSROOM IMPLICATIONS: COMMUNICATIVE TASKS USE



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1.6. CLASSROOM IMPLICATIONS: COMMUNICATIVE TASKS USE

The fact that interactions can be predictable has important implications for teachers. They canhelp their students prepare for both types of conversational exchanges: transactional andinteractional. Since these have different features and a structure, they require different skillsto be trained.

On one hand, service encounters are relatively easy to deal with for their easily predictablestructures (Brown and Yule 1983) and students will strongly benefit from practicing various kindsof transactional interactions because these will help them prepare themselves for real-lifesituations. Moreover, Nunan (2010) stresses the fact that learning prefabricated conversationalpatterns enables learners to ‘outperform’ their competence. This means that learners can becomerelatively confident in many situations even with rather limited language means at their disposal.On the other hand, interactional exchanges, in comparison with transactional ones, will probablybring more life and enjoyment in the classroom thanks to their free nature and eventual in conclusionof sharing personal experiences. Moreover, the latter point is believed to be a motivating factorfacilitating LA based on the evidence from peer-interaction studies. Willis (1996) even listssharing personal experiences as one of task types to be used in the classroom. Furthermore, asearly as 1961, Billows stressed the importance of ‘personal speech’ in teaching (Thornbury andSlade 2010). Thornbury and Slade also support the use of personalized talk by reporting that it haseven become an integral part of one of the methodological approaches, namely Community LanguageLearning developed by Curran in 1976.

Thornbury and Slade complain of the methodologists’ preference of transactional LT and their choiceto neglect free open discussions in language textbooks. They remark that many classroom activities,such as role plays, tend to be too prescriptive (2010: 266). Consequently, classroomexchanges–whether interactional or transactional–have a tendency to turn into transactional turnsleaving not much room for free interaction. By the same token, if instructions and workplans aretoo detailed, learners numbly follow their patterns in pre-given sequences focusing on taskcompletion without the need to employ their pragmatic and discourse skills. This is because theyare simply not required to think about a discourse as a whole and produce it independently. The types of tasks it frequently happens that learners want to add someextra information and by doing so, their conversation no longer fits the pattern and they do notknow how to proceed. This causes confusion and sense of failure in the task completion. Otherlearners who, on the other hand, follow the given pattern to the letter usually end up quotingparts of the given phrases or sentences without changing them too much.It is true that at beginning stages strictly guided tasks may help learners focus on how to saythings rather than think about what to say next and thus extend their communicative potential – atleast for the course of the task. However, such training will not equip them with the skills thatare necessary to engage in similar interactions on their own in the long term.Therefore, since the number of skills that learners practice in this way is highly limited and suchan activity has a tendency to turn into a drill exercise rather than a conversation, freer tasksmight be more appropriate allowing learners to apply a broader range of skills. In terms ofcommunicative practice a better way of doing the same thing that is practicing telephone calls, since learners are given more leeway. Inthe activity, learners A and B receive a different set of information and act out their rolesaccordingly. Even though they are asked to convey a particular message they are not told exactly inwhich part of the conversation to do it. Nevertheless, once again the instructions are givenexactly in the order in which the conversation is likely to proceed based on the instructions theother learner has.

Since many communication exchanges require both transactional and interactional language, a goodexample of how to prepare learners for that are role-play cards which are cut up and distributed inpairs. Learners take turns in picking up individual cards and act out the situations.On the issue of interactional tasks, Thornbury and Slade indicate that freer tasks such as ‘havinga conversation’ are generally avoided in present classroom teaching. They illustrate it on anexample of task-based language teaching (TBLT). They say that even though proponents of TBLTadvocate communicative environment creation in class and put their emphasis on pragmatic languageprocessing and meaningful language use which resembles “the way language is used in the real world”(Ellis cited in Thornbury and Slade 2010: 267), conversation in itself does not seem to qualify asa task type in task-based materials because it is not a clearly structured and goal-orientedactivity. They further explain that some scholars, such as Skehan, are sceptical as to the value ofconversation. In Skehan’s view “the elliptical and jointly constructed nature of conversation isnot conducive to the production of well-formed sentences, and speakers are able to ‘bypas syntax’ agreat deal of the time” (Skehan cited in Thornbury and Slade 2010: 269). However, based on thefindings in 2001, Nakahama et al. suggest that “conversation should be studied in much more detailas a potential source of rich learning opportunities” (in Thornbury and Slade 2010: 270), aconclusion which is consistent with Thornbury and Slade’s line of argument.As a result of a long-lasting tradition prioritizing transactional activities over interactionalones, one of the challenges of language teachers when teaching interactional language exchanges maybe the shortage of relevant resources. In the case of English, innovative coursebooks integratingcommunicative activities – or at least offering materials that can be adapted –are fairly rare butcan be found nowadays. However, as far as LT in general is concerned, the situation is pitiful.

In summary, both transactional and interactional activities are highly useful and should beincluded in LT in a sufficient measure to provide plentiful opportunities for learners to practice using both types of communication exchanges. In many cases, teachers will need to prepare extramaterials to cover both types of communication adequately in their lessons.



1.7. CHARACTERISTICS OF CONVERSATION

Coming back to the issue of free interaction practice, one cannot but notice the fact thatconversation is one of the most common types of speech production that people are involved in on adaily basis (Thornbury and Slade 2007: 5). For this reason, it is important for us to look at itbriefly as a genre of its own.Thornbury and Slade define conversation as follows:Conversation is the informal, interactive talk between two or more people, which happens in realtime, is spontaneous, has a largely, interpersonal function, and in which participants sharesymmetrical rights. (2007: 25)

Conversation, involving a two-way interaction between people, requires from its participants abroad range of skills. Participants need to know how to interact and manage talk. They need to befamiliar with the rules of turn-taking, that is they need to know when and how to interrupt, takethe floor and how to hold it, how to change the topic, how to signal they wish to speak and how toyield the turn. Furthermore, it is important for them to know how to signal interest and the factthat you are listening or even how to avoid long silences (Thornbury 2005).

Quite importantly, all of these skills need to be employed readily at a moment’s notice usuallyseveral of them at a time. For this purpose, speakers need to be equipped with a number ofdiscourse markers to signal the others what their intentions are. Speakers also cannot do withoutparalinguistic cues, such as various body movements, gestures, appropriate use of eye contact,intakes of breath and so forth.One of the concepts that is very important from a methodological point of view formany types of conversational exchanges, is the concept of adjacency pairs. Thornbury and Slade emphasize that “(…) the basic unit of interaction is the adjacency pair” (Thornbury and Slade 2007:114). They further explain that “an adjacency pair is composed of two turns produced by differentspeakers which are placed adjacently and where the second utterance is identified as related to thefirst” (2007: 115). Adjacency pairs typically include stereotypical exchanges such asquestion/answer; complaint/denial; offer/accept; request/grant; compliment/rejection;challenge/rejection, and instruct/receipt. A successful conversation typically includes a number ofsuch exchanges with one speaker initiating the move and the other one responding.

Another fact that is stressed by some scholars is that the success of a conversationdepends on how cooperative both speakers are (Tannen 2007). Typically, the more cooperation thereis, the fewer overlaps occur. The same applies for turn-taking. Smooth transitions between turnsusually happen with speakers that collaborate (Burns and Joyce 1997). As a result, conversationalways needs to be viewed as an act of multiple parties where each individual is responsible forthe potential success or failure of a communication.

Consequently, it can be said that conversation is greatly shaped by individual personalities of allparticipating members and their styles of communication. This means that even under idealconditions, when all speakers converse in their L1, not all conversations are successful. If forwhatever reason one of the speakers is uncooperative, this will be reflected in the conversation.Similarly, Hughes 2006 refers to evidence that communicative success of L2 speakers in L2environment depends on the attitude of native speaker towards non-native speaker. If this isnegative, the communication is more likely to fail. By analogy, conversations between speakers whohave different levels of knowledge may still be highly successful if all the participating memberscooperate; for instance, if native or highly advanced speakers are willing to provide assistance tothose whose level of language proficiency is lower.

In summary, to actively participate in a conversation requires a broad range of skills. Speakersneed to know how to interact and manage the talk and need to be familiar with the rules ofturn-taking. Apart from these, speakers need to know how to effectively realize initiating andresponding moves through the use of the so-called adjacency pairs. Nevertheless, however high theirlevel of proficiency might be, the success of a conversation still depends on all members takingpart in a particular conversational exchange.

1.8. COMMUNICATIVE COMPETENCE

The notion of communicative competence was introduced by Hymes in reaction to a restrictedChomskiy’s concept of linguistic competence. In 1965, Noam Chomsky made a distinction betweencompetence, an ideal picture of ‘speaker-listener’s knowledge of his language’, and performance,‘the actual use of language in concrete situations’ (Chomsky 1965: 4). Chomsky further explainedthat as a record of natural speech, performance is imperfect carrying numerous false starts,deviations from rules, etc.In contrast, Hymes (as cited in Magnan 2007: 350) defines communicative competence as the ability‘to participate in [the child’s] society as not only a speaking, but also a communicating member.Hymes’s understanding of competence is much broader than to comprise only a linguistic perspective.Trosborg notes that Hymes expands the definition to encompass “all rule-systems underlying languageuse, and thus accords a central role to sociocultural factors” (Trosborg 1986: 9). On the samepage, she further adds that the work of Hymes “exemplifies the shift away from the study oflanguage as a system in isolation towards the study of language as communication”.

So far, the notion of communicative competence has been discussed mainly from the perspective ofCanale and Swain’s four-dimensional framework. There have been several more attempts to describelanguage knowledge and skills that competent speakers have at their disposal. For example, a morerecent model by Bachman expands the concept of communicative language ability to include severalbroad areas: organizational competence including grammatical and textual competence, pragmaticcompetence including illocutionary and sociolinguistic competence, strategic competence andpsychophysiological mechanisms (Magnan 2007). Other models also draw heavily on Canale andSwain’s model from 1980.

All in all, the crucial point to be made here is that through the use of CLT it has become widelyunderstood that communicative competence should be the primary goal of LT (Savignon 1997). Theeventual model that is chosen to describe this concept is secondary to this realization.Teaching speaking skills is no exception here (Hughes 2011).Along the same lines, Bygate argues that for teachers the central problem in conceptualizing theteaching and learning of speaking may be the fact that “it can be hard to disentangle the differentdimensions of foreign language speaking” (Bygate 2009). In the next section, the focus willtherefore be shifted to the individual aspects that learners need to incorporate in order toachieve communicative competence.

Furthermore, even though Canale and Swain point out that there are two basicdimensions to communicative competence: knowledge and skill (Trosborg: 1986), this chapterdiscusses mainly the former, i.e. the knowledge that one needs to possess to become a competentspeaker. However, it should not be forgotten, that attaining communicative competence would not bepossible without a great deal of skill.

It has been already pointed out that communicative competence consists of fourdimensions: linguistic, sociolinguistic, discourse and strategic.

Linguistic competence that is to be discussed here encompasses the knowledge of grammar, lexis,syntax, phonetics, etc. The following sections focus on some of the above-mentioned areas anddiscuss the aspects which are important for speaking skills teaching. The grammar of spoken language is distinguished from written grammar by severalimportant features.

The majority of the above-mentioned aspects, such as clause addition (add-on strategy or layeringof phrases/clauses), ellipsis and hesitations, etc. have already been touched upon in the previoussections of this paper. The remaining features result from the inherent nature of speaking in asimilar way to what has been described. For example, time constraints can explain for the toleranceof vagueness and a two-way character of interaction in conversation for the frequent use ofquestion tags.

Other important facts which might be useful for teachers whose learners aim to attainthe spoken rather than the written form of a language are summed up by Thornbury (2005) as follows:

· present forms outnumber past tense forms by 2:1.

· simple forms outnumber progressive and perfect forms by over 10:1.

· the past perfect and present perfect continuous are rare.

· passive verbs account for only 2% of all finite verb forms in speech.

· will, would, and can are extremely common in speech.

By including this list, we do not mean to suggest that progressive forms, past andpresent perfect continuous and passive voice should be excluded from tuition. However, the timethat might be wasted to help learners attain an active command of these phenomena, might be better spent practicing other aspects of communicative competence that would actually make a difference interms of learners’ practical communicative abilities, e.g. sociolinguistic, discourse and strategiccompetences.

Having mentioned grammar, it needs to be pointed out that some important discoverieshave been made, which unfortunately have not yet been properly reflected in LT syllabuses. In 1973,Brown and his colleagues found that FLA of grammatical morphemes in English occurs in similarsequences with all children (Lightbown and Spada 2006). To put it in a nutshell, morphemes that arefirst on the list to be acquired are for example present progressive -ing (Mommy running), plural-s and irregular past forms (Baby went), while those that are acquired at later stages are thirdperson singular simple present –s (She runs) and auxiliary be (He is coming). (2006: 3)

Similar acquisition order has been found with second language learners as Nunan(2008) reports. On balance, it needs to be said, however, that some studies contradict theclear-cut pattern of these findings, albeit a number of similarities can be observed. Nevertheless,research has also confirmed that some aspects like the formation of questions or sentence wordorder are acquired at later stages of LA (Lightbown and Spada 2006).

In spite of the fact that many EFL and ESL textbooks do not reflect these findings,teachers should be careful about introducing these morphologico-syntactical aspects too early intotuition or to persevere in their teaching if learners are not ready to incorporate them into theirL2 language systems (see Dulay 1982).

In reference to the range of vocabulary that is needed for spoken interactionThornbury and Slade (2007) quote Nation saying that “from the small amount of evidence available,it seems that about half the words needed to understand written English are needed to understandspoken English” (2007: 42). Thornbury (2005) adds that “according to some estimates, a vocabularyof just 2,500 words covers nearly 95% of spoken text (compared to 80% of written text)” (2005: 23).This is good news, since a similar percentage (90%) is generally quoted as necessary for one to beable to make sense of any text, whether written or spoken (e.gLightbown and Spada 2006). Whatfollows is that the knowledge of roughly 2,500 words should be a sufficient range to providelearners with an operational command of English lexis for spoken interaction.

Sociocultural knowledge is a type of knowledge that is typically acquired withinone’s own culture. Unfortunately, the bigger the gap between L1 and L2 cultures, the more probableit is for the transfer of sociocultural norms from L1 to have a negative rather than positiveeffect on sociocultural competence acquisition (Thornbury and Slade 2007: Chapter 7).

On the same subject, the fact that standard textbooks often choose materials to suita broad range of cultures does not make it easier for teachers to educate their learners in thesociocultural area. As a result, the range of topics that are traditionally covered in textbooks israther limited and generic across publishers. To reconcile this division between the contents oftextbooks and learners’ needs, EFL teachers need to search for suitable materials and incorporate

culture-specific topics to be contrasted in their lessons with respect to the socioculturalbackground of their learners.

Another important aspect of sociocultural competence is what Thornbury (2005) callsintercultural competence, i.e. “the ability to manage cross-cultural encounters irrespective of theculture of the language being used”. As Thornbury explains “knowing how to ask How do you do thathere? may be more useful than a list of ‘dos and don’ts’” (2005: 32).

The discussion of speech acts leads us to the third area of communicativecompetence, i.e. discourse competence. Even though not named specifically, this dimension hasalready been touched upon when discussing the characteristics of conversation (see section 2.1.7).To sum up briefly what exactly falls under this category, discourse knowledge involves knowing how speakers realize their turns and signal their intentions through the use of discourse markers.Discourse competence also enables speakers to be coherent and use register appropriately.

Communication strategies can be viewed from another perspective as a positive tool that helpslisteners to ‘negotiate meaning’. Hesitations, word repetition and repairs are therefore notperceived as communication breakdowns but as an effective tool enabling interlocutors deal withchallenging conditions which oral exchanges bring. This tool also helps the interlocutors tounderstand the meaning of utterances that might otherwise be misinterpreted or not understood at all. Moreover, it also helps them express thoughts they would otherwise not be able to convey.

In terms of whether to teach strategic competence, scholars’ answers are notcompletely unified. For example, Cook (2009) states that “teachers may not need to specificallyteach communication strategies” but “simply encourage students to make use of those they alreadyprefer” (2009: 145). She reaches this conclusion on the basis of Poulisse’s study (1990) carriedout at the University of Nijmegen, in which learners demonstrated that their L2 strategies largelyreflected the strategies which they used in their first language. Cook therefore infers thatstrategic competence teaching is not necessary because learners can simply transfer the strategiesthey already use in their L1.

Our personal view of this issue is that strategies improving communication abilitiescan help all speakers a) to be more effective and clear in communicating their message and b) toeasily overcome time-processing demands. This is true for all kinds of verbal expression, whetherspeaking L2 or one’s own L1, a fact which I have observed as a teacher and a language learner andalso as an occasional participant in sessions of Toastmasters International, a non-profiteducational organization teaching public speaking skills.

The range of skills that is needed for successful communication is really broad. To summarize let me present a specific list of features that are particularly useful for learners, asrecommended by Richards (1990) for teaching conversation:

· how to use conversation for both transactional and interactional purposes

· how to produce both short and long turns in conversation

· strategies for managing turn-taking in conversation, including taking a turn, holding aturn, and relinquishing a turn

· strategies for opening and closing conversations

· how to initiate and respond to talk on a broad range of topics, and how to develop andmaintain talk on these topics

· how to use both a casual style of speaking and a neutral or more formal style

· how to use conversation in different social settings and for different kinds of socialencounters, such as on the telephone and in informal and formal social gatherings

· strategies for repairing trouble spots in conversation, including communicationbreakdowns and comprehension problems

· how to maintain fluency in conversation through avoiding excessive pausing, breakdowns,and errors of grammar or pronunciation

· how to produce talk in a conversational mode, using a conversational register and syntax

· how to use conversational fillers and small talk

· how to use conversational routines

To sum up, speaking and successful communication require knowledge of linguistic,sociolinguistic, discourse and strategic features. Even though to some it may seem that linguisticdimension such as knowledge of grammar structures and vocabulary are the major aspects ofcommunicative competence, research shows that deficiencies in other areas such as discourse andsociocultural competence may have more significant impact on communication than incorrect grammaruse. On the other hand, it needs to be pointed out that overall it is one’s language proficiencythat strategies can help learners bridge certain gaps in their knowledge, they cannotsubstitute for one’s overall low language proficiency. Therefore effective speaking skills teachinginvolves systematic development of all dimensions of communicative competence assisting learners in

achieving higher levels of proficiency.

Taking everything into account, one needs to remember that apart from requiring acertain knowledge base, speaking is primarily a skill. This skill, called fluency, will bepresented in the next chapter.

1.9. INDIVIDUL ASPECTS OF TEACHING SPEAKING SKILLS:FLUENCY AND ACCURACY

Fluency/accuracy dichotomy is one of the concepts which usually come to mind first when speaking ofteaching speaking skills. According to Segalowitz (2003: 384), the term ‘fluency’ is “an ability inthe second language to produce or comprehend utterances smoothly, rapidly, and accurately”. Thisdefinition is interesting because it clearly shows that both concepts fluency and accuracy, areclosely knit together. Technically speaking, the term fluency is a hypernym because to be fluentmeans not only to ‘produce utterances smoothly and rapidly’ but also accurately. This is whereapproaches like Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) are sometimes misunderstood. WenWu reportsthat “one of the fundamental principles of CLT is that learners need to engage in meaningfulcommunication to attain communicative fluency in ESL settings” (Wu 2008). Since fluency means alsoaccuracy, it is clear that the aim of CLT is to reach both.Fluency is reflected mainly in two aspects: speed of delivery and regularity, which means a naturalamount and distribution of pauses (Bygate 2009). On the subject of appropriate placement of pausesThornbury (2005) says that: Natural-sounding pauses are those that occur at the intersection of clauses orafter groups ofwords that form a meaningful unit. (The vertical lines in the last sentence mark where naturalpauses might occur if the sentence were being spoken.) Unnatural pauses, on the other hand, occur midway between related groups of words. (p. 7)

Next, one of the issues that have been discussed in the previous chapters is theimportance of work with spoken data and transcripts in ELT. For attaining fluency, the use ofauthentic texts and spoken data is significant. Guillot (1999) reports that there are “practical aswell as academic reasons for making the study of spoken data – native speaker and learner data – anintegral ingredient of a pedagogy of fluency” (1999: 61). One of the reasons that she lists is that“it can facilitate the emergence of individual paradigms of fluency, enable students to identifythe features and strategies of greatest relevance to them as learners and communicators, and,concurrently, help them to exploit both their strengths and weaknesses more efficiently” (p. 61).She further states that:

(...) it provides a teaching and learning framework for approaching fluency more critically, can beused as a platform for helping learners to negotiate the shift from communicative control andsophistication, and project the development of their fluency beyond the confines of formal settingsto transcend their inescapable limits – time and restricted exposure to resources.

In other words, Guillot supports my previous argument that use of spoken data facilitates attainingfluency and that fluency leads to autonomy. As she further puts it: “to teach fluency, in thissense, fits in with what Grenfell and Harris describe as returning ‘ownership’ of the language tolearners” (1999: 62).

Quite importantly, in the light of research evidence, Thornbury (2005) and Thornbury and Slade(2007) suggest that reaching native-like fluency is only possible thanks to prefabricated chunks orformulaic language that speakers use. These units include fixed phrases and idiomatic chunks suchas on the other hand, at the end of the day, or It is a small world. Johnson (1996) states that agreat deal of formulaic language is acquired unconsciously either from direct transfer from L1 orfrom exposure to authentic L2 input. He refers to these language items as ‘acquired output’, i.e.language that is acquired unconsciously and produced automatically in tasks which require ‘highautomaticity’. Oral communication due to its real-time processing demands falls under thiscategory.

There is evidence which supports the notion of acquired output, particularly the importance ofextensive exposure to authentic language input for formulaic language acquisition and use. Forexample, Cock et al. found that advanced speakers use prefabricated language less than nativespeakers and for different pragmatic purposes (Thornbury and Slade 2007). There are several otherstudies presented by Wood (2002) which suggest that language learners use less formulaic languagethan native speakers due to limited exposure to authentic input. In addition, Wood discussesfurther implications which these findings have for LT. He recommends that classroom activities“consist of exposure to large amounts of input, with attention paid to the formulaic sequencesbeing used” and stresses the importance of linking particular formulas to particular pragmatic ends(2002: 10). Thornbury and Slade (2007) making references to Lewis 1993 and Ellis 1998 and 2005confirm that acquisition is best achieved through massive exposure and explicit instruction.

In our experience, some of the greatest resources of formulaic language which learners love to workwith are songs and films (or series). Song lyrics usually contain a good deal of chunks, idioms,etc., which can be exploited in the classroom. One of the advantages of songs is that learners canlisten to them repeatedly inside and outside the classroom. If a song is particularly catchy,learners are quite likely to memorize a great deal of text by themselves. Apart from this, song are good sources of authentic language, allow learners to experience a variety of accents, motivatelearning while making it fun, break down barriers and build a relaxed atmosphere. Besides, songscan be used with all ages and practically all proficiency levels if they are chosen appropriately.

In terms of practicality, with the arrival of the digital era, songs can be easily obtained forclassroom use along with transcribed lyrics on the Internet. ESL websites describe a number ofactivities which teachers can exploit when using songs. My favorite is to write down language fromsong lyrics (e.g. formulaic chunks) on little cards and stick them on the board. In the classroom,learners form two rows. While listening to a song, they compete to be the first to grab the cardwith the lyrics written on it, which they have just heard. A variation of this awareness-raisingactivity is to prepare more sets of cards and distribute them in pairs. While listening to a song,learners put the words in the same sequence in which they hear them.

As far as visual input is concerned, there is a great range of activities that can be done withfilms, series, soap operas, etc. For instance, a teacher plays a muted scene of a film and puts afew lines or phrases from the scene on the board. In pairs, learners try to make a dialogue whichmight be taking place in the scene while inserting the language on the board into their dialogues.After that, they watch the scene again but this time with the sound on and check what was reallysaid. Next, they can reconstruct the dialogue based on what they heard and saw. Another variationof this is distributing sets of cards with phrases from the scene on them in pairs, or groupsdepending on the number of actors in the scene. Learners do a similar activity but this time theygrab a card with particular language whenever they use it in their dialogue. The one who has themost cards wins.Another good idea on how to practice formulaic language is to cut out newspaper headlines whichcontain prefabricated chunks and ask learners to speculate in small groups what the story behindthe headlines might be and agree on the version of a story which is mostprobable/interesting/unusual, etc. This way learners use the language in the headlines meaningfullyseveral times while speculating about the stories. They also make use of a great range oflinguistic means when negotiating their stories. Next, learners can be asked to present their ideato the class. At the following stage, learners can be given real texts which the headlines referto. Discussing the stories with their partners or within their groups, they compare how the textsdiffer from their own stories.

Even though it has been said that fluency and accuracy are closely linked together, for thepurposes of LT, activities to practice speaking are sometimes identified as fluency or accuracyfocused. This is not to exclude one of the two concepts from teaching but rather to point out whatthe main purpose of the activity is, i.e. to concentrate mainly on using language accurately or theability to ‘get the message across’. The former is usually used to practice a particular linguisticphenomenon or language. The latter concept usually entails using a broader range of skills andhelps learners train strategic competence.

Whether an activity is accuracy or fluency focused depends on a particular task learners are askedto complete. For example, role plays can be accuracy focused if learners are asked to useparticular language or phrases which have been introduced earlier in a lesson. However, the sametask type can be also fluency focused if learners are to act out roles that require a broader rangeof knowledge and skills and the task is freer.

Typically, the more controlled a task is, i.e. requires learners to use a fixed set of phrases or acertain formula, the easier it is for learners to concentrate on a form and practice accuracy.Therefore tasks which require only limited language are used as accuracy-focused activities. Theseinclude certain types of information gap activities such as ‘Find someone who’,questionnaires, picture description, etc.

Typical fluency-focused task types are opinion-sharing activities like discussions and debates,storytelling, creative tasks such as designing plans for a new school facility and board gameswhich require learners to speak on a particular topic, etc. Apart from this, many accuracy-focusedtasks may be adapted to focus on fluency as well. For example, the ‘Find someone who’task, can be made more complex by asking learners to expand their answers if positive and report indetail about their experience, such as ‘the best film they have seen’ or ‘the most beautiful placethey have visited’. Naturally, such a procedure is more time-consuming.

It should be added at this point that scholars differ in their understanding of what is necessaryfor a communicative task to be effective. For instance, first proponents of CLT suggested thatthree basic conditions must be fulfilled in order for classroom communication to ensure progress inL2. These are communicative purpose, information gap and language choice (Littlewood 1983). Bycontrast, scholars supporting task-based approach advocate L2 practice which is interactive,meaningful and includes a focus on task-essential forms (Ortega 2007). To present contemporarytrends of CLT, let me use Brown’s list of seven principles for designing speaking activities:

1. use techniques covering the spectrum of learner needs, i.e. include both accuracy and fluencyfocused activities

2. provide intrinsically motivating techniques which appeal to learners goals and interests

3. encourage the use of authentic language in meaningful contexts

4. provide appropriate feedback and correction

5. capitalize the natural link between speaking and listening. Here the author highlights thefact that language production is often initiated through language comprehension. Therefore bothskills should be integrated in LT (see also Nation and Newton 2009).

6. give learners opportunities to initiate oral communication

7. encourage the development of speaking strategies (based on Brown 2008)



To conclude, this section showed that it is necessary to utilize both accuracy and fluency focusedtasks in the classroom. Accuracy-focused activities are likely to help learners use languagecorrectly, while fluency-focused activities will help them produce fluent stretches of language. Onthe whole, fluency-focused activities are the ultimate goal in a classroom setting because theyhelp learners prepare for ‘what is out there’. As has been pointed out, another important aspect ofteaching fluency is assisting learners in building their formulaic language. Furthermore, thissection mentioned some important qualities of efficient speaking tasks, such as the need for themto be meaningful, intrinsically motivating, to encourage authentic language use, to providefeedback and to develop speaking strategies.

2.1 Activities To Promote Speaking

Discussions

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.

Role Play

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

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.

Information Gap

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.

Brainstorming

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.

Storytelling

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.

Interviews

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.

Story Completion

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.

Reporting

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.

Playing Cards

In this game, students should form groups of four. Each suit will represent a topic. For instance:



  • 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:



  • 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.

Picture Narrating

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.

Picture Describing

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.

2.2 THE ROLE OF TEACHERS IN CONDUCTING ACTIVITIES

Here are some suggestions for English language teachers while teaching oral language:



  • 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.

Conclusion Speaking is the key to communication. By considering what good speakers do, what speaking tasks can be used in class, and what specific needs learners report, teachers can help learners to improve their speaking and overall oral competency. 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 before 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.

Knowing the principles of communicative activities, it is now easier to distinguish certain types of this spoken interaction. Communication games are another type of speaking activities proposed by Harmer ; the word game suggests an element of fun during a lesson (indeed, learners draw pictures, solve puzzles, etc.), but of course games are designed to provoke communication between students and often depend on an information gap.

Undoubtedly, speaking skills are the skills which are both the most difficult to posses, but yet, they are also in the highest demand since people’s biggest desire nowadays is the ability to speak English without any mistakes. Without the ability to communicate in different languages the world simply could not have been able to function and that is why developing speaking skills should be of great importance.

Any teaching sequence necessities three vital elements: the engage study, study stage and activate stage. In the first phase, the teacher’s talk is to attract and keep learners’ attention and interest in a lesson. Students’ minds have to be involved and emotionally connected with a lesson, for example by a pleasant situation or a nice picture. Then, learners need to study the new language; it may be grammar or vocabulary exercises. Having known the new item, students are given a possibility to activate both the new language and the language they have known. Learners do it when they speak freely. Having been engaged, being presented the new language and having practiced it, learners try to activate it.

In pair work, students have both the possibility to practice the language or study a text together. Working in a pair dramatically boosts the amount of time devoted to speaking any student can receive in the class. Moreover, it also allows students to work and interact independently without the necessary help from the teacher, hence it promotes the learner’s autonomy.

The ability to speak English is a very complex task when one considers the nature of what is involved in speaking, it is not unusual that all of the students in an EFL speaking class do not have the courage to speak. Self-confidence seems to be the first challenge to overcome for teachers to improve their students speaking skills. As stated by Harmer that students are often reluctant to speak because they are shy and are not predisposed to expressing themselves in front of other people, especially when they are being asked to give personal information or opinions. The formal class activities encourage the students to master the ability to read and listen that often referred to as a receptive skill rather than speaking and writing as a productive skill.



The term ‘English activities’ as fun and enjoyable activities which use English as the instructional language and are conducted with some rules to reach a goal. These activities help teachers to create a better teaching-learning process. They could be presented in different ways to the class at the appropriate moment to create a positive atmosphere for learning without thinking about learning. Play is a purposeful activity and games are a part of playing. As such, games are a very appropriate teaching technique in the young-learner classroom.

REFERENCES

  1. Anderson, A. et al. (1984) Teaching talk: strategies for production and assessment.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  2. Austin, J. L. (1962) How to do things with words. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

  3. BBC and British Council (2005) Teaching English website: Teaching Resources: Telephone role plays.Retrieved from: http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/activities/telephone-role-plays

  4. Biber, D. et al. (2004) Longman student grammar of spoken and written English. 4th edition.Harlow: Longman.

  5. Brown, H. D. (2008) Teaching by Principles. An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy. 3rdedition. White Plains, NY: Pearson Longman.

  6. Burns, A. and Joyce, H. (1997) Focus on Speaking. Sydney: National Centre for English LanguageTeaching and Research.

  7. Bygate, M. (1987) Speaking. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  8. Crace, A. et al. (2002) Language to go Intermediate: Teacher’s Resource Book. Harlow: PearsonEducation Limited.

  9. Crystal, D. and Davy, D. (1979) Advanced conversational English. London: Longman.

  10. Gammidge, M. (2004) Speaking Extra. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  11. Holliday, M. A. K. (1989) Spoken and written language. 2nd edition. Oxford: Oxford UniversityPress.

  12. Harmer, J. (1984) The Practice of English Language Teaching. London: Longman.

  13. Hughes, R. (2011) Teaching and researching speaking. 2nd edition. Harlow: Longman.

  14. Hutchinson, T. (2007) English for Life Pre-intermediate Student’s Book. Oxford: Oxford UniversityPress.

  15. Krashen, S. D. and Terrell, T. D. (1983) The natural approach: language acquisition in theclassroom. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

  16. Littlewood, William T. (1983) Communicative language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge UniversityPress.

  17. Nunan, D. (1989) Designing Tasks for the Communicative Classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge UniversityPress.

  18. Savignon, S. J. (1997) Communicative Competence: Theory and classroom practice. 2^nd edition. NewYork: McGrawHill.

  19. Seymour, D. and Popova, M. (2003) 700 Classroom Activities. Oxford: Macmillan Education.

  20. Thornbury, S. (2005) How to Teach Speaking. Harlow: Longman.

  21. Tomlinson, B. (2008) English as a Foreign Language: Matching Procedures to the Context of Learning.In Handbook of research in second language teaching and learning. E. Hinkel (ed.) 137-153. NewYork: Routledge.

  22. Willis, J. R. (1996) A framework for task-based learning. Harlow: Longman.


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