Genuine and meaningful communication between learners takes place
This is one of the criteria in the DipTESOL assessed teaching unit – what does this mean and how can we ensure it occurs in our lessons?
Perhaps we should first look at the two adjectives used in the criterion: genuine and meaningful. By genuine, I understand natural, honest and authentic communication; by meaningful, I understand that there is a purpose for communication.
The question is whether the communication which takes place in our classes is genuine and meaningful. It could be argued that communication which takes place in the EFL classroom is meaningful as we are practising TL, though that doesn’t necessarily mean that the language being produced is genuine.
The key is to find ways of personalising the TL and context of our lessons. Here are some ideas:
- In grammar activities, such as Las Vegas Grammar, use the learners’ names in the sentences – this increases their engagement in the activity and you can extend the task by guessing whether the sentences are correct or not after correcting them.
- Provide identifiable contexts for language – a group of Spanish teenagers may not be interested in what Japanese teenagers like listening to in their free time, so either change the context or allow the learners space and time to give their opinions or contrast the context to their own.
- Make all TL personal – this is easier than you may think. Whatever the TL, you can generally ask one of the following questions: “Do you have…?”, “Do you like…?” or “What do you think about…?”
A second aspect of the DipTESOL criterion worth mentioning is the word between – depending on the age of your learners, there may be more or less interaction between them and I do know people who have chosen YL groups for their DipTESOL assessed lessons. It would be interesting to know whether classroom language qualifies as “genuine and meaningful communication between learners” as there may be more natural communication in this respect than in practising the TL of the lesson. This also leads on from my previous post on making the class less teacher-centred as by encouraging communication between learners we can give them more of a voice and more responsibility for their learning.
Here are a couple of other blogposts worth reading on the topic of personalisation:
A Matter of Confidence – Personalising
P is for Personalization
In a previous post, I talked about how to set up a character build in the class and how they can be used to practise specific grammar points. With my KET group, we recently looked at the present perfect with for, since, just, already, etc.
We did a character build in class and then the learners completed the following worksheet:
It appealed to the more creative learners, both artistically and linguistically and I allowed the learners freedom to answer the questions how they saw fit. Our character, a lovely Swedish lady who lived in Madrid, had just stolen something from IKEA according to one learner!
Image from pinterest
I had a less than stimulating start to the week! On a Monday morning I have a B1.1 group at 10.30 and there are a wonderful group and generally quite enthusiastic and talkative. I like to put some discussion questions on the board before they arrive for three reasons:
- It’s good to start the lesson with something communicative
- They don’t all arrive on time so this gives those who arrive on time something useful to do and is something latecomers can easily become involved in with little guidance from me
- It’s based around the theme for the lesson (activating schemata and all that metalanguage jazz!)
This week there were some questions on the board with the title Harry Potter as we would later be doing a reading about JK Rowling. The learners’ response to the initial questions was far less positive than usual as there were no Harry Potter fans in the class and in fact most said they thought the saga was unrealistic and silly (allowed a great teachable moment of some negative adjectives!).
I feel as though this initial stage then set up the atmosphere for the rest of the lesson. In later discussions, the learners seemed less animated than usual which made me wonder whether they had been negatively affected by an initial phase which was so uninteresting for them.
Here’s an example of a guided visualisation using a close-up as a starting point. Remember when doing guided visualisations to speak slowly and calmly, grading language to your learners’ level. By grading language, we make the experience of the visualisation much more calming, as if faced with unknown or unclear language, students can become unfocussed. I also like to give further prompts to students after asking the initial question and these are in brackets below.
Look at this rock.
Now close your eyes.
Take a step back and look around you. Where are you? (Perhaps you’re in the mountains, or the countryside, or next to the sea)
What can you see around you?
What can you hear? (Perhaps there are birds above you, or insects flying around)
What can you smell? (Perhaps you can smell flowers, or the sea air)
Is anyone with you? (Perhaps you’re with family, or friends)
Imagine you’re taking your shoes and socks off. What can you feel beneath your feet? (Perhaps there’s grass or rocks or sand)
How do you feel?
When you’re ready, open your eyes and tell your partner what you saw.
At this point, you can monitor, helping with new vocabulary and collecting errors for whole group feedback afterwards.
This is an easy activity to get learners speaking and practising question words. Give learners a piece of paper and tell them to draw eight clouds, with a topic in each. Then they write one question in each cloud, after which they interview a partner. After the interview, learners swap papers with their partner and add another question to each cloud. Then they interview a different partner, swap, add another question, and so on… It keeps learners motivated as they talk to different people and the questions vary a little each time. Also, they have to think of more questions about each topic and classmates may have chosen different topics.