Aim: to analyse and discuss two main reasons for using pairwork and groupwork in the communicative classroom.
- Do you agree with them?
- Would you add any from your experience?
- What do you think are the disadvantages of pairwork and work in small groups?
- Would you place any conditions on their successful use in the classroom?
- It enables students to take risks with the language and to see if they can negotiate meaning.
- It gives students the opportunity to monitor how well they understand and are understood.
The answer, I guess, must be balance. As it is generally the case, extremes are not good. Of course we do teach communication (if not, what would we be teaching a language for?) but, whether we like it or not, we need to, somehow, find a balance between fluency and accuracy. It's true that when it comes to pairwork and groupwork activities, students do not generally have the time to sit down and analyse not only what they are going to say what how they are going to say it due to time constraints. That is why paraphrasing, monitoring and process writing and speaking are so important! Gradual and process writing and speaking are a perfect opportunity for preparing not only the content of the message but also its form in a guided way. Monitoring is also of key importance since the teacher needs to be there with the students, ready to help them but, of course, without invading them: suggest! Do not impose! That is why, from my personal experience, I really think that they work wonderfully when they feel they are free enough to explore and self-discover answers but when, at the same time, they know you are there to help them. Finally, it is essential for us to teach them how to monitor themselves. We should let them know that monitoring does not mean that they have to self-correct every word they produce but that they have to be ready to spot any unclear message or idea so as to find a way of making it understandable for others. Accuracy is not the perfection of isolated grammatical structures but the appropriateness of a certain language form for putting across a certain message in a certain context. Accuracy is not a weapon to kill fluency but an excellent tool to enhance it.