Tuesday, 3 November 2009

“Two monologues do not make a dialogue.” Jeff Daly

After having fostered a Communicative Classroom throughout the year, we’ve decided to try out a new approach to the discussion of Tricia Hedge’s “Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom.” Considering that it takes two to Tango, we’ve decided to discuss speaking respecting its main characteristic: having, at least, two participants.
We will formulate possible aims for a Speaking component of a coursebook following Hedge’s categorization of successful oral communication; and then, we will compare them with the New English File – Intermediate ones.
Our book will have as an ultimate objective to foster the use of language for communication. Upon completion of this course, students will have an intermediate degree of fluency that will allow them to keep up a conversation in the target language including listening skills, taking turn skills and the proper management of interaction. Students should also be able to present information/instructions about defined topics to others in a clear, organized way and to participate in discussion groups.
In order to attain those goals, students should be able to demonstrate understandable pronunciation and an acceptable level of mastery of stress, rhythm and intonation patterns. They should be familiar with conversational skills, register and syntax. Students should have developed awareness in structure and strategies used in meaningful true-to-life conversations.
After establishing the objectives for the Speaking component of our ideal coursebook, we invite you to take a look at the actual ones in the above mentioned book:

Now, let’s have a look at a randomly chosen set of activities taken from the same book, do they actually match either their or our objectives?

Speaking Activities - NEF Intermediate - Methods2 - 2009

As far as you can see in the activities, the book is coherent with its objectives. It provides students with a wide variety of speaking, listening and pronunciation exercises that pay the way for successful completion of set goals!
What this well-known coursebook proposes is to give students the necessary tools for them to be able to speak fluently, accurately but, most importantly, confidently. Considering the variety of activities that we selected from the coursebook, it can be said that students are provided with interesting topics that will motivate them to speak (mobile phones and money) as well as useful phrases and to-the-point guidelines for them to have a starting point from which they can start to speak more freely. Each speaking activity (as well as the listening and pronunciation ones) is organized in several steps which, in turn, give students enough time for them to organize what they are going to say.
Another useful tool provided by this book is that students are given opportunities to practice and improve their pronunciation in terms not only of sounds but also stress and intonation, which are two of the most essential aspects for a student of English to learn so as to become an effective communicator.
All in all, it is important for us, as English teachers, to keep in mind that speaking cannot be taught as if it were an isolated skill that can be improved only by means of working on grammar, vocabulary or pronunciation. We must show our students that speaking is an essential tool for us to be in contact with others. Speaking, as a tool for communication and social interaction, must be dealt with in class following its most important characteristic: interacting with others. There must always be a coming and going of messages in speaking and, therefore, we should give our students as many tools as possible to help them face that thrilling challenge of interacting with others in a foreign language. Our students need to be able to speak both fluently and intelligibly and for them to achieve such an objective we must provide them with a balance of grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary and listening activities as well as a wide range of opportunities to develop communication and negotiation skills.
Our students must be taught pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary not because we want to form language experts but simply because they are the tools they need so as to become efficient communicators.

Discussion Topic taken from "Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom," Chapter VIII, Tricia Hedge, Oxford University Press.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Alez and Yohi!
    What an original idea you've had... Cool!
    Question: did you discuss this entry f2f, or is there a chat log we can all share? That'd be fun indeed!
    I certainly appreciate your pointing out that skills cannot be expected to automatically develop from the teaching/study of language systems. On the contrary, they need to be worked on in themselves...
    I'm positive you'll help lots of learners become more powerful coommunicators in the years to come... Indeed, I'm really looking forward to hearing your classroom stories!