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Speaking and writing are used for the same purpose, to communicate. Unfortunately, writing is the most neglected skill, often relegated to homework and frequently not done and so the skill is never developed. In many ways writing is the more difficult skill, requiring a greater degree of accuracy. Speaking, requires a greater degree of fluency as the speaker will rarely have time to think and plan an answer. They have some communicative purpose They want to say something They want to listen to something They are interested in what is being said. The teacher must create the need and desire, in the students, to communicate. Accuracy activities (usually part of the study phase) are concentrated on producing correct language. The difference between accuracy and fluency activities are usually controlled to ensure accurate reproduction of language. Fluency activities (usually part of the activate phase) are concentrated on allowing the students to experiment and be creative with language. We are less concerned with accuracy and more concerned with the effectiveness and flow of the communication. Accuracy and fluency carry equal importance. Which is more important? Accuracy activities will check that the students can understand and use the language in a controlled way before being expected to try to use it creatively in a fluency activity Speaking activities in the classroom Accuracy based activities. Language is controlled by the teacher. Controlled activities Drilling (choral and individual listening to and repetition of the teacher's model of pronunciation). You should always try to use a '3 by 3' drill where possible, i.e. say the word or phrase and ask the whole group to repeat. This gives a safe environment for them to practice pronunciation, and any mistakes made by individuals will not be apparent to each other. Do this 3 times. Follow this by calling on 3 individuals by name, in turn. Prompting (pre-planned question and answer is the most obvious example). Guided activities Accuracy based but a little more creative and productive. The output is still controlled by the teacher but the exact language isn't. Model dialogues Guided role-play Creative communication Fluency based activities. The scenario is usually created by the teacher but the content of the language isn't. Free role-play Discussions, Information gap (this is where different students have different pieces of information and they have to share this information to get the complete picture/solve the task, etc). Debates, Simulations, Communication games Encourage students to speak Many students can seem reluctant to speak for a variety of reasons, including: Lack of confidence, Fear of making mistakes, Peer intimidation, Lack of interest in the topic, Previous learning experiences Cultural reasons. The teacher must encourage interaction, create a comfortable atmosphere, where students are not afraid to speak or make mistakes, and enjoy communicating with the teacher and their fellow students. Techniques to encourage student interaction Pair-work, Group-work, Plenty of controlled and guided practice before fluency activities, Make speaking activities purposeful (create a desire and need to communicate), Change the classroom dynamics , Careful planning, With certain activities you may need to allow students time to think about what they are going to say. Guidelines for a free / creative speaking activity Before the lesson Set your goals: what you want to do and why. Try to predict what the students will bring to the activity and any problems they might have. Will they have something to speak about? Are they capable of doing the activity successfully? Do they have the necessary language? Will the students find the activity interesting, useful, fun? Work out how long the activity will take and tailor it to the time available. Prepare any necessary materials. Work out your instructions. During the activity Arouse the students´ interest through visuals, a short lead – in talk, a newspaper headline, etc. Try to relate the topic to the students´ own interests and experience. You may want to remind students of any structures or vocabulary that might be useful – perhaps leaving them on the board for reference. Set up the activity so that the students know the aims of the activity and what they are to do. This means giving clear instructions and checking that they have been understood. Make sure the students have enough time to prepare, perhaps in pairs or groups, before asking them to tackle the main activity. Do not be tempted to cut down on the time needed for this. Do not forget that the students are probably getting useful speaking practice at this stage too. Make the activity even more 'process' rather than 'product' - based by encouraging rehearsal if appropriate, particularly with role-plays. Monitor the activity: do not interrupt except to provide help and encouragement if necessary; try to keep a low profile. Watch the pace – do not let the activity drag on and remember to leave time for feedback. Evaluate the activity and the students' performance in order to provide feedback later but don't jump in with instant corrections. Wait until after the activity has finished before correcting. Don't over-correct. Free speaking activities are more concerned with fluency than accuracy. After the activity Provide feedback: Indicate how well the class communicated; comment on how fluent each was, how well they argued as a group, and so on. Focus on what they were able to do rather than on what they couldn't do. Sometimes you might want to record the activity on audio or videocassette and play it back for discussion. Focus on possible improvements rather than mistakes – in fact if it is taped, sometimes they can be asked to do a rough version first, then discuss improvements and then re-record. Note down glaring recurrent errors in grammar, pronunciation and use of vocabulary. Individual mistakes might be discussed (in private) with the student(s) concerned and you might recommend suitable remedial work to do at home. Mistakes which are common to the class can be mentioned and then practiced another day when you have had a chance to prepare a suitable remedial lesson. Writing skills Differences from speaking rely on grammar, vocabulary, spelling, handwriting, layout and punctuation. Handwriting presents challenges to students, especially when it uses a different alphabetical system from the English language, therefore the teacher should always encourage the students to improve it. Spelling Incorrect spelling can create misunderstandings but can often be perceived, by the reader of a lack of education. Many words that are pronounced the same are written differently (waist/waste, etc.) and some words are written the same but pronounced differently (read/read).We need to draw the students' attention to the different ways of pronouncing the same letters (or combinations of letters) and have them do exercises to discover spelling rules. Spelling differences between British English and American English don't exactly help either and new kind of 'slang' spelling has also emerged through the internet and e-mail. Teachers must help students with spelling is through extensive reading. Spelling in English Layout and punctuation Some languages have completely different punctuation and some have none at all! Some languages write from right to left, while in some others words aren't even separated by spaces. In reality (despite the many rules) punctuation is frequently a matter of personal style but totally incorrect usage can lead to rather awkward and difficult looking pieces of writing. To help students learn the different layouts of writing (for example how business letters differ from e-mails, etc.), they need to be exposed to, and be given the chance to practice with many different styles. After students have completed a piece of written work we should get them to check it over for grammar, vocabulary usage as well as punctuation, spelling, layout and style of writing (is it too formal/informal?). As with speaking activities, students will often require planning time for written work. Creative writing Creative writing should be encouraged, as it engages the students and the finished work usually provides them with a sense of pride. It may include poetry, stories and plays. There is nothing to stop teachers putting the students into pairs or groups, particularly for creative writing where the input of ideas from different sources may be helpful or necessary. Games in the Classroom Competitive games in which players or teams race to be the first to reach the goal, and co-operative games, in which players or teams work together towards a common goal. Games are popular with children, teenagers and adults alike. They can provide useful controlled practice and free practice material.
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