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Unit twelve introduces writing and speaking, i.e. productive skills. Though they are not the same skills, their goal is the same: to communicate.
Writing is fairly neglected in many classrooms, as teachers are reluctant to spend too much time on what is seen as a ‘quiet time’ so they often assign it for homework. However, it is not an easy skill to master, as it requires a great degree of accuracy, whereas when speaking, any misunderstandings can be cleared immediately (on the other hand, this demands a great degree of fluency).
People communicate for several reasons, there is either a communicative purpose, they want to say or listen to something, or they are interested in what is being said. Thus, in order to make learning successful, the teacher must create a need and a desire in students to participate and communicate.
With that in mind, teacher should use accuracy and fluency activities. Both are equally important, but while accuracy activities focus on producing correct language, fluency activities concentrate on allowing students to experiment and be creative with it. Moreover, they are used at different stages of a lesson, study stage is when we should focus on accuracy, while in activate stage students have more freedom to be creative and practice fluency.
Accuracy based activities include controlled activities (drilling and prompting); guided activities (model dialogues and guided role plays) are accuracy based, but bit more creative, while creative communication is focused on fluency, and includes the following activities: free role play, discussions, debates, simulations etc.
Teacher also has to deal with students’ unwillingness to speak (this occurs due to variety of reasons: lack of confidence, fear of making mistakes, cultural reasons etc). Some ways to overcome these fears and encourage students to speak is to include pair or group work, plenty of controlled and guided practice before fluency activities, and careful planning.
Guidelines for a free/creative speaking activity include stages before, during and after the lesson: aims should be clear, teacher should predict some problems that may arise, and the previous knowledge of his/her students; designate certain time for each activity; prepare necessary materials; use visual cues to arise students’ interest; give them enough time to prepare; monitor them, and in the end provide feedback focusing on what they did well, noting down common mistakes and practicing another day.
Writing and speaking differ in grammar, vocabulary, as well as in spelling, handwriting, layout and punctuation. All these factors can cause problems to many students.
To write creatively, students too should feel motivated. The result (such as poem, play, story) will make them feel good and proud, and though it is most commonly done as an individual activity, teacher can also make students work in pairs or groups.
The unit includes two typical free/creative lessons, one on speaking activities (on the topic of weather and weather forecast) and the other on writing activities (writing a cartoon). The second one I found very interesting and fun, and will try it out in my classroom.
Games should be essential part of every TESL class, as they make learning enjoyable and fun. They can be competitive or co-operative, and students of all ages love them. There are numerous games a teacher could use, many books have been written about them, and nowadays, with the current technology, many new fun games are just a click away!