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Unit 12 is about the ways to teach speaking and writing skills including games. Thanks to this unit, I have learnt new approaches to teach those productive skills.
While writing and speaking are considered productive skills (as opposed to listening and reading, the receptive language skills), both require different teaching methodologies and pose different pedagogical difficulties. Speaking is the means through which a good ESL classroom will run and is most often the focus of students trying to learn the language. Speaking commands a certain level of fluency, which can only be acquired through regular practice. In addition, a speaker will often need to think “on the spot” and be ready to respond to some unpredictable circumstances. As reviewed in Unit 12, obviously only a classroom committed to using English as the language of communication can benefit from practice and only a teacher willing, patient, organized, and dedicated enough to bettering his/her students’ English speaking skills will see their students improving. It is his/her responsibility to design lessons that not only maximize student talk time, but also present the opportunity to practice speaking in controlled, guided and creative-speaking situations.
A variety of activities will not only keep a class active and interesting, but will also inevitably provide students with a wide-range of circumstances in which English must be used in different ways. Drilling students in the pronunciation of a certain word by first asking the class to repeat the target word three times and then calling on three separate students to try individually, is an example of a controlled activity, developed to build students’ confidence and to give them abundant practice before moving on to an activity that requires more free-thinking production. A guided activity might include a role-play complete with relevant vocabulary and appropriate phrases needed to enact a scene. This allows students to experiment with the language, while simultaneously ensuring them that they are on the right track, producing understandable, applicable language. Finally a creative activity allows students to choose freely from all the English they already know to produce something more likely to mirror a real-life situation. This type of activity could be anything from a debate, some sort of communication game like Taboo, or a discussion.
Students’ writing, like their speaking, can only benefit from exposure to a wide-range of situations which require specific skills and language. A teacher will want to ensure that she/he is giving students practice in all areas of writing. Of course a course’s concentration on a particular style of writing, as with a particular style of speaking, will depend on the ultimate goals of the students in the course, but every class can benefit from exposure to varying patterns, rules, techniques and themes.
Writing, as important as it is, suffers in both the depth of concentration a teacher allots to it in the classroom, and the quality produced by the students as a result. It is important to encourage students to write as much as possible. To increase quality and accuracy, teachers need to ensure that they are consistent in enforcing writing rules and in correcting students’ written work. Of course, depending on the size of a class, this can be a daunting task, but having students self- or peer-correct can take the pressure off of a teacher, while still guaranteeing students ample practice with the written word.
The only way to improve students’ speaking and writing skills is to put them to use. Although writing and reading differ with regard to their vocabulary, grammar and punctuation applications, it is possible and necessary to incorporate a variety of these skills into every lesson.