This unit is about productive skills, i.e. speaking and writing skills, their importance in effective communication, their features and how to effectively teach students how to develop them successfully. Compared to developing speaking skills, developing writing skills have received less attention in classrooms and among learners. However, it has become imperative to accord the same importance to writing as is done speaking as both are indispensable when it comes to communication. The unit looks at how to teach speaking and writing skills respectively.
Teaching Speaking Skills
To effectively teach speaking skills largely involves the use of classroom activities, and when choosing activities for communication skills in a classroom, these considerations must be made: the teacher must ensure that the chosen activities invoke students’ interest and their desire to speak, to listen to whatever is spoken, and to respond. Essentially, the main purpose for teaching speaking skills is to help students attain accuracy and fluency in language usage. Activities focused on accuracy look at the correct usage of the language and are usually introduced during the study stage of a lesson. Activities focused on attaining fluency entail student experimentation of language points with oral practice as the main goal. These kind of activities are introduced the Activation stage of a lesson. Some examples of speaking activities are accuracy-centered fall under guided activities: drilling (choral and individual repetition), prompting – question and answer type activities, model dialogues, and role play. Examples of speaking activities that are fluency-centered are free role-play, discussions, information gap, debates, communication games and simulations.
When it comes to facilitating creative speaking activities, the following guidelines must be employed in managing the various stages of the lesson:
1. Before the lesson, the teacher must decide his/her objectives, predict student response and possible difficulties, estimate timing for activities, pre-prepare necessary learning materials and instructions intended for the activities.
2. During the activities, the teacher must use learning materials to arouse student interest in topic, clearly indicate instructions relevant, ensure timing and time management, monitor activity, evaluate student performance to determine success and suitability to student level.
3. After activities, the teacher must give feedback on student performance by commenting, taking note of individual errors, recurrent grammatical errors, pronunciation, then organize corrections.
Fear of making mistakes, lack of interest, peer intimidation is some of the factors that deter students from participating in speaking activities. Nonetheless, there are equally many techniques with which the teacher can encourage student interaction. E.g. changing classroom dynamic, using group-work, pair-work, introducing speaking activities that arouse students desire to speak, etc.
By principle, a typical ESA lesson on creative speaking activity focused on the learner object of using appropriate language to discuss the weather and weather forecast, is presented below:
a. Engage stage – teacher initiates a student discussion on weather in students’ countries, and question and answer on weather forecasts and the weather in other parts of the world.
b. Study stage – teacher teaches vocabulary related to weather, weather forecast and have students complete matching and gap-fill exercises.
c. Activate stage – teacher facilitates pair-work where each pair writes the name of a foreign country and a month on two cards respectively then exchanges with another pair. Each pair creates a weather forecast for the given country and month.
Teaching Writing skills
Contrary to the generally accepted informal nature of spoken language, written language requires much formalness of language in spelling, handwriting, punctuation and layout. Handwriting is an important aspect of writing because most language learners of English come from language backgrounds that use characters, which can affect their writing of alphabet-based language. So focus on legible writing is important. Regarding spelling learner prone to misspell or use the wrong word in a sentence, particularly when it comes to homophones. Also, proper layout and punctuation in English is crucial as there are different rules for punctuation in each language. For example, the layout of an email is different from that of a business letter; and so is the grammar and vocabulary.
When it comes to developing creative writing skills, the teacher, in the same way as with speaking skills, chooses topics, activities that would help ignite students’ desire and interest toward participation. Examples of this can be, plays, poetry, etc.
A typical ESA lesson on creative writing activity with the objective of getting students to use appropriate language to tell a story with the help of speech bubbles and cartoons, is presented below:
a. Engage stage – the teacher shows students a newspaper featuring images with no words, then asks students to guess the story from looking at the images.
b. Study stage – the teacher shoes students a cartoon strip with empty speech bubbles and rectangular boxes; and elicits that the rectangular boxes are for descriptions, then then asks students to fill in the bubbles and boxes figuring out what the story may be about.
c. Activate stage – the teacher chooses a cartoon strip with five parts with images, and speech bubbles. The students are required to cut and paste the images, and fill in the empty blank bubbles. They work in pairs, where the first pair attempts the first part, then pass it on to the next until all the parts are completed.
In conclusion, the unit presents a short expose on games as an educative but fun way of teaching and learning both speaking and writing skills, particularly where getting students involved and participating is concerned. Games can be incorporated in language activities during lessons and not solely for entertainment or diversion purposes. There are two types of games namely, competitive games and co-operative games. Games can be used for all levels of language students, i.e. from children, teenagers to adults, for they resonate will all levels of learners and have generally become an integral part of language learning resources.
From this unit, I have learnt how the difference between teaching reading and writing skills. I have also learnt that to get students involved either interacting or participating, the teacher must choose the appropriate topics, techniques and activities that would ignite student desire and interest in both speaking and writing lessons.