1. Creating opportunities for ‘real’ communication
Motivating pupils to communicate with each other involves setting up activities they can carry out together, and are ‘real’. Groups are supportive and allow pupils to try out new language.
‘Real’ communication involves an ‘information gap’; in other words, pupils find out something from one another that they don’t know already. In the past, pupils may have been instructed to ask a classmate, whose name they knew well, ‘What is your name?’ There is no information gap here, so communication is not ‘real’.
Case Study 1 and Activity 1 show how finding missing information can be used in order to form groups or pairs. See also Resource 1: More information gap activities.
Case Study 1: Information gap activity to form groups
Liz Botha in East London, South Africa, wanted to divide a group of 40 teachers into groups of four, in a way that would help them communicate with one another.
She found a set of 16 pictures all on one page in a textbook (see Resource 2: Ideas for pictures). She made four copies of the page and cut ten pictures from each page so that she had ten sets of four pictures: shoes; flags, etc. She shuffled the pictures.
As the teachers arrived, she handed each one a picture, and told them not to show it to anyone. She then instructed them to move around the room, asking questions of the kind:
Question: Do you have a picture of a(n) .... ?
Answer: No, I don’t./Yes, I do.
They continued with this until they had gathered a group of four people with similar pictures.
Once groups were formed, members had to talk about themselves to one another, and find, through discussion, one thing that they had in common: perhaps all four had younger sisters, or liked or disliked a particular kind of food or music, etc.
They enjoyed the activity enormously, and ended up knowing one another well.
How can you do something similar in your classroom?
Activity 1: Find your partner
- Write up a list of words related to a recent lesson (see Resource 3: Words and meanings for some words).
- Give each pair of pupils one word from the list and two small pieces of paper. Ask them to split their word into half and to write one half on each of the small pieces of paper.
- Collect and mix up all the pieces of paper. Now give each pupil a half-word.
- Ask pupils to find the pupil who has the other half of their word, and stand with him/her.
- Pairs read their words to the class.
- Each pair then writes the meaning of their word on another piece of paper. Collect the meanings and the half-words.
- Give out the half-words again and repeat the matching process.
- Next, call out each meaning in turn and ask the pair to sit down when they hear their meaning. No one should comment on whether they have sat down correctly or not. The meanings eventually become clarified.
- Try the game again and see if they can play it more quickly and accurately.
Did this activity help your pupils to understand the meaning of the words? How do you know this?