When we use the Communicative Approach in our classes, we prepare learners for communication and interaction that they’ll likely encounter outside the classroom. So, in that sense, we’re not just giving them fish (i.e. target language) but teaching them how to fish (language in use). The objective is that they will be more capable of using the language within specific contexts instead of simply knowing the language. Those contexts can be anything from A: Asking directions, to Z: At the zoo.
This OnTESOL graduate blog will look at a few Communicative Approach activities for intermediate levels, including contextual activities, general conversations, and role-play.
1. Contextual Activities
Context is king is a common saying in the study of TESOL. We scaffold from the communicative drills and dialogues at beginner levels, to more challenging activities at the intermediate level. For this sample Communicative Approach activity, we’re going to choose the context of ‘eating out.’ Now, learners have a framework to build on.
You can offer them the following working vocabulary:
Categories of food: Appetizer, beverage, main course, dessert.
Food items: Bread, soup (of the day), chef salad, baked potato, well-done steak (rare, medium-rare), seafood platter, etc.
As an extra feature of the lesson, you can show class members images of food and have them categorize the images. There are a wide variety of options for vocabulary-building activities.
They might also benefit from the following structure when ordering:
I would like + noun phrase (e.g. I would like a roast beef sandwich.)
Finally, you can offer them a couple of useful expressions such as:
Would you mind giving us just a moment to decide?
I think I’ll order the [menu item].
Now that they have a working language. You can break them into teams where one person is the server and the other is the customer. Teach them what they might expect a server to say. A sample menu would be nice too.
Another option is breaking them into teams of three, where two customers decide together what they would like. There are many possible variables. Try thinking of your own experience in restaurants and use them in the lessons. By doing so, you’ve just taken your lesson to the next level: a communicative lesson!
2. General Conversations
More modelling is needed at beginner levels. Hence, there are activities like communicative drills and dialogues. At advanced levels, wider parameters can be provided. But since intermediate levels are somewhere in between, we can have general conversations around relatively common topics. This helps students gain more confidence speaking freely. And, it takes them outside the boundaries of limited exchanges found in dialogues.
For our sample activities, let’s offer our class members the subject of ‘favorite restaurants.’ This is not an uncommon topic in life. As such, you can use it to get intermediate-level learners talking.
Try offering them a few strategic conversations prompts such as:
- What types of restaurants are popular in your area?
- What ethnic foods are you into?
- How often do you eat out?
- Who do you usually eat out with?
- What was your last dining experience like?
- How do you feel about fast food?
- What restaurants do you like to frequent?
Notice we didn’t go straight to the punch with: “What’s your favorite restaurant?” That’s pretty much a beginner-level question. Try getting creative with your questions. Lead them down a path of new words. Scaffold from what they know to where they want to go.
Ideally, these questions would be given to pairs who would converse. If that isn’t possible, create a two-way exchange between yourself and the class members rather than the typical one-way, interview-type conversations we’re all familiar with. The ultimate idea is to let this thing take off while you are free to observe areas for feedback after.
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3. Role Play
Beginners are typically not ready for role play. They simply lack the structure and vocabulary for it. Learners at the advanced levels are capable of free-thinking types of exercises such as debate, discussion, news reports, and reading or watching then paraphrasing. Learners at the intermediate level can benefit from the integration of structure and free-speaking – role play. Today’s lesson will be ‘eating out.’
Prepare a context for your learners. For this lesson, let’s say, deciding what to eat when eating out with a friend. Now, if you’ve been using the previous sample lessons for one lesson or as modules, students will likely be warmed up for this activity.
Break them into teams with a server and two friends then game on! Observe and be ready to give assistance and or feedback. But try not to interrupt if at all possible. Let them work through it first. Changing topics of role play offer learners opportunities to use English in different contexts. And in the end, that’s the “fishing” element of communicative language teaching.
You may have noticed that each of the sample lessons above revolved around a common topic: eating out. That means, just as with our previous blog for beginners, you can use abbreviated versions of these together, sequentially, in one meeting. Or you can use them as modules for separate class meetings to reinforce communication proficiency. These sample lessons offer clearer ideas of how to apply the Communicative Approach in lessons. Not only that, these samples present how you can work one exercise into another in one class or a few.
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