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Reasons Why Teaching Productive Skills is The Cornerstone of Communication

Reasons Why Teaching Productive Skills is The Cornerstone of Communication | ITTT | TEFL Blog

For this Summative Task, I will be discussing the topic of teaching productive skills in the classroom. As opposed to receptive skills learned previously (reading and listening), productive skills focus on speaking and writing. Regarding writing, this function of language education is often the most neglected in the TEFL world, due firstly, to the fact that teachers and students don't want to monopolize class time with quiet individually driven work. Writing skills are mostly practiced in the form of homework which can often be neglected and completed without necessary focus and effort. Concerning speaking, this function requires a higher deal of language fluency as well as an understanding of the accent and pronunciation of vocabulary. Additionally, speaking does not include a level of foresight and study, since the language used is delivered on the spot.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Lillian C. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

The importance of productive skills

Productive skills are absolutely some of the most important skills employed when one studies a language. Being able to express and communicate one's thoughts effectively and confidently should be the main objective of why one chooses to learn English. However, this can be quite a complex thing to teach students. When people are communicating with each other, it is essential that they have a communicative purpose, want to say something, want to listen to something, and are interested in what is being said. These four factors must be present in teaching activity, or else the students will not be interested in participating.

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Choice of activities

Concerning activities to practice productive skills, there are accuracy and fluency activities. Both are equally important and occur in different stages of the lesson. Accuracy activities occur in the study phase of the ESA model and are designed to produce the correct language. These kinds of activities can include choral drilling, prompting with pre-planned questions, model dialogues and guided role-play. Conversely, fluency activities allow students to experiment with their language skills, concerning the effectiveness of communication. With fluency activities, the activity employed is controlled by the teacher, however, the content of the language is not. These activities can include free role-play, discussions, information gaps, debates, simulations, and communication games. Fluency activities correspond to the activate phase in ESA.

Anticipated problems

Commonly, students will be shy to speak in the class setting due to fear of making mistakes or lack of interest or confidence. To encourage students to speak and participate the teacher can use pair work, group work, guided activities before fluency activities, and carefully plan the lesson.

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Approach to teaching

Teaching the productive skills of speaking and writing require different kinds of guidelines and lesson planning to hone in on each skill separately within the ESA model. Firstly, in a free speaking activity, the teacher must identify the aims of the lesson, gathering materials and proper instructions, planning the time needed. During the activity the teacher can engage the students' interest through visuals, articles, reminding the students of relevant vocabulary and grammar. The teacher must monitor the activity and be clear on the instructions and aims. After the activity, the teacher needs to provide feedback on how the class is communicating, their level of fluency, and what they were able to express and were unable to express.

If the free speaking activity lesson were to practice language regarding one’s weekly schedule with days and times, the teacher would engage the class discussing when one wakes up, goes to work, eats dinner, etc. Possibly pulling from Beethoven’s documented work schedule. Then, as part of the study phase, the teacher would elicit the relevant vocabulary with a gap-fill exercise. On to the activate phase, students in pair-work will discuss their weekly schedules.

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Writing skills overview

Regarding writing skills, teachers must consider factors of handwriting, spelling, layout, and punctuation, especially if the students’ native language uses a different alphabet than the English one. Similarly to speaking activities, writing activities require planning and regard for potential problems and difficulties. Differences between American and British English, as well as slang language, must be considered.

In a Quotidien creative writing activity lesson, like always, we will use the ESA model. For example, if the lesson’s objective were to center on eliciting vocabulary regarding summer vacations, students completing speech bubbles in cartoons, creating their storyline, we would first engage by showing the students a cartoon from the New Yorker, without the caption. Students would try and guess the caption according to the image, and then the caption would be revealed. Then on to the study portion, the teacher would hand out worksheets with images of vacationers doing different seasonal activities, students must write what the person is doing. In the final activate stage, students will create their cartoon about summer vacation with speech bubbles and action descriptors. When finished, in groups the students will present their cartoon creation.

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Here, both writing and speaking activities are foundational not only to productive skills but to the larger communicative picture of effective English usage and understanding. When taught and employed properly, students can learn, improve, and adapt to the complex and evolving nature of English communication. It is one thing, the be able to listen, read, and understand but to be able to respond and express oneself properly through speech and or writing completes the communication equation.

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