Thoughts on communicative activities

I had the chance to attend a great workshop this morning hosted by two outstanding language teachers from the area.  The theme of the workshop was increasing student speaking in the classroom, and the host teachers presented several handy communicative activities and methods for getting the most out of them.  Both the presenters have extensive TPRS and CI experience, and the activities they demonstrated fit well into a TPRS class.  Some of what they demonstrated was extension to activities I currently use, and some was completely new.  I immediately started thinking of how I would apply it to my class.

However in the midst of my enthusiasm, I had to warn myself to be cautious.  Communicative activities are valuable and a great way to simulate authentic language situations, but it can be tempting to overuse them.  Before I began TPRS, I used communicative activities often.  I was not wrong to use them, but my expectations were unrealistic.  I expected the activities alone to greatly improve my students’ ability to use language.  They do not.  Communicative activities are effective ways to practice or evaluate language use but not to increase the amount of internalized language that a student can use.  Now, I believe the best way to increase internalized language is comprehensible input.

Communicative activities are much like writing.  They can be used along with comprehensible input to develop a well-rounded student.  They are a great way to assess a student’s abilities.   But, they are output and not input.  My plan is to use them sparingly for practice and evaluation.  Soon, I’ll post descriptions of some of the activities that were presented today.

Thoughts?  In your opinion, how do communicative activities fit into a TPRS class?

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4 Responses to Thoughts on communicative activities

  1. Martina Bex says:

    Agreed, agreed! Communicative activities are useful for keeping students engaged (they are fun!) and for building confidence in speaking. However, they are NOT (in lower levels, anyway) a way to build language skills. Like you, I used them primarily when I first began teaching, and my students were very good at producing very incorrect speech. Limit the output and maximize the input! In a week of 45 minute class periods, we might spend 20-30 minutes doing communicative activities. The rest of the time, we are doing input. (This doesn’t mean that students aren’t speaking–they may be, but it is either limited and sandwiched in-between input, as a brain break of sorts, or teacher-directed.)

  2. Pingback: The one-sided phone conversation | Bryan Kandel TPRS

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