Introduction to the Speaking Module
Hello, my name is Carl Blyth, and I am the instructor for this module on speaking. I am the director of the Texas Language Technology Center here at the University of Texas at Austin and I'm also an Associate Professor of French in the Department of French and Italian. And, importantly, I've been a Language Program Director of the French program here at UT for 10 years. And during that time I focused a lot of my attention on helping our beginning teachers learn to implement what are called communicative activities.
I've decided to focus on communicative activities in this module on speaking. The reason I have chosen to focus on these kinds of activities is because number one I think they are very important for communicative language teaching. You can't teach people how to communicate without actually having them communicate.
Secondly, the reason I'm focusing on communicative activities is because I've found in my experience as a teacher trainer that beginning teachers in particular find them somewhat difficult. They are difficult cognitively for the students -- they're not just practicing, they're not rote memorization, they are actually cognitively difficult because the students have to put lots of things together. And they're often difficult for the teacher to manage because students get off track sometimes. You have different people in multiple conversations, and so it really puts a burden on the teacher to manage the whole group and keep things on track.
And thirdly, I think its important to focus on these activities for beginning teachers because they often get eliminated. They come at the natural end of a pedagogical sequence, that is, they come at the end of a chapter in a textbook, and because of that people often run out of time.
So I'm putting a lot of emphasis on these kinds of activities in this module on speaking because I think they're important, they're difficult, and they often get eliminated. There are other kinds of activities that can fall under the rubric of speaking, such as pronunciation practice and drills and so forth, but in my experience I've found that beginning teachers often do quite well with those kinds of things but not as well with these so-called communicative activities.
- 1 Defining Communication
- Criteria to help beginning teachers distinguish "real" communication from "apparent" communication. Not all oral activities are created equal!
- 2 Challenges and Benefits of Communicative Tasks
- The pros and cons of communicative tasks according to beginning teachers. Bottom line: Communicative tasks are hard but worth the effort.
- 3 Designing Communicative Tasks
- Design principles for classroom tasks that get your students to talk to each other (in the target language).
- 4 Implementing Communicative Tasks
- The teacher's role in managing and guiding student-to-student communication.