Friday, 1 June 2007

Groupwork in the communicative classroom

Hedge (2001) lists the following reasons for using pairwork and groupwork in the communicative classroom:

  • It motivates students to work in face to face encounters in the classroom.
  • It increases opportunities for practicing the language.
  • It enables students to take risks with the language and to see if they can negotiate meaning.
  • It gives students the opportunity to monitor how well they understand and are understood.

I agree with all of the reasons but I believe items C and D are the most important ones.

I think some students like this kind of activities because they can play and have fun and if they enjoy doing an exercise, they learn more. That would be another reason.

The disadvantages are that sometimes students don’t behave or speak in their mother tongue and complete the charts but in their mother tongue so the purpose of the activity is ruined.

I think there should be conditions to follow so students can profit from the activity. One of the conditions, for example, should be to speak in English when working or maybe telling them they can say 3 things in their mother tongue but not more than that, so they have to choose when to use their mother tongue and then switch back to English.


Hedge, Tricia (2001); Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom; chapter 2 (Discussion projects and topics # 6 - p. 73); O.U.P.


Gladys Baya said...

I like your suggestion for negotiating the use of L1 with students, Lorena!

Jane Willis has taught us people will not learn from a task assigned unless they can understand its purpose... Students carrying out an information-gap activity in their mother tongue have clearly missed our point for assigning the task, though they certainly appreciate languages are for negotiating meaning!
In the case of teens or adults, a ahort, open discussion of the task aims just before they get started might help everyone, I believe!



Norma B. Tomé said...

You're right about students using their mother tongue instead of English; but then, that does not necessarily relate to pairwork or group work. Even when we ask individual questions, or when they want to say sth, they make use of Spanish (in our case). Even we do, sometimes! (...though we shouldn't) But sometimes, when it is the heart that speaks, not the "brain", Spanish seems to be- you know- more natural. Of course, the aim of the task is hopelessly gone.
Keep posting!!!

Loreley said...

Gladys, thank you very much for the link you gave me. Very interesting!. Thanx also for your comment which is really useful.

Loreley said...

Normi, what you have just told me is totally connected to what I have post in the wiki. If you want to go there and have a look you will find it very interesting. Here you have the link:

Gladys Baya said...

Just sharing two thoughts Norma's comment has "inspired" in me:
* if we cannot make English one of our languages to express feelings, can we ever expect students to achieve that? Moreover, to what extent can such an aim be neglected in the communicative classroom?

* I'm not that sure that the task aim is missed when any of the parties involved resorts to L1 for some communicative aims... More often than not, L1 use is limited to socializing or negotiating task roles, isn't it?

What do you think?

Loreley said...

I think English is part of us as teachers. I don't think in Spanish any longer and my feelings are mingled in both languages so I believe it is achievable. Of course we can let them speak in Spanish when the task is not neglected but just a little bit.
The task is not lost when they resort to Spanish but as you said in SOME aspects, as long as the task is fulfield properly and English had been used for that.
As you can see I don't favour Spanish that much, I don't speak Spanish in my classes because I feel more confident speaking in English. But that is just me. It is good to think about ourselves!
See you,

Gladys Baya said...

Only bilingual teachers can foster bilingualism in their learners... do you agree?
Big hug,

Loreley said...

I don't know. I think we can all foster a kind of bilingualism. I would like to try to get to that point with my students and myself. I believe that should be our aim, even though we may not reach it ever... but at least we can say we've tried.