• Teaching Productive Skills


    Acquiring the skills to effectively use a new language may involve traditional classroom learning lessons and controlled practice, but experience with the language and the opportunity for creative exploration are also important components in the learning process. Students need to be exposed to the new language, they need to be able to understand its meaning and how it is constructed, and they must be able to practice and produce the language using the knowledge base they have attained (Unit 7 p.1, ITTT course book).

    Productive skills include speaking and writing, two critical components of the complex process of communication. There are countless reasons for communication between individuals: they have something they wish to express (verbally or in writing), there is something they wish to learn (verbally or in writing), the list goes on and on. While writing requires a greater degree of accuracy, and is in many ways the more difficult skill to learn, speaking requires a greater degree of fluency and thinking “on the spot”, and requires practice and exposure to the language over time (Unit 11 p.1, ITTT course book).

    Developing speaking skills in the classroom can include a wide variety of activities. Controlled lessons that include drilling and pre-planned, question and answer prompts can help students develop skills under the teacher’s watchful eye. Guided activities such as dialogues and role-play scenarios, while based on accuracy, do allow for more creativity and individual exploration with the language. Exact language may not be as controlled in such activities and students have a chance to practice their language with a bit more freedom. These activities help students to become familiar and comfortable with the new language. (Unit 11 p.3, ITTT course book).

    Creative communication involves more fluency-based activities that can really enable students to utilize their creative thinking and language skills. Activities of this type might include discussions, simulations and communication games, but they may also include real-life experiences such as a field trip to a restaurant or a guest visitor in the classroom, providing opportunities for students to use the new language in a less controlled setting. Careful planning and preparation are a necessity for this kind of learning experience, and such lessons must be followed-up with some form of assessment or evaluation tool to determine the effectiveness of the experience, but the benefits to the student can be significant. Not only are students making connections between the language they are learning in the classroom and the language used in the real world, they are practicing their skills and developing their own methods for utilizing and retaining the new language.

    In comparison to speaking skills, the development of writing skills involves many of the same difficulties and some additional challenges, including differences in grammar and vocabulary use, spelling, structure, punctuation and others. A variety of games in the classroom and as pair, small-group or homework activities, can be utilized to provide controlled practice and experience with writing. Crosswords, word finds, gap fills and story boards are but a few of the games and activities that can be adapted for teaching writing skills including vocabulary, spelling, grammar and pronunciation. (Unit 11 p.11-12, ITTT course book).

    Creative writing practice is a critical part of learning a written language. Writing can be encouraged through poetry, stories, plays and dialogues, but it important that students be engaged and interested in the writing projects. Pen pal letters between students can help to capture the interests of a class as they learn written communication with their peers utilizing the new language. The objective of such a project would be for students to learn how to use appropriate language and produce suitable letters that can be sent as a correspondence, but can also be used as effective evaluation and grading tools.

    Developing useful and effective language skills requires practice and experience, from controlled lessons to authentic, real-life experiences. The basic building blocks of a language are critical to the learning process but practical experience, creative exploration, and opportunities to practice in less controlled activities can help to bind the various parts of language acquisition into a solid understanding of the new language and how it can be used. Whether speaking or writing, students need to be able to activate the knowledge they have learned in the classroom in order to communicate successfully in their new language.