March 18, 2009 by Willy Cardoso
What you will read below was given to me both while taking the Celta and a year later when taking the CEF course with IH Bcn. When preparing my classroom activities I always try to keep these criteria in mind, they proved to be valuable starting concepts for selecting and designing materials that work.
In order to maximize speaking opportunities and increase the chances that learners will experience autonomous language use, the following conditions need to be met:
– Productivity – a speaking activity needs to be maximally language productive in order to provide the best conditions for autonomous language use.
– Purposefulness – often language productivity can be increased by making sure that the speaking activity has a clear outcome, especially one which requires learners to work together to achieve a common purpose.
– Interactivity – activities should require learners to take into account the effect they are having on their audience. If not, they can hardly be said to be good preparation for real-life language use.
– Challenge – the task should stretch the learners so that they are forced to draw on their available communicative resources to achieve the outcome. Of course, if the degree of challenge is too high, this can be counterproductive. The teacher needs to be sensitive to the degree of difficulty a task presents.
– Safety – while learners should be challenged, they also need to feel confident they can also do so without too much risk. The classroom should provide the right conditions for experimentation, including a supportive classroom dynamic and a non-judgmental attitude to error on the part of the teacher. Also, learners need to be secure that the teacher will always be there to act as a guide.
– Authenticity – speaking tasks should have some balanced relation between real-life language in use and learner’s needs and interests. If not, they are poor preparation for autonomy.
Download example worksheet on Scribd.