Language Production Activities in the TEFL/ESL Classroom – Moving Beyond Gap Fills

Somewhere between scholarly studies of how people learn and the frontline experience of teaching, the issue of how TEFL/ESL learners actually acquire and keep language is confronted in activity design. Language practice activities come in many forms, and their design should take into account learning aims, the most important being language production. What is language production practice? Any student learning any language requires time and concentration to practise language after it has been acquired through a teacher’s presentation or through the discovery approach.

Yet, considering many course book and handout activities formats, not all employ language production. A considerable amount feature gapfills that require students to modify a stem verb or guess a missing verb. This cannot be considered as language production as such TEFL/ESL practice requires fuller expressions, even sentences to be constructed around context.

There are two types of productive practice of English in terms of skills; written practice and speaking practice. Common sense in TEFL/ESL learning methodology dictates that written practice should come first. Learners need time and separation from others to digest new language, without the pressures of interaction. Logically, when some sense of grammatical rules is made individually, learners should progress to communication.

The productive element of practice is what’s crucial to English learning. Learners have to, through intuitive activity design by teachers or course book writers, hardwire the use of grammatical structures and fixed vocabulary expressions. Context is everything in this process. Grammatical structures, arguably, should be practised in context according to three principles. Students need to be able to use structures comfortably (understanding), fit within existing structures (relation), and relate to other context beyond the confines of the existing activity (extrapolation). Each of these three factors is equally significant.

The first principle of understanding is mostly concerned with levels and grading in a TEFL/ESL context. For example, students with only limited experience in English (say for example two months), are likely to be able to understand the past simple, though will most likely struggle grasping the differences with the present perfect simple. Understanding, though, is a slippery concept, and there is nothing worse than a teacher asking ‘do you understand’?

So how can students improve their understanding through language production activities? Arguably, ESL worksheets that involve repetitive, contextual sentence writing through some guidance are of greater benefit than gapfill activities where students must insert a missing verb form. This is for two reasons; first, gapfill activities focus more on grammatical form rather than meaning (as verbs are often given in such activities). Second, such practices are mostly receptive. All information is given, requiring only students to change words, rather than come up with phrases and sentences themselves.

Our next point relates to the second aspect of language production activities; they must allow students to relate them to other structures they know. Grammar cannot be seen in isolation, and language production activities must use context for students to make the link between new structures and familiar ones. Take for example, the present perfect simple at elementary level. This structure fits commonly in with superlative adjective forms (e.g. what’s the best restaurant you have been to?) and the past simple (e.g. follow-up questions to “have you ever been to…”) TEFL/ESL activities should integrate such forms and ensure students are made to use them when practising new forms.

The final point, extrapolation, relates to the continuation of understanding and use of freshly-learnt grammatical forms through language production activities. Language forms such as the present perfect simple re-occur at several levels (all between elementary and upper-intermediate in fact). Thus, it is crucial for teachers to integrate activities that promote learner revision of prominent forms. How can this be achieved through language production activities? In short, students need to make language, helped along with the context of heavy grammar recycling and re-use of fixed expressions. TEFL/ESL tasks involving pictures or dominoes with minimal context do not achieve this. On the other hand, speaking tasks that involve students rephrasing expressions with other fixed expressions (for example ‘have a friendly relationship’ rephrased to ‘get on with)’ are exceedingly useful.

In conclusion, students learning English need to ‘make’ language through contextual guides such as pre-known grammar, familiar vocabulary that students can relate to, and exemplification. This can be done through language production activities in the form of writing and speaking. Writing activities where students model grammatical structures with their own personalised information, and speaking activities where students practise the essentials of new grammar in pairs and groups are particularly helpful. The way forward in TEFL/ESL is for course books and teachers to acknowledge this and continue to aid students in their quest for improvement through productive practice.

Unproductive Vs Productive Activities

I hope all of you are putting together a solid marketing plan. I know it seems to be the same song and dance year after year, but what are you going to do differently this year?

I want you to take some time and examine your current situation and ask a tough question. That question is “Why?” Why am I in this situation? What behaviors, habits, and events have worked together to land me into my current situation – be it good or bad?

Straight answers work best here, even if it’s not what you want to hear or admit. I’ll give you a little peak into a few of these “self chats” I’ve had with myself. I put everything on paper or into files on my PC, so I can always go back and find my habits. Here’s one from a few years back:

Negative habits:

– Too many activities going at once

– Find it difficult to say ‘no’ to new ventures

– Organization of files

– Too much time spent online

– Checking and responding to non-critical emails

– Work too many hours

Those were the negatives I found in myself. I’m sure this is by no means a conclusive list. haha – But I had to come to terms with the fact that those seemingly small issues were working together to limit my income and productivity. Here were the positives I came up with:

– Take action quickly

– Not afraid of cold calls or prospecting

– Creative with marketing and sales approach

– Proficient with online marketing

– Straight forward with prospects

Now I had to find a way to enhance my positives and minimize my negatives. Of course when doing this exercise I expanded on each item so that all the facts were on the table staring me in the face. Once you’ve identified your positives and negatives, you will be better equipped to structure your marketing plan for 10.

It is of vital importance that your plan for 10 addresses your negative attributes/habits or else you’ll simply repeat 09 as the same mistakes are made over and over again. Been there done that…

For those of you who want something 100% different from anything else on the market for Loan Officer’s and Realtors, I suggest you stop by: Loan Officer/Realtor 2.0 – Dominating the Search Engines

3 Productive Activities for LinkedIn

Give Valuable Info and Resources in Your Groups

Plenty of us, regardless of which job industry, have a vast range of knowledge. At times, we may oversee the importance of this knowledge because others deem it to be precious. Being involved in an online community offer special perks for individuals. Hence, it is advisable for you to share information within groups in LinkedIn. By doing so, you will create a good name for yourself. People will respect you and look for you to attain answers. Also, this could help in garnering attention to your company. This basically means that this act of goodwill can also serve as an advertisement for your company. People who respect you will learn to trust you and look up to you. This could help in attaining new contacts. Hence, try not to be a hermit when you possess great information that could potentially help others.

Send a Good Email and Get Great Traffic

The day to day LinkedIn visitor may possess some sort of special knowledge regarding certain niche areas. The knowledge that is at their disposal should not be taken for granted. To quote an apt saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” This is true in light of this context. If you think you are an expert in certain areas, you should exploit it and use your gift to help those around you. If you share credible and useful information, you could take credit for it. Also, at the height of today’s digital age when information is rather free, sharing should be something second nature. Also, this makes more sense if the information came from a friend or colleague. Hence, when you do your part to answer questions, remember to put a link to your blog or website. Although the link you leave does not have to be a link to your blog or website, it could be any link you intend to leave.

Be Sure to Monitor Your Activity

When one is a part of business networking, there are several ways to be involved at any time. Say, this could be a business networking event or even an informal meeting over lunch with a potential client. You could also be taking part in some workshop filled with possible clients or providing your opinions to an online discussion or forum. Whatever the event it, it should take place to pursue some sort of goal in mind. Networking, similar to any other form of social networking should be traceable when results are concerned. There are numerous ways to monitor the progress of your networking activities and whether or not it has an impact on your sales. You should know that doing this online via LinkedIn is very convenient. You can easily trace the amount of comments you receive or the number of emails you sent out or received. This digital ease provided by LinkedIn makes it easy to keep count on the history of our activities. This convenience inspires dedication and makes prospecting on LinkedIn a pleasant experience. If you take into account the activity and results attained from it, you would find out that LinkedIn is perfect for social networking.