How can I get my students to interact in the language?

Language lessons often begin with an activity in which the teacherís role is fore-grounded. At this stage of the lesson, the teacher reviews previously learned vocabulary and structures and introduces new ones. The teacher may also be checking for understanding and modelling pronunciation. The studentsí role may simply be listening and repeating the vocabulary items and language structures being introduced and presented by the teacher. Selected students may be answering questions from the teacher. Many students may be silent. Interaction may be between the teacher and just one student at a time.

That kind of introductory stage of the lesson is followed by time for the students to be more active learners, to interact with each other using the language which the teacher has reviewed or introduced. The teacher needs to set up an activity to ensure that students have opportunities to practise with each other. Sometimes teachers are nervous about allowing the learners to interact with each other because they may make mistakes. However, taking risks and making mistakes is actually a good way to learn. Pair and group work supports maximum use of the language by the students, and is essential to increasing their chances of developing their ability to use language.

Examples of interactive activities which teachers can design include the following:

What are information gap activities?

Information gap activities are a way of getting students to interact in the language. They are also known as barrier games. It is similar to the game of battleships. Students work in pairs. Student A has information that student B doesnít have, and vice versa. They need to talk to each other to complete the activity. For example:

Student A:
Here is your picture of a beach scene. Make sure you donít show it to your partner.
In your version of the picture three birds are flying to the east, two children are running on the beach, the sun is setting in the west and a woman is fishing on the beach.
Your partner has other details of this scene.
Ask student B about an old man, rocks and a dolphin.
Ask questions (e.g. where, how many, doing what) to find out the details missing from your picture and draw them in.


Student B:
Here is your picture of a beach scene. Make sure you donít show it to your partner.
In your version of the picture an old man on the beach is making a fire, there are three rocks on the shore and a dolphin is swimming through a wave.
Your partner has other details of this scene.
Ask student B about birds, children, the sun and a woman.
Ask questions (e.g. where, how many, doing what) to find out the details missing from your picture and draw them in.



What are guided role plays?

Guided role plays are a way of getting students to interact in the language. They are also known as guided interviews. Students work in pairs. Student A has information that student B doesnít have, and vice versa.

For example, before attempting the following guided role plays, the teacher has modelled the language and provided students with controlled practice with the sentence frame: pronoun + action + transport + companion. Students have substituted various words and phrases into that sentence frame: pronouns (I, we two, we all), actions (run, walk, skip, ride), transport (on the bus, on foot, in the car, by bike) and companion (with mum, older brother, younger sister, cousin, friend, alone/myself). These structures include inclusive and exclusive pronouns, verb tense, instrumental and commutative suffixes in Australian languages.

Students are given role play cards for short conversations such as the following. They need to talk to each other to complete the activity.

Student A: Student B:
Greet your partner Respond to the greeting
Ask where s/he lives William Street
Ask how s/he came to school today By bus
Ask who s/he came with With older sister and younger brother

Student A: Student B:
Greet your partner Respond to the greeting
Ask where s/he lives George Road
Ask how s/he came to school today By bike
Ask who s/he came with With older brother and younger sister


Where can I learn more about language teaching?

Providing information about good teaching for reviving Australian languages is one of the main purposes of this website. To make it more accessible we have arranged it under the following headings:



Patyegarang



This page was first published on November 22, 2013 and was last updated on December 22, 2016. All material is copyright to the individual authors unless indicated otherwise. If you have any suggestions for ways in which this document could be improved or made more accessible to users, please do not hesitate to contact the author, Susan Poetsch.