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The role of instructional materials

A wide variety of materials have been used to support communicative approaches to language teaching. Unlike some contemporary methodologies, such as Community Language Learning, practitioners of Com­municative Language Teaching view materials as a way of influencing the quality of classroom interaction and language use. Materials thus have the primary role of promoting communicative language use. We will consider three kinds of materials currently used in CLT and label these text-based, task-based, and realia.


There are numerous textbooks designed to direct and support Communicative Language Teaching. Their tables of contents sometimes sug­gest a kind of grading and sequencing of language practice not unlike those found in structurally organized texts. Some of these are in fact written around a largely structural syllabus, with slight reformatting to justify their claims to be based on a communicative approach. Others, however, look very different from previous language teaching texts. Morrow and Johnson's Communicate (1979), for example, has none of the usual dialogues, drills, or sentence patterns and uses visual cues, taped cues, pictures, and sentence fragments to initiate conversation. Watcyn-Jones's Pair Work (1981) consists of two different texts for pair work, each containing different information needed to enact role plays and carry out other pair activities. Texts written to support the Malay-sian English Language Syllabus (1975) likewise represent a departure from traditional textbook modes. A typical lesson consists of a theme (e.g., relaying information), a task analysis for thematic development (e.g., understanding the message, asking questions to obtain clarification, asking for more information, taking notes, ordering and presenting in­formation), a practice situation description (e.g., "A caller asks to see your manager. He does not have an appointment. Gather the necessary information from him and relay the message to your manager."), a stimulus presentation (in the preceding case, the beginning of an office conversation scripted and on tape), comprehension questions (e.g., "Why is the caller in the office?"), and paraphrase exercises.


A variety of games, role plays, simulations, and task-based communication activities have been prepared to support Communicative Lan­guage Teaching classes. These typically are in the form of one-of-a-kind items: exercise handbooks, cue cards, activity cards, pair-communication practice materials, and student-interaction practice booklets. In pair-communication materials, there are typically two sets of material for a pair of students, each set containing different kinds of information. Sometimes the information is complementary, and partners must fit their respective parts of the "jigsaw" into a composite whole. Others assume different role relationships for the partners (e.g., an interviewer and an interviewee). Still others provide drills and practice material in inter­actional formats.


Many proponents of Communicative Language Teaching have advo­cated the use of "authentic," "from-life" materials in the classroom. These might include language-based realia, such as signs, magazines, advertisements, and newspapers, or graphic and visual sources around which communicative activities can he built, such as maps, pictures, symbols, graphs, and charts. Different kinds of objects can be used to support communicative exercises, such as a plastic model to assemble from directions.


Communicative Language Teaching is best considered an approach rather than a method. Thus although a reasonable degree of theoretical con­sistency can be discerned at the levels of language and learning theory, at the levels of design and procedure there is much greater room for individual interpretation and variation than most methods permit. It could be that one version among the various proposals for syllabus models, exercise types, and classroom activities may gain wider approval in the future, giving Communicative Language Teaching a status similar to other teaching methods. On the other hand, divergent interpretations might lead to homogeneous subgroups.

Communicative Language Teaching appeared at a time when British language teaching was ready for a paradigm shift. Situational Language Teaching was no longer felt to reflect a methodology appropriate for the seventies and beyond. CLT appealed to those who sought a more humanistic approach to teaching, one in which the interactive processes of communication received priority. The rapid adoption and implemen­tation of the communicative approach also resulted from the fact that it quickly assumed the status of orthodoxy in British language teaching circles, receiving the sanction and support of leading British applied linguists, language specialists, publishers, as well as institutions, such as the British Council (Richards 1985).

Now that the initial wave of enthusiasm has passed, however, some of the claims of CLT are being looked at more critically (Swan 1985). The adoption of a communicative approach raises important issues for teacher training, materials development, and testing 'and evaluation. Questions that have been raised include whether a communicative approach can be applied at all levels in a language program, whether it is equally suited to ESL and EFL situations, whether it requires existing grammar-based syllabuses to be abandoned or merely revised, how such an approach can be evaluated, how suitable it is for non-native teachers, and how it can be adopted in situations where students must continue to take grammar-based tests. These kinds of questions will doubtless require attention if the communicative movement in language teaching continues to gain momentum in the future.

Audio-lingual Communicative Language Teaching
Attends to structure and form more than meaning. Meaning is paramount.
Demands memorization of structure-based dialogues. Dialogues, if used, center around communicative functions and are not normally memorized.
Language items are not necessarily contextualized. Contextualization is a basic premise.
Language learning is learning structures, sounds, or words. Language learning is learning to communicate.
Mastery, or "over-learning" is sought. Effective communication is sought.
Drilling is a central technique. Drilling may occur, but peripherally.
Native-speaker-like pronunciation is sought. Comprehensible pronunciation is sought.
Grammatical explanation is avoided. Any device which helps the learners is accepted — varying according to their age, interest, etc.
Communicative activities only come after a long process of rigid drills and exercises Attempts to communicate may be encouraged from the very beginning.
The use of the student's native language is forbidden. Judicious use of native language is accepted where feasible.
Translation is forbidden at early levels Translation may be used where students need or benefit from it.
Reading and writing are deferred till speech is mastered. Reading and writing can start from the first day, if desired.
The target linguistic system will be learned through the overt teaching of the patterns of the system. The target linguistic system will be learned best through the process of struggling to communicate.
Linguistic competence is the desired goal. Communicative competence is the desired goal (i.e. the ability to use the linguistic system effectively and appropriately).
Varieties of language are recognized but not emphasized. Linguistic variation is a central concept in materials and methodology.
The sequence of units is determined solely by principles of linguistic complexity. Sequencing is determined by any consideration of content, function, or meaning which maintains interest.

Eclectic Approach

The English language teaching tradition has been subjected to a tremendous change, especially throughout the twentieth century alongside the ongoing debate and developments around the methods of language teaching and learning since the time of Comenius in the 17th century, if not before. The complexity of contexts leads us to the conclusion that there can not be any panacea of a single, universal, optimum method for teaching and learning modern languages. Most teachers now acknowledge the need to adopt an eclectic approach guided by teachers’ and learners’ informed choices, and incorporate elements from the range of methods available.

Brown is also known for his classification of the principles of language learning, which is seen as theory derived from research, to which teachers need to match classroom practices to achieve success in real communications. He asserts that these principles are relatively widely accepted theoretical assumptions about second language acquisition, and few would dispute over them as being central to most language acquisition contexts.

Brown’s “language learning principles” are generally divided into three sub-groups: Cognitive Principles, Affective Principals and Linguistic Principles. A short summary of the principles that fall into each category is provided as follows:

Cognitive Principles:

· Automaticity: Subconscious processing of language with peripheral attention to language forms;

· Meaningful Learning: This can be contrasted to Rote Learning, and is thought to lead to better long term retention;

· Anticipation of Rewards: Learners are driven to act by the anticipation of rewards, tangible or intangible;

· Intrinsic Motivation: The most potent learning "rewards" are intrinsically motivated within the learner;

· Strategic Investment: The time and learning strategies learners invest into the language learning process.

Affective Principles:

· Language Ego: Learning a new language involves developing a new mode of thinking - a new language "ego";

· Self-Confidence: Success in learning something can be equated to the belief in learners that they can learn it;

· Risk-Taking: Taking risks and experimenting "beyond" what is certain creates better long-term retention;

· Language-Culture Connection: Learning a language also involves learning about cultural values and thinking.

Linguistic Principles:

· Native Language Effect: A learner's native language creates both facilitating and interfering effects on learning;

· Interlanguage: At least some of the learner's development in a new language can be seen as systematic;

· Communicative Competence: Fluency and use are just as important as accuracy and usage - instruction needs to be aimed at organizational, pragmatic and strategic competence as well as psychomotor skills.



Date: 2016-01-03; view: 175

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