Michael Hogan is a teacher trainer and material author with over 20 years of experience in the ELT world. Chia Suan Chong is a teacher trainer with a communication science background. They have it in common CertPT course designed for practicing teachers who wish to deepen their understanding of pedagogical theory and expand their practical teaching skills. On the spring days of 2021, they presented a webinar that dealt with communication skills, mindfulness and well-being, as well as promoting interaction in the classroom.
What is communicative competence?
Communicative competence refers to the learner’s ability to use the language to communicate successfully. This means going beyond grammar and vocabulary to understand the social context and use language appropriately in those contexts.
How can we help our learners become more communicative? Well, Interaction hypothesis by Michael Long is a good starting point. This theory suggests that interactions themselves promote language learning. Interactions help students understand their own communicative strengths and weaknesses and encourage them to use all of their language resources to negotiate meanings.
Practical ideas for encouraging student interaction
As teachers, we should encourage a culture of interaction in the classroom. Here are three practical ideas to give our students plenty of opportunities to interact online.
Have students interact within the first few minutes. A simple and easy way to do this is by taking a quick survey, a few multiple choice questions, or a true / false statement about the entire class topic.
Photos are often used as an invitation for discussion or description. You can find images in free online resource banks, such as: This one here from ELTPics on Flickr. You can get your learners to practice shapes as usual or the third condition (If I had …) to describe them. You could ask them to arrange a series of photos in chronological order and explain them in groups.
Another way to encourage interaction between your learners is to make sure the assignment has a gap, such as: B. Missing information or information that students need to find out about each other. Let’s look at some activities that naturally encourage authentic communication.
Try an illustration gap activity with your students. In pairs, one student describes a picture to another, e.g. B. a room. The second student listens, asks questions, and draws the picture as they understand it. Both then compare pictures and discuss.
Gaps in reasoning are another activity that can be done in pairs or in groups. Present a situation with a misunderstanding and encourage students to discuss what is going wrong and how it could be resolved. For example, a misunderstanding that can be caused by different international greeting styles – kiss, bow, or shaking hands.
Gaps in opinion also create many opportunities for discussion. Present an opinion that students can discuss in pairs or in small groups. Example: “Working from home has only advantages, and anyone who can work from home should continue to work from home even after the pandemic has ended.”
Motivation, wellbeing and mindfulness
Interactions and language-related work are not the only ways to interact in class. You can create a culture of communication around the students in your classroom. how they are doing and how they are feeling. There are important links between wellbeing, mindfulness, and learning. Both wellbeing and mindfulness can directly affect a learner’s motivation. As a teacher, it is therefore important to regularly support learners in these areas.
Wellbeing refers to how people feel and function on a personal and social level and how they evaluate their life as a whole. Bad wellbeing can have a negative impact on motivation, learning experiences, and success. The opposite is also true; poor learning outcomes and experiences can have a negative impact on wellbeing.
So what are some classroom activities related to wellbeing? Well, you could ask students to keep a journal of their social media usage and screen time, and to discuss how they feel about it. Ask your students to imagine a place where they can feel good. Do them with questions. Or ask students to keep a journal of typical things they do during a week and how they feel about them. This type of activity offers plenty of thought-provoking opportunities.
Mindfulness is the ability to be present in the moment, to fully engage with what we are doing and free from distraction. And there are plenty of ready-to-use activities to try with your students. Draw a (stress) curve that shows how you and your students feel at different times of the day. Create a quiet moment and ask students to close their eyes and focus on the thoughts in their heads. For fun, ask students to put a raisin in their mouth and focus on the texture and taste.
The webinar elaborates on all of the above activities and provides suggestions on how teachers can improve their own mindfulness in class.
Find out more about the spring days 2021
The Spring Days 2021 webinar series addressed many of the challenges faced by teachers over the past year. Over 20,000 teachers from around the world came together to reflect, learn and develop.
Amy Malloy and Donatella Fitzgerald hosted webinars on dealing with technostress. There were sessions to use the ESAP framework, and how to rate Skills of young learners online, along with a general session about Tips and tricks for hybrid learning.
Lost learning was another popular part of the Spring Days session events Online evaluation and the challenges of Lessons during the pandemic.
Ken Beatty, the plenary speaker, gave an overview of the last year of online learning and the Round table discussion focuses on hybrid learning.
All the Webinar recordings from the spring days 2021 are available on YouTube.