Mechanical, Meaningful, and Communicative Practice
Mechanical, Meaningful, and Communicative Practice Mechanical practice refers to a controlled practice activity which students can successfully carry out without necessarily understanding the language they are using. Examples of this kind of activity would be
repetition drills and substitution drills designed to practice use of particular grammatical or other items. Meaningful practice refers to an activity where language control is still provided but where students are required to make meaningful choices when carrying out practice.
For example, in order to practice the use of prepositions to describe locations of places, students might be given a street map with various buildings identified in different locations. They are also given a list of prepositions such as across from, on the corner of, near, on, next to. They then have to answer questions such as
Where is the book shop? Where is the caf? etc. The practice is now meaningful because they have to respond according to the location of places on the map. Communicative practice refers to activities where practice in using language within a real
communicative context is the focus, where real information is exchanged, and where the language used is not totally predictable. For example, students might have to draw a map of their neighborhood and answer questions about the location of different places, such as the nearest bus stop, the nearest caf, etc.
Exercise sequences in many CLT course books take students from mechanical, to meaningful, to communicative practice. Information-Gap Activities An important aspect of communication in CLT is the notion of information gap.
This refers to the fact that in real communication, people normally communicate in order to get information they do not possess. This is known as an information gap. More authentic communication is likely to occur in the classroom if students go beyond practice of language forms for their own sake and use their linguistic and communicative resources in order to obtain information.
Jigsaw activities These are also based on the information-gap principle. Typically, the class is divided into groups and each group has part of the information needed to complete an activity. The class must fit the pieces together to complete the
whole. Task-completion activities: puzzles, games, map-reading, and other kinds of classroom tasks in which the focus is on using ones language resources to complete a task.
Riddles Information-gathering activities: student-conducted surveys, interviews, and searches in which students are required to use their linguistic resources to collect information.
Opinion-sharing activities: activities in which students compare values, opinions, or beliefs, such as a ranking task in which students list six qualities in order of importance that they might consider in choosing a date or spouse.
Information-transfer activities: These require learners to take information that is presented in one form, and represent it in a different form. For example, they may read instructions on how to get from A to B, and then draw a map showing the sequence, or
they may read information about a subject and then represent it as a graph. Reasoning-gap activities: These involve deriving some new information from given information through the process of inference, practical reasoning, etc.
For example, working out a teachers timetable on the basis of given class timetables. Role plays: activities in which students are assigned roles and improvise a scene or exchange based on given information or clues.
Most of the activities discussed above reflect an important aspect of classroom tasks in CLT. They are designed to be carried out in pairs or small groups. Learners benefits: They learn from hearing the language used by other members of the group.
They produce a greater amount of language than they would use in teacher-fronted activities. Their motivational level is likely to increase. They have the chance to develop fluency. Teaching and classroom materials today consequently make use of a wide variety of small-group activities.
Homework Write an essay on the following topic: What are some advantages and limitations of pair and group work in the language
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