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64 Seiten, Note: 7.0
1. CHAPTER 1: THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
1.1. State of the Art
1.1.1 Globalization and a Global Language
1.1.2 English Language Learning in Chile
1.1.3 Oral Production in Chilean students
1.2. Classroom Interaction
1.2.1 Definition of Classroom Interaction
1.2.2 Importance of Classroom Interaction
1.2.3 Types of Classroom Interaction
184.108.40.206 Teacher-Learner Interaction
220.127.116.11 Learner-Learner Interaction
1.3 Oral Production
1.3.1 Definition of Oral Production
1.3.2 The Limitations of Researching on Oral Production
1.4 Second Language Acquisition
1.4.1 Definition of Second Language Acquisition
1.4.2 Acquisition vs. Learning
1.4.3 External and Internal Factors of Second Language Acquisition
1.5 Teacher Talking Time (TTT)
1.5.1 Krashen’s Input Hypothesis
1.5.2 “The Question of ‘Authenticity’”
18.104.22.168 Classroom Authenticity vs. Real-life Authenticity
1.6. Student Talking Time (STT)
1.6.1 The Importance of STT
1.6.2 The Issue of Silence
1.7 Ideas and Theories Juxtaposing TTT and STT
1.7.1 TTT as an Impeder of STT
1.7.2 TTT as a Facilitator of STT
1.7.3 The Right Amount
22.214.171.124 Pareto’s Principle (or the 80-20 rule)
126.96.36.199 A More Real Approach
1.8 Reducing TTT; Increasing STT
2. CHAPTER 2: DISCUSSION
2.1 TTT needs to Be Reduced For the Sake of Increasing STT
2.2 Reducing TTT; Increasing STT
2.3 Rationale of the Activities
2.4 Discussion of Activities
3. CHAPTER 3: CORPUS
Activity 1: Complete the drawing
Activity 2: I think I know you
Activity 3: What's the time, Mr. Wolf?
Activity 4: Back to back
Activity 5: A day in the life of
Activity 6: What do you think of if I say?
To God, for giving me the strength to overcome the darkest hours whenever I felt I had none left. To Pricila and her unconditional love, support and ever-present faith in me.
To my parents Gladys and Emir, fundamental pillar of my life, and my main reason to keep moving forward. I thank God for being able to show them that I was able to do things they never thought I could do.
To my friends Juan Carlos, Sebastian, and my sister Karla, who believed in me and were always there with a word of support.
To Ms. Katherina Walper and Ms. Juana Barrientos, for their patience and guidance. To all of you who contributed to make this possible: Thank you very much!
- Felipe Leal
The major aim of every English as a Foreign Language (EFL) instruction program should be that students are able to communicate fluently. In this sense, oral production and practice in the foreign language (L2) plays an essential role in the EFL classroom. However, most traditional classroom interaction patterns tend to follow paradigms in which the teacher is the center of attention, in charge of providing L2 input and grammar explanations, consequently leaving considerably little space for students to practice their English within the class session. Even though some traditional authors suggest that the role of Teacher Talking Time (TTT) is crucial -as it provides students with input— this research paper aims towards raising awareness that Student Talking Time (STT) plays an even greater role in Second Language Acquisition (SLA) than the one played by TTT. This paper analyzes the issue, explains the roles of STT and TTT, suggests ratios favoring a higher amount of STT over TTT, and also tries to contribute to the field by suggesting a simple and comprehensive proposal: a set of specialized activities aiming towards reducing TTT and fostering the amounts of STT that take place in the Chilean EFL classrooms. The conclusion is that since students are the ones whose oral practice opportunities are significantly limited, the time teachers speak in the EFL class should decrease in order to provide more time for students to participate orally in the foreign language.
Keywords: Student Talking Time, Teacher Talking Time, English as a Foreign Language, Second Language Acquisition, Classroom Interaction
Being proficient in English as a foreign language is no longer a luxury which only some need to afford. Nowadays, it is the essential component that can provide people from all over the world with the opportunity to communicate with each other. Geographical barriers for communication have been overcome by technological advancements. Cultural and linguistic barriers have been overcome by a lingua franca: The English Language (Crystal, 2003). Chile is known across South America and around the world for its open standpoint about commercial and diplomatic relationships with other countries. However this standpoint has not been optimally supported by appropriate educational results regarding the use of the English language for communication purposes. Even though the Chilean state has promoted policies in favor of developing the presence of English in the Chilean educational system, they have not been critically successful, since their focus has not put emphasis in communication, but rather in formal instruction, acquirement of knowledge, and standardized tests, as the new SIMCE English national test.
Taking this into consideration is that, under the assumption that communication is the most relevant aspect of acquiring a foreign language, an analysis of Second Language Acquisition (SLA) will be developed. This analysis will provide an insight about theories regarding several aspects of SLA, but since the scope of this research is communication, it will put main emphasis on two essential features of oral production in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classroom: Teacher Talking Time (TTT) and Student Talking Time (STT). These two concepts are considered essential since, as authors suggest, both TTT and STT are beneficial for SLA, but they do not occur in an appropriate ratio.
The belief that more STT needs to take place, and a consequent reduction of TTT needs to happen in the EFL classroom (based on bibliographical research) will drive this investigation into suggesting ways of reducing TTT, and most importantly, ways of increasing STT. In order to do so, a set of specialized classroom activities adapted to foster students’ oral production in the English language will be designed and discussed, taking into account both the technical features (time, age group, vocabulary practiced, etc.) and the theories that will connect the theoretical framework (Chapter 1) with the discussion (Chapter 2). The proposal will include a detailed exposition of each activity with instructions and considerations for both teachers and students. That is the reason why it will be considered as a separate chapter (Chapter 3), so any language instructor willing to draw out some ideas from this piece of research could benefit by easily borrowing and copying each practical activity guide as needed.
1) How do STT and TTT relate and influence oral production inside the EFL classroom?
2) How can TTT be reduced and STT be fostered in order to provide students with opportunities of L2 oral production?
To provide theoretical and didactic considerations to help English teachers reduce their Teacher Talking Time in order to increase Student Talking Time inside the EFL classroom.
1. To raise awareness about the roles that TTT and STT play in foreign language education.
2. To determine, according to research, an approximate ratio of relationship between the amounts of TTT and STT that should take place in the EFL classroom.
3. To design a set of specialized didactic activities adapted to foster students’ oral production in the English language.
Hypothesis: Teacher Talking Time needs to be reduced in order to foster Student Talking Time, since the latter plays an essential and many times forgotten role for second language acquisition.
English language has come to be the second most spoken language in the world in terms of native speakers and speakers as second language (BBC, 2013). Most of this uncontrolled spread of and necessity of communication among people from all over the world has been possible due to the different technological inventions created in this advanced era, also named as Globalization1. Communicating across the globe has become essential in order to develop international economic and political relationships, and even though the geographical barriers have been left aside by technology, language barriers can only be successfully overcome by a common language.
The English Language has become the representation of progress in a variety of aspects related to communication. The concept of ‘global language’ (also named as ‘lingua franca’) has emerged to play a relevant role in the way in which English language functions and also the influences it makes on the rest of the globe. David Crystal (2003) considers that a language can be named as 'global' when it can be recognized all over the world (p. 3); moreover, stating that “the statistics […] suggest that about a quarter of the world’s population is already fluent or component in English” (p. 6).
Consequently, the fact that English has become the lingua franca is out of the question; and Chile is not the exception to the rule. Therefore, it is pertinent to analyze these theoretical- practical implications through a closer scope, juxtaposing them with the Chilean reality.
According to the Chilean Ministry of Education (2013), learning other languages and the comprehension of their speakers’ cultures become essential abilities in order to pursuit the development and success of students in the globalized world of the 21st century. For the Ministry of Education, not only does learning another language contribute to cognitive and professional development, but also to the respect and understanding of other cultures’ viewpoint, to the appreciation of the own, and to the development of a global conscience.
The Chilean Ministry of Education (MINEDUC), in its publication Bases Curriculares Inglés 20122, claims that several studies regarding Second Language acquisition and learning have shown that success in the acquisition process can only be obtained as a product of social, meaningful interactions in which the objective is to communicate information, transmit messages and use the language as to solve challenging tasks (2013, p. 7). This so-called communicative tasks are meant to present similar situations to real life in which the student is expected to understand, adapt, produce and interact in the second language (henceforth referred as “L2”), putting emphasis mainly on conveying meaning rather than on the form (i.e. grammar), in order to fulfill the task’s objective (Nunan, 2004).
Unfortunately, the previously mentioned features in relation to acquisition and communicative tasks have not been optimally addressed both in the Chilean EFL curriculum as well as in its execution, since the commonplace ‘communicative tasks’ present in nowadays’ EFL classrooms focus more on written and reading skills rather than on the development of the oral skill and its subjugated listening skill. In the same sense, one may also consider the recent standards that have been set by the Ministry, as it is the standardized test ‘SIMCE Inglés’3, which based on a summarized version of the TOEIC-Bridge, measures Second Language proficiency only in terms of understanding isolated utterances, and filling in forms and questionnaires.
In this sense, it can be concluded that the factors presented do not contribute indeed to what language is supposed to do; to be a way of expressing meaning, of communicating and specially, of interaction.
Since the scope of this research aims towards integrating all the previously mentioned aspects (i.e. language, communication, interaction) into an educational context, it is highly relevant to include them into an analysis at the general level of a classroom.
According to the Oxford World English Dictionary, interaction is basically defined as “reciprocal action or influence” (n.d.). Nevertheless, the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus provides a more thorough definition when illustrating interaction as “an occasion when two or more people or things communicate with or react to each other.” In short, the reader should consider the ideas and verbs hereby expressed (action, influence, communicate and react) and extrapolate them to the light of everyday EFL classrooms.
Accordingly, “Interaction is fundamentally a social process of meaning-making and interpreting, and the educational value of interaction grows out of developing and elaborating interaction as a social process” (Scarino & Liddicoat, 2009). This comprehension of communication as a social process does not specify language as for only ‘socializing’, but also implies that a social purpose exists; which in the case of classrooms, is directly connected to learning by means of debating ideas, insights and interpretations. Therefore, “Classroom interaction is more than a simulation of everyday interaction: it is interaction with learning as its central concern” (p. 39).
Interaction between EFL teachers and students is essential for the learning process, playing a great role in as far as comprehensible input is concerned (Allwright and Bailey, 1991, p. 122). As Craig Chaudron (1993) claims, interaction is considered significant because it has been widely argued that only through interaction are the learners able to decompose the target language structures and derive meaning from classroom events. Interaction provides learners with the opportunity to incorporate target language structures to their own speech, as well as awakening the human instinct of uttering responses, even when proficiency might not be considered sufficient for the task. Hence, the comprehensiveness and meaningfulness of classroom events of any kind will depend on the extent to which communication has been jointly constructed between the teacher and the learners.
Language is the most important tool in classroom interaction (Wellington and Osborn, 2001) as it serves various roles (communicative, educational, aesthetic, cognitive, etc.). Language not only facilitates communication (verbal and non-verbal) in classroom interaction, but it also enables learners to access information in lesson content through thinking and reasoning. It encourages exchange of talk and roles and simultaneously develops learners’ language skills and cognition for effective communication. In other words, it is responsible for the development of learners’ cognitive academic language proficiency skills which enable the learner to grasp or master academic content knowledge. This implies that classroom interaction is not only a social process, but also involves a cognitive aspect, as learners negotiate meaning of the subject content (Thuraisingam, 2001; Ellis, 1992).
Angela Scarino and Anthony J. Liddicoat (2009) elaborated on the fact that social interaction (within the classroom) involves participants in different situations, in which, for instance, the teacher communicates with students, students do with teachers, teachers do with teachers, and students do with more students and other people (p. 39). As the authors have indicated, interactions have to provide chances for students to find their own ideas and interpretations in order to comprehend others’ (ibid.). In these terms, interaction is the way through for learners so as to engage with ideas and concepts and the divergent interpretations and understandings of these by their interlocutors. In every classroom interactional event, the participant is both object and subject; performer as well as analyzer of what is happening. This purposeful, educational interaction should encourage and engage the teacher as well as the learner in both roles.
The role of language on learners’ academic performance has been a matter of study for several authors over the last two decades4. However, most of these investigations do not focus on actual classroom interaction between teachers and learners in the classroom (Nomlomo, V., 2010); a reason to consider this piece of research as relevant.
The interactional patterns in the EFL classroom can be studied under several different points of view. Nevertheless, the two most relevant for this research are going to be discussed: the Teacher-Learner Interaction, and the Learner-Learner Interaction.
As Malcolm Coulthard (1977) indicates, Teacher-Learner Interaction “happens between the teacher and one learner or many other learners” (p. 13). In this type of interaction, the students’ and teacher’s roles are equally important. On one hand, it is possible for the teacher to comment and analyze the different contents, ideas or opinions with the rest of the learners. On the other hand, as Khadidja (2010) mentions, “the students will benefit by drawing on the experience of their teachers on how well to interact on the manner that is most effective” (p. 13).
Additionally, Khadidja (2010) indicates that there are some elements which have to be considered by instructors for an effective teacher-learner interaction. Firstly, teachers have to pay attention to the level of complexity in the language that will be used so as to provide a comprehensible input. Secondly, instructors ought to choose appealing topics to talk about, since they will be a ‘starting point’ for elicitation. Thirdly, teachers have to monitor the way in which they speak, paying attention to their voice, tone and intonation.
Having considered these aspects, it can be understood that the teacher’s role is directly related to the development of students’ speaking skill, constituting an important variable, since the aspects previously mentioned can set the difference between a successful classroom and an unsuccessful one.
Similar to teacher-learner interaction, learner-learner interaction plays a particular role in the development of social and human relationships in the classroom, which will be explained next.
Learner-Learner Interaction is the second way of interaction that can take place in a classroom. It can be observed in an English language classroom in the way how the learners share comments, opinions and appreciations, hopefully related to the content of the class. Johnson (1995) (as cited in Khadidja, 2010) indicated that interactions among learners can be very helpful in the development of the class and also social relationships, this means, “it can be an important factor of cognitive development, educational achievement of students and emerging social competencies” (p. 15).
An important aspect of learner-learner interaction is that it enhances the development of an inclusive classroom, which can, for instance, allow and foster shier or quieter students to participate more in the classroom. When asked to interact among peers, these shier students might fell less pressure to participate, and they might eventually decide to do it when they feel comfortable. In this sense, Khadidja (2009-2010) states that “learners will establish social relationship through this kind of interaction, where the sense of learning community is promoted and isolation is reduced in the classroom” (p. 16). As a result, enhancing interaction among students constitutes an effective way to promote the learner role in students, infusing a sense of responsibility in their learning process by acquiring an active role in it.
As it has been explained, Teacher-learner interaction and Learner-learner interaction are important aspects to refer to when addressing interaction in the EFL classroom. Both teachers’ and students’ participation in class need to be thoughtfully pondered in order to promote meaningful interaction,
Oral production plays an essential role in regard to communication among human beings, which becomes relevant in every context in which language is being expressed by words through sounds. Its relevance is crucial in the development of this research project, since it is the prime component of the productive skill that is being studied: the speaking skill. In this sense, different appreciations of the term have been considered, as well as some of the limitations that have been found about this concept in literary terms.
Kenneth Chastain (1998) (as cited in Fuentes, 2012) considers that “speaking is a productive skill and it involves many components” (p. 2). Oral production is the ability a speaker has to produce utterances in spoken form in a specific language. In this idea, Olenka Bilash (2009) elaborated on the fact that “The goal of language is communication and the aim of speaking in a language context is to promote communicative efficiency; teachers want students to actually be able to use the language as correctly as possible and with a purpose” (para. 2). As the author indicates, language is the transmission of messages delivered in an efficient way, which leads to a successful interaction between the speakers, especially to the use of this skill in the classroom. In this sense, the oral skill is understood as the capacity to express in an effective way when immersed in a community that wants to achieve a certain objective (Hymes, 1972).
From these considerations of the term, one can understand that speaking is not only limited to make sounds considered correct within a language, but also to choose the correct words and use grammatical structures in a correct way. Regarding the relationship between speaking and language, Martin Bygate (1987) defines speaking as “a skill which deserves attention as much as the literacy in both native and foreign languages” (Leon & Vega 2010, as cited in Fuentes, 2012).
Oral production, then, is a relevant concept for this research, since it is directly related to the objective that an English teacher is bound to pursuit: to help students speak English in an effective way. Notwithstanding, the amount of bibliographic research which focus on the study of this aspect has been proven to be limited, fact that might eventually limit further research on this topic. Considerations about this idea are going to be exposed in the next section.
At the moment of researching for literature related to the development of English-as-a- Foreign-Language oral skills, it is noticeable that the amount of thoughtful research available does not equalize the available for other aspects of EFL (e.g. reading skills, vocabulary acquisition, listening comprehension, etc.). This could probably be explained by the fact that doing research on oral skills and related areas is much more time-consuming, subjective and complex than investigating more traditional and less-variable phenomena. According to Fred Genesse, et al. (2006), “we have a very limited understanding of specific aspects of L2 oral language development and, thus, little empirical basis for planning educational interventions that would promote language development in specific ways” (p. 15).
Despite the fact that it is possible to find a considerable amount of research regarding the development of some of the skills involved in English language learning -especially reading and writing - there is limited research with regard to the development of oral skills in English language. Genesse, et al. (2006) express this issue as a lack of controversy regarding the importance of oral L2, explaining that there is an important amount of research which has focused on the study of writing, reading and content area instruction, but little research has focused on the relevance of enhancing the oral language development in what regards to English Language Learners (ibid.). In this sense, the limitations of doing research on L2 Oral Production and its development become noticeable, situation that extends as far as to the relevant aspects that must be taken into account when willing to work on its improvement.
As an additional antecedent about the limited amount of literature that is possible to find, Genesse, et al. (2006) performed extensive research looking for literature related to L2 oral production. From this research, they were able to gather approximately 150 convenient pieces of research within the area of oral language development. They came to the conclusion that from these 150 studies, less than two thirds reported actual oral language outcomes, and less than one third reported oral language outcomes and at the same time met criteria for relevance and methodological adequacy in order to be considered useful as basis for new investigations. Besides, they argued that “the studies that were retained vary considerably; some measured general oral language proficiency: others measured discrete elements or oral language proficiency (e.g., vocabulary); and yet others measured language choice and use. Such variation makes synthesis and generalizability difficult” (p. 14-15).
Even though this evident lack of previous research on oral production can be considered as an obstacle for the development of this research paper, it has also been considered as an additional thrust in order to pursue the progress of this investigation further.
Nowadays, having command of a second language has become exponentially important for millions of people in the current society around the world, not only as a source of knowledge, but also as a way to expand their levels of education and to have better opportunities in life (Ellis, 1997). In this sense, Second Language Acquisition (SLA) plays a crucial role in what regards to the communication in a different language. SLA is a very important aspect to take into consideration in the development of this research, since it refers to the process that every student of a foreign language has to experience.
Stephen Krashen, important American linguist, educational researcher, and activist, developed the “Theory of Second Language Acquisition” (1981), in which SLA was defined as the process by which an L2 student learns the language. This widely known and accepted study consists of five main hypotheses: Natural Order, Affective Filter, Acquisition-Learning, Monitor and Input hypotheses. For the development of this research, the investigators have considered pertinent to focus on three of them - Acquisition-Learning, Monitor and Input— since they have a more direct relationship with the topic of this project. These three hypotheses will be explained in detail in ‘Acquisition vs. Learning’.
Acquisition and Learning are two terms which are directly related to the pedagogical labor; both are a fundamental consideration in the teaching activity, and consequently have become considered for the theoretical and practical phases of this research.
Krashen recognizes two autonomous systems of second language performance: ‘acquisition’ and ‘learning’. On one side, acquisition is considered as “the product of a subconscious process very similar to the process children undergo when they acquire their first language” (Schütz, 2012, para. 5). In order to make this possible, meaningful communication in the target language is required, so that speakers can focus on the communicative act rather than on the form of their assertions. On the other side, learning can be explained as a “formal instruction and it comprises a conscious process which results in conscious knowledge 'about' the language, for example knowledge of grammar rules” (ibid.) (para. 6). In simple terms, one can understand that acquisition requires meaningful interaction in order to make expression possible, and learning a systematic study and understanding of the grammatical rules. The importance of acquisition and learning plays a crucial role in the development of this research, since it is the goal of any English teacher: to make their students learn the foreign language efficiently based on a provided context (the classroom).
Ricardo Schütz (2007) comments on the contrast between language learning and language acquisition (understood as Second Language Acquisition). On the one hand, he states that learning is “focused on the language in its written form and the objective is for the student to understand the structure and rules of the language” (para. 6). On the other hand, for Schütz, language acquisition is “the product of real interactions between people in environments of the target language and culture, where the learner is an active player” (para. 3). Separately, Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching & Applied Linguistics (2002) defines second language acquisition as “the process of acquiring a second or foreign language” (p. 473). Likewise, according to the same source, learning is defined as “the process by which change in behavior, knowledge, skills, etc., comes about through practice, instruction or experience and the result of such a process” (p. 298). From both definitions provided, one can understand that the differences rely a good amount on the circumstances that lead to acquiring or to learning a language. Learning is related to the study of the language and the teaching process involved in it, while acquisition is related to natural exposure and a meaningful interaction between the instructor and the learner, especially when both are interacting in a foreign- speaking environment. That is the reason why, for the benefit of this research, the process of Language Acquisition has been considered as a key term rather than learning, since acquisition should be the final goal of every EFL program.
Once the concept of Second Language Acquisition has been defined and briefly analyzed, it is important to highlight that, as well as in any other process, there are external and internal factors which might influence the way the learner acquire the language.
External factors are related mainly to the social environment around someone learning a language, which contributes positively or negatively to the way the learner is going to develop the listening and speaking skills, as well as the level of input that the learner receives -considering that there is no way to know a language without appropriate input (Ellis, 1997). Among these external factors one can find extrinsic motivation and its causes, which usually range from performance motivated by avoiding some kind of punishment to performance motivated by the chance of obtaining some reward, like good grades, stickers, or teacher approval (Lepper, 1998; as cited in Arnaldi, 2009).
Among some of the most prominent internal factors which influence Second Language Acquisition are learner intrinsic motivation. As Arnaldi (2009) suggested, learners are likely to experience intrinsic motivation if they associate their positive results to factors they can control, like effort; if they believe they play an important role in the development of the activity; and if they get motivation toward long-term skills they can get, instead of temporal performance, as the required to get good grades. Also, Ellis (1997) points out the fact that “Learners possess cognitive mechanisms which enable them to extract information about the L2 from the input” as another intrinsic factor which is crucial for SLA.
Teacher talk has been widely accepted to be one of the most important features inside a traditional EFL classroom. Several authors have helped locate teacher talk as the means of providing students with input in the second language, especially when the possibilities for learners to communicate in the L2 outside the classroom are limited - as in the case of countries where English is not spoken as a second language. Even though their theories are likely to be argued, it is not possible to deny that they have had a huge influence on language schools, research streams, and teacher training programs all around the world. As far as input is concerned, one of the most influential authors is Stephen Krashen and his work on second language acquisition. Therefore, some of his ideas are going to be exposed next.
Stephen Krashen (1981) poses that L2 input, and input alone is the sole cause of second language acquisition. Krashen believes that L2 is acquired through the learner’s efforts to understand the language, rather than the efforts to use it. He continues arguing that it is the teachers’ responsibility to provide students with a wide variety of language, even if this is beyond the learner’s present capacity to understand.
However, Krashen also considers the idea that not any kind of input is enough to be useful for L2 learners, but that this input should be ‘comprehensible’ (2003). For him, comprehensible input is not only the necessary, but also the sufficient condition for language acquisition to take place since it does not require effort on the part of the learner. Although Krashen’s ideas have been widely accepted and influenced language instruction, there are some factors about his arguments that raise a number of convenient questions regarding L2 acquisition and learning. When Krashen refers to the ‘comprehensible input’, he also states that this input should be compelling and authentic (2011). That is to say, a teacher who is talking to a class should make all efforts possible to make his output comprehensible and interesting (e.g. through non-verbal language, visual aids, special intonations, adapted language, etc.). Nevertheless, whether that kind of input can still be considered as ‘authentic’ or not is a question that becomes relevant to discuss.
Robert O’Neill (1994) raises “The question of ‘authenticity’” to inquire either those “extremists [who] argue that no language can be ‘real’ because of the very fact that it is used in a classroom [as well as others who] argue that classroom language is as real as any other language” (Jones, 1982, as cited by O’Neill, para. 1). He expresses the opposition of these two points of view by posing the following question: “How 'authentic' does teacher-talk have to be? Have we not been told that the only way to prepare students for authentic language is to expose them from the very start to 'authentic language'(sic.)” (ibid.)
If this idea of the input’s authenticity is to be considered literally, that would imply that L2 teachers should talk to their students in the same manner they would do with a native speaker of the language, even if the students’ proficiency level is just at a basic level. This idea is widely considered and appreciated by teachers of English as a second language, perhaps explained by the teachers’ anxiety of achieving early communication within the classroom. This, many times, is a mere illusion and only becomes an opportunity for the teacher to practice his or her L2 speech under the hope that their students will ‘pick up’ utterances. Here again, Krashen’s influence comes to evidence when he states that “our fluency in production is based on what we have ‘picked up’” (Krashen, 1981, p. 2); however, many forget that this process, especially in a language classroom, takes place only through active communication.
As far as real-life communication is concerned, it cannot be denied that speakers “make concessions to the people they are speaking to or with” (O’Neill, 1994). This means that speakers, when addressing a listener, will try to use the language they think the others will understand. Rhetorical devices (e.g. metaphors, hyperboles, similes, etc.) are used every day, in every communicational context in order to focus on information that is assumed to not be known. For instance, an e-mail written from a doctor to a colleague might not use the same language as used when addressing a patient. A good writer does not take for granted that all of his readers have domain on the vocabulary he is using, especially if he is writing about a specific topic which requires a high quantity of technical language; in this case, he would first attempt to clarify some concepts, to provide some definitions from a general to a particular extent, etc. Also, parents use a simplified form of language often called 'motherese' (as expressed by O’Neill) at the moment of talking to their children.
In other words, what all of the previously mentioned examples try to express, is that ‘authentic’ language diversifies extensively in style, form and content, so the people intended to be the listeners are able to comprehend. The definition of ‘authentic’ ought to depend considerably on the question ‘authentic for whom?’ in the sense of speakers taking into consideration who is going to be the addressee of the communicative act. In conclusion, it is not denied that teachers should try to use authentic and naturalistic L2 inside the classroom as much as possible, becoming an important part of the learning process, as it provides students with input. However, for this English to be really ‘authentic’ it needs to be influenced by the fact that in an EFL classroom teachers are not addressing possessors of the full native-speaker code. A real authentic language is the one that considers all the previously mentioned factors.
Student Talking Time (STT) is the time learners spend talking rather than the teacher in the class (Siddiqua, 2009). For its treatment within the framework of this research, it is important to clarify that STT will be considered strictly as the talking time in the target language (L2). In an English-as-a-foreign-language context, the consideration of STT can carry several benefits, especially as far as self-reflection about the teaching approaches are concerned.
Regardless of the numerous, hard-wired theories that place Teacher Talking Time as the most important factor within the EFL classroom, several contemporary authors have started to give STT a considerably greater role, many times regarding it as an essential factor for the acquisition of a new language. Next, some of these authors’ contributions will be exposed in order to discuss about the importance of STT.
Jeremy Harmer (2001) puts emphasis on the importance of STT claiming that, “getting students to speak - to use the language they are learning - is a vital part of a teacher’s job” (p. 4). He continues by adding that students are the ones who indeed need practice in the L2, not the teacher. EFL Teachers should make sure that TTT is not overly used, leaving enough room for STT to take place. Besides, Leo Van Lier (2001) claims that an effective learner-centered L2 classroom should provide an environment in which students can contribute to learning activities and maximize their use of the language (p.103). Moreover, when asked about the bad results of Chilean students in English, Sergio Bitar, former Minister of Education stated in a 2007 interview that “The answer is a lack of interest, a shortage of qualified teachers and too few opportunities for students to practice English” (Dowling, 2007).
STT provides a number of possibilities in a language classroom; as Jim Scrivenger (1994) suggests, “students can learn to speak by speaking” (p. 85). This speaking has to be produced in a L2 context, so this issue becomes even more relevant in an English-as-a- foreign-language (EFL) classroom, in which the opportunities to practice verbal communication outside the classroom are significantly, if not absolutely limited (Paul, 2003). However, even when STT is considered to be so important, teachers may not deny the fact that it takes place in a much lesser degree than expected, being fairly often replaced by something that some teachers love, but others are deeply afraid of: silence.
There may be various reasons why a student chooses to keep silent in the EFL classroom. Some of the most common are: the fear of making mistakes, the desire not to ‘stand out’ classmates (becoming too noticeable among others), a disconformity on how s/he sounds in English, the time that is needed to think, lack of interest, or simply a bad day. As mentioned, some EFL teachers seem to love the idea of silence inside the classroom, even fostering it, whereas others share a profound fear of silence, as it represents emptiness, or an unproductive use of time.
Reconnecting with the issue of authenticity, this silence also falls in category of what usually happens during real communication outside the classroom. Apart from highly formal situations such as meetings, courtroom, etc., speakers are generally able and do choose when to speak and when to remain silent; they do not expect someone else to determine for them.
In this sense, Rod Bolitho (2006) claims that high-quality talk frequently includes thoughtful silences. “If a teacher puts a good question ‘into the air’, students are likely to need time to consider and formulate an answer” (p. 3). According to him, the type of silence which can take place after a good question is "educationally valuable because it promotes thinking, and if it happens frequently, students will come to understand it and make use of it as a time for them to order their thoughts and to find the right way of expressing them” (ibid.). Under this point of view, silence is not to be considered always as a bad aspect within the EFL classroom; it can be a rather positive thing, as long as it later triggers meaningful oral communication.
Norah Morgan and Juliana Saxton (1991) tried to address some silence times as essential parts of oral production:
Quality thinking time is filled with the energy of curiosity which will be balanced by the energy of thinking and feeling. Active silence speaks as loudly as words. An interrupted silence is equal to interrupting a speaker; thought is part of verbal expression and exchange. (p. 80)
In short, teachers need to be conscious that as well as not every utterance is beneficial for the class, not every silent time is a sign of lack of progress and production, especially in the EFL class where students need to think and put an order to their stream of thought so as to be able to provide an answer or contribution.
However, the authenticity of the silence is not, in any way, a sign that a classroom should be silent at all; especially when it is an EFL classroom which is being called into question, in which an excessive amount of silence can have various negative effects, as it is the absence of L2 oral practice.
Whether TTT or STT are good or bad for the acquisition of a foreign language can be extensively argued. However, several authors have attempted to point out both their positive and negative effects. Next, some of the most influential ideas will be discussed.
According to Steve Darn (2007), the increased development of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) has brought a methodology which emphasizes communication in the classroom and, as a consequence, the idea that the teacher’s presence in the classroom should be reduced. Darn continues by stating that “Many training courses based on CLT insisted that teacher talking time (TTT) was counterproductive and that teachers should reduce TTT” (Why reduce TTT? para. 1). Some of the reasons he gives to support his statement are:
- “Excessive TTT limits the amount of STT.”
This point can be easily exemplified through the Chilean educational reality. According to MINEDUC (2012) the averages of students per class in Chile are as follows:
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Table 1. Number of students per class (Average)
In spite of the fact that the average number of students in Chilean classrooms is 32, encountering a class with 40, or even 45 students is not difficult. These numbers are much higher than the OECD group members, which have 21 students per class as an average, and even higher than the 15-18 students recommended by some authors to be the ideal (Ehrenberg, Brewer, Gamoran, & Willms, 2001, as cited in Dockendorff, 2013). However, taking into consideration an average of 32 students per class, a teacher spending 30 minutes talking out of a 60-minute class would be allocating a scarce maximum of 56 seconds of L2 practice per student. A 45- student classroom would decrease that time to barely 40 seconds per student as a maximum (not even considering the high amount of time spent in administrative or disciplinary matters).
- “Student under-involvement inevitably leads to loss of concentration, boredom and reduced learning.”
An excessive amount of TTT results in a monotonous interaction pattern in which students have no role but to be recipients of sound stimuli. These stimuli usually expands from the average attention span, which in youngsters, is rather short. Ineluctably, students lose concentration and prefer to focus on other things that may be more attractive for them (para. 4).
- “TTT often means that the teacher is giving the students information that they could be finding out for themselves.”
Grammar rules, definitions, meaning and pronunciation of words, etc. are items which not necessarily a teacher needs to provide, but that students could also find on their own. According to Darn (2007), there may be no indication of students’ understanding, due to teachers’ explanations being often difficult to follow, tedious and full of terminology (para. 4).
- “Learners take no responsibility for their own learning.”
According to several authors5, learner autonomy is a highly relevant element for the learning process. It involves even more importance when the acquisition of a foreign language is concerned. If there is too much TTT, and consequent little STT, it means that the teacher is constantly dominant and controlling, therefore learners’ responsibility for their learning is withdrawn, being the teacher the one who decides what, when and how students are supposed to learn. Motivation to learn and be involved at this point is dramatically reduced, hindering at the same time the whole acquisition process.
As well as the fact that there are several counterproductive aspects of the relationship between TTT and STT, there are also several positive features enclosing. These aspects vary on their influence and the area they affect, nevertheless influencing the process of L2 learning and acquisition as a whole. Some of the positive ways TTT and STT relate are as follows:
- Input: As Krashen (1981) - and many others - have stated, Teacher Talk in the L2 can be the primary source of auditory input for students. It is able provide learners with an opportunity to listen to proper English structures and pronunciation, which would be ideally acquired with time, and eventually, be reproduced. An external recording, video or any kind of audiovisual aid can be always used for this purpose inside the classroom; however, when a fully proficient L2 speaking teacher takes place, these tools become a mere ‘aid’ and do not necessarily play an indispensable role on providing accurate samples of the target language.
- Classroom Management: A class with several students needs to have a sense of order. The teacher is usually the only person inside a classroom who is able to enforce classroom rules, behavior, and respect among all of its participants, which in turn, may facilitate Student Talk.
- Activity guidance: Apart from managing the class’ behavior, Teacher Talk is also a manner of supervision on students’ learning process. The teacher can lead more complex classroom activities to their fulfillment, which, in a non-guided context, would be noticeably difficult for students to carry out.
- Using solicits: Finally, Teacher Talk has an intensive influence on Student Talk when the teacher makes use of solicits - i.e. eliciting responses from learners. This could be the paramount point for Student Talk in an EFL classroom, since the majority of learners would not manifest the initiative to speak by themselves. Teachers encourage participation in the class by nominating specific students, sometimes referred as ‘personal solicit’; as well as by simply looking around or asking open questions, referred as ‘general solicit’ (Allwright and Bailey, 1991, as quoted by Santiago, 2010).
The issue of how much TTT vs. how much STT should take in an EFL classroom has been addressed by several authors over the last years. Many have tried to achieve consensus, though it is fairly difficult to agree on a ratio or percentage which could be expressed as the ‘perfect amount’. Next, some of the most influential ideas regarding the relationship between Teacher Talking Time and Student Talking Time are going to be exposed.
According to Thomas Baker (2012), Vilfred Pareto was an Italian economist who was born in 1848. Throughout his life he developed the idea that several events somehow display an 80:20 ratio. That is to say, that in many life situations, the 80% of the events are a result from 20% of the causes. Pareto came to this conclusion by, for instance, observing that in 1906, “20% of the people in Italy owned 80% of the land” (p.5). Moreover, he also observed that 80% of the peas in his garden were contained by 20% of the pea pods. Commenting on this, Baker states that “It seemed wherever he looked, this 80-20 rule seemed to repeat itself.”
(ibid.) This, in words of Mark Newman (2011) became a common rule of thumb6 in, for instance, the business area where: "80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients” (p. 11). The mainstream predominance of this principle and the fact that “many natural phenomena have been shown empirically to exhibit such a distribution.” (Newman, 2011, p.11) made Pareto’s rule of thumb inadvertently expand to almost any area which could be analyzed statistically; and the analysis of classroom interaction was not the exception. On this, Baker (2012) thoughtfully commented “Isn’t there a rule of thumb that teachers are supposed to speak something like a ratio of 20:80? Don’t we call this the 80/20 Rule? … From someplace, somewhere, somehow - that number is hardwired into my brain” (p.3). This statement clearly exemplifies the way that perhaps a whole generation of teachers used to think. They started to be conscious about Talking Times inside the EFL classroom, and the human necessity of tying down even to most subjective of variables into quantitative data made them accept this principle as valid with no further question.
Baker (2012) finally came to the conclusion that in a real life context, that ‘rule’ is highly difficult to fulfill. He finalizes his book Teacher Talking Time by stating that:
Rather than set an arbitrary goal for how much time the teacher speaks and how much time the student speaks, it might be more beneficial for both teachers and students to be guided by common sense, speaking as much as necessary, as little as possible. (p. 29)
He does not deny that an 80% of STT and a 20% of TTT would be a beneficial interaction ratio, however he does give some space for common sense, in which a teacher should try to minimize his oral interventions in order to foster students’.
Nowadays, the belief that and 80:20 ratio is not much accepted as it used to be. Nonetheless other researchers have come to reinforce the idea that there some kind of referential consensus regarding the issue of Talking Times in the classroom can be made. Claudia Pesce (2008) has addressed the matter several times, writing articles exposing her ideas and the ones of other fellow colleagues. She again refers to the term rule of thumb when stating that “students should speak for 70% of the class time, while teachers speak for the remaining 30%” (para. 3). According to her, these values can be modified in cases where learners might be absolute beginners, in which she suggests a 50%-50%. Moreover, she adds that in the case of advanced learners in need of thorough speaking practice 90% - 10% would be an ideal ratio (being the former STT and the latter TTT). This means that in most cases, “teachers’ participation should be limited to giving instructions and explaining essential points, but above all to eliciting response from students and facilitating all types of speaking activities” (ibid.).
If teachers are to diminish the amount of time they spend speaking inside the classroom, it would absolutely detrimental for a class group to do it only by stopping any communication attempt. Instead, what needs to be adjusted are the ways in which teachers conduct their talk, making it comprehensible, and meaningful for learners. Also, the activities that are developed in class need to be thought to develop communication among the group Some of the main ideas that could be beneficial for teachers to consider when addressing the issue of reducing TTT are:
1.8.1 Eliciting: Drawing out language rather than providing it all the time.
1.8.2 Concept Checking: Checking students understanding by asking open questions rather than yes-no questions.
1.8.3 Drilling: Helping students repeat correct and meaningful utterances, even though it can be considered a little monotonous at times.
1.8.4 Pair Work and Group Work: Setting up pair work and team work are the tools by excellence in order to diminish TTT in order to foster STT.
The implementation of some of the previous techniques in the EFL classroom can facilitate not only the decrease of TTT, but also its optimization and the increase of STT.
Once the theoretical implications that concern the study of classroom interaction, oral production, Second Language Acquisition and Talking Times have been exposed, it is pertinent to judge and take a standpoint regarding what theories are applicable to our Chilean educational reality and are really advantageous for achieving the goal of proficiency in a second language. In order to do this, a discussion of the most important theories and implications applicable to the issue of TTT vs. STT will be carried out in the following chapter.
The following section contains a thorough, more critical analysis towards the most relevant aspects of the topics that have been addressed in Chapter 1 of this research. Even though some previously mentioned ideas might be opposite, or others might not necessarily present a theoretical contradictive equivalent, some local perspectives and thoughts considered significant for the reality of the Chilean educational system are going to be exposed.
Throughout the development of this research several theories regarding oral production and talking time in the classroom have been exposed. They have described both the negative and positive effects and uses of Teacher Talking Time and Student Talking Time. This piece of research is not going to state that one is better than the other in order to facilitate the acquisition of a foreign language. Nevertheless, if the ideas about a learner-centered classroom (Van Lier, 2001, p. 103), learning by doing (Scrivenger, 1994, p. 85), and being active learners rather than passive learners are considered, one main conclusion can be obtained so far: Teacher Talking Time needs to be reduced as long as Student Talking Time is fostered.
It would become of no help or contribution to encourage the reduction of Teacher Talking Time just because. After all, as Krashen (1981) has suggested, Teacher Talk is an important source of input which, when it is comprehensible, is an essential part of the learning process, especially for young learners. However, the fact that TTT is essential for young EFL learners does not necessarily mean that this is true for older learners. Theories like the Silent Period Hypothesis (Krashen, 1985) are valid only in the early stages of the acquisition process when learners are building up language competence through active listening and processing the language they are exposed to. Although older learners are also constructing and they continue receiving new language all the time, the productive factor needs to be considered and implemented, since it is indispensable for a complete acquisition process. That is why, especially in the later stages of the acquisition process, Teacher Talking Time needs to be reduced; not because it is a negative or counterproductive aspect for the acquisition process, as Steve Darn (2007) suggested. However, TTT ought to be reduced only because Student Talk is even more important to be favored.
Next, some ideas on how to decrease TTT and increase STT are going to be discussed.
If teachers are to diminish the amount of time they spend speaking inside the classroom, it would be absolutely detrimental for a class group to do it only by stopping any communication attempt. Instead, what needs to be adjusted are the ways in which teachers conduct their talk, making it comprehensible, and meaningful for learners (O’Neill, 2009). Also, the activities that are developed in class need to be thought to develop communication among the group.
As a result of these considerations, a set of activities addressing the issue is going to be presented. These activities’ main purpose is to provide opportunities to practice verbal communication in a L2 context, since the opportunities for EFL learners to do so outside the classroom are highly limited, if not inexistent (Paul, 2003). Consequently, and in order to be carried out, these activities require previous presentation of specific language points, assuming that students have been already introduced to the target language to be practiced.
The activities presented have been chosen under a rationale, according to the ideas exposed by several authors in the theoretical framework of this research paper. The most relevant of them include the following considerations:
- Communicative Tasks: Presenting similar situations to real life for students to
understand, adapt, produce and interact in the L2 with emphasis in meaning rather than form (Nunan, 2004).
- Attention to the level of language complexity (graded language); usage of appealing and familiar topics, close to the student’s context. (Khadidja, 2010, p.13).
- Social relationships through classroom interaction: sense of learning community fostered, and isolation reduced (Khadidja, 2010, p.17).
- Communicative efficiency as the goal of speaking in a language context: using language with a purpose (Bilah, 2009, para. 2).
- Authentic classroom language: making concessions by using language appropriate to the level of the listener (O’Neill, 1994, para. 1).
- Student involvement as a way to fight loss of concentration, boredom and its inevitable consequence of reduced learning (Darn, 2007).
- Learner autonomy and responsibility for their own learning (Darn, 2007)
- The importance of a classroom environment in which students can contribute to learning activities and maximize their use of the language (Van Lier, 2001, p.103).
- Learners can learn to speak by speaking (Scrivenger, 1994, p. 85).
For the scope of this research, all of the previously mentioned ideas surpass in importance to the ones claiming that STT is not necessary (i.e. Krashen, 1981). As it has been argued in the section 1.7 of the Theoretical Framework, there have been attempts to quantify and agree on a fixed ratio between TTT and STT. They have given different approaches and ideas; however, the one thing they agree is that STT needs to take a more important role inside the EFL classroom. That is the reason why the author of this research paper has decided to study the issue; to gain understanding on different perspectives and to provide an insight for teachers of English as a Foreign Language into a many times forgotten area of didactic language teaching development.
Next, as an attempt to help the English teaching community address the issue of increasing STT, a comprehensive discussion of a set of activities compiled by the author will be developed.
This section will develop a discussion of the activities presented in Chapter 3: Proposal. This will include useful considerations for teachers regarding each activity, comments from the author and possible variations and their consequent effects to the development of the activities. It is important to mention that all the theoretical implications regarding the development of a learner-centered classroom and the fostering of Student Talking Time presented in the Theoretical Framework of this piece of research are directly linked to the most relevant factors of each activity.
Activity 1: Complete the Drawing
This activity can be considered as a follow up and controlled practice of previous instruction on topics as the kitchen (though it can be interchangeable for any other topic and setting), and language functions as asking for directions (Where’s the…?) or asking closed, yes/no questions (Is X…? Are Xs…?). Taking this into consideration, this activity could be carried out by almost any level of proficiency above elementary, since it involves a limited amount of language functions and vocabulary. However, the author of the activity suggests an Intermediate to Upper-Intermediate level. Here, the reader should consider the notions of graded language (Khadidja, 2010,) exposed in the theoretical framework of this research.
This kind of controlled practice, when reinforced and encouraged periodically, can become a highly effective and successful way to engage students in speaking independently in a safe communicational environment.
The teacher’s role in this activity is basically of a monitor. The only time the teacher would need to spend speaking would be when either explaining the rules and/or demonstrating how it needs to be done in order to assure full comprehension of the task, apart from minor corrections on pronunciation and form when needed. However, with this activity students are encouraged to make use of their talking time independently focusing more on communication rather than in grammatical accuracy. Therefore, correction, if needed, is advised to take place at the end of the task as part of a follow up discussion and feedback.
Activity 2: “I Think I Know You”
This activity is recommended for any age group that could have the level to produce the language points involved. It would be best suitable for a lesson at the beginning of the academic year, since it would help break the ice among students and get to know each other better. It can also be used as a warm up activity, since it involves pair work and whole class sharing. Students’ engagement is boosted, since they can see that the protagonists of the activity are themselves and their abilities, habits, and possessions, becoming an appealing and familiar topic for them (Khadidja, 2010). A possible will to give a good impression to others is expected, as it would be with any instance of social relationship. This would encourage them to listen very carefully to their partners, and make an extra effort to give proper answers (ibid.).
The teacher’s role in this activity, again, is of a monitor. The teacher spends time speaking when either explaining the rules and/or demonstrating how it needs to be done in order to assure full comprehension of the task. Also, the teacher can circulate the classroom checking that they are involved in the activity, encouraging speaking in English, solving doubts, and providing help with vocabulary as necessary.
Correction needs to be dealt with in a highly sensible way. Students are encouraged to make use of their talking time independently, focusing more on communication rather than on grammatical accuracy (Nunan, 2004). Error correction can be made during the activity if spotted, when students are writing down the information (especially for the questions), or a after they have finished sharing their answers with the class. Teachers are advised not to correct and interrupt students while they are speaking out loud, since that would be detrimental for the communicative purpose of the activity, affecting students’ confidence as well their engagement to produce the language orally
Activity 3: “What’s the Time Mr. Fox?”
This activity is not an intensive communicate task, but rather an activity intended to provide a relaxed and enjoyable setting for practicing short utterances as the ones for asking and telling the time. The fact that a lot of movement is involved in this activity should make students focus on the kinetic component rather than on form, grammar, etc. Consequently, this encourages acquisition of grammatical points in a fun and unconscious way. This activity meets the criteria for students to be able to achieve intrinsic motivation toward speaking, since they will see that the activity’s success will depend more on the amount of effort they put, rather than on fixed skills and abilities (Arnaldi, 2009), apart from the long-term acquisition that will come through the drilling of specific utterances, rather than temporal performance required by, for instance, graded tests (see section 1.4.3).
Although this activity’s grammatical challenge is reduced, and could eventually be suitable for any age group between the beginner and elementary level, it is recommended to be used in younger settings, since the topic and mood of the activity could be less appealing for older students.
Activity 4: Back to Back
This activity is a mingle-type pair work game. This means students walk around the classroom randomly, and at the teacher’s signal they get together with the person next to them, and start talking. It is a great activity to be used as an ice-breaker, or as a wrap up activity of a lesson or unit talking about clothes and/or physical appearance. The fact that students are asked to observe and memorize their classmates’ appearance instil the feeling that it is their capacity to memorize the one that is being put to test, rather than the real purpose which is to get them speak and practice the language points related to clothes and appearance (Nunan, 2004).
Since this is a more open, freer activity than the previous ones proposed, students’ involvement is boosted, and consequently so is learning as well. (Darn, 2007). Also, the use of a familiar and context appealing topic can encourage participation, and a real will to perform well. Considering that this activity involves a lot of classroom interaction, a sense of learning community is fostered and communication is developed through social, meaningful interactions (Khadidja, 2010).
Activity 5: A day in the life of…
This activity includes the development of not only the speaking skill, but also some writing, reading and listening skills; however, the focus is assigned to speaking. Therefore, minor mistakes or problems in writing, for example, should not be addressed with the same attention as the ones in reading aloud and speaking. This derives directly from what Nunan (1994) defined as communicative task, since the main purpose is to deliver a message that can be understood by others. Consequently, as long as communication flows and the message can be delivered and received (which will be seen on how well the student in front performs the actions he is being told), focus on mistakes should not interrupt the development of the activity.
Another interesting point to consider in this activity is the classroom authenticity that can have a leading role. Since the students are the ones who create the story to be acted out by the protagonist, it is highly likely that they will not use language that is above their levels of proficiency and understanding. Therefore, these involuntary concessions toward the language used in this activity may assure that the language used is appropriate to the level of the listener (O’Neill, 1994), fostering at the same time learner autonomy, since the teacher would not need to intrude or set linguistic or lexical boundaries to what the students could say (Darn, 2007).
Activity 6: What do you think of if I say...?
This activity could work great as a summary of a whole unit, semester, or even an academic year, since it includes extensive revision of vocabulary such as adjectives, and nouns related to them. Even though this activity is closed in the sense that the communicative extension and vocabulary (adjectives) are limited to the type of interaction set by the topic of the handout, the vocabulary (nouns) needs to come from students’ knowledge, which gives a freer feeling to the activity. However, the fact that the interaction is limited could give students a feeling of “security” in the sense that they will not be asked things that are beyond their level of understanding (O’Neill 1994), so they can feel that the activity can succeed by making personal effort (Arnaldi, 2009).
An important point to consider in this activity is the probability of silence. As Bolitho (2006) argued, high-quality talk frequently includes thoughtful silences. Since this activity requires students to elicit vocabulary from their partners, it is normal that the ones asked may need some time to think of the word in English. However, teachers are encouraged to not put pressure and accept this silence not as lack of interaction, but rather as an “active silence” needed in order to produce quality language (Morgan and Saxton, 1991).
A discussion of the activities that make up the proposal of this piece of research has been carried out. However, a more detailed and technical exposition will be done in Chapter 3: Proposal. It will include a breakdown of the main aspects of each activity in a lesson plan style. By this, teachers willing to carry out any of the activities proposed in this piece of research are going to be able to have easy access to them and their implementation.
Activity 1: Complete the drawing1
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1) Student A receives a handout presenting a drawing of a kitchen. Half of it contains drawings of pots, glasses, and other kitchen utensils, objects and furniture; the other half does not contain the objects mentioned. Student B receives the same drawing but with a variation: the opposite half of the picture is left without any of the pots, glasses, etc., and the other half with them. (See Annex 1)
2) Teacher explains that Student A has to help Student B (and vice versa) place the various objects by telling him/her where to put them. If necessary, mimic a n example with another student. After this, and making sure everyone understood the instructions, the teacher walks around the classroom monitoring that students are working and producing in English. Besides, he/she may provide help when necessary.
3) Student B may ask the question “Where is/are the X?” (or, in a variation, ask “Is X + Prep. of place + the Y?”), but they must not see each other’s drawing. Student A can answer “The X is/are + Prep. of place + the X/Y.”, or in a variation, “Yes it is/they are - No, it isn’t/they aren’t”. (X=kitchen objects/utensils, Y= kitchen furniture/places)
4) Student A has to answer accordingly; e.g. “The teapot is on the table”, while student B draws the object where he/she heard from his/her partner.
5) After student B has completed his blank half of the drawing, Student A starts asking questions in a similar way as done by Student B in order to complete his/her own drawing.
6) Once both students have finished completing their drawings, they both compare them and do self/peer correction of the less accurate answers.
Activity 2: I think I know you2
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1) After an introduction of the activity, which can contain explanation and modelling of the activity, the teacher arranges the class into pairs; preferably, with students who usually do not sit together all the time or do not know each other very well working together.
2) Students are given 3 to 5 minutes to speculate, according to the phrases in the handout, about their partners and fill in with the information they think is true for them. Students complete the column under the label “Your answers: yes or no” (See Annex 2).
3) After they have finished speculating, students are told that they are going to see how accurate their speculations were by asking the questions to their partners and writing down the answers. Teacher mentions that the first four statements use the verb to be, the second four use have got, the third four use can, and the last four statements use do, so the questions and the answers should be in agreement to the respective verb. Use concept check questions if necessary to assure understanding.
4) Students start asking each other and filling in the blank spaces under the label “Your partner’s answer: yes or no”. Each student has 5 minutes to get all the answers from his/her partner.
5) Once students have gathered all the answers, the teacher tells them to pick 5 facts that surprised them about their partner. For a whole class round up, each student is asked to share these facts using the third person: My partner can’t… He is… He doesn’t… etc.
Activity 3: What’s the time, Mr. Wolf?3
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1) One student is chosen to be the wolf. The wolf stands at the front of the class with his/her back to the group that is standing at the back of the room.
2) The group calls out “What’s the time, Mr. Wolf?”
3) The wolf turns and shouts out a time (e.g. “It’s 10 o’clock”).
4) The group takes the same number of steps as the hours in the wolf’s time (e.g. in this case, ten steps).
5) The wolf turns back again, and the group repeats the question. At any time the wolf can answer with “It’s dinner time!” The group now has to run back to the start. The wolf chases them and tries to catch someone. If the wolf catches someone they become the wolf and the game continues.
Activity 4: Back to back
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1) While the music is playing (or the teacher is clapping/singing), everybody walks around the room observing and trying to memorize other people’s clothes, hairstyle, etc.
2) As soon as the music stops, each student pairs up with the person standing nearest and they stand back to back.
3) Taking turns each of them makes statements about the other’s appearance/clothing, using phrases like “I think you are wearing a blue shirt”, “You are wearing brown shoes”. The other student responds to confirm if his/her partner’s guess was right or wrong.
4) After no more than 2 minutes the teacher plays the music again and all partners separate, mingling.
5) Steps 1 to 3 are repeated as many times necessary, depending on the amount of students and how well the activity has developed (Four or five repetitions are generally advised, though).
*Optional: Teacher might bring props in case students wear uniforms.
Activity 5: A day in the life of…
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1) The teacher divides the class into groups of 4-5 students (depending on the amount of them).
2) One member of each group is chosen randomly to be the protagonist of a story to follow. Each protagonist is asked to leave the group and join the one next to his/hers to help and replace the protagonist who has just left. Here, the teacher needs to make sure students understand this part of the activity organization. If the teacher sees it is not the case, he/she may indicate or lead students take their respective sits.
3) Each group starts building and writing down a schedule of what they decide their protagonist’s day was like yesterday; from waking up to going to bed. Ideally, a
number of 6 to 8 actions need to take place. Students can be realistic, but may also make use of their imagination to create funny stories. Teacher monitors and provides help with vocabulary/ideas if necessary.
4) After all the groups have finished creating the schedules for their protagonists’ previous day, each protagonist starts coming in front of the class (one at a time). Protagonists’ groups will start narrating the story of their days, one student at time reading aloud one sentence, and protagonists will have to perform the activities as funny as they can. The day can be introduced as “This is a day in the life of Nicolás”, for example. *It is important to mention that after the protagonist has performed, he/she should not come back to his original group, but to the one in which he helped create the story, so he/she can also take part in narrating the story for the next protagonist
5) Optional: The teacher can increase students’ engagement/motivation by setting up the context of a movie set, or Hollywood. They would be super stars and the one who performs the better would win an Oscar (Teacher prepares an Oscar-like award, or a symbolic prize. This absolutely depends on each class group, teacher, and context).
Activity 6: What do you think of if I say…?4
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1) Students receive a copy of a gapped handout in which they need to provide certain vocabulary.
2) Student A asks Student B “What do you think of if I say…?” using the adjectives provided in the handout. Student B has to answer “I think of…” and mention the first thing that comes to his/her mind that has to do with the adjective mentioned. For example: “What do you think of if I say ‘blue’?” - “I think of the sky.”
3) Once Student A has finished asking, Student B repeats step 2, asking Student A. Optional: Students take turns per each question instead of Student A asking them all at once, and then Student B doing the same.
4) For a whole class wrap up, the teacher can organize a mini presentation of students telling the class what their partners thought of. This time would be a perfect occasion for giving constructive feedback and positive reinforcement.
This research paper has delved into a relatively innovative topic for the TEFL community, and a definitely not much regarded one for the Chilean national educational context. For years there has been the assumption that teachers should speak most of the time in class and students should remain silent. This belief probably comes from the teachers’ feeling that the longer they speak, the more they are doing their job. This piece of research has not stated that Teacher Talking Time is bad or detrimental for English language acquisition; moreover, it has stated and agreed that it is beneficial for students’ L2 acquisition to receive a wide variety of input in a ‘safe’ environment (Krashen, 1981). However, a key point of disagreement has come to light with classic TEFL researchers as Stephen Krashen (1981), who states that input is the one and only cause of successful Second Language Acquisition. This paper proposes that input is not the sole ingredient for SLA, but that oral practice and production (i.e. output) also play an essential role for the acquisition of another language. Learners can learn by speaking and making mistakes, not only by listening all the time (Scrivenger, 1994). This trial and error process deriving from practicing the language, even when full proficiency has not been achieved, follows a natural pattern in which learners take an active and participative role as they would do in any other life situation. That is why, when regarding the issue of STT vs. TTT, most authors have proceeded to suggest different ratios (ranging from 90%-10% to 65%-35%) which, although they differ depending on the age group, proficiency level, amount of exposure to the L2, etc., are all in favor of a more considerable amount of STT over TTT.
Therefore, it is the EFL teachers’ responsibility to provide their students with as many opportunities to practice their speaking skill as possible, especially considering that most EFL learners never have enough opportunities to practice speaking in English with others outside a formal environment like it is an English class in an educational institution. That is why this piece of research is considered relevant for the EFL teaching community, since it raises awareness of the issue of how much of their speaking time the teachers sacrifice in order to allow or encourage their students to speak in the L2 instead. This awareness should have a direct impact on the way teachers start thinking, planning and designing their lessons, classroom activities and interaction patterns. The author of this research believes that this impact could benefit teachers and learners in providing valuable L2 oral practice for students, with the consequence of an increased speaking performance naturally originated from the emphasis put on conveying meaning and communicating rather than on form and grammatical accuracy (Nunan, 2004).
Finally, apart from the benefits that the awareness about the issue could bring, a set of specialized activities has been presented in order to help teachers reduce their TTT and increase the STT present in their lessons.
Taking all the previously mentioned ideas into account, it can be said that this paper’s research questions have been answered, the objectives have been met, and the hypothesis has been confirmed. Teacher Talking Time and Student Talking time have a direct impact on Second Language Acquisition. On the one hand, Teacher Talking Time is an effective way of providing students with L2 input and setting up the class in terms of rules, behavior, and development of tasks. However, many times it is used in an excessive way. On the other hand, Student Talking Time is an essential component of the EFL classroom that should be paid much more attention. The main reason is that most of the times students’ only instances to practice communicating in English is inside the EFL classroom with a teacher or other classmates, and practice is of primary importance when developing any skill, as it is the speaking skill.
Recommendations for Further Research
There are several aspects that this research topic could derive into, as well as investigative lines in which researchers may want to pursue further research taking this paper as a starting point. One of them is to diagnose different classroom realities regarding Talking Times in the EFL classroom by performing a Field Study, a Case Study or even Action Research. Through any of the three types of research previously mentioned, researchers could gain an insight about the actual ratios of relationship between Teacher Talking Time and Student Talking Time in the EFL classrooms, and confirm whether they are given in an appropriate ratio or not (according to what has been suggested by previous research). Also, investigators could do research about teachers’ awareness of TTT vs STT, their perception of how much time they think they talk in their lessons, and whether or not they feel it is a correct amount. This could help build a correlation between their perception about talking times, the actual ratios taking place in their lessons, and the ratios suggested by research. Researchers may also continue designing and adapting activities that reduce the amount of TTT and increase the amount of STT. However, most relevantly, classroom interventions may be carried out in which teachers implement the activities presented in this research paper and later evaluate speaking (formally or informally) in terms of students’ results in speaking tasks, amount of Talking Time, their attitude towards speaking in English, and whether they feel more confident and motivated to continue speaking in the English language. Finally, it is important to mention that throughout the development of this research paper, a lack of solid, serious and widespread research in the area, regarding the specific topic of TTT vs STT, has come to evidence. Therefore, continuing doing research on the matter would always contribute, at least little by little, to strengthen the theoretical foundations for the development of future, more extensive research regarding TTT vs STT up to the point where someday it can become an aspect of prime consideration in every Teaching of English as a Foreign Language instruction program.
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1 Cambridge Dictionaries Online (2013) defines ‘Globalization’ as “the development of closer economic, cultural, and political relations among all the countries of the world as a result of travel and communication becoming easy.”
2 2013 English Curricular Bases. Some citations and paraphrased ideas taken from MINEDUC documents have been translated from Spanish to English by the author. The names of the documents have been left untranslated since they are titles of big relevance and public knowledge among the Chilean teaching community.
3 ‘SIMCE’ stands for ‘Sistema de Medición de la Calidad de la Educación’ (Quality of Education Measurement System). In this case, the Chilean Ministry established an English SIMCE.
4 Groepe, 2009; Mwishineike, 2009; Yohannes, 2009; Nomlomo, 2007; Langenhoven, 2005; Bamgbose, 2005; Heugh, 2003; Mwishineike, 2003; McKay & De Klerk, 1996; Sentson, 1994.
5 Benson & Voller, 1997; Benn, 1976; Dam, 1990; Holec, 1981; Thanasoulas, 2001.
6 Oxford Dictionaries define rule of thumb as “a broadly accurate guide or principle, based on practice rather than theory.”
1 Adapted from Watcyn Jones, P. (1997). Pairwork 2. Penguin.
2 Taken from Watcyn Jones, P. (2002). Pairwork 1. Penguin.
3 Adapted from Feinber, M. (2009). TESOL A: Games. ICTE - UQ.
4 Adapted from Watcyn Jones, P. (1997). Pairwork 2. Penguin.
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