Types of Communicative Activities Used in English Language Teaching

The communicative approach encourages learners to use all the English pieces they know or can recall, without fear of failure and try to express themselves with basic accuracy and fluency to reach their purpose.

“Thus classroom activities typically have some of the following characteristics:

  • They seek to develop students’ communicative competence through linking grammatical development to the ability to communicate. Grammar is not taught in isolation but often arises out of a communicative task, thus creating a need for specific items of grammar.
  • They create the need for communication, negotiation and interaction through the use of appropriate activities.
  • They provide opportunities for both inductive and deductive learning of grammar.
  • They make use of content that connects to students’ lives and interests.
  • They allow students to personalize learning by applying what they have learned to their own lives.
  • Classroom materials typically make use of authentic texts to create interest and to provide valid models of language.” Richards (2006; p. 23-24)

The most common types of communicative activities used in Romania during the English classes are:

Information-Gap Activities
An important aspect of communication is the notion of information gap. This refers to the fact that in reality, people normally communicate in order to get information they do not possess. This is known as an information gap. In order to reach their purpose, students use all their knowledge in English, usually in authentic situations with different purposes which become personal goals.
Example 1: finding the differences between two pictures or asking and giving information about a timetable

Jigsaw Activities
These are also based on the information-gap principle. It can be done with students working individually or in groups; each group has part of the information needed to complete an activity. To complete the task they must communicate and fit the pieces together. Of course, communication must be done as in real life, meaningfully and with a constant time pressure
Example: put the paragraphs/ the pictures in the right order
Jigsaw activities match many curricular areas as scientific texts can be adapted as they follow a logical structure.
Science: the life cycle of a plant
Geography: the water cycle

Task-completion activities
They encourage students to develop strategies for communication: rewording, requesting, clarification, questioning, giving and following simple, clear instructions, clarifying or describing. They take the form of puzzles, games, map-reading, and other kinds of classroom tasks in which the focus is on using one’s language resources to complete a task.
Task-completion activities can be used for both consolidation and evaluation. They involve a series of steps and their completion helps students feel motivated and aware of their progress.
Example1: find the way on a map or dictate and write a text (“Wall dictation” as proposed by Scrivener in his Learning Teaching )

Information-gathering activities
Can be student-conducted surveys, interviews, and searches in which students are required to use their linguistic resources to collect information.
Example: Find someone who…:

Opinion-sharing activities
These are activities in which students are encouraged to compare values, opinions, or beliefs; they are also encouraged to express themselves, to exercise public speaking, to surpass shyness.
Example: ranking six qualities of themselves,  decide on the four most important objects you couldn’t imagine your life without (“The pyramid” as proposed by Scrivener) or decide on which side you are and share your arguments on different topics (the use of technology, the importance of recycling)

Information-transfer activities
“These require learners to take information that is presented in one form, and represent it in a different form.” as mentioned by Nisrina Sesairiah in the study Communicative Language Learning Teaching Method. For example, in pairs, student A describes a village and student B draws a map of it or draws a picture of a place they have visited.

Reasoning-gap activities
These activities involve logical deduction skills and deriving some new information, finding similarities etc.
For example, working out a teacher’s timetable on the basis of given class timetables or organizing a goodbye party for a friend

Role plays
Students are assigned roles and improvise a scene or exchange based on given information or presentations. Examples can be drawn from the real world to the imaginary one also from literature (a business meeting, a conversation in a plane, in a shop, an interview with an alien and so on). Role play can vary into real-play or simulations.

Students should feel encouraged to speak and to improvise also. Of course, there will be problems with the shy students, but in time, if the activities are repeated and there is a positive environment they will feel more comfortable to express themselves.

It’s also important to draw attention to the mistakes made, but it has been approved that feedback should be offered after the activity. For example, the teacher can write sentences containing different types of mistakes heard in students’ conversations and ask them to come up and correct them.

As we have seen in practice, for each type, various communicative activities can be found from finding picture differences to games they can be adapted to various general contexts aiming to develop all skills and language systems. They involve discovering that missing information or an information transfer which comes as a response to a communicative need because of which students will naturally struggle to surpass. Students learn to communicate and by doing this they learn to be good teammates or good leaders, both cooperative and competitive, aware of their progress, their strengths and weaknesses.

After practicing these activities with my students, I consider them to be highly beneficial for primary students as they:

  • develop students’ communicative skills in real life contexts, from the theme to the authentic materials that are used, all aims toward communication;
  • encourage all types of learners;
  • promote originality, spontaneity and inventiveness for both student and teacher;
  • allow teachers to plan motivating and purposeful activities;
  • encourage teachers to retain the best elements of other methods and approaches rather than rejecting them;
  • can be set at all levels and ages of the students as they potent the performances of the other approaches;
  • allow teachers to develop a unique teaching strategy and their personal teaching philosophy.

For these reasons I will most certainly further use communicative activities in my practice as I consider that in time and with enough effort, they help the teacher-student team to touch its objectives

– Richards, J. C. 2006. Communicative language teaching today. New York: Cambridge University Press.
– Scrivener. J. 2011. Learning teaching. The essential guide to English language teaching. Third Edition. Oxford: Macmillan.
– Nisrina Sesairiah. Communicative Language Learning Teaching Method  https://studylib.net/doc/25303195/teaching-method-communicative-language-teaching#:~:text=Typically%2C%20the%20class%20is%20divided,part%20in%20meaningful%20communication%20practice.


prof. Nicoleta Cobianu-Șontac

Profil iTeach: iteach.ro/profesor/nicoleta.cobianusontac

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