Interactive communication is defined by Cambridge as “Interacts with ease, linking contributions to those of other speakers and widens the scope of the interaction and negotiates towards an outcome”. And by trinity as “initiate and participate effectively in discussion with the examiner and/or fellow group members” . It is an essential part of the evaluation scales or the majority of exam boards. But what does it mean to our students and how does it help them to achieve fluency?
As far as I’m concerned, interactive communication is what leads our students to be able to form bonds with others in their second language. This ability to form a relationship and effectively communicate with another person through conversation requires a range of skills, including suggesting, developing topics, questioning, listening to and linking information, collaborating and negotiating outcome. This skill set is one of the most difficult parts of language acquisition as it is difficult to measure. As it is not tangible, students can only improve it through practice. The key to it is collaboration with others and our students must, therefore experience real life situations in which to develop their skills. From these simulated experiences, language learners will enhance their ability to hold a situation and will also, passively learn tricks from their peers of how to work with a partner or in a team. These skills are fundamental for their future employment and social life opportunities. The key at the beginning is to focus on question formation and responding. From this point we can break down and develop the other specific skills.
Here are some suggestions of activities:
1.Starter Sentences (The use of question tags for asking questions)
This activity is simple and easy to prepare. What the teacher needs to go is give the students a set of incomplete sentences to finish with their own ideas + question tag. The students have the opportunity to improvise simple conversation and to also start using question tags (an informal way of asking for confirmation or agreement). I would always suggest a time limit or outcome to give the activity added structure.
e.g. I am keen on ….., aren´t you? I can´t stand ……, can you?
2. Time´s up!
This is an adaptation of the classic game time´s up where students need to try to use target vocabulary (speaking alone) within a specified time limit. The difference being that students work with a partner to speak for 2 minutes. The students improvise conversation for a specified time limit. The main objective of the task is to communicate with fluency and to form questions as a way of passing the turn to your partner (students can not pass over without a question or question tag and they cannot interrupt each other). The idea of the task is that when the time runs out, the loser is the person speaking as they have not negotiated towards an out come.
Using the concept of speed dating, we simulate a situation where two people need to exchange personal information in a specified time limit. This activity is about developing a conversation to include the maximum amount of content as possible. Students are to speak to a partner for 2 minutes about a topic and try to accumulate points (assigned to specific vocabulary or phrases). After 2 minutes a bell or buzzer goes off and the students need to work with a new partner.
Role-play is a wonderfully simple and effective way to simulate real life situations and also to be creative with interaction. Setting up job interviews, sales pitches (etc) can be really fun and stimulating for students. I would always suggest a time limit or outcome to give the activity added structure.
5. Hypothetical situations
Hypothetical situations are fun because they can consist of anything, for example: which super power would you choose if you were a super hero? Where would to go to if you could travel anywhere? They usually use conditional tenses to begin with but a great for giving and receiving opinions and sharing personal experiences. I would always suggest a time limit or outcome to give the activity added structure.