Students can then listen to a short model dialogue containing suggestions, with a simple task to focus their listening. (Remember, the key word is reception at this stage). For example:
Students work on the dialogue, listening to it again and completing it. For example:
This way, they are becoming more and more familiar with the structures, vocabulary and pronunciation necessary to produce a similar dialogue.
Students practise the model dialogue in pairs. (This is the start of the production stage but they are still not having to worry about creating their own dialogues.) This simple step is essential for giving students more confidence. They can practise as many times as they like, to build a solid foundation for their own dialogues.
Students can now use the above framework as a guide for their own dialogues.
The amount of support can vary from very controlled, where students use a highly structured format, such as the example Dialogue Builder in Step 3 (with only one or two lexical changes), to slightly less controlled, where they use only the questions provided as a prompt to prepare their own answers.
2 From reading to writing
How similar is writing to speaking? Of course, there are some important differences. Firstly, written and spoken language have different characteristics. Writing needs a higher level of precision and formality since it is permanent. It also demands greater clarity as the writer cannot give further explanations if the reader does not understand. This makes it necessary to work more on correct use of linkers, word order, organisation of ideas, expressions of time, etc. Secondly, writing tends to be a solitary activity, unlike speaking. Despite these differences, writing and speaking are both productive skills and a similar basic procedure for teaching both of them can be used.
The starting point once again is reception. We can give our students a short text to read (with a simple task to focus their reading). This can be used later as a model for their own compositions.
An aspect of the text can be highlighted, such as linkers, expressions of time, opinion, adjectives, etc. For example:
In this case, the focus is on word order, and students are invited to make a contrast between English and their mother tongue. By seeing this language in context in the model text, the use and importance of the language point are made clear.
The new language point can then be practised using a controlled exercise such as the one below:
This reinforces the language and gives students confidence to use the new language point in their own writing later.
Give your students a task which will require them to write their own text, but in a very guided, structured context. For example:
Students can use the model text as a construction frame for their own texts, and this gives confidence and security.
Speaking and writing are probably the hardest skills for our students to feel confident and competent in using. Putting this reticence down to a lack of effort or unwillingness on the part of the students would be unfair, as it does not take into account the real hurdle. Students need confidence, knowledge and familiarity with the language to be able to create their own dialogues and texts. Very often they want to run before they can walk, but easily lose confidence when they stumble.
The road to becoming a fluent speaker and writer of English is a long and arduous one, but in using the receptive skill as a springboard towards production, we are paving the way by building on the strengths and the skills they have already acquired. With the use of clearly structured model dialogues and texts, we are able to offer our students the necessary guidance, help and confidence to take their first, decisive steps towards producing English for themselves.
(Examples taken from the Macmillan Secondary Course 1&2)