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In more details, the organization of this report provides (a) an overview of the context within the information gap activities were implemented, (b) literature review of the innovation and evaluation, (c) the implemented innovation, (d) evaluation of the innovation, and (e) conclusions and pedagogical implementations.
2. Teaching context
The study was conducted at high school located in the suburb of Ho Chi Minh city. The research was done with the participation of thirty nine grade 10 students. They all have been learning English since they were in grade 6. Most of them are competent at their level. However, there are several students need further support so that they can catch up with their classmates. It is very nice to know that they are all very well-behaved and respect their teacher.
The core textbook for grade 10 is the book English for Grade 10 complied and produced by the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training. According to the schools' timetable, grade 10 students have three English lessons per week, each of which lasts in 45 minutes. Within that time allowance, teachers have to present many aspects of language, especially grammar and vocabulary- the main focus of the syllabus. Therefore, the speaking lessons are often neglected and the time allocated for speaking lessons is limited to only one period every two weeks.
To some extents, the method of teaching speaking skill at the school has been reformed and improved. However, the trace of conventional teaching methodology still exits. The evidence is that teaching grammar is heavily focused though it is in a speaking lesson. The students concentrate on taking note the grammar patterns rather than on speaking. As a result, these students find it hard to communicate directly with foreigners and even express themselves in English. Many students seem to isolate themselves in the speaking lessons. Whenever they speak up, they end up as the laughing stock of their classmates. When being asked to speak, many other students leave the opportunity to the other good and active students. They often keep silence or show their reluctance to join the discussion in front of the classroom. Therefore, the wonder of how to help students learn in a more communicative language environment and how to motivate students to take part in speaking lessons urges the teacher conduct this research.
II. LITERATURE REVIEW
1. Theory regarding the innovation
Speaking skills in communicative approach
In real life, people do not speak without a reason. The most common reason is that one person has a piece of information that is unknown to the other(s). According to Lewis and Hill (1985), every classroom should have a specific linguistic purpose. All nature language use has a purpose- to give information, to express ideas, opinions or emotion. However, a closer look at what goes on in the classroom where traditional language teaching methods dominate reveals that much of the language practice does not have a purpose in this way. Isolated utterances are intended to encourage the students to produce grammatically accurate sentences without a real communicative purpose.
The communicative approach, on the other hand, emphasizes communication as an essential element in the use of language instead of the mastery of language use.
Among recent concepts for making communicative language teaching a reality that of information gap has perhaps been the most widely employed.
Information gap activities and its benefits
According to Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistic by Richards, Platt and Platt (1997:179), information gap is "a situation where information is known by only some of those present". Sharing the same idea by Harmer (1998:88), information gap is stated ad "where two speakers have different parts of information making up a whole. Because they have different information, there is a "gap" between them."
In classroom, the aim of communicative activity is to get learners to use the language they are learning to interact in realistic and meaningful ways, usually involving exchange of information (Scrivener, 1994:62). Therefore, the same kind of information gap should be created in order to encourage genuine information. In classroom term, an information gap means that "one student must be in a position to tell another something that the second student does not already know" (Johnson & Morrow, 1981).
According to Norman, Lewis and Hedequist (1986), the important role of information gap activity is also stressed as "a step away from formal practice towards an activity which more closely mirrors the use of language outside the classroom".
When designing the tasks for communicative classroom, Nunan (1989) had an interesting and accurate view on the role of information gap activities as he stated that "information gaps can act as a nucleus around which a range of other task and exercise types can be constructed".
According to Raptou (2002), information gap activities satisfy all of the criteria about the characteristics of a successful speaking activity offered by Ur (1996): learners talk a lot, participation is even, motivation is high, and language is of an acceptable level.
Given more details, the reasons why the teacher researcher chose information gap activities as a new speaking teaching method as she discovered that this kind of activities upholds a number of benefits.
First of all, information gap activities help increase students' motivation for speaking. In information gap activities, one side has a certain thing that must be shared with the other to solve a problem, gather information or make decisions. As there is a real need for communication, students are likely to produce in target language. Students' motivation for speaking will be increased since they talk for themselves, for their own shake. Moreover, information gap activities are often designed according to the form of games, which is said to stir and maintain students' interest and motivation more easily. Competition, the necessary element of every game, will motivate students to eagerly speak in the target language more and more.
Releasing students' inhibitions is the third value of information gap activities. Students will be less intimidating when they speak in front of the whole class as these activities are mainly carried out in the form of pair work and group work. Pair work and group work are proved to be the effective way to provoke quite students into talking. Actually, when students are with one, two or three other students, they are not under so much pressure as they are asked to talk in front of the entire class. The inhibitions of learners who are unwilling to speak in front of the full class will be lowers as a result.
Last but not least, information gap activities may help improve students' ability of negotiating meaning. The foundation of information gap activities is based in information gap. Taking part in such activities, students have to try to convey information to one another and reach mutual comprehension through restating, clarifying and confirming information. Students are forced to negotiate meaning because they must make what they are saying comprehensible to others in order to accomplish the tasks. If students do not know how to convey the needed information, their task will certainly fail.
For all above- mentioned things, it is understandable that the ways to apply information gap activities in teaching and learning English are being paid more and more attention by both teachers and learners.
2. Theory regarding the evaluation
Definition of evaluation
There is a fact that in everyday life, evaluation is an important part so that we can be able to carry out our daily tasks such as investing, shopping, healthcare and so on in an effective way. In terms of education, it can be stated that evaluation is also an integral element. Without a productive evaluation, it is hard to know if teaching has been effective, what students have gained, whether their learning needs have been addressed.
However, the definition of evaluation holds a lot of controversies.
To some educators, evaluation is related to measurement and scientific investigation. The others define it as the assessment of how specific objectives have been gained and as the act of providing information to support decision-making process for the stakeholders (Worthen & Sanders, 1998).
Evaluation was theorized by Murphy (2000) as a research-based process to determine what has worked successfully and what areas for improvements are. He also highlighted that in order to gain a beneficial evaluation, the evaluators need to put it in the context in which it is used.
Purposes of evaluation
Evaluation can be conducted to serve a number of purposes.
Evaluation for the purpose of accountability is referred to summative evaluation. Summative evaluation is conducted at the end of a unit or programme with a view to finding if the grogramme has achieved its targets. In other words, it this type of evaluation focuses on the overall outcomes. Meanwhile, evaluation for the purpose of curriculum development is mentioned as formative evaluation. Formative evaluation is undertaken to judge the worth of a programme while the programme is in progress. This type of evaluation concerns about the programme's process and development (Murphy, 2000). Evaluation for teacher self-development or illuminative development is carried out to expand teacher's knowledge about teaching and learning process in the classroom. This type of evaluation definitely does not focus on the measurement and product, but concerns the process. Therefore, it is also considered as formative and developmental evaluation (Re-Dickens & Germaine, 2001).
However, since the environment of each classroom includes many things such as the textbooks, the social organization of the class, class arrangement, teaching and learning resources and so on, the evaluator must be definitely clear about what is being examined (Re-Dickens & Germaine, 2001).
The need for material evaluation
As teachers, they often face with the difficulties of choosing appropriate materials or activities to help their students develop the target language the best. According to Ellis (1997), there are two major ways that teachers can conduct this kind of evaluation. One depends on evaluations undertook by "expert" reviewers. Some of them even provide a specific set of criteria for evaluating materials. Nevertheless, the criteria sometimes can be vague, objective and do not fit certain individual teaching and learning context (Ellis, 1997).
As a result, there is a need to evaluate materials retrospectively. A retrospective evaluation is designed to inspect materials that have actually been deployed. Such an evaluation tells teachers the worthiness of materials, which activities work and which do not, and how to adjust the materials to make them work more effectively in the future.
However, planning and collecting the required information for material evaluation can be an overwhelming process as they are time-consuming. To solve this problem, Ellis (1997) suggests that a series of micro-evaluation can be carried out to contribute to a detailed empirical evaluation. In a micro-evaluation, teachers select one particular teaching task or activity to examine and submit it to an empirical evaluation of materials.
Also according to Ellis (1997), a micro-evaluation of teaching materials may be conducted the best when it is related to "task". As cited in Ellis (1997), Skehan (1996) defined task as an activity focusing on meaning and including some kind of relationship to the real world. Therefore, information and opinion gap activities are considered as "tasks" (Ellis, 1997).
Procedures to evaluate a task
Ellis (1997) points out seven steps involving in a task evaluation.
- The first step is to choose a task to evaluate. Teachers may select a very similar task to determine whether it works as well as they expect. In other cases, a new kind of task may be picked up in order to see how this innovation works in their classroom, successfully or ineffectively.
- After that, teachers need to describe the task's objectives, input, conditions, procedures, intended outcomes clearly and explicitly.
- Planning the evaluation is the third step. This part includes a number of important questions that the evaluator needs to keep in mind (Alderson, 1992 as cited in Ellis, 1997):
+) Purpose (Why?): The task is evaluated to see whether it has reached its
objectives or to discover areas for improvement.
+) Evaluator (Who?): The evaluator is the teacher conducting the task or an
+) Audience (Who for?): The evaluation is conducted for the teacher's
development only or for sharing the findings with other colleagues.
+) Content (What?): The evaluation examines students' attitudes and
opinions about the task, the outcomes, process and products of the task or
the extent to which any learning or skill has happened.
+) Method (How?): The teacher uses tests, observation, self-report or a
written product of the task.
+) Timing (When?): The evaluation is conducted before the task is used,
during the task (formative) or after the task has been completed
(summative) immediately or after a period of time.
Among the six questions, the choice of evaluation content is the most significant as it will decide the type of the evaluation, whether it is a student-based, response-based or learning-based and the ways of collecting data accordingly.
- Collecting the information for the evaluation comes next. Again, this stage can be done before, during or after the implementation of the task.
- When necessary data is gathered, the evaluator can analyze the date in two ways- qualitative or qualitative. Quantitative evaluation makes use of tables, charts and numbers. Meanwhile, qualitative one is presented by narrative description of the information demonstrated by protocols or quotations.
- The sixth step in evaluating a task is to withdraw conclusions about to what extent the purposes of the task have been met or in what ways the tasks have been effective and ineffective. The evaluator also recommends some implications to better use the task in the future in this step.
- The last step to evaluate a task is to write the report. Ellis (1997) notes that writing a report of an evaluation is not necessary; however, the evaluator will get a deeper understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the evaluation if he/she creates a report.
The choice of micro- evaluation
There have been arguments that teachers have always participated in evaluating the tasks or the activities they conduct. Consequently, the kind of micro-evaluation is not necessary (Ellis, 1997). However, regarding the research and evaluation purposes and the learning and teaching context where the teacher is working, this kind of evaluation perfectly matches.
Micro-evaluation encourages the kind of reflection that is believed to handle teacher development as it assists as one way of undertaking action research (Richards & Lockhart, 1994 as cited in Ellis, 1997).
The time for the research is limited in the period of two months. Therefore, a small-scaled of evaluation is ideal to the teacher-researcher. Besides, the above suggested procedures especially help the researcher to determine exactly what she wants to evaluate and how she can do it.
Most significantly, micro- evaluation can function as a form of "professional empowerment" (Ellis, 1997). The evaluator of this study is the teacher teaching the task so the teacher may feel have the power to make decision and control over her research and evaluation.
III. IMPLEMENTED INNOVATION
1. Innovation- What was it?
The teacher researcher would like to implement information gap activities into speaking lessons for grade 10 students.
2. Innovation purpose- Why was it done?
Recently, the economic renovation in Vietnam has given English the role as one of the crucial keys to its regional and global interaction. The demand for the English-speaking people who can be competent to communicate verbally with the outside world has been increasingly urgent as a result. English now is therefore a compulsory school subject and of all the four skills, speaking seems to be the most significant. Unfortunately, in Vietnam's high school there is an undeniable reality in learning English: most of high school students may remember hundreds of lexical units and tens of grammatical rules but hardly produce long and fluent utterances. That is the consequence of the traditional language teaching methods like the Grammar- Translation one applied in Vietnam for ages. However, the recent developments in English learning and teaching methodologies have changed their focus from language knowledge to language use in order to develop students' ability to communicate in the target language. The duty of teachers of English is certainly more challenging in a way that they need to actively engage students in enjoyable and communicative-approach based speaking activities (Raptou, 2002). To be aware of this practical demand of language teaching is the first reason why speaking skill has been chosen as the subject for the innovation.
During the research in the ways to encourage high school students to speak English in a more communicative way, the teacher researcher has discovered that information gap activities are a great solution. In many classes in Vietnamese high school, teachers and students exchange with little communication value because teachers often spend a large proportion of class time asking "display" question for which they and their students already know the answers. It is an unrealistic use of language. However, being involved in information gap activities, students are exposed to situations where one of them has some information and other does not; consequently, there is a need to communicate. This kind of activity was remarked as "a key to the enhancement of communicative purpose a desire to communicate" (Harmer, 2001). Johnson and Morrow (1981) also noted information gap activities as one of the most essential in the whole area of communicative teaching. Without information gaps, classroom activities will be mechanical and artificial (Richard, Platt and Platt, 1992). Being aware of the important role of information gap activities, the researcher finds it extremely necessary to deploy these kinds of activities so that her students can bridge themselves with genuine communication. Reaching this target is the second reason.
The third reason for implementing this innovation is that the teacher researcher desired to adopt information gap activities as a new teaching and learning method in order to improve the teaching and learning practice.
3. Innovation process- How was it done?
Firstly, the researcher needed to get agreement for conducting the study from the school principal in advance. When the permission had been obtained, an invitation was sent seeking participation from 39 students and permission from their parents as the students are all under 18 years old. Fortunately, the research was fully supported by all students and parents involved. After that, over a period of two months, the researcher used four information gap activities in four separate speaking lessons so that she could see how students reacted to this method of learning speaking and whether or not these activities could motive her students to involve more into speaking lessons. The activities were carefully chosen and adapted from different sources of books.
Activity 1- Practical situations
The objectives of this activity were that students would be able to ask and give directions to a certain place. It was conducted in 15 minutes at the practice stage after the teacher introduced the theory of how to ask and give directions.
The students were put in pairs, one was student A and the other was student B. Each pair received a same map but some of the places on their maps were left blank differently. They had to ask each other questions in order to complete their map (see Appendix 1 for Activity 1 handout). The idea for this activity was borrowed and readjusted from the book "The practice of English language teaching" of Harmer (1995).
Activity 2- Information gathering activity
This activity aimed at helping students ask and answer questions about music. It was conducted in 15 minutes at the practice stage after the teacher introduced some adjectives and expression to talk about music and the importance of music.
The teacher asked students to form groups of three. One of them would be a journalist who wanted to interview high-school students about their music taste. The journalist had to ask the other two students some questions and filled in the table for his/her later article. Students would then change their roles (see Appendix 1 for Activity 2 handout). This activity was altered from the book "Five-minute activities" of Ur and Wright (1993).
Activity 3: Role play
Activity 3 targeted at improving students' ability to ask for something at a market/shop and the price of items. Time limit for this activity was 10 minutes. It was also carried out at the practice stage.
Students sat in pair. One student was a customer and had a shopping list, the other was a shop assistant and had a list of items in the shop and their prices. They were not allowed to look at each other's paper. Student A tried to buy the things on her list and student B would give her the prices for needed items (see Appendix 1 for Activity 3 handout). This activity was modified from the book "Teaching English" of Doff (1989).
Activity 4: Jigsaw activity
The purpose of activity number 4 was to assist students make suggestions, express their opinion and ask for confirmation. 15 minutes was the time span for this activity. It was used as a warm-up activity.
The teacher picked up a story from the textbook with six sentences. Each sentence was printed on a separate strip of paper. Each student received one strip and was asked to show his/her sentence to the others. He/she had to memorize it within one minutes. After one minute all the strips were collected. In four minutes the groups had to work out the correct sequence of the story without writing anything down (see Appendix 1 for Activity 4 handout). This activity was adapted from the book "Keep talking communicative fluency activities for language teaching" of Klippel (1984).
IV. EVALUATION OF INNOVATION
1. Evaluation purposes
The general purpose of the evaluation was to supply the teacher- researcher- evaluator useful information on the innovative application of information gap activities as a basic for future teaching and learning practice improvement. This overall mission could be broken down into three primary objectives relating to the influence of the innovation on learners and the benefits and obstacles while implementing information gap activities in the classroom. The aims were recapitulated as below:
To value the students' attitudes and reactions to the use of information gap activities.
To assess the effectiveness of information gap activities in motivating students to learn speaking.
To identify practical problems while implementing information gap activities.
2. Data collection methods
To evaluate the effectiveness of motivating students to join speaking through information gap activities in the classroom, the teacher wanted to know the impacts of information gap activities on the learners and what progress they gain. Particularly, the teacher would like to see whether through information gap activities, her students would feel more motived and interested in learning speaking, which, in Vietnam, is usually considered nerve-racking rather than enjoyable.
In order to achieve above objectives, the evaluator focused on the perception and attitudes of the students as well as what students gained through their learning with information gap activities. Three prime data collection methods were deployed.
For each information gap activity, the researcher observed the class and noted down students' performance and reaction onto the observation note paper (see appendix 2). After the implementation of the information gap activities, a post-class survey was conducted to elicit students' feelings and attitudes towards information gap activities and their difficulties in while joining this activity (see Appendix 3). The researcher also interviewed fifteen students orally with a view to better understanding their expectations, problems and progress in their motivation for speaking (see Appendix 4). Each student who agreed to join the interview was asked to read and sign into an informed consent form in advance. Participants who consented to be interviewed were given the opportunity to view the basic interview schedule prior to the interview in order to have time to consider their responses. Each interview was conducted in less than 10 minutes and written down by the researcher with the hope that more meaningful replies could be encouraged, which, in return, would provide rich data.
3. Data analysis
The evaluation resulted in three types of qualitative data- observation, survey, and interview. The results were sorted into three subgroups, (a) students' reactions, feelings and attitudes, (b) students' increase in motivation and (c) unexpected problems.
a. Students' reactions, feelings and attitudes
The majority of the students was willing to participate into the information gap activities. The observation notes showed that during four introduced activities, most of the students collaborated and interacted quite actively.
This result went in line with the survey and interview outcomes. The majority of students stated that they liked to join this type of speaking activities very much. 34 among 39 students expressed their contentment after the activities and wanted to join more activities like those as they said that the information gap activities "helped them to practice English in a meaningful way" and they found the activities a helpful tool for their speaking learning. Thirteen students mentioned that they liked the supporting features of information gap activities since these activities were conducted in pair work or group work. Nine interviewees said that they "felt less stressful" because they "had a partner to practice and present conversations with".
Nevertheless, there were typically four or five students who seemed to separate themselves from the activities. When asked to join their peers, some students showed their reluctance to enter the activities; some said they just did not like to join the activities. The oral interview later revealed that they found these activities were a bit hard for them; they were "not confident enough" and "still not sure what to do" (interviewee 2, male).
Regarding students' preference for each information gap activity, the majority said that they liked the activity 2 the most. This is because it "related to one of the most popular hobbies of students- music". They liked to "share and know more about their friends' taste of music" (interviewee 4, female). Some of them liked the role-play activity because they found it easier to "express themselves from behind the mask of being someone else". The activity 4 gained the least favor. The majority stated in the questionnaire that this activity "caused a lot of noise", so they could not concentrate on their task. Also, some students "found it hard to memorize the sentence in one minute as there were some new words they did not know".
b. Students' increase in motivation
The initial purpose of the innovation was to motivate students to speak more in the classroom. Therefore, it was significant to know if how much the students were motivated to speak while joining information gap activities. However, the action research was carried out in a limited time of four speaking lessons during two months, so it was hard to assess to what extent the students gained an increase in their motivation for learning speaking.
Nonetheless, the observation date notified that the majority of the class was enthusiastically involved into the four implemented activities. Once the teacher gave the signal to start the activities, they quickly turned to their partner(s) or grouped themselves as told. The class became as boisterous as a market. It was very encouraging to see even the quite students distributed their involvement into these activities.
It was also promising to find out from the survey that the majority of the respondents said they were motived more to speak out their thoughts and ideas through information gap activities. This is because they realized that information gap activities were very meaningful and useful. They said that it was because they were "equally got involved into the activities" and each of them had a specific task of "discovering the missing piece of certain information" so they learnt in a more communicative environment. Twenty students mentioned that since these activities required interaction and cooperation between students they were even motivated more by their classmates' encouragement and support in order to reach the mutual objectives of the activities. These activities also gave students chance to "practice the language that learners may encounter outside classroom". Only three students said they were "still shy" and had difficulty in expressing their thoughts and opinion.
In the same way, most of the interviewed students agreed that their motivation for learning speaking was greater since they actively participated in these activities. One interviewee shared that he felt more confidence to talk to foreigners. Once he went to a local market and assisted two foreigners to know the price of the fabric they desired to buy when he witnessed their difficulty in communicating with the seller.
c. Unanticipated problems
At the beginning, the teacher-researcher hypothesized that if speaking learning became more dynamic with activities like information gap activities, students would rarely encounter any difficulties. However, observation of students' performance on the activities, post-class survey and interviews displayed that sometimes information gap activities generate obstacles for both teacher and learners.
Applying information gap activities in the classroom sometimes did not succeed due to the lack of cooperation among students. Information gap activities are conducted in the form of pair work or group work, so they require a lot of cooperation among participants. The observation note of activity 2 showed that one group in the class had a trouble at the start as they had an argument of who would be the journalist first. As a result, this group couldn't manage to complete the activity on time.
Besides, information gap activities cannot be successful if the teacher does not clarify the tasks and roles of students clearly and check students' understanding of activities' outcomes and procedures before students start the activities. Some students mentioned in the survey that activity 4 was totally new to them and they did not know how this activity went and what procedures they had to carry out. Fortunately, some of the other students helped them out by re-explaining to them. Since then, the activity went smoothly.
Another difficulty related to using information gap activities for teaching speaking was that while discussing the activities, some students usually spoke in Vietnamese instead of English. From the teacher's own experience, it is very hard to totally prohibit the use of first language in classrooms when teaching speaking. One unpreventable thing when applying any activities in teaching speaking is that students speaking the same language prefer using their mother tongue to English. Even advanced learners in the class still sometimes discussed with each other in Vietnamese.
Overall, the teacher- evaluator came to the following encouraging outcomes:
The innovation had an overall positive response from students. The majority of the learners showed enjoyable feelings towards the information gap activities and expressed their favor with these activities and desire to take part in more activities like those.
The innovation had a valuable impact on students' confidence and motivation to express themselves in English. These activities have been recognized as being motivational and interesting by most of the students as these activities encouraged the meaningful communication and cooperation in the classroom.
To some extents, the objectives of the innovation were successfully met.
The major limitation of the study stemmed from the fact that the results of this study were based on a small sampled population of grade 10 students at a high school in Vietnam only. Therefore, the generalization of the findings may be restricted to groups of students who share the same characteristics. Other populations with different native languages, educational and cultural backgrounds may not find the study appropriate.
Another shortcoming of the research was that timeframe for the study was too short and the number of applied information gap activities was very limited. Therefore, the result of this study may not reflect the real situation of learning speaking through information gap activities in more details.
Since the research was conducted in the qualitative approach, the data analysis process was quite time consuming and complicated. Actually, it took more time to collect and analyze the data in comparison to quantitative research.
Besides, since the study and evaluation were carried out by the teacher only, the results may be influenced and misrepresented by the researcher's personal viewpoints and interpretations.
5. Recommendations for further study
The exploitation of communicative activities to develop speaking skills for high school students remains a wide area to research. Further study may focus on other aspects such as how to involve all students in speaking lessons or ways to motivate students to speak more. In addition, grade 11 and grade 12 students are also important participants needed to be paid attention to so that they can gain better speaking ability.
Moreover, this research should be duplicated on a larger number of participants involving. Other potential factors which could impact the reaction and attitudes of the involved participants such as learning styles or gender should also an emphasis for future research.
Besides, it might be worthwhile to examine further how to maximize the use of information gap activities to help students develop their speaking skill more.
Speaking English in a more communicative way and motivating students to speak more is a real big challenge at many high schools in Vietnam. During the research on the way to deal with this problem, the researcher has found out that information gap activities are a great tool. However, the use of such kind of activity has a faded result in Vietnam. Desiring to fill this gap urges the researcher to conduct the study entitled "Learning speaking through information gap activities".
The results of this study show that information gap activities are effective in motivating students to speak more within a more meaningful language environment. The majority of the students engaged actively and enthusiastically into the activities as they felt less pressure and were encouraged and supported more by their classmates.
Therefore, the role of information gap activities in teaching and learning speaking cannot be denied. Nevertheless, regarding the teacher's own context and other like it, she would like to recommend the following implications with a view to better deploying these activities in the future.
a. Before the activities:
- Before choosing an information gap activity, it is vital that teachers should put their students' language level into serious consideration. The reason is that if the activities are under or above their language level, they may lose their interest when they find out that the activities are too easy or too hard to be accomplished. The activities then are just a waste of time and effort.
- Teachers should give students a careful guidance. They can introduce the activities by describing the situation and making sure that all students understand it. Teachers should make sure that students can use the necessary language structures and words properly. A few sample sentences on the board may be helpful to the less able students. For the challenging activities, teacher should model a part of the conversation with a good student.
- Setting a goad or outcome is a need. The teacher should make sure that students understand what the product of the activities are, whether a plan, a schedule, a group opinion or some other products.
- Teaching aids (cards, flashcards, pictures, mapsâ€¦) for the activities should also be taken a great deal of attention. Teachers should make sure that the materials are available, visible and attractive to motivate and involve students more into the activities. Sketchy and illegible cards or pictures surely depress students' interest. If using role play, the role cards or cue cards should describe the person or the roles to be played very clearly.
b. During the activities:
- Teachers should allow students to work at their own levels. Each student has individual language skills, an individual approach to working in groups, and a specific role to play. Therefore, the teacher should not expect all students to contribute equally to the discussion, or to use every taught language points.
- Teachers should let students suggest topics or choose from several options to share the opinions. It is unnecessary that discussions have to be about serious issues. Students are likely to be more motivated to take part in if the topics are stuffs they concern or are interested in such as television programmes, fashion styles, favorite sport, or interesting film/book.
- More attention should be paid by teachers to the less able students. Teachers should give them more support and encouragement during the activities; other while, they may feel very discouraged and do not want to participate.
- Teachers should move around and give the instant support for the students, especially to help solve the disagreement or serious conflicts of students.
- Teachers should not ban the use of the first language totally as it may result in the frustration from students.
c. After the activities:
- After the activities are over, the teacher should give feedback on students' performance and summarize key grammatical points so that the students can gain a deeper impression on the activities.
- If time allows, ideally, after each information gap activity, teachers should let students reflect their fresh thoughts and impression on the activity they have joined by speaking out or noting down on a small piece of paper.
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