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Any language can be acquired if one develops four basic skills in that language i.e. listening, speaking, reading and writing. Listening and speaking are interactive processes that directly affect each other. Speaking is an expressive language skill in which the speaker uses verbal symbols to communicate, while listening is a receptive language skill, which involves the interpretation of those symbols into meaning. Writing is also expressive language skill in which the writer uses  written symbols to communicate, while reading is a receptive language skill which involves the interpretation of those symbols into meaning.

Listening and speaking and also reading and writing were viewed as a separate subjects within the school curriculum and usually were taught as a number of discrete skills; however, the 1980s and early 1990s have brought another perceptive. Listening and speaking and also reading and writing are now considered interactive and taught as one communicative process. Interactive process of reading and writing skill, seen in the class, is very less. One can find more interactive process of listening and speaking skill in any type of class. ‘Machure M‘ in his book named as ‘Oracy-current trends in Context‘ (1988) termed this process as ‘oracy‘ means ‘oral communication‘ or ‘oral language‘. It includes both listening and speaking.


Willbrand M. L. & Riecke R.D. in their book named as ‘Teaching oral communication in Elementary schools‘ (1983) defined ‘Oral Communication‘ as the process of interacting through heard and spoken messages in a variety of situations. And instruction which integrates the teaching of listening and speaking over various situations has been termed „the communicative approach to language teaching.“

The communicative approach is relative new, as most of the teachers and prescribed texts separate the instruction of listening and speaking. Usually when listening and speaking are separated, specific skills are identified in each area and a sequence of these skills is established. No particular attention is given to the situation, or context, in which a specific skill is to be used, as the focus is on teaching listening and speaking and not on communication. We can develop listening skill by conducting the entire lesson in that language only. We may make use of Audio-Visual aids such as tape-recorder, gramophone etc. we may make the students to listen to Radio lessons to develop the skill. Moreover we may develop the listening skill by ear-training exercises, by articulation exercises, by mimicry exercises or by exercises in fluency. We may develop the speaking skill by giving picture lessons, by saying and doing exercises, by arranging oral composition, by developing the ideas on the topic within their range, by reproducing telling or completing a story, by dramatization, by arranging talks and discussions, by asking questions. But special attention is not given to the situation or context, in which a specific skill, listening or speaking, is to be used. When specific attention is given on a situation or a context and develop these skills we follow communicative approach.


Although no single methodology has been described for the communicative approach, several characteristics are summarized as follow. –

Communicative approach stimulate ‘real life‘ communicative experiences -:

Froese V in his book named as ‘Introduction to whole language teaching and learning‘ (1991) mentioned this characteristics of communicative approach. Learners should conduct an interview because they actually need information. In role playing process, the purpose is to learn how to formulate appropriate questions. But here, as Froese V noted these activities should not only stimulate real life experiences but, whenever possible, should actually be real life experiences.

The learning task is content-based, theme-based, project-based or some combination of the three -:

Instruction in listening and speaking, as well as reading and writing, is given within the context of handling various learning tasks, which involve learners with language. This learning task is content based according to Early M & Tang M as described in their book named as Helping ESL students cope with content -based text (1991), ‘theme-based‘ according to Candling C & Edelhoff C as described in their book Challenges (1982) and ‘project based‘ according to Fried-Booth D as described in the book ‘Project Work‘ (1986). Within the context of an interview, questioning skills can be taught. Students need the opportunity to express themselves through a variety of experiences and tasks.

Analysis of language is done in specific contexts -:

Language drills, recitation and isolation grammar exercises are not the ways to acquire any language. Analysis of language is done in specific contexts. Decontextualized language is not used as a basis for skill instruction.

The focus is not upon listening and speaking but upon using language to communicate and to learn -:

As students use language to learn in various subject areas, it becomes necessary for them to communicate with peers in large and small groups as well as with the teacher. Collaborative talk can occur between peers in quite an informal way or in more formal cooperative learning groups.

Listening and speaking skills as vehicles for learning across all subjects areas -:

Barnes D in his book named as ‘Oral language and learning‘ (1990) described that listening and speaking become valuable not only as isolated skills or groups of skills, but as vehicles for learning across all subject areas. Oral communication should be integrated with other areas of instruction.


Programs -:

Several programs have been developed in various parts of the world, which have been illustrative of the principles involved in the communicative approach to language.

Piepho H. E. & Bredella L. in their book named as ‘Contacts: Integriertes Englischlehrwerk fur Klassen‘ (1976) have been discussed a program for German children learning English which exemplified many of the core ideas. The curriculum included a camping trip with students from many European countries participating and using English as the lingua franca. Actual maps an travel brochures were read and discussed. Many text types and opportunities for various and situations were presented in the classroom including several opportunities for students to study a prototype for a class meeting. Following these experiences, a class meeting was actually held for the purpose of making important decisions regarding a trip. Oral skills were taught in context as they were needed by students. For example, the past tense of the verb was introduced when someone needed language to retell an experience.

Boggs S. in his book named as ‘Speaking, Relating and Learning -: A study of Hawaiian Children at Home and at School‘ (1986) described Kamehameha Early Education Program for Hawaiion Children based on this approach. Plattor E in his paper presented at the International oracy convention, Norwich titled as ‘Collaborative action research in listening – staff development and the teaching of oral language‘ described. ‘English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Program‘ for Junior high level Japanese students and Calgary Unquiry-Listening project in Canada are also based on these communicative approach.

The United Kingdom is moving in the direction of implementing a more communicative approach to language instruction. Cox B. in his book named as ‘Cox on Cox : A English Curriculum for the 1990s‘ (1991) rightly mentioned that the working committee, to establish a national curriculum recommended a single attainment target for the listening and speaking profile the development of pupils understanding of the spoken work and the capacity to express themselves effectively in a variety of speaking and listening activities, matching style  and response to audience and purpose.

Classroom Implementation

Little research has been done to indicate how the above characteristics might best be operationalised in the classroom, but some literature does exist on the subject.

1.  Fundamentally it is important to establish an appropriate physical and psychological atmosphere in the classroom

Instructors must be dedicated to the belief that oral communication is an important for learning and be willing to arrange classroom furniture so that talk between students in large and small groups is convenient. The psychological atmosphere should be one in which students feel comfortable and take increasing risibility for their own learning.

2.Coakley and Wolvin in their book named a ‘Listening in the educational environment‘ (1991) have suggested specific ways in which teachers effectively model listening in the classroom. So that they should follow communicative approach. These include the following –

(a)   Providing a wait time for students to answer.

(b)  Engaging in attending behaviors such as eye contact and responsive facial expression.

(c)  Giving students undivided attention when they are speaking.

(d)  Providing a supportive climate by being approachable.

(e)  Not interrupting students.

(f) Withholding Judgments until students have finished speaking and

(g)  Giving prompt and thoughtful responses to students questions.

3.Robinson S. in his book named as ‘Oral language Developing pragmatic skills and communicative competence‘ (1988) has suggested that instructors can model the use of various speaking skills within appropriate classroom settings so that they should follow communicative approach. Important conversational skills include turn taking imitation strategies maintenance strategies and termination strategies. Coakley and Wolvin (1991) have viewed one of instructor’s role as that of presenter, and with that role such practices as speaking clearly with adequate volume and engaging listeners by means of appropriate nonverbal behavior can be modeled.

4   Many authors have suggested creative activities for involving students in various kinds of talking experiences. Drama, role-plying, puppetry, debate, formal reporting and small and large group discussions have been covered in language arts text books.

5  There are two types of communicative activities that can be

implemented in the class. One controlled communicative activities and the other, free communicative activities. Controlled communicative activities include situations creation, guessing games, information gap exercises, exchange of personal information etc and free communicative activities include pair work and group work, Eliciting, Role play etc.

6   To follow communicative approach in the class, one should use workouts. Workouts are language learning and language using activities, which enhance the learner’s overall acquisition process, providing by the teacher with variety of ways through which to make this process engaging and rewarding. Samples of such workouts are presented here under different categories.

6. 1      Operations/ Transformations enable learners to focus on semantico-grammatical features, which are necessary when aiming at accuracy in language use. All learners require such predictable and controlled workouts at times if their goal is to achieve accuracy in language production an interpretation. For example element of language are added, deleted, substituted, recorded, or combined; alternative language elements are presented so that learners must make a choice.

6.2      Warm-ups/Relaxes are motivational workouts, which add an element of enjoyment and personal involvement. They can be used at various points during the session, especially when a relief of tension or a change of pace is called for. For example, games, songs, physical activities, puzzles.

6.3      Information-Centered Tasks enable learners to use the language naturally while being fully engrossed in fact gathering activities. For example, share-and-tell in the classroom, gathering information outside the classroom, treasure hunts outside the classroom, interviews with peer and others.

6.4      Theatre Games encompass all activity types, which simulate reality within the classroom situation. These workouts are especially important since they enable the language session to broaden its context beyond the four walks of the classroom. For example, improvisation (creating a scene based on a given setting or situation); role playing (assuming the role of someone else, or playing oneself in a typical situation); play enacting; story telling.

6.5      Mediations/interventions are workouts, which enable learners to experience bridging information gaps while using the target language. For example, interacting with another or others based on incomplete information; interacting with others to change their opinions; talking one’s way out of difficult situation.

6.6      Group Dynamics and Experiential Tasks are group activities which create opportunity for sharing personal feelings and emotions among learners. For example, small groups or pairs solve problems or discuss issues, which center on topics of personal concern, sharing of self and feelings rather than general subject matter topics external to self.

6.7 Problem-Solving Tasks involve learners in making decisions about issues while using the target language, enabling them to focus on the features of the activity rather than on language usage. In this type of activity, learners are involved in a ‘whole-task‘ process. For example, small group discussions around topical, political or local issues; posing a concrete problem about which the group must come to a consensus, make recommendations, and arrive a policy statement.

6.8  While similarly ‘whole-task‘ focused, workouts which involve transferring and reconstruction information emphasize cognitive uses of language. For example, following a language stimulus, often a regarding passage: transferring information from text to a graphic display such as a chart; filling in forms; providing language to complete visual display such as a cartoon or photograph; making judgement about people’s motivates and intentions; putting sentence elements in sequence (the strip story.)


As the communicative approach is adopted to language learning, methods of assessment much change. A students performance can no longer be measured solely by a predetermined checklist of speaking and listening skills, but must reflect the effective use of language in different social situations. A students performance includes the speaker’s hearer’s ability to accomplish tasks with language, the ability to communicate and interpret intentions, knowledge of the functions that language can serve; the strategies that can be used to accomplish each function, and the knowledge of constraints of various social situations. These abilities can only be observed and assessed over a variety of situations in which various performances are appropriate. Wells G in his book named as ‘The Meaning Makers: Children Learning Language and Using Language to Learn‘ (1986) has concluded after twelve years of research that linguistic interaction is a collaborative activity involving the establishment of triangular relationship between the speaker, the listener, and the context of the situation. Assessment must take place over a variety of realistic Classroom situations.


Considerably more research has been done on how to teach specific listening skills than on how to teach speaking skills. More research has defined listening either as unitary skill or a series of sub skills such as noted by Lundsteen in his paper ‘Listening : Its Impact at All Levels on Reading and the Other Language Arts‘. These sub skills include (a) selecting facts and details (b) sequential ordering (c) selecting a main idea (d) Summarizing (e) relating one idea to another (f) inference making and (g) critical listening which includes analyzing comprehension is viewed as a set of sub skills , it appears that these skills can enhance the learning of these skills. Little or no research exists as to whether these specific sub skills are needed to cognitively structure a speaker’s message, but reviews of listening research have indicated that elementary students receiving direct instruction in specific listening skills do improve in those skills. It is noted by person D & Fielding L. in their research (1983).


Scholars and researchers viewed oral communication as the integration of listening and speaking in a variety of contexts have done little to construct a theoretical mode from which to study this communication. This lack of communication model coupled with the paucity of speaking research and the fact that the bulk of listening as a writary skill or set of sub-skills rather than a complex, multidimensional skill has left the classroom instructor using a communication approach largely without a model or a research base to undergird methodology. However, if one examines the situation from the perceptive of the classroom teacher, one notices that during the course of oral communication activities such as discussions with peers students are often asked to demonstrate such subskills as the ability to summarize important points or to examine another speaker’s viewpoint when and if direct instruction is needed in these skills teachers can draw on techniques which were develop in the specific instruction of listening and speaking oral communication models need to be developed and future research needs to focus on how to operationalize the communicative approach in the classroom. As a part the research multiple means of assessment within various contexts need to be developed.

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Source by Dr.S.S.Chaugule

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