In an ideal world, TESOL teaching materials should create situations where learners need to interact with each other in ways similar to those in which they will engage outside of the classroom. Why is this so? Basically, the majority of learners who are able to communicate fluently in a second language do so by being in situations where they have to use the language for some real communicative purpose. The activities in the textbook are often inadequate, so this article will explain how to stimulate student interaction with authentic material.
Stimulating Student Interaction in TESOL
Three things are necessary for authentic communication to occur:
- Having some information we want to communicate
- Having someone to communicate with
- Having a real interest in the outcome of this communication
Fortunately, creating teaching materials that do this is not as difficult as it may appear. For instance, classic information gap and information transfer activities can be used to ensure that interaction is necessary. However, make sure that your materials also address issues such as the ‘norms of interaction’ in the situation which your materials are trying to replicate. For example, a telephone call doesn’t occur between two people sitting next to one another; how can your material add realism to your scenario?
In addition to stimulating interaction, our TESOL materials should get learners involved in exploring new language. Fortunately, material that focuses on interaction often stimulates the need for learners to stretch beyond what they can currently do. When you decide to become a material designer, try to think of ways to ensure your materials allow sufficient scope for learners to go beyond what they know and to generate new language. An example would be beginner learners working on the simple present: how could asking a question about the past get them trying to use past tenses?
Key questions for your materials
- Does your material promote interaction among learners?
- Are there opportunities to experiment and try out new language?
Watch the OnTESOL video on using songs in the ESL classroom: