In Common - How to Teach Simple Present #1 (Classroom Activity)

By Suzanne W Woodward
Materials: Worksheet 1
Dynamic: Whole class
Time: 20 minutes

1. Create a worksheet, perhaps by using the blank Worksheet 1, by listing your students’ names in the left column. Another way to do this is to use the attendance list, block out everything but the name column, then draw lines across.

2. Give each student a copy of the handout. Instruct students to cross out their name and the names of any absent students.

3. Instruct students to circulate and find one thing they have in common with each other student on the list. They must find a different thing for each student. For example, Soheyla might write:
Juan: We both like sports.
Maria: We both have dark hair.
Akiko: We both have two older brothers.
Kimtien: We both drive a car.

4. When two students have discovered something in common, each writes it down on the line next to the name of the student he/she is talking to. In the above example, Soheyla writes We both like sports next to Juan’s name, and Juan writes it next to Soheyla’s name.

5. When they have finished, the students sit down. Ask which verb tense they used most often (simple present) and why (facts). If the students cannot provide these answers, give them clues by soliciting some of the sentences they wrote down. Ask if these are true statements, etc.

6. For fun and to learn more about the students, ask individual students at random what they have in common with someone on their list. (It would take too long to go over all the answers.) You may want to collect the papers to use as a source of information for preparing other activities or exercises.

NOTE: This is a good culmination game at a lower level, after completing the present tense chapter. It also works well as a review for higher students to see if they remember why they use the present tense.

Worksheet 1
In Common

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Speaking in the Framework of Communicative Competence

By Irfan Nugroho (
The discussion of speaking a foreign language (especially English) usually begins with the explanation of communication. Indeed, it is because one of the main goals of language teaching and learning is to reach ‘the ability to communicate’ (Dalton-Puffer, 2009: 197; and Labov in Rasool, 2008: 469). Communication is defined by Richards and Schmidt (2002: 89) as:
            “the exchange of ideas, information, etc., between two or more persons. In an act of communication there is usually at least one speaker or sender, a message which is transmitted, and a person or persons for whom this message is intended (the receiver). Communication is studied from many disciplinary perspectives, is often viewed as a discipline in its own right, and is central to sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, and information theory.”

Simply people may assume, after reading the above definition, that speaking is merely about communicating ideas to receiver. Speaking a second language (L2), however, is considered ‘the most challenging of the four skills’ because it consists of an intricate process of constructing meaning (Celce-Murcia & Olshtain in Martinez-Flor, Uso-Juan & Alcon, 2006). There are some factors greatly influences the effectiveness and efficiency of someone’s communication in foreign language (Shumin, 2002: 204).

To speak in a foreign language, therefore, is not only about expressing ideas in linguistically correct ways, but it also considers some other factors that Scott Thornbury (2003: 11) calls the ‘extralinguistic knowledge.’ The term ‘extralinguistic knowledge’ alone is actually a simplification from what Dell Hymes calls the ‘Communicative Competence.’

In the last three decades, communicative competence has become the most frequent debatable topic in the field of second language acquisition, especially its importance to the teaching and learning of speaking. The detailed explication of communicative competence alone will be available later in this chapter. The writer would first provide some definitions of speaking, which are dominantly based on the framework of ‘communicative competence.’

Speaking is almost the same as writing, if both are viewed as productive language skills. The two skills are modes of ‘expressing linguistic meanings’ (Halliday in Burns, 2006) and therefore Halliday (in Burns, 2006) further argues that both are ‘different ways of saying.’ Deriving from this point of view of speaking, Anne Burns (2006: 236-240) defines speaking as:
            “ephemeral, contextually, and culturally mediated, less standardized than writing, subject to rapid variation and change, and challenging to codify linguistically. It is not discrete communicative skill, and therefore is highly interactive and thus the participants make personal references to each other (I, you, he) and interpersonally focused, with speakers making direct references to their thoughts, emotions, and judgments relating to the events.”

Speaking would be ephemeral when it refers to a conversation between two or more people in a specific situation and context. And such a view of speaking is supported by Brown and Yule (in Nunan, 2001) who characterize speaking as ‘short and often fragmentary utterances.’

For its nature to be ephemeral (short and fragmentary), speaking then tends to be less standardized if compared to writing. The use of contraction (I’m; He’s; or They’re) is allowed in spoken conversation between two or more people; but, it is not liable to the field of writing wherein “I am looking forward to hearing from you” is much more favourable than “I’m looking forward to hearing from you.” The view of speaking as less standardized gets “Amen” from Brown and Yule (in Nunan, 2001) who state that speaking is ‘the loosely organized syntax, the use of non-specific words, and phrases and the used of fillers make spoken language feel less conceptually dense than other types of language.’

When two or more people are having a conversation, they found it short and less standardized. For that reason, the anxiety to get involved in the ongoing conversation decreases significantly. This contributes to the next characteristics of speaking as suggested by Burns (2006) saying that speaking is interactive, interpersonal, and subject to rapid variation and change. ‘Changes in language styles’[1] occur in frequent times when anxiety to speak decreases. If that so, the conversation becomes so interactive that interpersonal exchange between the speaker and hearer is obvious.

While the above definition is almost comprehensive to detail the definition of speaking, Burns (2006) did not explicitly mention one of the determining characters of speaking; that is the social value. For that reason, Sari Luoma (2006) in her book Assessing Speaking defines speaking as:
            “part of the shared social activity of talking that is mutually interesting and relevant in the situation” (p. 20).

William Littlewood (2002: 43) suggests the inclusion of ‘social acceptability’ as another determining factor – along with ‘functional effectiveness’ will make a communication effective. To him, speaking is:
            “not only a functional instrument, but also a form of social behaviour. This means that the language someone produces will be evaluated in terms of its social acceptability as well as its functional effectiveness (p. 43).”

This, once again, suggests that speaking is not merely about communicating ideas to receiver in linguistically correct ways (grammatical competence), but there are some factors highly needed to be considered, amongst them is the social dimension around the speaking activity (sociolinguistic competence). Another determining factor in effective spoken communication is the awareness of when to talk and when to be silent, listening to other people speaking (strategic competence). The last determining factor in speaking is that a speaker must be aware of the ways he/she arrange the ideas in logic order; and this contributes to the existence of “discourse competence.” These four factors – grammatical, sociolinguistic, strategic, and discourse competences – then contribute to a concept that is called “communicative competence.” For that reason, the next part of this chapter will discuss about the communicative competence.     

Dalton-Puffer, Christine. 2009. “Communicative Competence and the CLIL Lesson.” In Zarobe, Yolanda Ruiz de & Catalàn, Rosa Marià Jimenez (Eds.). Content and Language Integrated Learning – Evidence from Research in Europe. Toronto, US: Multilingual Matters.

Rasool, Naz. 2008. “Language Policy in Britain.” In Hornberger, Nancy H (Ed.). Encyclopedia of Language Education. New York, US: Springer Science+Business Media.

Richards, Jack C & Schmidt, Richard. 2002. Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics. London, UK: Pearson Education.

Martínez-Flor, Alicia; Usó-Juan, Esther; & Soler, Eva Alcón. 2006. “Towards Acquiring Communicative Competence through Speaking.” In Usó-Juan, Esther & Martínez-Flor, Alicia (Eds.). Current Trends in the Development and Teaching of the Four Language Skills. New York, US: Mouton de Gruyter.

Shumin, Kang. 2002. “Factors to Consider: Developing Adult EFL Students’ Speaking Abilities.” In Richards, Jack C & Renandya, Willy A. (Eds.) Methodology in Language Teaching – An Anthology of Current Practice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Thornbury, Scott. 2003. How to Teach Speaking. London, UK: Longman Pearson Education.

Burns, Anne. 2006. “Teaching Speaking – A Text-based Syllabus Approach.” In Usó-Juan, Esther & Martínez-Flor, Alicia (Eds.). Current Trends in the Development and Teaching of the Four Language Skills. New York, US: Mouton de Gruyter.

Nunan, David. 2001. Designing Tasks for the Communicative Classroom. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Louma, Sari. 2006. Assessing Speaking. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Littlewood, William. 2002. Communicative Language Teaching – An Introduction. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

[1] This is what Mauranen (2008: 144) refers to ‘the prime motor of language change’ in speaking.
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How to make a summary (paragraph, whole passage, long passages, and textbook chapter)

By Beatrice S Mikulecky & Linda Jeffries
Another key strategy for learning and remembering the ideas in a text is to summarize what you have read. This means rewriting the important parts in a much shorter form, using some words from the text and some of your own words. Summarizing is especially useful for:

• Reviewing and memorizing information in textbooks for exams;
• Preparing information or ideas from different sources so you can include them in a report or paper.

Summarizing a Passage
When summarizing a passage, the first step is to write a one-sentence summary of each paragraph. Then you can combine the sentences to write a summary of the whole passage.

Step 1. Summarizing a paragraph
• Write a single, complete sentence that is much shorter than the paragraph.
• Include the main idea and supporting facts and ideas.
• In the summary sentence, follow the same pattern of organization as in the paragraph.
• Do not add any facts, ideas, or opinions that are not in the paragraph.

Step 2. Summarizing a whole passage
• Read the passage all the way to the end and mark the overall thesis and the supporting points.
• Determine the overall pattern of organization.
• Write a one-sentence summary of each paragraph.
• Write a short paragraph by combining the summary sentences of the paragraphs (with any necessary changes to connect them).
• The main idea of the summary paragraph should be similar to the thesis of the whole passage and the pattern of organization should be the same as the overall pattern of the passage.

Summarizing Long Passages
When you summarize a long passage (more than four or five paragraphs), you need to add an additional step:
• Read the passage all the way to the end and mark the main points (including the thesis and the supporting points).
• Determine the overall pattern of organization.
• Divide the passage into parts. Each part should match a supporting point and may include several paragraphs. (In textbooks, the chapters are usually already divided into subsections or parts.)
• Write a summary sentence for each part.
• Write a paragraph that combines the summary sentences (with any necessary changes to connect them).
• The main idea of the summary paragraph should be the same as the thesis of the original passage, and the pattern of organization should be the same.

Summarizing a Textbook Chapter
Summarizing a textbook section or chapter is easier in some ways than summarizing an article or essay because the passages are usually already divided up into sections and subsections.

In a textbook, the introduction to a chapter or chapter section usually contains a statement of purpose that functions like a thesis statement, and explains what the passage will be about and how it will be organized. The headings of the chapter or section usually correspond to the topics mentioned in the statement of purpose.

While textbook sections are often organized in a listing pattern, each subsection can have a different pattern of organization. It is easier to understand and summarize the subsections if you first identify their patterns.

Mikulecky, Beatrice S &Jeffries, Lind. 2007. Advanced reading power: extensive reading, vocabulary building, comprehension skills, reading faster. New York: Longman.
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How to Choose the Right Definition of a Word from Dictionary

By Beatrice S Mikulecky & Linda Jeffries
If you are able to infer the general meaning of a word from the context, you can make better use of the dictionary. In fact, many words have more than one definition and you need to choose the most appropriate one. For example, the word laugh (as a verb) has eleven different definitions in the Longman Advanced American Dictionary. Definitions for the word “get” cover three pages!

Below are guidelines for choosing a definition in the dictionary:
One, determine the part of speech of the unknown word. This is necessary because there may be several dictionary entries for one word as different parts of speech.

Two, look at the words that are used with it. If it is a part of a frequent combination of words, the definition may be listed separately. For example, you will find separately numbered definitions for “sign up” and “sign off”. The same is true of “on sight” and “sight unseen” (both listed in the dictionary under sight).

Three, analyze the context for clues to the general meaning of the word.

Four, think about the topic and the meaning of the sentence in which the word is found.

Five, look at the definitions listed in the dictionary and choose the most appropriate one – the one that best fits the way the word is used in the sentence.

Taken from:
Mickulecky, Beatrice S. & Jeffries, Linda. 2007. Advanced Reading Power. New York: Pearson Longman.

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Reducing speaking fears

By Trudy Wallace et. al
Children, adolescents and adults sometimes fear the challenge of sustained, formal speaking before large groups. Teachers can help reduce unrealistic fears by pointing out how common they are among people and what to do about them. They can also help to reduce such fears by maintaining a friendly atmosphere in the class and providing opportunities for students to practice alone or with one other student and then before increasingly larger groups. Thus, students can practice speaking in front of their peers who face the same situation.

Students can practise presenting information, answering questions and holding group discussions. Frequent classroom presentations and discussions enable teachers to diagnose and remedy problems.

Students can benefit from learning by setting themselves presentation goals and assessing their own progress. Observing proficient speakers can help students to set such goals. Practising oral presentation in these ways can lessen students’ anxieties while, at the same time, helping them to learn the subject matter of the lesson.

Students are less likely to be fearful and anxious and more likely to do well if they are well prepared. Preparedness can be enhanced by in-depth mastery of the subject matter, appropriate organization and rehearsing the presentation.

Provide opportunities to practise speaking before increasingly larger groups.

Taken from:
Wallace, Trudy 2004. Teaching Speaking, Listening, and Writing. Paris: International Academy of Education.
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