Facilitator: Ronda Critchlow Workshop Outline

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Presentation Title:Practical Considerations for Teaching Writing & Speaking in the EFL Classroom”

Facilitator: Ronda Critchlow

Workshop Outline:
This presentation attempts to provide you with practical insights into:

  • Communicative approaches to teaching the productive skills: writing & speaking

  • Speaking & writing activities that you can use in your classroom to make your lessons more interactive, student-centered and communicative. These activities are predominantly targeting intermediate level students at the secondary/high school level. However, these techniques can be adapted to meet the needs of any language learner.

  • I’d also like to allocate some time for you to discuss your own techniques in reference to Writing & Speaking activities you find beneficial in the classroom so that this session can be a forum where you can brainstorm ways to create a productive learning atmosphere in your classrooms.

  • During my presentation, please feel free to interrupt/interact with me concerning any questions you may have.


Gairns, Ruth & Stuart Redman. “Natural English: Intermediate Student’s Book.” 2002.

Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Harmer, Jeremy. “The Practice of English Language Teaching: New Edition.” 1991.

London: Longman Publishing.

Soars, Liz & John. “New Headway: Intermediate Student’s Book.” 2003. Oxford: Oxford

University Press.

Strange, Derek & Diane Hall. “Pacesetter: Intermediate.” 2000. Oxford: Oxford

University Press.

Introduction to Productive Skills
Communication is at the core of learning a language. Whenever communication takes place there is a speaker (and/or writer) and a listener (and/or reader). There are three generalizations that we can make about the majority of communicative events which will have a particular relevance for the learning and teaching of languages (Harmer, pp. 46-48).
The goals of the Communicative Approach technique are to allow students to become communicatively competent, able to use the language appropriate for a given social context and manage the process of negotiating meaning with interlocutors. Individuality is encouraged as well as cooperation with peers, which both contribute to the sense of emotional security with the target language.
The nature of communication is that the speaker/writer: (Harmer, pp. 48).

  1. Wants to say something (i.e., makes a definite decision to address other people.)

  2. Has a communicative purpose (e.g., speakers say things because they wan something to happen as a result of what they say. They may want to charm, give information, flatter, be rude, agree, complain, offer advice, etc.)

  3. Selects for language store—speakers, especially NS, have an infinite capacity to create new sentences in order to achieve communicative purposes. Therefore, they select from a store/reserve of language they posses which they think is appropriate to carry out that speech act.

Communicative activities are those which exhibit the characteristics of: (Harmer, pp. 49-50).

  • Giving students a desire to communicate

  • Providing a communicative purpose/objective

  • Involving students in a varied use of language

  • Focusing on content not form

  • Avoiding teacher intervention. When students are engaged in the communicative activity, teachers should not intervene by telling students they are making mistakes or insisting on accuracy. This would undermine the communicative purpose of the activity. It is best at the end of the activity for the teacher to then provide feedback on things observed during the exercise.

  • Using authentic materials for real-life/practical communication

Writing & Speaking are the productive aspects of a language.

There are both similarities and differences in learning how to write and speak (Harmer, pp. 52-54).

  • Productive uses of language

  • Fulfill a communicative function/purpose/objective

  • Have an audience

  • Manifest human thought/feelings



  • Have a great range of expressive possibilities

  • Can vary intonation, stress, & pitch (which helps them show which part of what they are saying is actually important

  • At any point in a speech event, speakers can rephrase what they are saying; they can speed up or slow down.

  • Speaker can use a range of body language/facial expressions, & interruptions to clarify meaning & get their point across.

  • They can get immediate listener feedback (in face-to-face interactions)

  • Speaking doesn’t require the same extent of accuracy as in writing. Native speakers constantly make mistakes when they are speaking; they hesitate & say the same thing in different ways & often change the subject of what they are saying in mid-sentence.

Q: In what ways is writing more difficult than speaking?


  • Accuracy is necessary

  • Don’t have the luxury of getting immediate feedback from reader

  • Denied the use of intonation, stress, facial expression, & body gestures

  • Gain greater clarity by the use of grammatical & stylistic techniques for focusing attention on main points.

  • Special consideration needs to be made for spelling, handwriting, & organization of ideas

Session 1: Writing

Writing Activities

Objective: **Now, Let us examine some writing activities that encourage communicative activity. We will consider ways of encouraging written practice through: sentence writing, parallel writing, & dictation.

** Keep in mind that these activities were selected with the intermediate level learner in mind.

  1. Sentence Writing—aims to give students practice in specific written language.

Activity: Christmas

Source: Harmer, Jeremy. “The Practice of English Language Teaching: New Edition.” 1991. London: Longman Publishing. (p. 110).
In this example, students use personalization (i.e., language that they have recently learned to talk about themselves and their lives) to write sentences using time clauses (Harmer, p. 72).

The students have recently learned how to make time clauses using words such as before, after, when, while, etc.

Start the sentence writing activity the following way:

T: What happens on December 25th?

S1: Christmas.

T: Right…do you do the same thing every Christmas?

S1: Yes…more or less.

T: Ok…do you go to Church on this day S1?

S1: Yes.

T: OK…what happens after you’ve been to church?

S1: After we’ve been to church we open the presents.

T: Good…now I want for you to write me four sentences using after, when, before, and while about what you will do this Christmas. I’ll give you about 5 minutes for this activity. Then, I will ask some of you to share your sentences with the class.

**After students share—teacher asks S2 to repeat information of S1. (T-S-S-T)

Advantages of this activity: asks students to use specific language in a meaningful way & such topics can serve ad the basis of composition work.

  1. Parallel Writing

This type of writing is where students are shown model sentences and asked to write similar sentences of their own. In other words, students will first see a piece of writing and then use it as a basis for their own work. The original piece that they look at will show them how English is written and guide them towards their own ability to express themselves in written English (Harmer, p.111).

For example, Let us look at a task involving parallel writing and sentence-ordering.


Harmer, Jeremy. “The Practice of English Language Teaching: New Edition.” P. 113

In the interest of time, we will do this as a large group; although, this task would work well as a pair activity.

T: This exercise is about the life of a woman named Hetty Green. Before we do this activity, let us take a look at some words you mat not know.

Part 1: Pre-teaching vocabulary

miser (What word do you know of that begins with these letters that may help you detect the meaning of this word (miserable)?); amputate, stock market, Wall Street, squalid, boarding house.

Part 2:

Write an account of the life of somebody you know about—alive or dead!

  1. Group Narrative Story Writing


Theme: birth, marriage, and death


  • In this exercise, students are given a list of words in a box and told to put them in categories. These are words that teacher has already explained and with which the students are already familiar.

  • After discussing these categorizations, the teacher gives students the opening and closing lines of a short story of a long life.

Opening line: Victor Parrot was born one cold, story night in…

Closing line: He died, aged ninety-five, with a smile on his face. Over five hundred mourners came to his funeral.

Directions: Write a story of the main events of Victor’s life. Use as many words from exercise 1 as possible. Read your story to the class.

Extended speaking activity: What happens at births, weddings, and funerals in your country?

Activity Source:

Soars, Liz & John. “New Headway: Intermediate Student’s Book.” 2003. Oxford: Oxford

University Press. P. 98.

  1. Dictations

  1. Dictacomp (Combination of 2 techniques—dictation & composition)

  • Level: Beginning---Advanced

  • Aim: Writing, paraphrasing, listening.

  • Advantages of this activity: Can be used for pre-reading, reviewing material, recycling vocabulary, reinforcing a grammar point, and providing instant feedback.


  1. This activity is like a dictation, but with a twist. Choose a short reading passage from the students’ text no longer than a paragraph.

  2. Write several of the key vocabulary items on the board.

  3. Together with the students, clarify the meaning of the chosen words.

  4. Read the passage aloud slowly. Students have their books closed.

  5. Read the passage again at a normal pace.

  6. Students write the passage again trying to get it as close as possible to the original.

  7. In pairs, students compare their papers, adding or correcting as needed.

  8. Students open their books to check on both content and language aspects of their passage.

  9. Volunteers read their final versions aloud.

  10. In plenary, the class talks about the most difficult aspects of the exercise.

Sample Passage:

Soars, Liz & John. “New Headway: Intermediate Student’s Book.” 2003. Oxford: Oxford

University Press. p. 91.

How well do you know your world?”: Passage from Question 6: Why do women live longer than men? ) p. 91

Vocabulary: evidence, infancy, greater risk, aggressive, occupations, childbirth.
2. Poetry Dictation

Procedure: In this activity, students dictate to each other in an involving and exciting way.

The teacher brings one copy of a poem into the classroom and either keeps it on the desk or pins it to a board. The students are put into groups. Each group sends a member up to the poem where they read only the first line. They take this line back to their group and dictate it. Now a second member goes to the poem and reads the second line so that it can be dictated to the group. A third student goes up for the third line & so on (Harmer, p.120)

Sample Poem:
Dreams” by Langston Hughes
Hold fast to dreams

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird

That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams

For when dreams go

Life is a barren field

Frozen with snow.

Advantages of this activity: students are kept guessing about what the next line will be and are more involved in the meaning of the poem as opposed to just reading it, and they are getting writing practice.

Speaking Activities:

1. Discussion: To avoid lack of student interest and shy pupils, students need to be prepared to discuss classroom topics (Harmer, p. 123-124).

Three techniques to organizing a discussion:

  • Put students in groups first. This will allow them to give their opinion in a less threatening environment.

  • Give students a chance to prepare (Think-Pair-Share). Give students time to marshall their thoughts and come up with arguments to support their case.

  • Give students a task. They can be given a list of controversial topics and asked to score them from 0 (= very negative) to 5 (= very positive).

  1. Picture Stories/Story Reconstruction (Harmer, p. 128-129).

Activity: Students are given different parts of a picture story. The have to reconstruct the whole narrative even though individually they have seen only a small part of it. This is done because each member of the group has seen a different picture; by talking about their pictures together the narrative emerges.
Stage 1: The class is divided into four groups: A, B, C, D.

Stage 2: Each group is given one picture and told to study it.

Stage 3: After a few minutes, the teacher takes the pictures back from the groups.

Stage 4: The teacher makes new groups with one student from each of the original groups.

Stage 5: The students in the new groups have to try to reconstruct the story by discussing what they saw in each of their pictures.

Stage 6: The teacher then gets the different groups to tell their stories. The teacher then shows the students all the pictures.

  1. Problem Solving Activity (Harmer, p. 129-132).

This activity encourages students to talk together to find a solution to a set of problems or tasks.
4. Role-plays

In role plays, students are asked to create the pretence of a real-life situation in the classroom: students ‘simulate’ the real world (Harmer, p. 132-133).

Source 1: Soars, Liz & John. “New Headway: Intermediate Student’s Book.” 2003. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (p. 69).

Activity: With your partner, make conversations for the situations. Use different ways of making suggestions.

Ex: You have a terrible cold.

A My head is killing me! And my nose is running!

B I think you should go to/If I were you I would go to bed with a hot drink.

A That’s a good idea. I’ll go right now.

B Oh, that would be great!
Other scenarios:

  • You have the evening free, and there’s nothing good on TV/

  • Your best friend is having a birthday party next week, and you don’t know what to give your friend as a present.

  • You’ve just got a job in Moscow, so you need to learn the Russian language and find out about Russian people and culture as quickly as possible.

5. Match-Up:

In this activity, students are given information on individual cards. Each card has a “matching” card that contains missing information. The students circulate among their classmates to find their partners. Whenever possible, the students should be encouraged to give information about themselves or their cards rather than ask questions. They are not allowed to show their cards to anyone until they think that they have found their correct partners. As partners find each other, they should move to a designated area of the room. When all the students have paired up, the pairs take turns reading their cards aloud. The class then approves or disapproves the matches. If any pairs are matched incorrectly, the class should work together to correct the matches.

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