Accuracy Versus Fluency Activities
Classroom activities in Communicative Language Teaching
Since the advent of CLT, teachers and materials’ writers have sought to find ways of developing classroom activities that reflected the principles of a communicative methodology; this quest has continued up to the present day. The principles on which the first generation of CLT materials were based are still relevant to language teaching today, so we will briefly review the main activity types that were one of the outcomes of CLT.
3.1. Accuracy versus fluency activities
One of the goals of CLT is to develop fluency in language use. Fluency is natural language use occurring when a speaker engages in meaningful interaction and maintains comprehensible and ongoing communication despite limitations in his or her communicative competence. Fluency is developed by creating classroom activities in which students must negotiate meaning, use communication strategies, correct misunderstandings and work to avoid communication breakdowns. Fluency practice can be contrasted with accuracy practice, which focuses on creating correct examples of language use. Differences between activities that focus on fluency and those that focus on accuracy can be summarized as follows:
Activities focusing on fluency
• Reflect natural use of language
• Focus on achieving communication
• Require meaningful use of language
• Require the use of communication strategies
• Produce language that may not be predictable
• Seek to link language use to context
Activities focusing on accuracy
• Reflect classroom use of language
• Focus on the formation of correct examples of language
• Practice language out of context
• Practice small samples of language
• Do not require meaningful communication
• Choice of language is controlled
The following are examples of fluency activities and accuracy activities. Both make use of group work, reminding us that group work is not necessarily a fluency task (See Brumfit 1984).
* A group of students of mixed language ability carry out a role play in which they have to adopt specified roles and personalities provided for them on cue cards.
* These roles involve the drivers, witnesses, and the police at a collision between two cars.
* The language is entirely improvised by the students, though they are heavily constrained by the specified situation and characters.
* The teacher and a student act out a dialog in which a customer returns a faulty object she has purchased to a department store.
* The clerk asks what the problem is and promises to get a refund for the customer or to replace the item.
* In groups students now try to recreate the dialog using language items of their choice. They are asked to recreate what happened preserving the meaning but not necessarily the exact language. They later act out their dialogs in front of the class.
* Students are practicing dialogs.
* The dialogs contain examples of falling intonation in Wh-questions.
*The class is organized in groups of three, two students practicing the dialog, and the third playing the role of monitor. The monitor checks that the others are using the correct intonation pattern and correct them where necessary.
* The students rotate their roles between those reading the dialog and those monitoring.
*The teacher moves around listening to the groups and correcting their language where necessary.
* Students in groups of three or four complete an exercise on a grammatical item, such as choosing between the past tense and the present perfect, an item which the teacher has previously presented and practiced as a whole class activity.
* Together students decide which grammatical form is correct and they complete the exercise. Groups take turns reading out their answers.
Teachers were recommended to use a balance of fluency activities and accuracy and to use accuracy activities to support fluency activities. Accuracy work could either come before or after fluency work. For example, based on students’ performance on a fluency task, the teacher could assign accuracy work to deal with grammatical or pronunciation problems the teacher observed while students were carrying out the task. An issue that arises with fluency work, however, is whether fluency work develops fluency at the expense of accuracy. In doing fluency tasks, the focus is on getting meanings across using any available communicative resources. This often involves a heavy dependence on vocabulary and communication strategies and there is little motivation to use accurate grammar or pronunciation. Fluency work thus requires extra attention on the part of the teacher in terms of preparing students for a fluency task, or follow up activities that provide feedback on language use.
While dialogs, grammar, and pronunciation drills did not usually disappear from textbooks and classroom materials at this time, they now appeared as part of a sequence of activities that moved back and forth between accuracy activities and fluency activities. And the dynamics of classrooms also changed. Instead of a predominance of teacher-fronted teaching, teachers were encouraged to make greater use of small-group work. Pair and group activities gave learners greater opportunities to use the language and to develop fluency.
Discussion: (Please post your comments)
Give examples of fluency activities and accuracy activities that you use in your teaching.
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- 2. Developing Fluency
- Developing Exercises and Activities to Teach Reading Strategies
- 3. Teaching Reading
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- Lesson Planning
- 1. Reading and Lesson Planning
- Some Planning Formats
- Schemes of Work
- Chap. 2: Key Factors in Lesson Planning