CLT, Task-Based Learning, Lexical Approach

language-word-cloudCommunicative Language Teaching (CLT) emphasizes interaction as the means and also the ultimate goal of learning a language. I don’t really get the real track of CLT, but from some other references, the activities in CLT can be Role Play , Interviews , Information Gap, Games, Language Exchanges , Surveys, Pair Work, etc., and I believe most English teachers have tried some or all of those strategies to make their students communicate and interact in English. But I think this will not work for low levels students because they will not able to communicate with limited vocabulary and limited range of grammatical functions (like my elementary school students). So, I think using CLT for teachers must involve equipping students with vocabulary, structures, and also strategies to enable the students to interact successfully.

I agree with the point by Richards and Rodgers that CLT is basically about promoting learning. But, we must ask ourselves as teacher why we teach English, who we are teaching, and why. Are our students aiming to learn or acquire English? Do they need to know certain vocabulary and linguistic rules as a means of passing an exam, or do they want to be able to interact in English? If we use CLT, we must think of why we use this to our students.

The method of Task-Based Learning (TBL) in concentrated on learning tasks that students are involved, not on the language input (Harmer: 34). By task, I mean a goal-oriented activity with a clear purpose. I think TBL is related to CLT, because doing a communication task involves achieving an outcome, creating a final product that can be appreciated by other.

I once tried some strategies on TBL to my students of diploma III of STAN Jakarta for English 2 (third semester). I didn’t teach grammatical points formally, because the purpose is to make them speak better than the previous semester. Then I forced them to use English without telling them anything about grammar (they got it in English 1). The activities can be making a list of reasons, comparing things, enlisting procedures or things that need doing in certain condition, reading graphs and figures, personal sharing, or solving a problem.

For example when the topic is “Accounting”, a listing task is: List ten reasons why accounting is important (my students must know the answer since they got Principles of Accounting in semester 1). A comparing task might be to compare budgeting and accounting. A problem-solving task could be to think what might happen to a company that doesn’t have an accounting department. An experience sharing task could be sharing stories about their learning activity on Principles of Accounting class. My students do the tasks in pairs, then we discuss their works by some pairs presenting their answers and others comparing or commenting the work. By doing this, my students learn to communicate with whatever English they can recall; they have no fear of failure and teacher correction in front of classmates. In the language focus session, I explained specific features that they did in discussion, then I gave some practice to do at home (e.g. when I found they use comparatives, the exercise will be making three comparative sentences).

I find out that my students enjoy this strategy, because they also love challenging activities (indeed both STAN students and lecturers are assignment lovers…). I think this TBL is also a challenge for teacher too because the language focus part does need careful preparation. Teacher must be ready with whatever analysis activity to explain some problems. But, I have my own strategy: if I may not know the answers to incidental language questions, I just encourage them to explore the further answer on their own, and I will discuss it with them in the next meeting.

According to the literature that I read, the Lexical Approach develops many of the fundamental principles advanced by proponents of the Communicative Approach. The most important difference is the increased understanding of the nature of lexis in naturally occurring language, and its potential contribution to language pedagogy. Just like CLT, I think I do not have a clear idea of what the Lexical Approach actually looks like in practice.

As I see it, teaching vocabulary cannot be separated from grammar and topic of learning (e.g. accounting, taxation, families, pets, etc). I will tell an example of my teaching activity related to vocabulary building for my students at diploma III STAN Jakarta; I don’t know whether that uses Lexical Approach or not, but that activity gave my students new words in an organized and sequenced way.

Teaching vocabulary to me can be integrated with reading activity or communicative activity. I teach vocabulary material by taking the topic as listed in the syllabus . Since this was ESP class, I told my English 1 students before to learn by heart the list of special terms on the chapter at home. This because I do not want to always give everything to my students, sometimes they have to workout themselves. Then in the classroom, I gave an exercise (Fill in the blanks with the appropriate special terms listed in the right column. E.g. The profit that results from investments into a capital asset, such as stocks, bonds or real estate, which exceeds the purchase price is called…. The answer is capital gain). For me, it was a true vocabulary learning by students’ discovering themselves.*

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