This portfolio is an overview of the course "Abordagem Comunicativa" which I took in the first semester of 2007 in Faculdade de Letras of UFMG, Brasil. The course was taught by the Professor Deise Dutra.
The objective of this portfolio is to show how my learning process was developed, including some important artifacts which helped me learn about the Communicative Approach.
The artifacts I am going to to present in this portfolio are:
1. Forum discussions
2. First Individual Task
3. Textbook Analysis
4. Second Individual Task
1. Forum discussions
For 14 weeks, we were assigned to post on the forum, discussing some questions presented by our professor, Deise Dutra. All the forum discussion was based on concepts concerning the Communicative Approach, as well as our view on how education took place taking into account the premises presented by the texts we studied. Also, we were always asked to discussed how we could observe these premises taking place having in mind our role as English teachers and students.
The importance of these discussions was to create an environment in which the students, together with the teacher, could be able to check their understanding of the texts, as well as to arise problems concerning the readings and possibilities of application if the theory to our reality as teachers and learners.
Especially important for our understading of what the communicative approach is was discussed on the third week, in which we could compare the communicative approach with the audiolingual approach. Alse, we reflected on which of these approaches were more representative of our experiences as teachers and learners of English.
Fourh week, question 1 was a discussion about Krashen and Terrell's theoretical model for second language acquisition, in its five hypothesis. We were asked to discuss one of the hypoithesis. Since it is a very important text related to second language acquisition, I think it was very relevant that we discussed it.
On the fifth week, question 1, we discussed the importance of integrating skills in order to lead to real communication. Here, we emphasized that without integrating the four skill, it would be impossible for use to communicate effectively in English. On the fifth week, question 3, we had the chance to discuss Xaviers' text, in which he presented several tasks which could be used in the Communicative Approach. We were asked to discuss about one particular kind of task from the text and to relate it to our role as teachers and students.
I definitely do not discard the other discussion we had about the Communicative Approach, but I chose to mention the discussions above because I consider them of major relevance to my learning this semester.
2. First Individual Task
The first individual task had two parts: the first part of the task was about my learning experiences and the second one revealed what I learned about the communicative approach as we had discussed it the course.
The text I created which was my First Individual task is below:
My experience learning a foreign language in school showed me that it is possible to learn a second language outside language institutes. What I learned in school helped me advance in the language institute, so that I could skip ?levels? there. English in school was based on the development of reading and writing skills, as it is in most schools. I had great teachers, and I was always very interested in the classes, what certainly helped me develop my English acquisition in a very fast way.
The negative point of learning a foreign language at school is that I had 40 classmates, and within a classroom as crowded as that, there were many people who lost motivation, and who weren?t engaged in the learning process. Another thing was that it was a very formal classroom environment, where the teacher would develop the activities based on the grammar he/she had to teach. That was another factor to make English less interesting for most of the student, although not for me, since for some reason some may consider weird, I?ve always loved every aspect of learning English, and grammar wasn?t different.
My language learning didn?t end when I ?graduated? from the language institute, because my interest about learning English continued and kept growing. Especially with the help from movies, music and the internet, I kept on my studies on English. When I first went to college it wasn?t at UFMG. I studied International Relations at PUC from 2001 to 2003. In this period, most of what I had to read was in English, and that helped me a lot too. And also my interest in politics was growing and CNN was my greatest ally. It was hard at first to get used to native spoken English, since the closer I had been exposed to it was watching movies with captions.
I think that by now it is pretty obvious that the reason why I decided to study English was my interest in this particular language. I still love studying it.
If your aim is to make your class a more communicative environment, first I would suggest you to provide an environment in which students can interact with their classmates. If there are a big number of students, you should divide them in groups so that everyone has a chance to express themselves, working collaboratively.
Activities should reflect real communicative situations that are familiar to the students, so that what they are learning is meaningful to them. Authentic material such as magazines, newspapers and others are always welcome in the process.
Communicative Language Teaching sees the teacher as a ?manager? of the learning process. That is, he/she facilitates communication in the classroom, establishing situations that promote communication. The students are the ones who are the communicators.
In sum, all the activities proposed by the teacher in the classroom should be truly communicative and they should have three components in common: information gap, that is exchange of information; choice, that is, the speaker chooses what to say and how to say it; and feedback, that is, a response provided to the speaker by the listener.
All this information and also examples of activities that provide meaningful communicative classes can be found in Larsen-Freeman?s ?Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching?.
As suggested activities, the author mentions language games, picture strip stories and role plays, which are techniques that help students develop communicative competence in the classroom.
Writing about my learning experience helps me really think about I went through as a student, and writing about how I think successful communicative teaching is makes me analyze what I konw about this approach, what is clear and what is not.
3. Textbook Analysis
The presentation of the two textbook analysis was done together with two classmates, Rafael and Augusto, and they were a chance for us to prepare a presentation of textbooks relating their objectives to those from the Communicative Approach. We analyzed two different textbooks: American Headway 2 and American Headway 3.
In the first textbook analysis, we had to scan the unit we would analyze, and then prepare a presentation, in which we analyzed an activity whose main goals were to develop listening and speaking skills.
In the second textbook analysis, we observed activities involving reading and writing skills.
It was very important to analyze them because we could see the textbooks we can use in our teaching in a more critical way, intead of accepting them as they are presented to us. Also, we could apply all we had learned so far that was related to the Communicative Approach, really seeing how it apllies to English teaching/learning.
4. Second Individual Task
In this task, we had to create a class plan based on what we had learned about the Communicative Approach. It was a very interesting activity because we could have the chance to actually produce something that could be useful for our students in what concerns their developing English acquisition through a communicative point of view. I created a 50-minute class plan having in mind the following:
1. who my students were (age, level ?)
2. my students? needs and interests
3. the skills I wnated to integrate
4. the use of authentic materials
5. focus on usage or use
6. focus on form or function
7. types of genre
8. types of tasks
10. communicative competence components to be developed
The best thing about doing this was seeing how a class can be well organized having in mind the components listed above. I could see myself creating a class plan in which everything was present for a reason. It was very rewarding.
In the essay, we discussed the teaching of integrated skills as a central issue in the communicative approach.
The questions in which we based our written task was:
1) How can it help learners develop their communicative competence?
3) How would this go against Krashen and Terrell?s hypothesis that the comprehensible input is sufficient for language learning? 4) Give examples in a way that you discuss at least TWO of the following ideas: the teaching of conversational strategies; developing listening strategies; teaching through genre and task-based approach.
As a result, I worte a text duscussing the importance of integrated skills and its relation to Krashen and Terrel's comprehensive input hypothesis, and it was an imporntat exercise which helped me see the differencer between what was proposed by the authors and the development of communicative competence though the communicative approach.
This portfolio presented some of the important works developed in the couse "Abordagem Comunicativa". It served as an overview of what we did during a semester. It also served as a closing point in which I could see how I could develop my learning about the Communicative Approach by looking at what I had produced together with my classmates.