Interaction is the exchange of thoughts, ideas, knowledge or feelings between people. Using language to convey meaning enhances communicative competence. Interactive methods are techniques that involve students as active participants in the learning process. By participating in interactive group activity, where members support one another, students develop self-confidence and hone their social skills.
Role plays involve assigning roles to individuals in a group and giving the group an objective. For example, one student is a customer and another is the shop assistant. The objective is for the customer to find out specific information about a product from the shop assistant. Another possible role play involves an employer and a possible candidate for a job, and the dialogue focuses on the interview they have. These situations are linguistically valid, as they prepare students for real situations.
Games are efficient techniques to achieve learning goals by providing a background in which linguistic units are repeated and reinforced. To be effective, games should not be time consuming; they should involve most students; and they should be adaptable to most classes and student levels of proficiency. Guessing games are common activities in the adult-learner classroom. For example, a student chooses to represent a famous person (actor, singer, etc.) and the others ask him yes/no questions to guess who he is.
Information gap and jigsaw techniques are interactive methods designed to make students concentrate on the cognitive content of the interaction and not on grammar and phonology. The objective of information gap activities is to request information from different students about different topics (TV shows or occupations) and fill in the charts with the information gathered. Jigsaw techniques are a form of information gap in which members of a group are given different parts of the same information. By asking questions, they put together all the pieces to have the complete information.
Commonly used in adult classes, problem solving focuses on meaningful content. The problem may be simple (giving directions) or complex (dealing with a social issue). To solve the problem efficiently, the members of the group must interact and reach a consensus after analyzing all the aspects of the problem. Similarly, decision-making techniques require students to make a decision in a given situation. For example, students are given several profiles of people that applied for a job and have to decide on the best person for it.
Opinion exchange is a similar method, but unlike problem solving which requires mostly fact analysis, opinion exchange deals mostly with beliefs and feelings. It is generally used with intermediate and advanced adult students and may involve issues like cultural differences, marriage, human rights and politics. Teachers should select the topics carefully, as some of them may involve personal opinions that may be ridiculed or offend other students. Before the activity, the teacher should explain to the students that all opinions deserve to be valued.
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