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A study on the techniques for the improvement to the teaching of oral skills in light of communicative english language teaching for junior high school teachers in quang ngai province part 1

1. Rationale of the Study
For the past few years, with the introduction of the new Tieng Anh 6-9 textbook series
based on Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) in junior high schools, language
teaching in Quang Ngai has experienced the shift from grammatical form to communicative
function. In order to prepare for this shift, short training courses (usually from 3 - 5 days in
length) have been organized for junior high school (JHS) teachers in Quang Ngai province
on how to use these textbooks. However, these short courses cannot satisfy teachers' needs
in communicative language teaching because these courses largely deal with the
introduction of the textbooks with little methodology component. Besides, teachers in
Quang Ngai province, most of whom graduated from 1979 to 1999, had to learn English
under difficult conditions without any opportunity to meet native English speakers, and did
not have access to up to date materials. As a result, they have met a lot of difficulties in
English language teaching, especially techniques for teaching oral skills.
Being teachers at Quang Ngai Teachers' Training College, we have met many junior high
school teachers, observed junior high school lessons and have been involved in the training
courses on how to use the new Tieng Anh textbook series for JHS teachers. Through this
process, we have begun to identify the particular problems that many teachers of English
deal with in Quang Ngai province. With this in mind, I decided to conduct the research
named "A Study on Techniques for the Improvement to the Teaching of Oral Skills in
Light of Communicative English Language Teaching for Junior High School Teachers

in Quang Ngai Province".
The aim of the study is to give teachers a greater understanding of the communicative
approach and to introduce practical techniques for the teaching of oral skills that can be
used with the new Tieng Anh textbooks. Many of these techniques are a change from what
teachers normally do. We know that teachers in Quang Ngai province deal with such
particular problems as large classes, limited resources which make their language teaching
difficult. However, by making some small changes and trying out new techniques, teachers
can help the English language come alive for the students and slowly move away from the
teacher-centered approach. I hope the study will encourage the process of change in
language teaching.
2. Aims of the Study
The purpose of this study is to examine the areas of difficulties in language teaching that
junior high school teachers deal with in Quang Ngai province so that techniques can be
given to help them improve their teaching of oral skills.
The specific aims are:
- To investigate the current performance of English teaching and learning in JHSs in
Quang Ngai province.
- To find out the difficulties that JHS teachers deal with in Quang Ngai province.
- To suggest techniques to help JHS teachers improve their teaching of oral skills.
3. Methods of the Study
To achieve the above - mentioned aims, both quantitative and qualitative methods are used
and the following tasks are involved:
- Collecting data for the analysis from 100 junior high school teachers of English and 25
hours of class observations in junior high schools in Quang Ngai province.
- Assessing particular problems.
- Evaluating which oral techniques are applicable.
4. Scope of the Study
The study is intended to focus on practical techniques. After having investigated the current
performance of English teaching and learning in JHSs in Quang Ngai province by means of
a survey questionnaire and class observations, we suggest techniques to help JHS teachers
improve their teaching of oral skills.
5. Design of the Study
The study is divided into three parts:
Part 1 (Introduction) describes the impetus from which we decided to conduct this study as
well as the boundary within which the study is realized. This part presents feasible methods
for the fulfillment of research objective.
Part 2 (Development) consists of three chapters:
Chapter 1 presents various linguistics concepts relevant to the research topic such as
definition of techniques, methods and approaches, communicative language teaching and

practical techniques for language teaching.
Chapter 2 deals with the analysis on the current performance of English teaching and
learning in junior high schools in Quang Ngai province, teaching requirements, teachers
and teaching methods, materials as well as material assessment. This chapter also focuses
on data collections, findings and discussion.
Chapter 3 emphasizes the implication of the study in which practical techniques for
improving the teaching of oral skills for junior high school teachers in Quang Ngai
province are suggested.
Part 3 (Conclusion) summarizes what is addressed in the study, points out the limitations
and provides some suggestions for further study.
1.1. Introduction
To provide a theoretical background to the study, this chapter is devoted to the
reexamination of the concepts most relevant to the thesis’s topic. They are definitions of
techniques, methods, approaches and a brief history of methods/approaches. In addition, the
definition, principles and techniques of the communicative approach will also be discussed.
1.2. An Overview on Techniques, Methods and Approaches
1.2.1. Definitions
According to Hubbard, P. et al (1983) when we use the word technique, we mean a
procedure used in the classroom. When we talk about method, we mean a set of procedures
or a number of techniques arranged in a specific order which will result in efficient
learning. The word approach has the implication that whatever method or techniques the
teacher uses, he does not feel bound by these, but only by the theory in which he believes.
According to Anthony, E. (1963) a technique is a particular trick, stratagem, or contrivance
used to accomplish an immediate objective in a classroom. A method is an overall plan for
the orderly presentation of language material. An approach is a set of correlative
assumptions dealing with the nature of language teaching and learning.
1.2.2. A Brief History of Language Teaching
• The Grammar -Translation Method
It is the oldest method and many teachers still use this method today. It took grammar the
starting point for instruction. Grammar-Translation courses followed a grammar syllabus
and lessons typically began with an explicit statement of the rule, followed by exercises
involving translation into and out of the mother tongue. Oral fluency is generally ignored
and pronunciation is sometimes taught through reading aloud.
• The Audio-Lingual Method
The Audio-Lingual Method was a largely American invention in the 1960s. It was based on
the idea of Behaviorism, which considered language as simply as a form of behavior, to be
learned through the formation of correct habits. Habit formation was a process in which the
application of rules played no part. The audio-lingual syllabus consisted of a graded list of
sentence patterns which formed the basis of pattern-practice drills, the distinguished feature
of Audio-lingual classroom practice. Often these drills were on audio cassette tapes and it
was because of this method that the language laboratory became so popular.
• The Functional-Notional Approach
In the 1970s teachers of the Functional-Notional Approach stopped teaching grammar and
started teaching more practical phrases and vocabulary for everyday life and social
situations. Students learnt spoken functions such as asking the way, talking about
themselves, making future plans, etc or written functions such as writing a letter, filling out
a form etc. A lot of role play was used in this type of teaching to make the classroom like
the outside world.
• The Communicative Approach
The Communicative Approach became popular in the 1970s. The features of the
Communicative Approach are as follows:
- Language learning should be meaningful and realistic.
- Students should learn English to communicate something.
- All four skills should be practiced as well as grammar, functions and vocabulary.
- Learning is more important than teaching.
The Communicative Approach uses many different techniques such as pair work, group
work, gap fill, role play, etc.
1.3. Communicative Language Teaching
1.3.1. Definition
According to American and British proponents, Communicative Language Teaching is an
approach that aims to (a) make communicative competence the goal of language teaching
and (b) develop procedures for the teaching of the four language skills that acknowledge
the interdependence of language and communication.
1.3.2. Principles
According to Richard, J. C. and Rodgers, T. S., Communicative Language Teaching
follows these principles:
- Learners learn a language through using it to communicate.
- Authentic and meaningful communication should be the goal of classroom activities.
- Fluency is an important dimension of communication.
- Learning is a process of creative construction and involves trial and error.
1.3.3. Techniques for Communicative Language Teaching
There are plenty of techniques for CLT. Here are some of them:
• Pair-work Independent work by pairs of students working simultaneously on a task
or practice activity. Often an extension of ordinary controlled practice or drilling,
with more opportunity for students to talk, hence higher student talking time.
• Group-work Independent work carried out simultaneously by groups of three or
more students on a task or tasks.
• Information gap The principle that two or more students engaged in a practice
activity do not share exactly the same information. If the task is correctly set, the
students must pool their information and are thus forced to communicate through
English. The information gap is therefore an important element in many
communicative practice tasks.
• Role-play A communicative activity in which students talk to each other in
different character roles.
1.4. Summary
In short, this chapter focuses on the concepts useful for the accomplishment of the study.
First are the definitions of techniques, methods and approaches. Then, a brief history of
methods/approaches is presented. Actually, each method/approach has its own strong points
and drawbacks, so what should be done is to combine these methods/approaches to make
full use of the advantages offered and to minimize the shortcomings revealed. Also in the
first chapter are the definition and principles of the communicative approach. Last in the
first chapter are the techniques of the communicative approach.
2.1. Introduction
To realize the objectives of this study, this chapter first starts with an overview of junior
high schools in Quang Ngai province. Then for a better understanding about junior high
schools in Quang Ngai province, some information about the students and learning
requirements are addressed. In addition, an analysis on teachers, teaching methods,
materials, and materials assessments is very important for the realization of the study, for
without it the researcher will find it impossible to sort out practical techniques to improve
the teaching of oral skills for JHS teachers.
2.2. The Junior High School Community in Quang Ngai Province
Quang Ngai province has a city and 13 districts. A commune/ ward has at least a junior
high school. In the 2006-2007 academic year there are 146 junior high schools and 2.832
JHS classes of 114.068 JHS students. JHS students are required to study 11 subjects and
English is one of them. There are 594 JHS teachers.
Quang Ngai is a poor province in central Viet Nam. Farming or a state salary is the main
source of income for families in the JHS community. The average monthly income of the
majority of those families is estimated at less than $70.
2.3. Students and Learning Requirements
The JHS student population ranges from 11 to 15 years old. In the 2006-2007 academic
year there are 114.068 students, of which 58.008 are girl students.
JHS students are required to learn English in 35 weeks with 3 periods a week for grades 6,
7 and 8 and 2 periods a week for grade 9. The aims and objectives are not defined for each
grade but for the whole JHS level as follows:
After finishing JHS students are able to:
- understand detail and gist at an elementary level in listening
- respond to questions and interact in familiar situations in speaking
- understand gist, detail and text structure in reading
- write non-specialized text types such as letters, reports and compositions for a given
purpose in writing
2.4. Teachers and Teaching Methods
There are totally 594 JHS teachers of English aged from 23 to 57 in Quang Ngai province.
About two-thirds of them have a TJC BA degree (CDSP) and one-third have a TSC BA
degree (DHSP). Slightly more than one quarter of them are teachers of Russian who have
been retrained to teach English since 1991.
In recent years, with the introduction of new TIENG ANH textbook series to junior high
schools in Quang Ngai province the Communicative Approach has been introduced to JHS
teachers of English. However, a lot of teachers still attach themselves to the traditional
teaching method and they usually concentrate on only two of the skills, reading and writing.
This is mainly because the other two are not tested in examinations. In addition, teachers
find it difficult to apply the communicative approach to their teaching because of large
classes and poor school equipment. As a result, teachers take the key role in classroom
activities and students remain passive learners.
2.5. Materials and Assessments
The TIENG ANH textbook series by Loi, N. V et al (2002) for JHS students consists of 4
textbooks for 4 grades: 6, 7, 8 and 9. Each textbook has 16 units with the exception of
TIENG ANH 9 of 10 units. Each unit is based around a theme and contains 5 lessons with
the length of 5 periods:
Lesson 1: Getting started
Lesson 2: Listen and read
Lesson 3: Listen and speak
Lesson 4: Write
Lesson 5: Language focus
The TIENG ANH textbook series is accompanied by the teacher’s guide, the student’s book
and the cassette-tapes.
Most of the JHS teachers believe that The TIENG ANH textbook series is better than the
ENGLISH textbook series. They like the clear layout, the variety of exercise types and the
logical sequencing of the TIENG ANH textbook series. However, they want to reduce the
number of lessons in a textbook to 14. They still do not feel like technological topics and
they would like to have more language summaries.
2.6. Data Collection, Findings and Discussion
2.6.1. Data Collection The Subjects
The study is carried out with the participation of 25 junior high school teachers of English
who represent urban, rural and remote areas. A quarter of the teachers are men. The
students under observation are in grades 6, 7, 8 and 9 in junior high schools in Quang Ngai
province. Instruments for Data Collection
The data was collected by means of:
• Lesson observations in junior high schools (25 lesson observations)
• Survey questionnaire (answered by 100 junior high school teachers)
2.6.2. Findings and discussion Teachers' Personal Information
The following graph shows the age of teachers:
12% below 29 years 46% 30-39 years 41% 40-49 years 1% 50+ years
Figure Age of teachers
Teaching experience and training
More than two- thirds of teachers have been teaching for 10 years or less and one- third of
teachers have been teaching for five years or less.
3%2-years 16% 2-5 years18% 6-10 years27% 11-15years 33% 16-20
3% 20+ years

Figure No. years of ELT experience
Approximately one third (31%) have received some form of in-service training, mostly in
the form of short summer workshops (usually from 3 to 5 days in length) which largely deal
with the introduction of the new TIENG ANH series with little methodology component.
Two-thirds (69%) have received no in-service training.
Approximately two-thirds of teachers have a TJC (CDSP BA) degree and slightly more
than one-third have a TSC (DHSP BA) degree.

Figure Qualifications Information about Schools
Access to resources at school
Approximately 9 teachers out of 10 have access to a teacher’s book and a curriculum
document and attend regular subject group meetings. Approximately half the teachers
surveyed have access to a cassette player at school, one quarter to a DVD/CD player and
one-fifth to a computer. Access to materials for preparing visual aids (cards, papers, etc.) is
reported by one in five teachers.
45% reference
53% cassette
26% DVD/CD
19% computer 19% card,

Figure Access to resources at school
Conditions that facilitate teaching
The teachers surveyed listed the following favorable conditions for teaching:
Access to DVD/CD players and cassette players 12%
Access to course books and cassette players 11%
Access to computers 8%
Conditions that impede teaching
36% TSC
The teachers surveyed listed the following unfavorable conditions for teaching:
Shortage of reference books and materials 58%
Poor equipment 30%
Long textbooks 27% Students' Attitude
Students' needs for English
Teachers believe that their students learn English to go on to further study (63%) or find a
better job (28%). 18% believe that their students will not use English after school.
Students’ strengths and weaknesses
Teachers believe that students have difficulties with:
Listening 86% Speaking 64%
Writing 47% Reading 46% Teachers' Performance and Perception
Teachers’ workload
The average teacher has 44 students in a class and teaches 16 lessons a week. S/he prepares
his/her lessons at home because it is more convenient and quieter than at school and s/he
has access to the required books there. S/he does not specialize in any one level but may be
called on to teach any level in the JHS system, probably teaching two or more levels in one
academic year.
The average teacher tests her/his students regularly with self-written weekly, monthly and
end-of-term tests. End-of-year tests are usually written by DES specialists.
Professional support
Half the teachers surveyed report that their source of support comes from their colleagues.
One in three feel that they receive no support.
Teachers’ responses to new TIENG ANH 6-9 textbook series
Likes: Clear layout 82% Dislikes: Long textbooks 25%
Variety of exercise types 80% Technology topics 19%
Logical sequencing 61% Few language summaries 16%
Teachers’ perception of their own teaching skills
Teachers feel confident about teaching grammar, vocabulary and reading. Teachers do not
feel confident about teaching oral skills.
The teachers feel that they have a good The teachers would like to find out more
knowledge of the following topics and about the following topics for their
use them regularly in their teaching: teaching:
Testing grammar 78
Correcting students’ errors 78
Testing vocabulary 75
Eliciting 74
Planning lessons 73
Checking understanding 73
Presenting new vocabulary 69
Using drills 66
Presenting new grammar 62
Teaching reading 62
Classroom management 62
Using dialogues for practice 58
Practicing new vocabulary 55
Giving instructions for activities 55
Organizing pair and group work 54
Using dialogues for presentation 52
Grammar practice activities 48
Testing comprehension 45
Testing spoken English 44
Teaching writing 43
Teaching speaking 37
Using dictation 20
Using songs 20
Teaching listening 11
Teaching listening 55
Teaching speaking 54
Teaching writing 46
Grammar practice activities 45
Using songs 43
Testing comprehension 43
Presenting new grammar 37
Testing spoken English 37
Practicing new vocabulary 34
Teaching reading 32
Using dictation 32
Using dialogues for practice 31
Giving instructions for activities 30
Using drills 29
Using dialogues for presentation 27
Presenting new vocabulary 26
Planning lessons 26
Eliciting 24
Classroom management 22
Organizing pair and group work 22
Testing vocabulary 21
Testing grammar 21
Checking understanding 21
Correcting students’ errors 13 Remarks about Class Observations
Class observations show the methods and techniques used by the observed teachers.
• Methods
It is not easy to say which method/approach teachers observed take in their teaching. Of all
25 teachers observed, only three teachers know how to apply the communicative approach
to their teaching. The rest still reveal their limitations in language knowledge and are not
used to applying the communicative approach to their teaching. They often attach
themselves to the traditional teaching method.
• Techniques
The teachers observed regularly use language games, gap-fill, role play in their teaching.
The most preferable techniques are slap the board, noughts and crosses and pair work.
Teachers often begin a lesson with a game and finish it with a song.
Teachers have difficulty in using group work and free practice activities.
2.7. Summary
This chapter focuses on the current performance of English teaching and learning in junior
high schools in Quang Ngai province. Although JHS teachers are of various ages, they
always try their best to meet the surging needs of their students. However, teachers still
reveal some shortcomings in the way they deliver their lessons because of their lack of
experience (in case of young teachers), their persistence in using traditional teaching
method (old teachers), or their limitations in language knowledge (in-service trained
Also in this chapter, findings from the survey show that most of the teachers want to reduce
the number of units in TIENG ANH from 16 to14 so that they can slow down their teaching
pace and have time for revision.
From the class observations we know that it is not an easy task for teachers to apply the
communicative approach to their teaching in large classes with poor equipment.
In addition, statistics gained from the survey indicate that JHS teachers believe 86% of the
students have difficulties with listening and 64% with speaking. Therefore, teachers should
know how to teach the oral skills and how to improve their own speaking
ability since they are as important as a model for those they teach.
3.1.1. Introduction
In junior high schools, one of the main ways speaking is taught is through dialogues. In this
procedure students repeat each line of the dialogue after the teacher many times. Instead of
asking students to repeat long dialogues, teachers follow these steps:
1. Choose useful structures from the dialogue and do meaningful drills.
2. Put prompts on the board and get students to ask and answer questions.
3. Set up communication pair work activities to practice useful language.
However, speaking practice in the classroom does not come from dialogues only. Good
speaking activities can be integrated into lessons with a grammar, reading, listening, or
writing focus.
Unlike ordinary texts, dialogues are intended to be spoken aloud. A good dialogue tries to
present natural speech. It is like a short theoretical play. It should be acted out in class
rather than read aloud. If the dialogue has some really useful structures and vocabulary,
then it is worth teaching. This can be practiced in a drill and then lead on to a role play or
pair work.
1. The students must know what they are saying. This means there must be some
presentation before asking students to repeat sentences. The teacher should predict
beforehand what pronunciation problems the students will have and pay attention to their
own pronunciation during presentation.
2. Let students hear the drill about three or four times before asking them to repeat it.
3. If there is a very long sentence, break it down into shorter parts and start from the
end of the sentence. This is because the parts will always make sense and the intonation
stays the same. (Back chaining)
Example: Would you like to come to my house for lunch? (Tiếng Anh 7, Unit 6, pg 66)
The teacher would start by saying:
Teacher: for lunch?
Students: Repeat.
Teacher: to my house for lunch?
Students: Repeat.
Teacher: to come to my house for lunch?
Students: Repeat.
Teacher: Would you like to come to my house for lunch?
Students: Repeat.
4. Do not ask individuals to repeat the sentences until the whole class has had a chance
to repeat and build their confidence.
5. Keep the drill moving quickly and try to keep it short. About one minute is right for
each drill.
6. When the teacher wants half the class, small groups or individuals to repeat, use
hand gestures instead of names.
3.1.2. Controlled Speaking Activities The Repetition Drill
(These drills have been chosen from TIẾNG ANH 6, unit 12, pg 129- 131)
Student 1: How often | do you | go | to the zoo?
Student 2: Once or twice a week.
/s/ /s/ /k/
Gesture for silence and get students to listen by pointing to the teacher's ear.
Give the model. Speak clearly but naturally. Give the model two or three times with pauses
so that the students can repeat it mentally to themselves.
Repeat the model again. This time make gestures for them to repeat. Ask for three or four
repetitions until the students are confident.
Get half the class to repeat by gestures. Do not give verbal orders. This slows down the
Get small groups to repeat. Make a circular direction with the teacher's hand in the direction
of the group. Remember to smile if they do it well. The teacher remodels once or twice if
the students have difficulties.
Ask individuals to repeat. Point clearly and avoid using names. It does not matter if a
different student responds, or two students instead of one. Using names slows down the
drill. At this stage the teacher will hear mistakes clearly. Remodel if necessary and smile
encouragingly .
Finally, get a few more class repetitions. Each drill should only take about a minute.
Remember to keep it flowing.
Note : When they can say all the lines well, the teacher could ask one half of the class to be
Student 1 and the other half Student 2. Drill a few times then swap roles. The Substitution Drill
Remember that the original sentence structure from a drill can generate many other
useful sentences. This usually goes easily and quickly once the main structure has been
drilled. The substitutions can be prompted by pictures or mine.
Example 1:
ORIGINAL STUCTURE: How often do you | go | to the zoo?
Introduce pictures of the park, the sports center, the mountain, the river, the kitchen
and the school. Check if the students know the vocabulary. Set up a substitution drill.
Teacher: (Show a picture of a park. Students should make a question.)
Students: How often do you go to the park?
Teacher: (continues with all the pictures)
• Now introduce some different responses. Model the pronunciation and practice with
the students.
• Write these prompts on the board as a support for the students:
once |
twice | a week
three times | a month
four times | a year
every day
Repeat the same drill again. This time ask for a response by pointing to the
response on the board. After they have enough practice, rub out the table and make a
simpler one so that they have to think more.
Example: 1 |
2 | week
3 | month
4 | year
Note: The students should now be ready for a pair work activity.
(Tell the students they are now going to do some pair work.)
1. The teacher has already presented the language he wants the students to use.
Ask a student to stand.
Teacher: How often do you go to the park?
Student: Once a week.
Teacher: How often do you play sports?
Student: Twice a week.
Choose two students who are sitting far away from each other. Ask them to stand. Get one
to ask and one to answer. Use either pictures or prompts on the board to guide students to
ask different questions. The answers should be realistic.
Student 1: How often do you go camping?
Student 2: Once a year.
Now tell the students to work in pairs and ask each other how often they do things. They
should take it in turns to ask. Go around and listen to them working. The teacher can leave
some prompts on the board if necessary, e.g. zoo, park, sports, camping, fishing, mom.
Stop the activity and choose a random pair. Ask them to repeat the activity. Do the same
with two other pairs. If the students know the teacher is going to check after the activity,
they will work harder.
If the teacher has noticed any common mistakes, bring them to the attention of the students.
If the teacher has enough time and the students have mastered the structure, the teacher can
give them some more practice. Show some pictures of sport and leisure activities. Elicit the
language from students.
How often do | you | VERB | NOUN?
Teacher: (Show a picture of someone watching TV.)
Students: How often do you watch TV?
Teacher: (Show a picture of someone swimming.)
Students: How often do you go swimming?
Teacher: (Show a picture of someone listening to the radio)
Students: How often do you listen to the radio?
Elicit as many different actions as the teacher thinks the students will know, using pictures.
Write prompts on the board.
PAIR WORK: The teacher can ask the students to do the activity again. This time the
teacher asks questions using prompts on the board. Drilling a Complete Dialogue
If the teacher feels that a complete dialogue is suitable for the students to practice (with a
speaking focus) then this is a good procedure to follow:
(UNIT 11, TIẾNG ANH 6, pg 116)
Salesgirl: Can I help you?
Ba : Yes. I’d like some beef, please.
Salesgirl: How much do you want?
Ba : Two hundred grams of beef, please.
Salesgirl: Two hundred grams of beef. Is there anything else?
Ba : Yes. I need some eggs.
Salesgirl: How many do you want?
Ba : A dozen, please.
STEP 1: PRESENTATION (Students should not open their books yet.)
Students must understand what they are repeating.
PRESENT VOCABULARY: Show pictures of different foods (oil, tea, chocolate, rice,
beef, eggs, peas, soap, toothpaste). Present the words beef and egg. Check if the students
understand the questions, “How much do you want?” and “How many do you want?”
WRITE THEM ON THE BOARD. Bring their attention to the structure PRESENT
SIMPLE (used for shopping people do every day). Explain that people use either HOW
MUCH or HOW MANY with this structure.
STEP 2: LISTENING ACTIVITY (Let the students listen to the dialogue first and focus on
• Students must have their books closed.

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