Three Criteria to Consider When Designing Interactive Activities for Language Learners

Student Needs

Probably the most important criteria to consider when developing interactive activities are student needs. Each student is different and the activities should reflect these differences whenever possible. Some factors affecting students’ needs include: English language proficiency level, learning styles, purpose for learning English, time, age, etc.  If the activity does not meet the needs of students, it will not promote learning. For example, when working with beginners with no English background, before presenting them with interactive activities involving reading, you should first engage them in activities that allow for practice with the alphabet and letter sounds.

Learner’s Motivation

Learners’ motivation is another criterion to be considered. “Teacher behavior, instructional materials, and other elements of a learning environment all will affect motivation” (Reiser & Dempsey, 2007, p.85) which lends to the idea that external events can influence motivation. Each of these should be considered when developing interactive activities with the goal of engaging learners in the activities. While learners are ultimately responsible for their own motivation, if the learners are not motivated, very little learning will take place. The teacher must do his or her best to design interactive activities that will boost learners’ motivations to participate in the learning.

Communicative Competence

Communicative competence is another important criterion to be considered when developing interactive activities for ELL. It is “the ability to use the language correctly and appropriately to accomplish communication goals” (http://www.nclrc.org/essentials/goalsmethods/goal.htm) or engage in effective communication. The goal of the activity should be for students to be able to “make themselves understood, using their current proficiency to the fullest” (http://www.nclrc.org/essentials/goalsmethods/goal.htm). Effective interactive activities will provide opportunities for students to practice and apply the new language in the four skill areas: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Being able to use the new language to complete tasks, especially when based on a real-world context, promotes learning (Reiser & Dempsey, 2007, p.63). One example would be teaching students how to discuss and identify body parts in the context of a doctor’s visit, expressing pain, or describing themselves and others. “Those who have done research in first and second language development suggest that non-native English speakers learn a second language when they have opportunities to use language in interaction with their peers and the teacher” (Egbert & Simich-Dudgeon, 2001, p.23).

References

Egbert, J. & Simich-Dudgeon, C. (2001). Providing support for non-Native learners of English in the social studies classroom: Integrating verbal interactive activities and technology. The Social Studies, 92(1), 22-25. Retrieved April 30, 2009, from Research Library database.  

The National Capital Language Resource Center. (2004). The Essentials of language teaching. Retrieved April 30, 2009, from http://www.nclrc.org/essentials/goalsmethods/goal.htm

Reiser, R. A., & Dempsey, J. V. (Eds.). (2007). Trends and issues in instructional design and technology. New Jersey: Pearson.

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