• IMPROV e English Team

Techniques based on dialogue and verbal communication.

This category includes samples of techniques based on the oral communication among learners to promote learning and acquire new knowledge. In most of the cases, techniques offer a double side interaction on which learners can improve different competences when acting as speaker or receiver (E.g. language fluency, exchange of points of view, expressing ideas, active listening, shifts respect, argumentation, etc.). When using dialogue and verbal communication with non-formal education, the educator must be really aware about the skills and language limits of learners as this kind of techniques requires a basic knowledge of a language or the use of complete grammar structures. According to this, before using this kind of resources it is recommended to use other kind of techniques that could reinforce before the self-confidence of the learners, their capacity of speaking in public, knowledge of vocabulary to express ideas or body language to support the meaning of their arguments when communicating.

a) Roleplaying

It is wide technique used to simulate a real situation in order to practice concrete vocabulary or grammar structures. Learners receive different roles through cards or papers that need to play in order to learn by experiencing and using the knowledge acquired before on previous parts of their learning process. As a difference to theatre, in role playing there is no need to perform what is represented and can be just done sitting learners face to face. Besides this, there is not a real script but short guidelines that learners need to follow and set by the educator in order to practice a short dialogue. According to this, role playing is a cooperative game in which all its participants are actors and spectators at any time during the process. The technique allows learners to practice real life situations in a safe environment that can help them out of the training sessions to face real problems or conflicts. Within non formal education, this is a quite useful technique to practice second languages but also an excellent tool to promote empathy among learners by providing them roles that are far of their own personality, culture, status or social behavior.

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b) Brainstorming

It is a technique based on sharing in an informal and freeway ideas related to a concrete topic or obstacle proposed. Its main aim is to promote learners creativity by problems solving while they train their imagination and group consciousness. One of the main aims of the process is to teach learners how to expose ideas and compare them with others’ points of view in order to establish strategies to act and avoid the frustration or blocking that a creative process can produce. The system also prioritizes the use of positive comments by avoiding direct negative ones and making possible that learners discover what constructive criticism is. It can be done orally or with papers, but it is always recommended that when using this technique, the different ideas shared by learners are written down in a place that all of them can see at the same time in order to avoid repetition and inspire them (E.g. a black board or a big paper flipchart).

c) Interviews

An interview is a conversation that two or more people maintain in order to acquire information with a specific aim. According to this, it can be seen as a dialogue between the person(s) interviewed and the interviewer(s). It is not a casual conversation but a communication with a concrete goal, defined expectations on the interviewer and interests based on curiosity in all the parts involved on it. As a difference from role playing, most of the times there are no roles assigned to learners as they need to provide answers and make questions based on their real lives, backgrounds or interests. It is a quite useful tool when learners do not know each other as it helps to find points in common among them, reinforce their confidence and promote their better interaction. However, during its use it is recommended that the educator invites learners to switch from time to time the roles of interviewer and interviewed in order to obtain the maximum learning benefit of the activity and people involved on it.

d) Human libraries

It is a technique based on interviewing but with very specific characteristics. Human libraries are spaces on which people with something to tell about an issue (normally because they have a wide life experience or knowledge on it) are invited to share it with others: They are called “human books”. “Human books” can be demanded in this kind of spaces by “readers” or people who aim to know more about a concrete topic, culture, historical period, etc. The main benefit over reading books is that all the stories told have an empiric base and are transmitted with all their emotive content. Moreover, readers are also free to make questions to the “human books”, what makes the sharing of information more concise and accurate. During a non-formal learning process, this is an excellent technique to allow learners not only acquire a new knowledge, but also to invite them to act as “human books” in order to practice a new language, how to speak in public, how to organize their stories, etc.

Entity sample:

Technique video:

e) Language/culture tandem.

We define as tandem a dialogue between two people with a common interest and who aims to exchange points of view or information about it. According to this, language tandem is defined as a technique on which two people from different cultural backgrounds want to learn about the language and culture of the other in an empiric way. The way to do it, is by establishing an informal conversation by time shifts of concrete duration. During the first shift, learners will speak on the language of one of them. After a while, they will change and communicate on the language of the other one. Normally the meetings are done in public places that could be seen as neutral to create a safer environment to talk. Even if this technique demands that learners have linguistic competences in several languages, it is an excellent non formal and informal way to learn not only about communication and improving listening but also to discover peculiarities about a culture, its story, traditions and those living on it.

Technique video:

f) Debate

It is a communicative act for expressing opposed ideas that promotes a discussion about an open topic among two or more people. Its aim is to expose ideas and postures by using arguments to reason them. As it demands not only to give opinion about an issue but also to previously search acquaint for it, debates are a perfect non formal technique to acquire new knowledge and competences related to speaking and listening skills (E.g. speaking in public, sharing feelings, exchanging points of view, plan strategies, etc.).

g) Speed dating

It is an easy technique based on promoting the exchange of information among learners about a topic, problem to solve or just to get to know each other (it can be made in pairs or by groups). The difference with interviews or tandems is that learners are sitting face to face in a table but they only have a very short period of time to obtain the information that they need (E.g. 5 minutes). After this time, learners need to stand up and sit on another table with a different person. The process is repeated as many times as needed and depending on the objectives of the educator who is supporting the activity. Thanks to this technique, learners do not only learn about each other, but practice how to synthesize or express ideas in a direct way.

h) Simulation

Simulation is a technique in which the learners participate in a procedure that represents a real situation. They practice and learn many different disciplines and topics. They have to think how some particular persons they would behave or react in specific situations and be able to act like them if they had to deal with the same conditions. It looks like role-playing but the difference is that the goal in simulation is the understanding of the reactions in each case. The realistic scenarios allows for practice till one can master the procedure or skill, something greatly useful in language learning as well as the learners’ integration. Moreover teamwork conducted in the simulated environment may offer an additive benefit to the didactic instruction, enhance performance and help reduce language errors.

i) Storytelling

It is the art of telling a story or tale by using the oral speech. What is shared can be planned but also improvised, what makes it a very good tool in terms of non-formal education as it can improve oral skills but also other ones such as improvisation or creativity. This technique also implies in most of the cases the design of characters behind the story out of nothing, what makes it an excellent channel for learners to show their feelings, expectations or transfer their emotions in order to be shared. Besides this, during this character building, learners must make an extra effort to understand how they should behave according to each character during the story. As a consequence, it allows reinforcing competences such as empathy or observation which are essential when working with non-formal education and basic for the interaction of a person within an intercultural group.

j) Group exercises

This technique can easily be implemented together with other techniques during any part of the lesson or the educational program. It is the cornerstone of adults’ education and an effective tool for language learning. Through this technique the development of the communication and mutuality among the members of the team can be achieved. The one is helping the other reducing the negative competition. In a language class is very important because it ensures the active participation of all learners without exception and promotes peer learning. Learners feel safer and express themselves more easily in a small group.

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