10 Ways to Apply the Communicative Language Teaching Method
Old school language teaching methods were based on memorizing grammar rules and rewriting and repeating sentences to drill grammar.
Since this wasn’t the best language learning method, the principles of communicative language teaching have gradually been established.
Do you want to learn more? Keep reading to find out what the communicative method is and discover activities to try out!
What Is Communicative Language Teaching?
In the 1970s, there was a shift from a grammatical approach to a more communicative one. Linguists realized that knowing a lot about language and its rules doesn’t necessarily translate into understanding and using it.
The definition of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) is not set in stone, as it is considered a set of principles rather than a method. CLT emphasizes communication and interaction skills rather than grammatical competence.
What is the focus of the communicative language teaching approach? As the name implies, communication is the end and the means of communicative language teaching.
The main objective is to prepare students for real-life communication through oral practices and cooperation.
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Advantages of Role Playing and Collaborative Tasks
Role playing and group tasks that require student-student interaction are essential language techniques for community language learning. Active interaction basically replaced passive listening and parroting the teacher. Communication activities practice integrated skills instead of focusing on only one.
To use the CLT method during your lessons, integrate role-playing and group tasks into your lesson plan. The playful component makes learning more enjoyable and effective. Students learn with less pressure and strengthen relationships.
How to prepare your communicative activities in the classroom? It’s not enough to put students in pairs or groups and tell them to speak in the target language. You need to take into consideration not only the level of individual and group abilities, but also the personality of each student.
For beginner levels, you might opt to write the script and have them act it out. For intermediate learners, you might include language prompts you want them to use. Advanced learners usually just need cues and general orientation.
Practical Tips for CLT Teachers
- Choose topics that are relevant to your students. The more they can relate to them, the easier it will be to engage them.
- While planning your lesson, choose different types of student activities (pair work, role-playing, collaborative group tasks) to make sure all students will actively participate.
- Choose clear context for your activities and language and communicative goals. Each role should be precisely defined, and all participants need to know what to do.
- Make sure you practice both formal and informal interactions to prepare your students for real-life situations.
- Personalize tasks and roles according to the student’s language abilities.
- Provide a supportive and playful atmosphere.
10 Communicative Approach Examples and Activities
Now that you understand the importance of communicative language teaching, let me show you some examples of classroom activities to adapt to your specific needs.
Remember, beginner learners will need more specific language instruction than the more advanced ones.
1. School Task Dialogues
This activity is an ideal way to practice the language and vocabulary that the beginner students need on a daily basis. Start with discreet partner work to let students practice in a safe environment.
Prepare a list of two-line dialogues indicating the role. Students practice questions and answers in pairs, reading the dialogues. Later, ask them to choose one, memorize it and act it out in front of the class.
- ¿Me puedes prestar una pluma? / Can you lend me a pen?
- Se me olvidó la tarea. / I forgot my homework.
- ¿Puedo ir al baño? / Can I go to the restroom?
- No entiendo, ¿puede repetir, por favor? / I don’t understand. Can you repeat, please?
- Siento llegar tarde. / Sorry I’m late.
This is a more effective way than just handing in the list of phrases. Students also learn and practice different short responses such as
- no pasa nada – that’s okay
- claro que sí – of course
- aquí tienes – here it is
Remember to limit the dialogues to two lines and use simple language. Read or model the dialogues first.
2. Speed Befriending
Use this activity to change classroom configuration and practice beginner questions.
Tell them that the objective of the game is to find someone that could be their friend and sit next to them during the next lessons. A sample card could look like this:
Your name: Mike
Age: 17 (seventeen)
Country of Origin: Canada
Favorite food: pizza and pasta
You are: outgoing, curious
Looking for: a sports lover
Questions and answers example:
What is your name? My name is…
How old are you? I am…
Where are you from? I’m from…
What do you like to do? I like to…
What is your favorite food? I love…
What are you like? I am…
Have half of the group sit down and the other half rotate to different partners to make sure everybody talks to each other.
3. Family Dinner
Another superb communicative activity is to practice food vocabulary, as well as instructions and complaints.
Assign a family member role to each student. Describe how they should behave and what phrases they need to use during the dinner.
You are: the son, Juanito
Age: 5 (five)
You have to misbehave. Rock on the chair, and play with the cutlery.
You don’t like vegetables and you have to say it many times during the meal. You can say:
I don’t like salad.
I don’t like vegetables.
I hate green things.
You have to use these phrases:
Cut me the…
Pass me the…
Can I have more…
If you have more advanced students, describe what they need to do and say without language prompts. Practice the preterite and imperfect tenses by having the family members retell their day.
4. Hotel Room Disasters
If your students travel to Spanish-speaking countries, hotel-related vocabulary and phrases will come in handy. The activity is more fun if you talk about everything that can go wrong during a hotel stay.
Invent a couple of interactions between the reception clerks and hotel guests and add language and phrases you want to practice. Students can practice in pairs and later act out their dialogue in front of the class:
- Mi cuarto no tiene ventana. / My room has no window.
- No hay agua. / There’s no water.
- Hay alguien durmiendo en mi cama. / Someone is sleeping in my bed.
- La luz de mi cuarto no se prende. / The light in my room does not turn on.
Hand-picked for you: A Traveler’s Guide to Hotel Vocabulary in Spanish
5. Plan Your School Trip
Do a role play of a group planning a trip to practice country names, transportation, and maybe even negotiation language.
Tell them that the objective is to compromise, agree on their destination, mode of transport, length of stay, and what they want to see.
You want to go to: Spain
You want to go by: a cruise ship
You want to stay: two weeks
You want to see:
Madrid, Barcelona, Granada
Language to use:
I don’t agree
I prefer to go to/at
We can go to …
I think my/your idea is better.
This is an easy game to practice communication skills.
Distribute cards to the students with the name of an object. Ask them to describe it to other students without using the name.
Or, play it another way. Put a sticker on each student’s forehead with the name of the object. They need to ask yes or no questions to other students to guess what they are.
Give each student a card with sample questions:
Am I alive?
Am I an object?
Am I a person?
Am I an animal?
Am I big?
Am I heavy?
Can I fly?
Can I swim?
Am I red?
Can you use me for cooking?
Can you find me in the bathroom?
I can assure you that if your students are under 20, they all have a TikTok account.
Ask your students to record short TikTok videos on a topic of their choice. It could be absolutely anything:
- five things you didn’t know about me
- six facts about my city/country
- my morning routine
The topic doesn’t matter. This projects shows them they can communicate in Spanish about whatever they want and have fun doing it.
Show them some interesting TikTok Spanish accounts first to spark their interest.
In this activity, your students will practice negotiation phrases and vocabulary related to all kinds of products, and numbers.
Choose five students to be the shop owners and the rest will be buyers with specific shopping lists prepared by you.
The shops are:
- la frutería – fruit stand
- la carnicería – butcher
- la librería – bookstore
- la panadería – bakery
- el supermercado – supermarket
The shop owners may decide on the price of their products, and the customers need to find everything on their list. They may negotiate the price.
Sample buyer card:
Here are the things you need to buy:
- 2 kilos of apples
- An easy novel in Spanish
- Some wholemeal bread
- A package of noodles
I’m looking for a…
I wonder if you can help me, I…
‘How much is that
Sample shopkeeper card:
You have a fruit stand. You have the following in stock:
- Mangos, ripe and ready to eat today
- Green apples
Frases de ejemplo:
I’m sorry, we ran out of…
This will be…
This activity has all the characteristics of the communicative approach. It involves all your students who have to actively participate in a real-life situation to prepare them for future, real communication.
9. Werewolves (Mafia)
Have you ever played Mafia? If you haven’t, I’m sure you have at least heard about it. It’s a popular social deduction game that makes your students speak. With your students, play the werewolves version to avoid violent references.
Inform your students that they live in a village that gets attacked by werewolves every night. Sit the students in a circle and tell them that if you tap them they will be the werewolves.
The game has two alternating phases; day and night. During the night, the werewolves choose their victim that gets killed and during the day, the victim’s identity is revealed and everybody tries to discover who the werewolves are.
The players vote and eliminate one suspect werewolf. The game ends when all the werewolves or all the villagers are eliminated.
This activity lets your student practice expressing opinions. Pre-teach the following phrases:
Creo que es… porque…
I think it’s… because…
No creo que sea… porque…
I don’t think it’s… because…
Yo voto por….
I vote for…
Deberíamos eliminar a …
We should eliminate…
This is a similar activity to the TikTokers but your students should create longer videos and talk more. It’s better for intermediate students, but beginners can record longer videos with a prepared script.
Choose a specific topic to practice. For example, ask them to play a video game and narrate it to their followers to practice the present continuous tense in Spanish.
How-to tutorials are wonderful to practice giving instructions. You can give them a topic list to choose from:
- Cómo hacer un pastel – How to make a cake
- Cómo coser un botón – How to sew a button
- Cómo bañar a tu perro – How to bathe your dog
If you need more ideas for role-playing scenarios, check out 10 Spanish Role-Playing Scenarios to Use in Your Classroom.
Get Spanish Support In Your Classroom
Introducing communicative language teaching in your lessons not only helps improve your students’ speaking skills but also strengthens their connection to the community and enriches their sense of purpose.
Spanish is the fourth most spoken language in the world. By speaking it, your students can communicate more easily with those around them. It’s likely that your students will encounter Spanish-speaking people even without leaving the country—in their own school, on the playground, or in their neighborhood. With even basic Spanish communication skills they can start and carry conversations that enrich their lives.
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