Drills, Dialogues, and Role Plays
A Lesson Never Forgotten
“Jambo!” is hello in Swahili. The authors of this book participated in several short introductory language learning experiences during their teacher training. Mary studied Swahili, which was taught with the judicious use of drills and dialogues and contends that it is the language in which she can still most easily respond to simple greetings, say a few simple phrases, and ask some questions.
Drills and dialogues are among the most traditional materials used by language teachers. The content of drills and dialogues and how much we use them has changed considerably over the years. This is because teachers and materials developers have been paying more and more attention to ways of providing students with meaningful materials and content that allow them to engage in “real” communication. Role plays and plays, which are often forms of extended dialogues, are part of the repertoire of practice activities and materials.
This chapter includes: • • • • • • the advantages and limitations of drills and dialogues in language development various types of drills and dialogues how to design and adapt drills that are meaningful rather than mechanical how to make and adapt dialogues for your class how to prepare role plays suitable for your students and teaching objectives the advantages and uses of role plays (including plays, simulations and sociodramas) • how to involve students in developing dialogues and role plays (including plays, simulations, and sociodramas)
Tools and Tips for Using ELT Materials—Web Only Some Challenging Questions Before you begin, answer these questions: • What is your opinion of using drills in language teaching? Under what circumstances would you use them? When would you select other teaching materials? • Have you ever learned a language or taught using drills? What was your experience in learning from or teaching using drills? • Have you ever tried to make drills more communicative? How could you do this? • Have you ever developed or adapted role plays, plays, simulations, or sociodramas for teaching? Have you experienced any of these activities as a learner? What is your opinion of these activities for language teaching?
Drills as Language Teaching Material Definition and Uses of Drills A drill is “A type of highly controlled oral practice in which the students respond to a given cue. The response varies according to the type of drill.” (Matthews, Spratt, and Dangerfield 1991, 210). Drills are used usually at the controlled practice stage of language learning so that students have the opportunity to accurately try out what they have learned. Drills help students to develop quick, automatic responses using a specific formulaic expression or structure, such as a tag ending, verb form, or transformation. Drills have been much maligned for their behavioristic, stimulus-response nature and for the mechanical, repetitive practice they provide. In classrooms that use the audiolingual method, which became popular in the 1950s, drills are basic to language teaching. Many of us know that drill-based lessons are not always particularly stimulating. In fact, you may remember language drills in which you could accurately respond in the drill without knowing what you were saying. There’s a joke among language teachers: “Dictionary definition: Drill—a device for boring” (Hubbard 1990, 19). However, drills do respond to the learning style of those who learn well through memorization and repetition. Drills can be useful teaching-learning material because they provide practice of small, manageable chunks of language. This helps to build confidence and automatic use of structures and expressions that have been drilled. Also, they can be part of a teaching or learning sequence that progresses from more towards less controlled practice. Mary Spratt (1991) notes that drills can be either mechanical or meaningful....