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What makes for "authentic" interactions between/among learners?

Hello colleagues, Creating many opportunities for learners to interact with one another in the classroom is an important goal for any ESL lesson.

Here's a resource from the LINCS collection that offers some ideas for how to do so: Facilitating Adult Learner Interactions to Build Listening and Speaking Skills by Sharon McKay and Kirsten Schaetzel.

What would you say makes an interaction authentic? How can we make classroom interactions as authentic as possible?

Looking forward to reading your thoughts!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition



Ellen Patron's picture

Several things resonated with me as I read the CAL article so I'll reflect on a classroom experience I had today.  I have a game I made using a template game board I found by doing a Google search (I  If anyone wants a copy my edited version, let me know privately.) It's one of those game boards with a start and finish, move forward three spaces, go back to the beginning, etc., that students land on as they roll a die and move an individualized token around the board path.  (I use pony beads for tokens and students play in groups of 4-5.).  So we start with something competitive and a game which sort of ensures that discussion will happen at the very beginning regarding rolling the die, taking turns, choosing their favorite bead color, etc.  Today we had cheating as a preferred topic for one group (!).  I have prepared question cards which students must answer in order to move their token around the board path.  This means one die, 5 pony beads and a pack of questions in a snack bag for each table.  Plus, the game boards - I want to laminate them since it's a game I can use regularly with every unit.)  3" x 5" index cards cut in thirds make perfect cards for the questions.

Today, the unit was communication with target language regarding adverbs of frequency and wi-fi. (I had them get on the wi-fi in our building and play a Kahoot! game about that exact process earlier in the lesson.  It was a first for about 1/3 of the class.).  So, a student rolls the die and moves the requisite number of spaces, answers the question with an adverb of frequency and then uses that answer to make conversation at the table.  I had over 20 students doing so with arguments happening, philosophical discussions and just simple answers offered by each player during a round.  So, the game is competitive yet substantive and can be used to teach different conversation skills.  I make them aware that the game is intended to help them practice their conversation skills so they know why it is important to participate actively.  (One rather advanced student asked today what the point was in having the pony beads and game board.  They could just answer the questions, couldn't they?  Some groups are more motivated by the competition than the substance of the questions in this multi-level (intermediate/advanced), open enrollment class.). 

You just can't beat an activity that lasts at least 30 minutes and  can be used over and over with very little preparation.  Oh yeah, it's authentic communication too. 

P.S.  Board games like this one are played differently in different countries.  That really hit me today!



Ellen Clore-Patron, 

REEP volunteer and Hamline U. MAESL student