Guest post by Dimitris Primalis (@dprimalis) – Information gap tasks with the aid of technology – Part 1

Dimitris Primalis
Dimitris Primalis

It is an honour to host once again on my blog: Dimitris Primalis. A huge thank you to Dimitris!

Dimitris Primalis has been teaching EFL for 20 years. His experience covers a wide range of groups including young learners, teenagers, adults and exam prep classes. He has written 5 test books for Macmillan and works at Doukas, a Microsoft Mentor School in Athens, Greece. Dimitris and Chryssanthe Sotiriou won the 2013 IATEFL Learning Technologies SIG scholarship.

Teachers by definition are asked to bridge social, racial and cognitive gaps. Yet, creating gap activities can help students bridge communication gaps and develop their speaking and writing skills primarily as well as listening and reading (depending on the activity). Technology can revive this old technique whilst developing 21st century skills like the “C”s (creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication). In the context of flipped classroom and using a Learning Management System (LMS), such activities can be used even more efficiently by assigning watching, reading or listening at home. Thus,  classroom time can be exploited for more language production as you will read below.

What exactly are information gap activities?
According to wikipedia: “An information gap task is a technique in language teaching where students are missing information necessary to complete a task or solve a problem, and must communicate with their classmates to fill in the gaps.It is often used in communicative language teaching and task-based language learning. Information gap tasks are contrasted with opinion gap tasks, in which all information is shared at the start of the activity, and learners give their own opinions on the information given.”

Why try them in class?

Because they:
1. motivate learners to use language meaningfully by sharing info in order to solve a problem
2. require collaboration through pair or groupwork
3. are open ended and there is no correct or incorrect answer
4. encourage creativity by stimulating students’ imagination
5. involve students and urge them to communicate with peers in L2 so that they can bridge the gap
6. integrate skills (a combination of speaking, writing, reading and/or listening depending on the task)

Bridging...the gap (Photo of Arta Bridge, Epirus, Greece by Rakesh Bhanot)
Bridging…the gap (Photo of Arta Bridge, Epirus, Greece by Rakesh Bhanot)

Activities

1. Split viewing/listening for speaking/writing activity
Choose a video that narrates a story. Divide the class into two groups: the viewers and listeners. Ensure that the latter are your audio type learners or the ones whose listening skills are developed. In the former group include the visual types as well as the weakest students.

Give viewers a couple of key words. Ask them to leave the classroom and try to anticipate what the story is about.

Listeners listen to the narration/dialogue and the sounds (unplug the IWB so that there is no picture)  and take notes.
Then listeners go outside, share notes and exchange ideas on what the story is about.
Viewers come into the classroom and watch (sound off) taking notes. Allow them a couple of minutes to exchange notes and ideas.
Invite listeners into the class and ask them to form pairs or groups with viewers. Each pair or group should have at least one listener and one viewer. Ask them to join forces, compare notes and try to come up with the story.  The only rule is that they will have to use L2 throughout the activity. This can be a speaking activity or depending on the time available, it can be a group writing activity.
Each group reports to class their version. As follow-up students have to write the rest of the story.

I have tried it with an old black and white film “Rebecca” ( 01:34-03:56) has stimulated students interest and inspired them to produce interesting stories. The viewers saw the man ready to jump but the listener heard the woman’s voice shouting “No…Stop!!!”

Tips
1. Let the director of studies know beforehand that student groups will be outside the classroom for brief periods of time. Alternatively, do the activity with another colleague so you can have listeners in your classroom and she can have viewers in hers or vice versa.

2. Stop viewing or listening when suspense heightens. It does not have to be at the same point.

3. If the film or video is based on literature, ask students to read the next chapter of the book/reader to find out what happened next.

Flipped classroom: if there is a LMS or a wiki, you can upload the mute version of the video and the audio version in mp3 form and ask students to do watch/listen (depending on the group they are in) and take notes. This saves time for more communication and interaction in class.

In the second part of the post you can read about jigsaw reading.