Children interactions while playing a game: Promoting oral production in EFL classrooms.

2013

Abstract  A wealth of studies has shown that interactional activities facilitate language acquisition among adults and among children learning English as a second language (ESL) (Gass, 2003). Within this field, task repetition has also been claimed to favour the internalization of linguistic forms (Mackey, Kanganas and Oliver, 2007). Accordingly, interactional activities have become commonplace in language lessons among adults and ESL children. On the contrary, these tasks have not yet found their place among young learners of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) (Oliver, 2002). Likewise, research with this population remains very scarce (García Mayo and Lázaro, 2013; Lázaro and Azpilicueta, 2013; Pinter, 2007). In order to fill this research niche, the present study sets off to explore whether young EFL learners are able to perform interaction games on their own and, if so, to see what strategies they use and, finally, to examine the impact of task repetition. In order to address these goals, data were collected from two EFL learners (age 11) resolving a picture placement game as a pair three times over a period of three weeks. The analysis of the learners’ production focused on their ability to work autonomously, their interactional strategies, their strategies to cope with linguistic gaps, their linguistic correction and the differences from one task to the next. Results show how learners were able to successfully interact and resolve the task without the need of a teacher. In fact, they were very attentive to each other’s needs, made wide use of interactional strategies and, despite the abundant number of errors, communication never broke down. In addition, although transfer of structures was common, they avoided using the L1 when facing linguistic gaps and were able to paraphrase unknown words in creative ways. On the other hand, task repetition did not seem to exert an important effect, except for an increased efficacy in resolving the game: the learners needed a smaller number of turns and utterances to achieve their goal each time they performed the task. This means that the language they used was more target-centred. In light of these results, we will argue in favour of the use of tasks including peer interaction in EFL classrooms as a way to promote oral production and to enhance language acquisition. Therefore, we recommend that teachers integrate this type of tasks in their daily practice as a means to help their students more successfully.


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