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2.5. Communicating across information gaps


Simple activity 4 is really the first of our four which incorporates the important principle of the "information gap". That is, this activity creates a need which can only be fulfilled through the exchange of information in the new language. We do other activities which meet this condition. For example, we sometimes have two identical sets of objects on the opposite sides of a barrier (such as a cardboard box). Learners on one side of the barrier arrange the objects. The native speaker describes what they do, and the learners on the other side of the barrier attempt to arranged their objects in the same way based on what the native speaker tells them. We do the same thing with something called TPR kits (described in the catalogue of Sky' Oaks Productions, P.O. Box 1102, Los Gatos, California, 95031 1102). These contain a plastic picture, for example, of the interior of a two story house or the main street of a towrL In addition there are reusable plastic stickers of many objects and people found in such locations. Again, we ignore the instructions that come with the kits, and just use them for information gap activities. That means we always need two of each, although you might find ways to achieve the same thing with a single kit.

At a later stage, we do our information gap activities in such a way that the native speaker is on one side and the learners are on the other. The learners have information which the native speaker needs in order to perform the task. In addition to arranging objects behind barriers, or TPR kits, you can use simple line drawings. Make two drawings that are partly the same and partly different. Your native speaker friend must ask you questions to find out all the ways in which your drawing is the same or different from the one you gave her. We find it is less demanding if the native speaker is the one needing the information to perform the task, and the learners are the ones providing the information in response to the native speaker's probing. This provides a lot of opportunity to understand language that you have never heard before, and thus to notice ways that native speakers express themselves. At an even later stage, you can reverse these roles, and the balance will shift from this being more of an understanding activity to being more of a talking activity.

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Go to SIL home page This page is an extract from the LinguaLinks Library, Version 3.5, published on CD-ROM by SIL International, 1999. [Ordering information.]

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