Cultivate a Classroom Culture of Authentic Communication

Much of what students are asked to do in lessons does not involve authentic communication. They answer questions to display what they have learned to the teacher; they write essays that have the right features on the rubric to get as many points as possible; they read to answer questions, often just putting the minimum answer in the space provided. 

Authentic communication, by contrast, means that a student uses language (along with gestures, facial expressions, visuals, etc.) to communicate a message to others who want or need it for some engaging and/or meaningful purpose--beyond getting points or praise from the teacher. Authentic communication also includes understanding messages from others. 

Language learning occurs best when students use it to communicate and construct ideas with others (listen, read, speak, write, converse). Language was created to get things done, to communicate—to solve problems, express needs, create ideas of value in the world. We learn when we need to use language to do interesting and realistic things. This means not focusing on bits and pieces of language, nor on memorizing forms, functions, verb tenses, and grammar rules that are isolated from useful goals. If and when these pieces are taught, they should stem from and serve the purposes of improving communication. (Go the Three Key Features of Communicativeness for more on how to adapt activities.)

Entire books are written on the topic of classroom culture, so here a just a few key points.

1.  Build communication dispositions or mindsets in students, such that most think things like you see in the bubbles in this image.
2. Praise efforts to communicate and elaborate

3. Encourage students to push themselves and others to communicate better and better throughout a lesson and throughout the year.