An in a language environment (Richards & Rodgers, 2001).

An activity can be described as “a
task that has been selected to achieve a particular teaching/learning goal” (Richards
& Lockhart, 1994). According to Richard and Lockhart (1994), besides
influencing how teachers conceptualize teaching, activities also play an
important role in shaping the ways they organize their lessons. Uçar (2009)
explains the importance of activities in terms of learning process with a
metaphor as “Activities are the meat of the language
learning process because theoretical aspects of an approach, which are the
skeleton, are put into practice by means of classroom activities” (p. 27).

 

However,
‘activity’ alone is a broad term and there are a great number of exercises that
fall into that category. Activities may include specific classroom exercises such
as games, role-plays or group work as well as they can be described in broader
terms like classroom structures, types and pedagogical aspects of teaching. Schmidt,
Boraie and Kassabgy (1996) use the term instructional activities to describe
the activities included in such broad terms.

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Activity
types are determined based on the specific method that is employed in a
language environment (Richards & Rodgers, 2001). Jacques (2001)
states that students’ preferences of certain insturctional activities mainly
depend on their “personal goals, instructional and cultural backgrounds,
perceived value and difficulty of the tasks and divergent personalities” (p.
186). He also claims that teachers’ preferences of teaching styles are based
either on “their experiences as learners or an acceptance of adherence to the
prominent pedagogical theories of the time” (p. 186).

 

Green
(1993) classified activities as ‘communicative’ and ‘non-communicative’. In his
study, he investigated students’ attitudes toward communicative and
non-communicative activities. The results revealed that the students enjoyed
communicative activities more than non-communicative ones.

 

In
a similar research study conducted by Barkhuizen (1998), the activities were
classified as ‘traditional’ and ‘communicative’. According to the researcher,
traditional activities include mechanical language skills, reading activities
and writing activities; while communicative activities consist of oral
activities such as debates and discussions. The results of the study revealed
that the students mainly preferred traditional activites over communicative
ones.

 

Garrett
and Shorthall (2002) divided activities into two categories as ‘teacher-fronted’,
where the teacher controls the activities; and ‘student-centered’, which
involves student interaction with pair or group work activities. In
teacher-fronted activities, the teacher is at the main focus, while in
student-centered activities, the teacher only has a participatory role. The
study is mainly centered around examining students’ evaluations of these two
kinds of activities as well as investigating the effects of proficiency levels
of the students on their perceptions of activities. According to the results of
the study, the students follow a pathway towards more interactive student-centered
activities as they move up through the language levels.

 

Another
similar classification was suggested by Rao (2002) in his study, where he
investigated Chinese students’ perceptions of communicative and non-communicative
activities in EFL classroom. The results of the study showed a tendency that
most of the students favored a combination of communicative and
non-communicative activities in their English classroom.

 

 

Up
until this point, activities have been mainly classified as communicative/non-communicative
or teacher-fronted/student-centered, but there have also been different
classifications.

 

Heater
(2008) categorized activities in terms of five different skills, which are
listening, speaking, reading, writing and grammar. In his study, he looked into
the preferences of the students for activity types based on these five
different skills. The study found that students mostly preferred listening and
speaking activities instead of grammar activities. On the other hand, students
with lower level of proficiency preferred grammar focused activities in which
they felt more confident.

 

Similarly,
Weger (2013) investigated International students’ attitudes toward L2-English
classroom activities and language skills in the USA, administering a
questionnaire designed to measure students’ attitudes toward various reading,
writing, listening, speaking, and grammar activities. The researcher found that
learners reported liking listening or speaking activities more than writing
activities; however, the learners win the lower-levels reported significantly
higher preferences for explicit grammar activities.

 

Schmidt
et al. (1996) categorized instructional activities into six labels as the
following; balanced approach, group & pair work, silent learner, challenge/curiosity,
direct method and feedback. Balanced
approach includes a combination of both teacher-fronted and
student-centered activities. Group &
pair work, as the name suggests, involves
cooperative activities. Silent learner
is related to actvities in which the learner remains silent. Challenge and curiosity includes
activities that are beyond students’ current level. Direct method is mainly centered around grammar activities. Feedback involves giving feedback during
the activity

 

Based
on Schmidt et al.’s (1996) categorization, other researchers (e.g. Hatcher,
2000; Jacques, 2001; Paz, 2000) have revised instructional activities,
classifying them under five labels as the following; practical proficiency
orientation, cooperative Learning, innovative approaches, challenging
approaches and traditional approach.

 

Practical
proficiency approach
consists of activities related to fundamental communicative functions. The
activities that fall into this category are concerned with “being able to use
English that is useful for communication” (Uçar, 2009, p. 32). Cooperative learning is the group & pair work equivalent of
Schmidt et al.’s (1996) categorization, which involves group and pair work
activities (Uçar, 2009, p. 43). Innovative
approaches are centered around new approaches in the language learning
field (e.g. computer assisted instruction) (Uçar, 2009, p. 43). Challenging approaches is the challenge and curiosity equivalent of
Schmidt et al.’s (1996) categorization. Finally, traditional approach includes activities that are focused on
“grammar, reading or writing skills” (Uçar, 2009, p. 32).