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**Êèì È.À.**

*Òàðàçñêèé ãîñóäàðñòâåííûé
óíèâåðñèòåò èìåíè Ì.Õ. Äóëàòè, Êàçàõñòàí*

**Problem-solving activities in
teaching English**

People
constantly solve problems. Very often there is a definite way of doing something
and we follow it in a definite situation, but sometimes, we may feel that the
rules are not applicable and we face a new problem and we must then find out our
own solution. Doing this, we learn and expand our knowledge. We learn best by
solving problems or having personal share in the result.

According
to the definition: “Problem solving is a mental process and is part of the
larger problem process that includes problem finding and problem shaping.
Considered the most complex of all intellectual functions, problem solving has
been defined as higher-order cognitive process that requires the modulation and
control of more routine or fundamental skills”.

In
fact, many teachers may say that problem-solving in their subject is not
possible. But this activity can be successfully used at the English classes.

Problem-solving
activity, which is task-based and has a purpose beyond the production of
correct speech, is one of the most preferable communicative activities. They show
not only the competence and knowledge but also the performance of the learner
and their communicative skills. Questions which require students to be reasonable
and logical and help students to learn language in an interesting way are the
types of problem-solving activities. In problem solving activities, the
problems may be based on real or imaginary situations, and students are
expected to find possible solutions for the problems.

Problem-solving
activities can be used at all levels. Regarding student’s knowledge of English,
age and their experience, appropriate activities might be successfully applied.
It is also important to work out clear and easy directions for these
activities.

Problem-solving activities have many
advantages, which shouldn’t be ignored. While talking about the problem,
students use the target language and improve their communicative skills. They
learn to interact with others as they discuss solutions and outcomes of the
solution. They learn to negotiate when they try to agree on different points of
the solution, thus they develop critical thinking skills.

It is a learner-centered activity where
the students communicate with each other while studying the problem and looking
for possible solutions for possible future actions. The teacher can only observe
and sometimes coordinate the process, helping the students to develop their
communicative skills.

In a way, students acquire language
unconsciously since their whole attention is engaged by the activity. By
providing personal, social, and cross-cultural issues to define, they sometimes
simulate real life situations

It is
also possible to integrate all skills in such activities. Reading or listening
to a situation, a problem, or a question; responding or commenting either
through speaking or writing. It is also necessary to keep in mind that as Professor
Linda W. Little states: “… such activities provide opportunities to practice
thinking clearly while focusing on the form unconsciously”.

In such
activities the teacher should act as a facilitator rather than a teacher. He introduces
the problem and guides the process of discussion while the students are
involved in the process of learning. He should create friendly and relaxed teaching-learning
atmosphere in which students will not be embarrassed. As Stephen Krashen the Professor of the
University of Southern California says: “…it requires meaningful interaction in
the target language - natural communication - in which speakers are concerned
not with the form of their utterances but with the messages they are conveying
and understanding”.

How
should problem-solving activity applied in an English class? Before choosing
the problem we should thoroughly study it as there are problems with different
levels of difficulty and require different skills and knowledge. That is why
the choice of the problem which you want to solve in class is closely connected
with the level of your students’ knowledge.

We can
divide the process of problem-solving into several stages:

The
first stage of introducing the problem could be warm-up activity where the
teacher can ask students to answer some questions related to the problem and
thus giving a chance to predict what the problem might be and motivate the
students. It can be a picture shown on the active-board, or a video. The teacher
may ask low level students to describe the picture, when high level students
may pay more attention to the situation, shown in the picture. The questions
will help students to review some grammar, which can be used in the process of
discussion.

The second
stage is reading of the story or watching video. Find out what words are
unfamiliar for the students and write down them on the blackboard. Be sure that
the students understand the situation.

The
third stage is comprehension check. Comprehension check can be done in
different ways, for example as listening or reading exercises. At first the
teacher can ask “yes” or “no” questions then go to special questions and then
offers the students to ask their own questions. Or the teacher may offer
different statements, which can be right and wrong and ask students to say
whether they are correct or not and correct the wrong ones.

The
next stage is discussion. Here the students are encouraged to talk about the
issues presented in the reading and also their personal experience. The
questions may require students to make suppositions and use their judgment.
There are no correct answers.

Now the
students are ready to identify the problems and to find the solutions and talk
about the consequences. The problems can be written on the blackboard. The
teacher may begin the discussion by asking the questions: “What’s the
problem?”, then “What can be done?” and at last “What is the solution of the
problem?” Encourage the students to present their ideas and it is important
here not to make emphasis on their grammar mistakes. Don’t correct their
mistakes; try to help them with the questions which can give them a hint if
they are in a difficulty what to say next. When the solutions are ready the
teacher should write them on the blackboard and ask students about the possible
consequences. Encourage them to use their imagination and critical thinking to
come up with the possible consequences.

In
order to choose the best solution the teacher may divide students into several
groups of three or four people and ask them to discuss the possible
consequences of their decision. In this activity the teacher gives the chance
to shy students who can’t speak in public, express his opinion. It is possible
for students to come up with new solutions if the consider them to be more
successful. In each group there should be a moderator, who facilitates the
discussion and is responsible for the group’s decision. On this stage the
teacher shouldn’t interrupt students to correct their mistakes, but he should
write them down I order to discuss them the next day. When the groups are ready
to come up with their solution, ask the leader of the group to sound it and
explain why it was chosen. Ask the students from other groups if they agree
with it or not. Encourage the students to take active part in this discussion
as it develops their ability to persist in opinion, giving his reasons in the
target language.

The
last stages of this activity is the discussion of mistakes made in the process
of problem solving, but do it after careful consideration in order not to hurt
students and encourage them to take an active part in the next problem solving
activity.

In conclusion,
problem solving activities provide favorable usages for extended communicative
practice. They are motivating and create a meaningful context for language
usage. The application of such activities increases cooperation and competition
in the classroom and stimulates students’ interest to the learning process.

Ëèòåðàòóðà:

1. Canale, M. & Swain, M. (1980). Theoretical bases
of communicative approaches to second language teaching and testing. Applied
Linguistics

2. Doughty,
C., & Williams, J. (Eds.). (1998). Focus on Form in Classroom Second
Language Acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

3.
Linda W. Little “Critical thinking and Communication Skills”. Longman

4. Krashen,
S. (2003) Explorations in Language Acquisition and Use. Portsmouth: Heimemann.