Communicative Language Teaching: an alternative in improving learner centre classroom activities for big classes in the implementation of KTSP At SMP N 3 Abang

1.   Introduction

It is a fact   that most Indonesian teachers are still using teacher-centered approaches in their classrooms. This is

easier for them since most do not speak English well and it is how they were taught English. Also, they follow the philosophy that “If you are not lecturing, you are not teaching.” Moreover the number of the students is usually big, so it is to difficult to create the   good atmosphere in teaching learning English. Sometimes students get boredom in class because they are not given an opportunity to practice what they learn. Therefore there is no connection to what they learn in real-world situations. Their learning is unauthentic and lack purpose.

Using Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) will allow students the opportunity to use the target language in an authentic and meaningful way.  This article will explore how CLT can be used as an approach to create a more student centered classroom.

2.         Discussion

2.1       English Teaching in Indonesia

As stated in the introduction traditionally English teaching in Indonesia has been mostly teacher-centered. This idea is supported through the teachers’ experiences. Most of them do this kind of activity for some reasons such as: the big number of students in most of schools in Indonesia, less of creativity and knowledge on how to design the teaching learning process that centered on the learners/students, and the limited time.

I myself as a teacher of SMP N 3 Abang always find difficulties in handling the big class since that there is also a limited time because of the geographic problem because my school is situated in the slope of the hill. Moreover it is also difficult to make the student active, so most of the teaching learning process used the teacher-centered.


2.2       Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)

CLT in the Indonesian context   stands for Communicative Language Teaching in the Indonesian context. It is not a single approach, but it is a set of approaches which have similar belief that the goal of language teaching is communicative competence. Communicative competence covers grammatical competence, socio linguistic competence, discourse competence and strategic competence.  In relation with this the material that will be given to students should be authentic and meaningful. It is also believed that in order to communicate in the target language the speaker should have more than just linguistic competence but also communicative competence (Larsen-Freeman, 2001).

Moreover, there is a crucial question to be answered that is how does CLT look like in practical classroom situations? According to Brown (2001) there are three characteristics of CLT classrooms; firstly, classroom activities should comprehensively focus on all components of communicative competence, secondly, the instructional techniques in CLT must enable learners to participate in communicative interaction with each other, and the last is the role of the learners is central since they are given opportunities to develop autonomous learning based on their own learning styles and strategies while the role of teachers is peripheral, that is, that of facilitator and guide of the learners’ activities.

In line with this there are basically five characteristics that make CLT different from other approaches like Audio-Lingual Method or traditional approaches like Grammar-Translation Method.

They are as follows:

1. Taught in the target language;

2. Introduction of authentic text and materials in the lesson. An emphasis on learning to communicate through interaction with other students;

3. Opportunities for learners to focus, not only on the target language, but also on the learning process itself;

4. Learner’s experiences are an important part of the classroom learning situation;

5. An attempt to link learning in the classroom to authentic usage outside the classroom.

(Nunan, 1991)


While the characteristic of CLT (Communicative Language Teaching in Indonesian context) are as follows:

  1. The communicative syllabus should be applied. In Indonesia, it has been applied since 1984 until 1994;
  2. CLT in the Indonesian context is relevant to PKG approach (1985), meaning- based approach;
  3. It is not totally different from CLT in the Western context since the goal of the teaching and learning is communicative competence;
  4. When applying CLT in the Indonesian context teachers should integrate the four language skills even though reading is thought prior to other skills;
  5. Vocabulary and grammar should be taken into consideration;
  6. Group work and pair work activities are recommended to be implemented;
  7. Teachers play the roles as facilitators, motivators, managers of the class;
  8. Assessment is implemented in the process and at the end of semester;
  9. Theme-based is  implemented, local content should be taken in to consideration.

(Kimtafsirah, 2006)

This approach falls in with the changing attitude in recent years of creating a more student-centered classroom. In looking at some of the basic principles/characteristics we can see that there is a marked focus on the needs of the learner and his/her ability to manage their own learning. Some principles are as follows:

· Students should have knowledge of linguistic forms, functions and meanings so they can communicate in the target language;

· Teacher facilitates communication so students can manage their own learning;

· Students interact with each other in a variety of configurations;

· Function over form;

· Students interact at discourse level utilizing all four skills;

· Emphasis on pair and group work;

· Everything is done with communicative intent;

· Language used in activities is authentic and meaningful;

· Errors as seen as part of the learning process and necessary as students manage their


own learning;

· By learning true communication students will be more motivated to learn and use the target language

· Teacher evaluates students accuracy and fluency;

· Teacher can evaluate while facilitating and participating in activities with students.    (Larsen-Freeman, 2001).

The teacher must keep these principles in mind when planning and teaching a lesson using the CLT method.

There are many activities the teacher can use incorporating CLT. He/she can find then on websites, in activity books or from other teachers at conferences and workshops. However, when choosing or creating an activity the teacher must keep three things in mind. The activity must:

1. use authentic language, materials and language situations;

2. have a purpose that the teacher can state and be achievable; and

3. allow for freedom and unpredictability (Xioaju, 1990).

2.3 The Implementation CLT at  SMP N 3 Abang

As it is stated in the previous discussion that most schools in Indonesia use the teacher-centered. And as result the students are rarely get involved in the learning process. Since that language must be performed both spoken and written but in fact the students are still not able to produce the language in real communication.

In line with this, CLT offers the solution   to solve the problem in learning English as foreign language in Indonesia especially in SMP Negeri 3 Abang.

As an English teacher we can decide what kind of material and technique of teaching that is suitable for the condition of our students. We have to analyze that before we design a certain technique and material for the students. Based on the explanation there many choices for the teacher to select activities for use in the classroom. Some examples of communicative activities the teacher can use:

role play

language games


scramble sentences

learning centers

Though these activities are not real life situations they do allow learning to be more interesting and fun for the students. This will help them to be more productive and spend more time using the target language.

When using role play the teacher should structure the activity so that students now the speakers, location, topic and function. An example of a role play have students in a restaurant one student would play the waiter/waitress and the other(s) would be patrons. The topic and function would be obvious. Another example is in the teaching speaking, the teacher can divide students into several small groups and each group consists of 3 or 4 students. Each group is assigned to accomplish the task. For example they want to take a trip for vacation; they have to select 4 places to be visited: the most interesting place, the cheapest place, the most expensive place, and the place with the friendliest people. The students must give the reasons why do they choose that kind of place. Moreover in completing the task, they need to communicate with the other members of the group in English. Actually there is no control with the grammar but the choice of the vocabularies must be limited. When using role play activities the teacher should make sure the role activity is in the context of the material being taught. Once the students start the activity the teacher should either participate in or facilitate it. Role playing has been an excellent productive activity as long as the teacher structures it properly the students can have a great opportunity to practice the target language as they would use it in a real-life situation. Another example is using scrambled sentences is where the lines of one or more dialogues are given out of order and students, in pairs or groups have to put the sentences in the correct order with the correct dialogue to make a conversation. Students can then change or add to the dialogues and role play the conversation. In using any of these activities or others the teacher must modify them to fit the context of his/her teaching situation. Too many times the teacher takes an activity right out of a book without any modification. When the teacher tries to implement it in a lesson the students see no connection between it and the material they are learning nor are they properly prepared to use the grammar or vocabulary to be used in the activity.


Therefore, the activity fails or doesn’t meet the teacher’s expectations. When this happens the teacher usually gives up and falls back on the approach he/she is comfortable with and the teacher is no better off than he/she was before. Making such revolutionary changes in one’s teaching takes time and effort. There is going to be a lot of trial and error but if the teacher uses the tools of reflective teaching and persistence he/she and can make great advances in using CLT over time.  In working in a large class (as most teachers in Indonesia do) CLT allows for participation by the whole class and gives the teacher the opportunity to work more closely with students individually and in small groups through monitoring. It also allows for equal participation in the activity. Teachers constantly need to be involved in professional development.

Then, another technique will be chosen to improve the students learning center is called learning centers. Learning centers are places set up in the classroom where the students can engage in hands-on activities that allow them to obtain additional experience in using new skills, expand skills usage to more closely match their individual need s, and work cooperatively with other students. And the steps in implementing learning centers in the classroom are:

  • Identifying skills to be practiced-identify skills that have already been taught in which the students need more practice.
  • introducing the centers-introduce the centers to the students, making sure that the teacher  demonstrate how the students are to use the materials, what are the teacher’s expectation for the activities and tell how their work will be assessed.
  • Documenting the center work-introduce a method for the students to use in documenting their participation in centers.
  • Bringing students up to date-whatever centers are changed, repeat the explanation and modeling steps so that the students understand what is required.
  • Assessing student progress and understanding-it is vital that teachers validate and evaluate the work students do in learning centers.


  • Adding technology-computers centers are a powerful way providing extra skill practice in a unique model.

Since that writing one   difficult skill of the four skills that must be mastered, the teachers can use this technique to minimize the student’s errors in writing. Moreover by using this technique the students will be able to make an interaction in the classroom. In the process of teaching, students are divided into several groups and

each group consists of 3 or 4 students. The teacher gives them the topic and then the whole class decides what are they going to write relates to the topic. Each group has to have their own idea and it can be done by discussing among the members of the group. After finishing their writing, the teacher and the students have a conference to edit and revise the students’ writing’s error. This activity involves the participation of the student because they have to give comments relate their friends’ writing. This activity can be done successfully if the teacher creates such a writing material that is appropriate with the level of the students and at least the students have already got a prior knowledge relates to the topic.

3.         Conclusion

Although CLT is as a great approach but the teacher stills needs to teach grammar and vocabulary and allow students to practice in a controlled context before engaging in a CLT activity. CLT is great for producing the target language in an authentic and meaningful manner but the teacher should combine it with other methods and approaches to be more complete in his/her teaching. For example the teacher needs to consider how to teach grammar and introduce new vocabulary. The idea is for the teacher to focus on the students and what will allow the students to better learn and practice the target language. It must also be emphasized again that the focus of CLT is on communication and conveying meaning. Language form or accuracy can and should be taught also but they are not emphasized in CLT activities. The teacher can create plenty of plenty of opportunities for the students to focus on those points. However, the objective in communication is to exchange information and ideas.

CLT is a great approach to teaching and creating an environment conducive to learning and having authentic situations using the target language



Applebaum, Bruce. Communicative language teaching: theory, Practice, and personal experience. Mandiri. 9. 4(2007) : 268-270.

Brown, Douglas. 1994. Teaching by Principle .Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Regents.

Herrel, Andrienne and Michael Jordan.2004. Fifty Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners. Pearson Prentice Hall.

Huda, Nuril. 1999. Language Learning and Teaching. Issues and Trends: IKIP Malang Publisher.

Kimtafsirah. 2006. Communicative Approach in Indonesia (PKG Approach)

Larsen-Freeman, Diane. 2000. Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching. 2nded. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Li, Xiaoju. 1990. In Defense of the Communicative Approach. In Richard  Rossner & Rod Bolitho (Eds.), Currents of Change in English Language Teaching (pp. 59-72). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Richards, Jack & Nunan, David. 1990. Second Language Teacher Education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Syarief, Kustiawan. 2005. Communicative Language Teaching: Exploring Theoretical Foundations and Practical Challenges. Jurnal Ilmu Pendidikan. 3.10(2005) : 196-207



School : SMP N 3 Abang

Class : Seven Years Students

Time : 80 minutes

Language Focus : Writing

Objectives : To teach the students how to write a simple descriptive text

Prior knowledge : Students have learned about colors and shapes, adjectives

Materials : 1. Reading materials about tropical fruits

2. Overhead projector

3. Blackboard

4. Real Media (Fruits)

Step Time Tasks (Teacher) Tasks (Pupil) Interaction Purpose






5-10 mins

5- 25 mins

30 mins

15 mins

10 mins


Introduction to the topic tropical fruits. T activates schema for fruits; the colors, the shapes, the adjectives relate to the fruits

T asks Ss to help him or her write down as many different kinds of tropical fruits on the blackboard within 3 minutes.

T asks Ss to rank their favorite fruits in order of importance.

T divides students into groups of three

T gives the brief story of the tropical fruits by showing the descriptive text on OHP

T asks Ss to choose their favorite fruits as their topic that is going to be written

T  asks the Ss about the things that they don’t understand

T gives suggestions on the students’ writing

T asks one group to present their writing to be corrected by holding the conference

Ss or the other group gives comment and correct if there are  mistakes on the spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and other mechanical errors

T asks Ss to publish the result into the shape book

T asks Ss to prepare the shape book in their home if there is not enough time to do in the class


Ss call out the answer to the question as T write the answer on the board

T  writes the answers.

Ss make a group of three

Ss read the descriptive text about fruits on OHP

Ss discuss the topic with their friend in a group

Ss can write in their own language if they find difficulties in expressing their idea

Ss discuss their writing with their own group and the teacher

Ss check their writing

Ss listen

T                Ss

(T = Teacher;

S = Students)

Ss                Ss

T                Ss

T                Ss

Ss               Ss

Ss                T

T                Ss

Ss               Ss

Ss                T

(S                S possible also)

T                Ss

T                Ss

Focus attention on prewriting activity

Arouse interest

Active schema for fruits

Focus attention of Ss on the concept of drafting

Getting Ss to be active in using the language both spoken and oral

Focus attention on the conference activities to edit the students’ errors in writing a text

Key: Interaction: T              Ss means teacher interacts with the whole class


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