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Interaction Patterns – Part 2

How to get the most out of interaction patterns

In Part 1 we looked at how to exploit the teacher to the whole group interaction pattern to the fullest. Today’s interaction pattern to be examined is individual work.


Individual work

My personal feeling is that individual work sometimes gets a bit neglected and is perhaps underestimated. I feel that we tend to get carried away with a communicative approach. I hear teachers say: “But I want them to talk and have fun,” or “…well they are going to do the writing task in pairs because they hate writing.” As much as I am totally with you on the previous points, try and consider the positives of individual work.



It is most likely the only time when a student is left to work at their own pace and think about the task in a way that is most natural to them. It is probably the only time they can give something a shot and see to what extent they can succeed at it on their own. It’s quiet time, and I think this quiet time is important to let new information sink in. It places high demands on students’ responsibility for their own learning, provided it is monitored effectively. Individual work also allows for individual attention from the teacher, and from a student’s perspective, it may be a chance to ask a question that they are hesitant to ask.



Individual work can feel solitary as there’s no sharing of ideas. Some students, who work at a significantly slower pace than others, may also feel frustrated when it comes to feedback and they are not finished. Consider assigning only a part of the task (if possible) at hand to those students who you know work slowly. Obviously, should you decide to use this pattern for a speaking task, you are going to limit student talking time to one person at a time and will probably end up doing the activity in the teacher to the whole class pattern, as described in the previous post.


Suitable classroom tasks:

“Now listen with your partner and mark the statements true or false,” I’ve heard teachers say. I’m sorry, but technically speaking you cannot listen with somebody else, nor can you read with someone else. Yes, you can share a handout, but the actual reading/listening is done individually. The following are suitable tasks:

  • reading
  • listening
  • writing
  • gap-fills and similar grammar of vocabulary tasks
  • tests
  • prep time for a role-play


In Part 3 we are going look at pair work, its advantages as well as disadvantages, and suitable classroom tasks.