What Is Productive Activity?

When we think of activity usually as a sporting activity, where people participate in more physically energetic sports as fun and to test our competitive ability; such as in playing tennis, ice and field hockey and football.

However, the term ‘activity’ can also mean anything that uses physical movement of our limbs to create muscular action, plus using coordination and strength to move our muscles and skeletal joints around with an element of skill.

This can be for are other sporting activities such as curling, recreational activities such as bowls, hobby activities such as needlecraft, work activities such as woodwork and so on. They are all under the umbrella of productive activities, because there is a purpose of creating something for the goal during the activity.

Playing any type of games is productive, because the aim is to win the game, which also provides competitiveness, socialization and brain stimulation for testing our mental acuity, through concentration and skill, more than muscular strength and fitness.

Sporting activities need practise for obtaining greater strength and skill, with the aim to become better than the opponent for winning the ultimate prize that brings prestige and honor.

The focus on daily productive activities is different in because they are a repetitious activity performed daily so that little physical or cognitive effort is put into them as repeat them each day.

It means our physical and cognitive actions have little concentrated effort, because we do them without even thinking about how we perform them.

We call these tasks daily living activities, or functional performance activities; which are completed for enabling personal autonomy and independence in daily living.

Maintaining our functional independence in daily living is the most important aspect of personal control that we have, because if we are not able to be independent; then we lose the ability to control of our own personal life. If we ever become very sick, we may end up in hospital, because we are unable to take care of ourselves.

Hospitals remove our personal control, in order to take care of our medical problems. Hospitals, like all institutions are organized on tight schedules; with meals at a specific times, visitors at other times and doctor’s visits always in the morning.

They provide very little personal control to the ‘consumer, or the patient; until you are able to return home and only then is control reinstated. It means you can return to living a full and active life as you choose, through independence and autonomy.

If you are not able to achieve this ability, it means that your health will be poor and you are unable to take care of yourself. It may mean that you need to be looked after by other people and which means institutional care in either a hospital or nursing home.

All types of productive activity are used to help you live an independent and autonomous life. This is your ultimate goal in daily living, because without this ability; you will not be in control of the choices you make in living your own life.

Enabling productively, safe activity cannot be over-emphasized, because if we ever become so seriously physically impaired with functional limitations; which can happen if we gain too much weight. Our physical health will suffer and we lose our ability to maintain our personal independence in our daily functional activities. Losing any of these tasks is the first step to losing control of our daily life.

Our goal as human beings is to remain productively active in everything we do, so that we remain independent, participatory and functional, in order to be a holistically, self-fulfilled person.

Language Production Activities in the TEFL/ESL Classroom – Moving Beyond Gap Fills

Somewhere between scholarly studies of how people learn and the frontline experience of teaching, the issue of how TEFL/ESL learners actually acquire and keep language is confronted in activity design. Language practice activities come in many forms, and their design should take into account learning aims, the most important being language production. What is language production practice? Any student learning any language requires time and concentration to practise language after it has been acquired through a teacher’s presentation or through the discovery approach.

Yet, considering many course book and handout activities formats, not all employ language production. A considerable amount feature gapfills that require students to modify a stem verb or guess a missing verb. This cannot be considered as language production as such TEFL/ESL practice requires fuller expressions, even sentences to be constructed around context.

There are two types of productive practice of English in terms of skills; written practice and speaking practice. Common sense in TEFL/ESL learning methodology dictates that written practice should come first. Learners need time and separation from others to digest new language, without the pressures of interaction. Logically, when some sense of grammatical rules is made individually, learners should progress to communication.

The productive element of practice is what’s crucial to English learning. Learners have to, through intuitive activity design by teachers or course book writers, hardwire the use of grammatical structures and fixed vocabulary expressions. Context is everything in this process. Grammatical structures, arguably, should be practised in context according to three principles. Students need to be able to use structures comfortably (understanding), fit within existing structures (relation), and relate to other context beyond the confines of the existing activity (extrapolation). Each of these three factors is equally significant.

The first principle of understanding is mostly concerned with levels and grading in a TEFL/ESL context. For example, students with only limited experience in English (say for example two months), are likely to be able to understand the past simple, though will most likely struggle grasping the differences with the present perfect simple. Understanding, though, is a slippery concept, and there is nothing worse than a teacher asking ‘do you understand’?

So how can students improve their understanding through language production activities? Arguably, ESL worksheets that involve repetitive, contextual sentence writing through some guidance are of greater benefit than gapfill activities where students must insert a missing verb form. This is for two reasons; first, gapfill activities focus more on grammatical form rather than meaning (as verbs are often given in such activities). Second, such practices are mostly receptive. All information is given, requiring only students to change words, rather than come up with phrases and sentences themselves.

Our next point relates to the second aspect of language production activities; they must allow students to relate them to other structures they know. Grammar cannot be seen in isolation, and language production activities must use context for students to make the link between new structures and familiar ones. Take for example, the present perfect simple at elementary level. This structure fits commonly in with superlative adjective forms (e.g. what’s the best restaurant you have been to?) and the past simple (e.g. follow-up questions to “have you ever been to…”) TEFL/ESL activities should integrate such forms and ensure students are made to use them when practising new forms.

The final point, extrapolation, relates to the continuation of understanding and use of freshly-learnt grammatical forms through language production activities. Language forms such as the present perfect simple re-occur at several levels (all between elementary and upper-intermediate in fact). Thus, it is crucial for teachers to integrate activities that promote learner revision of prominent forms. How can this be achieved through language production activities? In short, students need to make language, helped along with the context of heavy grammar recycling and re-use of fixed expressions. TEFL/ESL tasks involving pictures or dominoes with minimal context do not achieve this. On the other hand, speaking tasks that involve students rephrasing expressions with other fixed expressions (for example ‘have a friendly relationship’ rephrased to ‘get on with)’ are exceedingly useful.

In conclusion, students learning English need to ‘make’ language through contextual guides such as pre-known grammar, familiar vocabulary that students can relate to, and exemplification. This can be done through language production activities in the form of writing and speaking. Writing activities where students model grammatical structures with their own personalised information, and speaking activities where students practise the essentials of new grammar in pairs and groups are particularly helpful. The way forward in TEFL/ESL is for course books and teachers to acknowledge this and continue to aid students in their quest for improvement through productive practice.

Six Strategic Ways of Productive Thinking

Six strategic secrets to thinking proactively

We live in the era of hyped activity, everywhere you turn to there is an increasingly emphasis on action based life. However, activity is not always productive, some people engage in an endless activity with nothing to show for it, this is because they think actively instead of productively.

Active thinking leads one to become actively engaged in things and most times without bringing out tangible results, you can call it analysis paralysis. Academic institutions and the society encourage this form of thinking, that is why people are advised to go to school and blend into the society by getting a 9-6 work. Unfortunately active thinking subtly stunts your growth, and limits your ability to birth new things, therefore it becomes important to take active thinking a notch higher by engaging in proactive thinking.

Proactive thinking is the ability to originate a set of thoughts and systematically translate them into new tangible results. It can also be viewed as being productive in your thinking, that is thinking of ways to invent, innovate and bring about new products and ways of doing things. Proactive thinking does not just think but translates every thought into action.

There are strategic secrets that will transcend your thinking from that of ordinary active thinking to the one of proactivity, thereby, yielding endless forms of innovation, inventions and productivity. There are many of them, but the five below are the core and foundational ones

GET OUT OF THE CROWD:
The world is crowded, there is so much noise everywhere, from the social media to the work place and family life, there is an ever increasing presence of harmful delightful distractions. These distractions reduce the quality of time people give to thinking, so many think with their eyes glued to their phones, their ears clogged with sounds from ear piece and their thoughts on a million and one things at the same time. These make it very difficult to think through an idea and clear the fogs around it. It has been proven that thinking in a quiet environment produces a clearer and better insight on anything. Research has also shown that productive and ultra creative people have laser concentration abilities and they do that by eliminating every form of distraction around them. They deliberately move away from the crowd, and take time to mentally analyze ideas and look deeply into them, after which they come out to put them into action. You too can do this.

WRITE YOUR THOUGHTS DOWN:
To become productive in your thinking, you require to pen down your thoughts. There is this amazing vibe that comes from writing down what you are thinking. Most great innovation and inventions came as a result of deliberate documentation of insights and thoughts about ideas and concepts. Some times incredible insights flash through our minds, if we do not record them, the chances are high that they will be forgotten. Even when you are not sure if they will work, or if they are viable, please write them down, after a while go through them again, you will be so amazed how a new dimension of it comes up. Documenting things emphasizes them and imprints them on our subconscious mind, so that without our knowing, the mind is working, developing and structuring them into workable concepts. My advice is to have a note pad as often as possible.

TALK ABOUT IT:
One proactive way to think well and better is to talk about your ideas. I know that this sounds tricky, but it is very healthy to discuss your concepts and ideas with someone you trust and hold in high esteem. A mentor is the most appropriate person to do this with, because he will help you iron out some rough edges and point out errors in the concept. However, discussing your ideas with people can be very sticky, because many will misunderstand you, and you will probably look too forward and arrogant. So there is a twist to this and it is wise for you to subtly inject your ideas in conversations without letting others know. This will enable you know their un compromised reactions to the concept as well as see if they had thought in that direction before. One important thing is only discuss ideas you have gone 70% into, not just formless ones.

QUESTION YOURSELF:
One strategic way to clear the confusion surrounding anything, is to ask yourself questions. Introspection is the key to self discovery and the catalyst for change and productivity. Therefore, ask yourself questions relating to your thoughts, this will help you clear the assumptions you are likely to harbor in your subconscious. When you question yourself, you are putting yourself on the edge of discovery, because one right question answered correctly is a milestone to getting a tangible result. Question your assumptions towards the idea, ask what am I ignoring that I am meant to know, use or research on, with that a new ray of possibilities would emerge.

BE OPEN TO POSSIBILITIES:
Life always comes with serendipity, one quest can become a life changing voyage, therefore, be open to twists, turns, uphills and downhills your idea comes with. One single step can wreck what you worked very hard for, another can make you become an overnight wonder to the world. In the cause of looking for something else, most great inventors and innovators stumbled on another thing altogether that brought their eureka moments. Who told my friend Archimedes that the answer he sought would be found in a bathroom, from a bucket? No one knew, so too, you do not know, neither do I know what that idea you have right now will birth into reality. Just have an open mind for possibilities.

TAKE ACTION:
The difference between active thinking and proactive thinking is ACTION. Step out and engage your thoughts in real world events, that way you discover what works and what doesn’t. Many people have amazing concepts with them, but they are doing nothing about them so the ideas lie dormant and useless. The only way to truly know if what you are thinking can be done, is by acting it out. William Shakespeare once wrote, ‘ACTION IS ELOQUENCE’ therefore, think through an idea and start taking deliberate, calculated steps. The core secret is think and act simultaneously, do not wait to figure out everything rather start from the known and surely you will get to the unknown.

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