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6/7/2017 Teachingspeakingskills2overcomingclassroomproblems

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Teachingspeakingskills2overcomingclassroom
problems
Submittedbyadminon16February,200412:00

Thisarticleiswrittenforteacherswithlargeclassesofstudentswhohaveencounteredsomeof
thefollowingorsimilarproblemsduringspeakingactivitiesintheirclassroom.

Whyshouldweteachspeakingskillsintheclassroom?
Motivation
Speakingisfundamentaltohumancommunication

Dealingwiththeargumentsagainstteachingspeakingskills
Student'swon'ttalkorsayanything
Whenstudentsworkinpairsorgroupstheyjustendupchattingintheirown
language
WhenallthestudentsspeaktogetheritgetstoonoisyandoutofhandandIlose
controloftheclassroom

Conclusion

References

Whyshouldweteachspeakingskillsintheclassroom?
Motivation
Manystudentsequatebeingabletospeakalanguageasknowingthelanguageandtherefore
viewlearningthelanguageaslearninghowtospeakthelanguage,orasNunan(1991)wrote,
"successismeasuredintermsoftheabilitytocarryoutaconversationinthe(target)language."
http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/print/481 1/4
6/7/2017 Teachingspeakingskills2overcomingclassroomproblems

Therefore,ifstudentsdonotlearnhowtospeakordonotgetanyopportunitytospeakinthe
languageclassroomtheymaysoongetdemotivatedandloseinterestinlearning.Ontheother
hand,iftherightactivitiesaretaughtintherightway,speakinginclasscanbealotoffun,
raisinggenerallearnermotivationandmakingtheEnglishlanguageclassroomafunand
dynamicplacetobe.

Speakingisfundamentaltohumancommunication
Justthinkofallthedifferentconversationsyouhaveinonedayandcomparethatwithhowmuch
writtencommunicationyoudoinoneday.Whichdoyoudomoreof?Inourdailylivesmostofus
speakmorethanwewrite,yetmanyEnglishteachersstillspendthemajorityofclasstimeon
readingandwritingpracticealmostignoringspeakingandlisteningskills.Doyouthinkthisisa
goodbalance?Ifthegoalofyourlanguagecourseistrulytoenableyourstudentsto
communicateinEnglish,thenspeakingskillsshouldbetaughtandpractisedinthelanguage
classroom.

Dealingwithcommonargumentsagainstteachingspeakingskillsintheclassroom
Studentswon'ttalkorsayanything
Onewaytotacklethisproblemistofindtherootoftheproblemandstartfromthere.Ifthe
problemiscultural,thatisinyourcultureitisunusualforstudentstotalkoutloudinclass,orif
studentsfeelreallyshyabouttalkinginfrontofotherstudentsthenonewaytogoaboutbreaking
thisculturalbarrieristocreateandestablishyourownclassroomculturewherespeakingout
loudinEnglishisthenorm.Onewaytodothisistodistinguishyourclassroomfromother
classroomsinyourschoolbyarrangingtheclassroomdesksdifferently,ingroupsinsteadof
linesetc.orbydecoratingthewallsinEnglishlanguageandcultureposters.Fromdayoneteach
yourstudentsclassroomlanguageandkeeponteachingitandencourageyourstudentstoask
forthingsandtoaskquestionsinEnglish.Givingpositivefeedbackalsohelpstoencourageand
relaxshystudentstospeakmore.Anotherwaytogetstudentsmotivatedtospeakmoreisto
allocateapercentageoftheirfinalgradetospeakingskillsandletthestudentsknowtheyare
beingassessedcontinuallyontheirspeakingpracticeinclassthroughouttheterm.

Acompletelydifferentreasonforstudentsilencemaysimplybethattheclassactivitiesare
boringorarepitchedatthewronglevel.Veryoftenourinterestingcommunicativespeaking
activitiesarenotquiteasinterestingorascommunicativeaswethinktheyareandallthe
studentsarereallyrequiredtodoisanswer'yes'or'no'whichtheydoquicklyandthenjustsitin
silenceorworsetalkingnoisilyintheirL1.Somaybeyouneedtotakeacloserlookatthetypeof
speakingactivitiesyouareusingandseeiftheyreallycapturestudentinterestandcreateareal
needforcommunication.

AnotherwaytoencourageyourstudentstospeakinEnglishissimplytospeakinEnglish
yourselfasmuchaspossibleinclass.IfyouareshyaboutspeakinginEnglish,howcanyou
expectyourstudentstoovercometheirfearsaboutspeakingEnglish?Don'tworryifyouarenot
completelyfluentordon'thavethatelusiveperfectnativeaccent,asSwain(1985)wrote"We
learntospeakbyspeaking"andthatgoesforteachersaswellasstudents.Themoreyou
practisethemoreyouwillimproveyourownoralskillsaswellashelpyourstudentsimprove
theirs.

Whenstudentsworkinpairsorgroupstheyjustendupchattingintheirownlanguage.
Istheactivityortaskpitchedattherightlevelforthestudents?
Makesureyougivethestudentsallthetoolsandlanguagetheyneedtobeabletocompletethe
task.IfthelanguageispitchedtoohightheymayreverttotheirL1,likewiseifthetaskistoo
easytheymaygetboredandreverttotheirL1.Also,beawareofthefactthatsomestudents
especiallybeginners,willoftenusetheirL1asanemotionalsupportatfirst,translating
everythingwordforwordtochecktheyhaveunderstoodthetaskbeforeattemptingtospeak.In
thecaseofthesestudentssimplybepatientasmostlikelyoncetheirconfidencegrowsinusing
EnglishtheirdependenceonusingtheirL1willbegintodisappear.

Areallthestudentsactivelyinvolvedandistheactivityinteresting?Ifstudentsdonothave
somethingtosayordo,ordon'tfeeltheneedtospeak,youcanbesureitwon'tbelongbefore
theyarechattingawayintheirL1.
http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/print/481 2/4
6/7/2017 Teachingspeakingskills2overcomingclassroomproblems

theyarechattingawayintheirL1.

Wasthetimingoftheactivitygood?Thetimingofaspeakingactivityinaclasscanbecrucial
sometimes.Howmanyteachershavediscoveredthattheirspeakingactivityendedupasa
continuationofthestudentsbreaktimegossipconductedintheL1?Afterbreaktime,whynottry
givingstudentsanactivitytocalmthemdownandmakethemfocusbeforeattemptingspeaking
activitiesthatinvolvegroupsorpairwork.Anotherwaytodiscouragestudentsspeakingintheir
L1istowalkaroundtheclassroommonitoringtheirparticipationandgivingsupportandhelpto
studentsastheyneedit.IfcertainstudentspersistinspeakingintheL1thenperhapsyou
shouldaskthemtostaybehindafterclassandspeaktothemindividuallyandexplaintothem
theimportanceofspeakingEnglishandaskthemwhytheydon'tfeelcomfortablespeakingin
Englishintheclass.Maybetheyjustneedsomeextrareassuranceortheydon'tlikeworking
withcertainstudentsorthereissomeotherproblemthatyoucanhelpthemtoresolve.

WhenallthestudentsspeaktogetheritgetstoonoisyandoutofhandandIlosecontrolofthe
classroom
Firstofallseparatethetwopointsanoisyclassroomandanoutofcontrolclassroom.A
classroomfullofstudentstalkingandinteractinginEnglish,evenifitisnoisy,isexactlywhatyou
want.Maybeyoujustfeellikeyouarelosingcontrolbecausetheclassissuddenlystudent
centredandnotteachercentred.Thisisanimportantissuetoconsider.Learnercentred
classroomswherelearnersdothetalkingingroupsandlearnershavetotakeresponsibilityfor
usingcommunicativeresourcestocompleteataskareshowntobemoreconducivetolanguage
learningthanteachercentredclasses(Long&Richards1987).Nevertheless,manyclassrooms
allovertheworldcontinuetobeteachercentred,sothequestionyouhavetoaskyourselfis,
howlearnercentredismyclassroom?

Losingcontroloftheclassroom,ontheotherhand,isadifferentissue.Onceagainwalking
aroundandmonitoringthestudentsastheyareworkingingroupscanhelp,asyoucannaturally
moveovertothepartoftheclassroomwherethenoiseiscomingfromandcalmtherogue
studentsdownandfocusthembackonthetaskwithoutdisruptingtherestofthestudentswho
areworkingwellintheirgroups.Ifstudentsreallygettoorowdythensimplychangethepaceof
theclassandtypeofactivitytoamorecontrolledtask,forexampleafocusonformorwriting
taskwherestudentshavetoworkinsilenceindividually.Oncethestudentshavecalmeddown
youcanreturntotheoriginaloranotherinteractivegroupactivity.

Conclusion
Thesearejustsomeoftheproblemsthatteacherswithlargeclassesfacewhenteaching
speakingactivitiesintheclassroom.Theseproblemsarenotnewnorarethesolutionsoffered
above.Teachersallovertheworldcontinuetofacethesamehurdles,butanyteacherwhohas
overcomethesedifficultiesandnowhasalargeclassofenergeticstudentstalkingandworking
inEnglishingroupstogetherwilltellyouitisworthallthetrialanderrorandeffortattheoutset.
Ifyoubelieveintheimportanceofteachingspeakingskillsintheclassroombutarehaving
difficultiesmakingspeakingactivitiesworkinyourclassroomwhynotcontactyourlocalteaching
associationsorbranchofTESOL.Maybetheyrunworkshopsforteachingspeakingskills,or
maybetheycanputyouincontactwithotherteachersinsimilarsituationsbutwithmore
experienceteachingspeakingskillswhowillbewillingtosharetheirexperienceswithyou.

References
1.CelceMurcia.M.(2001).TeachingEnglishasaSecondorForeignLanguage(3rded).USA:
Heinle&Heinle.
2.LongM.H&Richards,J.C.(1987).MethodologyinTESOL.USA:Heinle&Heinle.
3.Nunan.D.(1991)LanguageTeachingMethodology.UK:PrenticeHallInternational(Chapter
two&three)
4.Tanner.R.&Green.C.(1998)Tasksforteachereducation.UK.AddissonWesleyLongman.
Ltd.

FionaLawtie,ELTteacher,BritishCouncil,Caracas

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