Speak Up: Encouraging Students to Speak in the Classroom


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Getting students to speak in class is challenging. Given the opportunity for classroom participation, students may choose not to speak for a host of cultural, social and personal reasons. Having previous experience in Asia, the presenter will discuss these reasons, and provide classroom-tested suggestions on how to get students speaking.

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Speak Up: Encouraging Students to Speak in the Classroom

  1. 1. Speak Up: Encouraging Students to Speak in Class Julie Hanks [email_address]
  2. 2. Today’s Agenda <ul><li>Introduction </li></ul><ul><li>Cultural reasons for not speaking </li></ul><ul><li>Activities to counter cultural reasons </li></ul><ul><li>Social reasons for not speaking </li></ul><ul><li>Activities to counter social reasons </li></ul><ul><li>Personal reasons for not speaking </li></ul><ul><li>Activities to counter personal reasons </li></ul><ul><li>Further tips and strategies </li></ul>
  3. 3. Introduction <ul><li>Getting students to speak </li></ul><ul><li>Day one vs day ten </li></ul><ul><li>Silence </li></ul><ul><li>Students may not speak in class for cultural, social and personal reasons </li></ul><ul><li>Teachers must understand these reasons and then provide activities to serve as a counterbalance </li></ul>
  4. 4. Benefits of speaking in the classroom <ul><li>Importance of oral production in the target language </li></ul><ul><li>Benefits students externally </li></ul><ul><li>Benefits students internally (Krupa-Kwiatkowski, 1998) </li></ul><ul><li>Silent period vs choosing to be silent </li></ul>
  5. 5. Cultural Reasons for Not Speaking in the Classroom <ul><li>Inappropriate for students to speak up in class </li></ul><ul><li>Unusual for students to speak up in class </li></ul><ul><li>(Wiltse, 2006) </li></ul><ul><li>Can be seen as a challenge to a teacher’s authority whereas keeping silent can be seen as a sign of respect </li></ul><ul><li>(Tater, 2005) </li></ul>
  6. 6. Activities to Counter Cultural Reasons <ul><li>Role playing activities </li></ul><ul><li>Students as teachers </li></ul><ul><li>Mini dramas (Tsou, 2005) </li></ul>
  7. 7. Role play <ul><li>Give students a situation (ie teacher and students discussing a reading passage) </li></ul><ul><li>Have the student ‘teacher’ and students role play how they would act during this situation </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Teacher’ is in charge </li></ul>
  8. 8. Students as Teachers <ul><li>Give each student a chance to be the ‘teacher’ </li></ul><ul><li>Have the student run an activity to observe how it is done, and how others react to this </li></ul><ul><li>Can accomplish class work while observing cultural differences </li></ul>
  9. 9. Mini Dramas <ul><li>Can be modeled on soap operas, where students are encouraged to overact </li></ul><ul><li>Issues such as how to speak up in a crowded room, ask questions when in a group of people, and how to ask for help </li></ul>
  10. 10. Issues with Role Play and Students as Teachers <ul><li>Students may just copy what they have seen you do as they feel this is the way the class should be run. </li></ul><ul><li>Useful to integrate this early in the semester if you want examples of a student’s native culture </li></ul><ul><li>Integrate later in the semester if you want to model classroom procedures </li></ul>
  11. 11. Social Reasons for Not Speaking in the Classroom <ul><li>Immodesty </li></ul><ul><li>Proper teacher-student decorum </li></ul><ul><li>(Tsou, 2005) </li></ul><ul><li>Questioning and engaging students is viewed as “confrontational” (Holliday, 1997) </li></ul>
  12. 12. Activities to Counter Social Reasons <ul><li>Pay attention to your students and work out a system </li></ul><ul><li>Direct questions </li></ul><ul><li>Group work </li></ul><ul><li>Student questionnaires </li></ul><ul><li>Participation Instruction (Tsou, 2005) </li></ul>
  13. 13. Read Student Cues <ul><li>Work out a system to deal with illusion of immodesty </li></ul><ul><li>Have a subtle, but agreed upon system that they students can use </li></ul><ul><li>Be sensitive to student feedback in the classroom </li></ul>
  14. 14. Direct Questions <ul><li>Ask questions from students directly as opposed to asking for anyone to answer </li></ul><ul><li>Students feel obligated to answer </li></ul><ul><li>Students are not showing off, just answering the teacher </li></ul><ul><li>Allow neighbors to help to lessen anxiety </li></ul>
  15. 15. Group Work <ul><li>Students can all contribute their ideas together </li></ul><ul><li>Alternate who in the group will report findings to the class </li></ul><ul><li>Assign roles such as who reports, who answers any questions, etc </li></ul>
  16. 16. Student Questionnaires <ul><li>A good way to find out about students’ native culture </li></ul><ul><li>Can be formal or informal; for lower or more advanced levels </li></ul><ul><li>Can be anonymous or signed </li></ul>
  17. 17. b) Do nothing – It is rude to speak up in class a) Yell out the answer loudly – A good student participates in class When the teacher asks the class a question in my home country I : Sample Questionnaire
  18. 18. Sample Questionnaire <ul><li>Open-ended questions </li></ul><ul><li>Ex: How should a good student act in the classroom? </li></ul><ul><li>When the teacher calls on me in class I feel: </li></ul>
  19. 19. Participation Instruction <ul><li>Tsou, 2005 </li></ul><ul><li>1 st : Discuss what teacher wants and expectations </li></ul><ul><li>2 nd : Students encouraged to ask questions at anytime </li></ul><ul><li>3 rd : Roles of teachers and students in native cultures explored and juxtaposed to current classroom role </li></ul>
  20. 20. Personal Reasons for Not Speaking in the Classroom <ul><li>Often varied and highly individualized </li></ul><ul><li>If it becomes a pattern, investigate </li></ul><ul><li>Students may not feel they can communicate competently and choose silence (Kim, 2006) </li></ul><ul><li>Fear of what others will think causes them to withdraw (Gregersen, 1999) </li></ul><ul><li>Losing face </li></ul>
  21. 21. Activities to Counter Personal Reasons <ul><li>Group and pair work </li></ul><ul><li>Pay attention to your students – try to determine their fears </li></ul><ul><li>Student-teacher contract </li></ul><ul><li>Offer activities that illustrate a student’s speaking progress </li></ul><ul><li>Allow students to progress at their own pace accordingly (Holliday, 1997) </li></ul>
  22. 22. Try to Determine Student Fears <ul><li>Class or group discussions </li></ul><ul><li>Talk to students individually – one student per day </li></ul><ul><li>Give feedback, ask questions, give praise, etc </li></ul>
  23. 23. Student-Teacher Contract <ul><li>Have a contract between the student and the teacher detailing what is expected within the classroom </li></ul><ul><li>Can write the contract for students or have students work on the contract with the teacher </li></ul>
  24. 24. Offer activities that illustrate a student’s speaking progress <ul><li>Videotape speeches </li></ul><ul><li>Audacity </li></ul><ul><li>Reflection papers </li></ul><ul><li>Peer feedback </li></ul><ul><li>Excel charts to compare scores or feedback </li></ul>
  25. 25. Allow students to progress at their own pace accordingly <ul><li>Teachers need better training </li></ul><ul><li>Allow students and the class to progress on their own schedule </li></ul><ul><li>Students progress according to their own needs </li></ul><ul><li>(Holliday, 1997) </li></ul>
  26. 26. Further Tips and Strategies <ul><li>Lesson plans with an area for seating chart </li></ul><ul><li>Note cards with names </li></ul>
  27. 27. Audience Tips and Suggestions <ul><li>Bribe with candy </li></ul><ul><li>Focused questions – detailed – lead discussion as oral presentation </li></ul><ul><li>Good mistakes </li></ul><ul><li>Timer – talk for time limit </li></ul><ul><li>Give direct instructions and modeling Qs </li></ul><ul><li>Exit interview </li></ul><ul><li>Panel discussion – based on something </li></ul>
  28. 28. Tips and Strategies <ul><li>All students talk at once, for comfort </li></ul><ul><li>Talk for 2 minutes, then Qs </li></ul><ul><li>Use playing cards – match cards </li></ul><ul><li>Collect all cards before you leave </li></ul><ul><li>Lines – face each other, have cards </li></ul><ul><li>Show and tell </li></ul><ul><li>Role play – jibberish vs. English </li></ul><ul><li>Repeat for the class </li></ul><ul><li>ABCD technique </li></ul>
  29. 29. Conclusion <ul><li>Student’s lack of participation harms language learning progression </li></ul><ul><li>Must look at cultural, social and personal reasons behind student silence </li></ul><ul><li>Flexibility is key </li></ul>
  30. 30. References: <ul><li>Gregersen, T. (1999-2000). Improving the interaction of communicatively anxious students using cooperative learning. Lenguas Modernas, 26-27, 119-133. </li></ul><ul><li>Holliday, A. (1997). The politics of participation in international English language education. System , 25 (3), 409-423. </li></ul><ul><li>Kim, S. (2005) Academic oral communication needs of East Asian international graduate students in non-science and non-engineering fields. English for Specific Purposes. 25, 479-489. </li></ul><ul><li>Krashen, S. (1982). Principles and practice in second language acquisition . Oxford: Pergamon. </li></ul><ul><li>Krupa-Kwiatkowski, M. (1998). “You shouldn’t have brought me here!”: Interaction strategies in the silent period of an inner-direct second language learner. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 31(2), 133-175. </li></ul>
  31. 31. References, cont. <ul><li>Lee, G. (2009). Speaking up: Six Korean students’ oral participation in class discussions in US graduate seminars. English for Specific Purposes, 28, 142-156. </li></ul><ul><li>Tatar, S. (2005). Why keep silent? The classroom participation experiences of non-native-English-speaking students. Language and Intercultural Communication , 5(3&4), 284-293. </li></ul><ul><li>Tsou, W. (2005). Improving speaking skills through instruction in oral classroom participation. Foreign Language Annals , 38(1), 46-55. </li></ul><ul><li>Wiltse, L. (2006). ‘Like pulling teeth’: Oral discourse practices in a culturally diverse language arts classroom. The Canadian Modern Language Review / La Revue Canadiannne des Langues Vivantes, 63(2), 199-223. </li></ul>