SPEAKING ICELT Leticia Adelina Ruiz Guerrero MA in ELT
Reflect on your own practice How much do your students speak in class? How do you prepare speaking activities in the class? What materials do you use? What particular problems do your students have? In what ways do you encourage real communication to take place in your class?
The main goal in teaching theproductive skill of speaking will beoral fluency. The term ‘fluency’ is sometimes used in different ways. Agree on what you understand by this term.
Oral fluency can bedefined as the ability toexpress oneself intelligibly,reasonably accurately andwithout too much hesitation.
Task 1: Reflection on experience Think of a foreign language you have learned, and preferably one that you speak quite well. How would you assess your oral fluency in relation to other skills in the language? Which aspects of your learning of the language most contributed to the development of your fluency?
Task 1: What experience do you think would be most useful to you in order to enable you to develop your fluency yet further? It is sometimes argued that fluency develops naturally in response to a need to communicate. To what extent is this point of view confirmed by your own experience of learning languages?
To attain the goal of achievingoral fluency, you will have to bringthe students from the stage wherethey are mainly imitating a modelof some kind, or responding tocues, to the point where they canuse the language freely to expresstheir own ideas.
Training students Level 1: practice in the manipulation of the fixed elements of the language (phonological and grammatical patterns, together with vocabulary); Level 2: opportunities for the expression of personal meaning.
Level 1 work Chorus work (model – repeat) Back chaining Front chaining Mechanical drills Substitution drills Transformation drills
Level 2 work Meaningful practice Guessing drills Imaginary situations Open-ended responses Free practice Discussion activities Spoken interactions Oral production
Their relative importance, interms of the amount ofattention we need to pay tothem at different stages of thelanguage program, may berepresented as follows:
Characteristics of a successful speaking activityLearners talk a lot.Participation is even.Motivation is high.Language is of an acceptable level.
Problems with speaking activities Inhibition. Nothing to say. Low or uneven participation. Mother-tongue use.
To solve some of the problems Use group work. Base the activity on easy language. Make a careful choice of topic and task to stimulate interest. Give some instruction or training in discussion skills. Keep students speaking the target language.
Techniques-Correction1. It is best to work so students makeas few mistakes as possible.2. It is best to correct all the mistakesstudents make.3. It is useful to encourage students tocorrect each other.4. Mistakes are best corrected as soonas the student makes them.5. Too much correction is as bad as toolittle.
Correction Mistakes are a natural part of the learning process. Give students the chance to correct themselves. Involve the class. Isolate the problem. The student must use the correct language.
Correction There are many kinds of mistakes. Correcting register and appropriacy needs tact. Correct promptly for accuracy, afterwards for fluency. Don’t over-correct. Reformulation is often better than correction. Use class discussion as a basic method of correcting written work.
The silent learnerHere are now some of theproblems of the ‘silent learner’ –the student who finds greatdifficulty in contributing to anykind of discussion in English, andwho is reluctant to take advantageof opportunities to develop oralfluency.
Problems with fluency A) Inhibition / lack of confidence. B) Fear of making ‘mistakes’. C) The feeling of having nothing to say on the subject. D) Lack of appropriate language. E) Lack of practice in conventions of conversational interaction.
Task 2: Solving the problem Brainstorm measures the teacher can take to help with each of these problems. Look at the following list of measures. Add further items you have brainstormed to this list. Write ‘a’, ‘b’, ‘c’, ‘d’, or ‘e’ beside each of the measures in your revised list according to which of the previous ‘problems’ it is intended to address.
List of measures: Pre-teach key vocabulary. Thoroughly prepare for any discussion through brainstorming and exchange of ideas. Organize the class so that activities take place in small groups. Provide ‘stimulus’ materials (e.g. texts on topics to be discussed).
… Pursue and justify a policy of placing low priority on correctness and correction in certain activities. Teach exponents of defining (e.g. ‘a thing which you do … with’; ‘a thing for …ing’) and of eliciting unknown words (e.g. ‘what do you call a thing for … ing?’).
… Provide learners with specific training in communication strategies (e.g. circumlocution, hypothesizing on the basis of features of the learners’ first language or on the basis of the learners’ existing knowledge of English itself). Focus initially on information rather
… Encourage and organize discussion of learning skills and objectives. Try to convince the learners of the value of trying to express themselves beyond their apparent linguistic limits, encouraging them to accept that ‘mistakes are inevitable’ in some activities in which the main focus is on oral communication.
... Analyze a (video) tape of native speakers involved in heated discussion, asking learners to pay attention to the speed and pitch of speech, body movements and gestures. Precede activities with extensive stages of preparation of some of the language the teacher has anticipated students may need to use during the activity.
Task 3: Comparing two activities Stage 1: Experience. Try out in teams the two activities handed out. Keep an eye on what you are assigned to do on your role card. Stage 2: Comparing. Now compare the activities. In general, which one would you say is better?
Topic- and Task-based activities Activity 1 is topic- Activity 2 is Task- based. based. This activity asks This activity asks participants to talk participants to about a certain perform something. subject. The discussion The main objective process is a means is the discussion to an end. process itself.
Topic-based activities A good topic is one to which learners can relate using ideas from their own experience and knowledge. It should also represent a genuine controversy. Don’t feed all the arguments to the class, leave room for their own initiative!
Task-based activities A task is usually goal oriented. It requires the participants to achieve an objective expressed in an observable result. The result is only attainable by interaction between participants. A task is enhanced if there is a visual focus to base the talking on.
Using rejoinders DISCUSSION SKILLS Asking follow-up questions Seeking clarification giving clarification Using comprehension checks Soliciting and using details Interrupting Expressing opinions Volunteering answers Referring to information and opinion sources Helping discussion leaders Leading a discussion Kehe, D. and Kehe, P. Discussion Strategies, beyond everyday conversation
Task 4: Discussion activities Volunteers! Stage 1: Preparation. Select one of the activities and prepare to present it to a group of your peers. Stage 2: Experience. Do the activity, participate and observe the work. Stage 3: Reflection. After finishing, discuss the activity.
Discussion activitiesDescribing pictures.Picture differences.Things in common.Shopping list.Solving a problem.
Other kinds of spoken interaction Interactional talk. Culture-linked. This is a matter of learning conventional formulae of courtesy. Long turns. Speaking at length is specially relevant to advanced or academic students. Varied situations, feelings, relationships. Give practice in a wide variety of contexts.
Teaching ideas Interactional talk: practicing patterns as in Conversation and Dialogues in action (Dornyei and Thurrell, 1992) Long turns: telling stories and jokes, describing people or places, recounting a film, play or book, giving short lectures or talks, arguing for or against a case. Varied situations, feelings, relationships: dialogues, plays, simulations, role-play.
Activities for Oral production Explanation and Description Role-play and Dramatizations Discussion / Conversation Games and Problem solving
Explanation and Description Interpretations of graphs, maps, diagrams. Mini-speeches on topics or interest. Street directions, or directions for a journey. Instructions for operating something. Describing a process.
Role-play and Dramatizations Extending or continuing a set dialogue. Inventing a conversation for characters in a picture. Social events (shopping, party, interview, travel). Dramatizing a sequence (family discussion, witnesses to a car accident).
Discussion / Conversation Interpretations of pictures (making up a story or speculating). Social issues (traffic, pollution, education, role of women). Personal experience (discussion of horoscopes, disasters; plans for the future, holidays). Pictures for opinions (fashion, pop stars).
Games and Problem solving Guessing games (yes/no, twenty questions, glug, personalities, hide and seek). Elimination games (just a minute, don’t answer yes or no, Simon says). Problems (find the difference, arrange a meeting).
To test or not to test? Choosing an appropriate elicitation technique is only part of the problem when testing oral proficiency; there are many other difficulties associated with design, administration and assessment.
Task 5: Debate Stage 1: Preparation. Think about what your own arguments would be for, or against, testing oral proficiency. Stage 2: Debate. Present your arguments to your peers, listen to their opinions. Come to a conclusion as a group.
For testing oral fluency A language test should include all aspects of language skill – including speaking. Speaking is arguably the most important skill, and therefore should take priority in any language test. Knowing that there will be a final test on speaking will guarantee that it will be work on as a skill all through out the course. Students who speak well, but write badly will be discriminated if all the test is based on writing.
Against testing oral fluency It is difficult to design tests to get learners to improvise speech. When grading speech it is difficult to judge quickly, objectively and reliably. There are no obvious criteria for assessment. Even if you agree on criteria, some testers will be stricter and others more lenient. It will be difficult to get reliable, consistent assessment. It is more time consuming, since it has to be done individually.
The following scale is loosely basedon that actually used in the Israelischool-leaving exam.The candidates are tested on fluencyand accuracy, and may get amaximum of five points on each ofthese two aspects, ten points in all.
Accuracy FluencyLittle or no language production 1 Little or no communication 1Poor vocabulary, mistakes in Very hesitant and briefbasic grammar, may have very 2 utterances, sometimes difficult 2strong foreign accent to understandAdequate but not richvocabulary, makes obvious Gets ideas across, butgrammar mistakes, slight 3 hesitantly and briefly 3foreign accentGood range of vocabulary, Effective communication inoccasional grammar slips, slight 4 short turns 4foreign accentWide vocabulary appropriately Easy and effectiveused, virtually no grammar 5 5 communication, uses longmistakes, native-like or slight turnsforeign accent Total score out of 10: _______
Mark each statement: agree, disagree or undecided.1. Teachers should always speak at a natural speed.2. Choral pronunciation is useful for all classes.3. Students need to know phonetics.4. “I never say ‘Good’ about a student’s pronunciation unless it isgood”.5. Students should learn RP pronunciation.6. Consistency is as important as accuracy for students’ pronunciation.7. Stress and intonation are not important in beginners’ courses.8. Stress, pitch and intonation are best shown with your hands.9. Stress is sometimes as important as grammar.10. Bad intonation can lead to important misunderstandings.
TECHNIQUES-SPEECHWORK Do not distort when giving a model. The model must remain the same. Use choral pronunciation. Conduct choral pronunciation decisively. Move around the room when doing choral pronunciation.
Speechwork Keep your language to a minimum in pronunciation practices. Vary your criterion of “good” in pronunciation practice. Articulation is an important first step in practice. It is helpful to do articulation practices more than once.
Speechwork Bring variety to “say after me” Something which is not a real word sometimes helps. There is no such thing as the “c-h sound”. The main criteria for pronunciation are consistency and intelligibility. Teach intonation by back-chaining.
SpeechworkDon’t explain intonation, demonstrate.Show stress, pitch and intonation visually.Refer to stress and intonation even when not specially teaching it.
Mark each statement: agree, disagree or undecided.1. Conversation lessons need detailedpreparation.2. The best conversation lessons are usuallyabout serious topics.3. The teacher should encourage everyoneto contribute.4. Avoid provocative remarks inconversation classes!5. Group work is often a good basis for aconversation lesson.
Techniques-Conversation Exploit opportunities for short spontaneous conversations. Don’t flog a dead horse. Encourage contributions without interfering. Conversation does not need to be about serious issues.
ConversationProvocative statements are often better than questions.Problem solving is often an excellent basis for ‘conversation’.Encourage active listening.
Bibliography Byrne, D. (1986) Teaching Oral English. England, Longman. Dornyei, Z. and Thurrell, S (1992) Conversations and dialogues in action. UK, Cambridge University Press. Ur, P. (1991) A course in Language Teaching, practice and theory. UK, Cambridge University Press. Harmer, J. (2001) The Practice of English Language Teaching. England, Longman. Lewis, M. and Hill, J. (1992) Practical Techniques for Language Teaching. England, Language Teaching Publications.