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Reported Speech
A Common Sense Approach
by Kendall Peet
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Part Two: Problems Learners Face When Learning Reported Speech

General Problems

Generally speaking, L2 English learners have considerable trouble learning to use reported speech due to the number of grammatical elements that need to be taken into account. It is important therefore to present reported speech in a clear and effective context. This may not be easy in a classroom of adult students from a variety of different backgrounds, with different personal and professional interests, and different motivations for learning English. Furthermore, reported speech is something that is usually only used once or twice in any given situation and so finding a context to work on reported speech in depth is difficult and does not reflect the way language is used outside the classroom. Therefore, it may prove more effective to present reported speech in a variety of situations, rather than in a single context.

Matching the teaching style to learning style preferences present in the class may also be a problem.(10)(11) It would be best to match content and teaching style to the particular learning style and needs of each student, as students are better able to learn if teaching methods match their preferred learning styles.(12) However, in classroom situations it will be necessary to adopt a wide variety of approaches, incorporating different cognitive learning strategies, to accommodate individual learning styles (refer to Part Three).(13)

The third problem relates to the class texts. In most cases, class texts only allocate two or three pages to reported speech up to the end of intermediate level, with the focus predominantly on the main reporting verbs say, tell, and ask. There is a shortage of material focusing on the wide variety of reporting verbs used in English. Therefore, finding interesting material and activities that relate to the learners language needs and interests is a real challenge; which is a point made by Lewis.(14)

Finally, because there are so many areas that can potentially cause the learners problems, it is not always easy to manage a classroom. Therefore, teaching reported speech can turn into an exercise in classroom management skills.

10. Dunn, R. (1983). p. 49, 496-506 Dun emphasises the importance of the four modalities to the learning process.
Rienhart, H. (1976). p. 60, 160-168 Rienhart defines the four modalities of learning as visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, tactile.
11. Gardner, H. (1993). p.7. Gardener classifies learning styles in terms of intelligence, and defines intelligence as “the ability to solve problems”. He lists 8 types of intelligence, including Linguistic, Logical-mathematical, Spatial, Musical, Body-kinaesthetic, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, and Naturalist.
12. Reid, J. (1987). p. 87-111. In this article Reid reports on research findings published by Domino (1979).
13. Skehan, Peter. (1989). Skehan lists 13 separate cognitive learning strategies.
14. Lewis, M. (1997). P. 182

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