week we're looking at speaking skills & some problems
that may arise when trying to develop them.
month I was fortunate to have been working with a lovely group
of secondary school teachers on a speaking skills course.
Apart from providing lots of speaking practice for the teachers
we looked at the different ways of building the skill with
their students & high among the obstacles to this are
the conflictive teaching situations that most of these teachers
have to deal with where keeping order & discipline is
the main priority. They also find themselves racing against
the clock in an attempt to cover the coursebook before the
end of the year. And then the assessment they are required
to give doesn't include the speaking skill. No wonder then
that the speaking skill is left out in the cold. However,
having said all this, all were enthusiastic about ideas to
try out & motivate their students to speak in class in
English. With this group of teachers in mind, here is a list
of practical ideas.
Lots & lots of controlled speaking activities - from drills
to dialogue reading aloud to building dialogues to flow charts.
Here are some past Teaching Tips dealing with these controlled
with the flow
& meaningless drills
Incorporate the ideas from the
'Fill it with English' Teaching Tip.
Try to keep the whole lesson in English so that it just becomes
a habit that the students are expected to respond in English.
Work on introducing & practising classroom language &
routines. This will then help to reduce the general embarrassment
level when speaking English.
Explain the purposes of pair work & group work - to maximise
student talking time. Explain the purposes of the roleplays
Choose motivating, interesting & manageable topics for
roleplays & discussions.
Prepare the students for the speaking with information &
role cards. Give them time to think about what they might
say & help out with any questions.
Rotate the stronger roles so that all have a chance to take
lead roles. And don't let the stronger, more extrovert students
dominate the others.
Stay out of the way. Let the students do the activity as much
as they can.
Use video rather than audio tapes where possible to work on
the listening skill. This is not only more realistic &
less stressful but the speaking skill can be fully appreciated.
Give positive feedback, as well as helpful ideas for improvement.
Also try to help them with things that they couldn't say during
the activity by encouraging them to note these things down
as they occur & deal with them afterwards.
Exploit any spontaneous conversations that arise in the class.
These could come from something that has happened to a particular
student or something in the news that day.
Record the students at the beginning, in the middle &
at the end of the course to show them that have made progress
with this skill. It may not be part of the examination but
it still needs highlighting.
With the secondary class one of the most motivating things
you can promote is the idea that speaking in another language
is 'cool', pop music being an obvious way into this.
are some more past Teaching Tips concerned with the speaking
ideas with little language
in & take a seat
it with English
out where you are
on a train
specific language use in freer oral activities
to the contents
World Aids Day on December 1st. We're not basing a Tip around
it but here are some links to relevant sites & materials:
Mandela's Aids initiative
these sites there are numerous other links.
the turn of the overhead projector this week, a very useful
but underused piece of classroom hardware, that, although
expensive, can last a lifetime. A few advantages include a
professional approach in your classes, their usefulness in
providing a focus for the large class, the drastic cutting
down of photocopies, transparencies can be pre-prepared to
save class time & they can be built upon, overlaid, to
highlight different aspects. Here are a few ideas:
overlaying - different scenarios can be built up with
new information being provided with each new overlay being
added. The desert island scenario is good for this - the students
have to work out how to get across or escape from the island.
You begin with the island & a couple of basic features
& then add another transparency on top with more features.
As the discussion takes place you could add another transparency
on top that brings to light more information they need to
account for in their discussion.
if you are good at drawing, simple narratives can be built
up over the one scene, with different characters & objects
entering. Great for the younger learners.
also for the younger learner, with monsters or robots, give
each child a central rectangle - the torso - on a transparency,
& ask them to draw on a different part - the head, a right
leg, the left arm..- overlay the results & mix & match
until they are happy with their monster!
language analysis overlays make for a very clear visual highlighting.
Cohesion is an area that is usually used for this. The first
transparency is the text & then in the feedback, after
the students have been asked to find specific features in
the discourse, the first overlay shows examples of ellipsis,
the next examples of anaphoric reference & so on - highlighted
in different colours with boxes & arrows.
if projecting on to a whiteboard, other information can easily
be added, via the whiteboard, without writing on the transparency
or overlaying, hence saving preparation time.
very useful for the 'board stage' of the lesson. Either have
the form, examples, meaning & phonology all marked or
elicit it from the group & write on the transparency before
they copy down into their notebooks.
text highlighting - leave gaps between lines for comments,
parts of speech or translations to be added.
can be involved, much the same as the whiteboard. As the group
are getting on with a task in pairs, have two students do
theirs on the OHP transparency so there is a model for all
to compare with in the feedback stage.
students can prepare their presentations with a transparency
you're lucky to have access to an OHP, then there's always
a use for it in each lesson.
to the contents
Buy Nothing Day falls on 28th November this year (29th in
the UK & Europe). Here are some excerpts about BND from
its launch in the Pacific Northwest twelve years ago,
Buy Nothing Day has grown into a worldwide celebration
of consumer awareness and simple living. Observed on
the day after US Thanksgiving America's busiest
shopping day of the year the campaign has sparked
debate, radio talk shows, TV news items and newspaper
headlines around the world.'
in more than thirty countries have made a pact with
themselves and, as a personal experiment and public
statement, stepped out of the consumer stream for 24
hours. The ways in which people have marked the event
worldwide have been as diverse as the participants themselves.'
play with the icons of our consumer landscape by taking
off on mock shopping sprees, by hawking "hope"
and "happiness," or simply by opening up shop
and selling nothing more.'
September 11th much has changed, yet much remains the
same. Despite an enormous body of evidence warning of
the dire consequences of fossil-fuel-induced climate
change, including massive floods in Europe and crippling
droughts on Canadian prairies, consumption of oil has
scarcely slackened. Bush's thinly-veiled quest for domination
over Middle Eastern oil reserves promises to perpetuate
this trend. The ongoing "war on terrorism"
has sharpened our appreciation of how tenuous and potentially
catastrophic is a voracious First World's dependence
on foreign oil, networked international money markets,
and the utterly uncompassionate survival instincts of
no right way to celebrate Buy Nothing Day. The idea
is to do *something* to spark up debate, not shut it
down. The shining hope for a revolution in human consciousness
lies in the actions of everyday people. And so in the
most profound sense, nothing has changed at all.'
Weekly Tip gave ideas to incorporate BND in classes for the
past two years:
Nothing Day Weekly Tip 2002 - Adbusters spoof ads
for speaking practice
Nothing Day Weekly Tip 2001 - Lesson plan worth a
reading text from the Adbusters site along with photos to
lessons are still relevant with some excellent materials from
the Adbusters site, so do check them out.
year we're using some material from the
UK BND site. In the UK & Europe in general the day
is celebrated on the last Saturday in November - the 29th.
more Buy Nothing Day lesson ideas:
Introduce the idea of Buy Nothing Day & get the students'
reactions - do they know anything about it etc.
Handout the FAQ below & individually
match up questions & answers >> students compare
ideas >> feedback. You could pick up on the different
points & informally check comprehension in the class discussion/feedback.
Language focus: possibly focus on the lexical set of 'consumerism'
& the problem/solution discourse feature.
Speaking - ask students to look at question 13 & the answer
& in small groups discuss recent purchases & whether
they might have avoided buying by following the suggestions
>> feedback - discussing whether it is a good idea -
the general response to the text.
Students, in pairs & small groups, think of ten things
to do on Buy Nothing Day that would either celebrate the day
or fit with the philosophy of the day. You could then make
this into a pyramid discussion - two pairs join & have
to combine their lists to come up with one list of ten things.
Then two groups of four combine to do the same, to come up
with just one list of ten. And so on
Great for large
Students then see if any of their ideas come up in the
list from BND UK below & if there are any ideas from
the list that they would like to add to their list.
Feedback - any ideas in common between the students' &
the site's lists? Any ideas from the site list that they would
add to their own lists? Any they think are a bit silly? Do
they think that the attitudes expressed in the list might
be detrimental to the cause & exclude some people who
don't think like this, but who nonetheless do support the
the materials used in the ideas
Nothing Day UK home Page
UK FAQ page
things to do on BND
to the contents
the Past Teaching Tips