Well I finally sat down to watch the clip of your lesson. One thing that often strikes me about your contributions is how generous you are in terms of opening up your teaching to others. It's great to see the clip as it is to hear (read) about slices of your lessons. And as I mentioned at some point, it's so much more useful to talk about the concrete.
One thing that struck me about the lesson dynamic, in relation to getting students to speak, is that it's clear from the start that a norm has been established where students feel free to offer their ideas unsolicited. For those of us who usually conduct lessons and courses in this way, it may seem obvious, but I've observed many a lesson where a teacher tries an activity which needs students to be forthcoming in the way they are in your clip, but it doesn't work because the norm in the group is towards reticence, i.e. contribute only when nominated.
It's also true that, as you wrote, your pausing and contemplating works technically to open up space for and encourage/motivate more contributions from students.
Thanks for that,
I agree, examining and trying out discussion questions is an important and revealing step in preparation, and I often regret not doing so when I realise my questions aren't 'working' and I realise why-- that they aren't getting at things that people really want to talk about. I wonder about the authenticity aspect, though, as I sometimes feel it sets an impossible standard-- i.e. that the questions should elicit authentic communication. Even in a group with a very good dynamic and a high level of trust and familiarity, there is a limit to how open students are willing to be with each other in sharing their opinions, experiences and feelings, at least in my experience, and I think this is one reason the classroom is sometimes labeled 'not the real world'. This makes the teacher's task all the more challenging, as the questions a teacher asks need to judge the classroom relationships well.
Thanks Steve for saying such nice things
I have to be honest - this is the first proper clip from my classroom that I have uploaded and I deliberately chose something safe. The next clips are going to be more raw and unedited - warts and all for everyone to see (gulp!)
I think that you are right that the techniques used work best with a familiar group where individuals feel more relaxed and at ease about speaking and offering ideas.
So, perhaps this is one key point to answer the original question (How do you get students to speak?)
It has been my experience from teaching both in Europe and Australia I find the mix of students that I get in my classes here in Australia often contain students who have difficulty with open discussions.
Sometimes it's the topic, for example 'crime': a student recently told me that she had never thought about crimes. Specifically, the issue of which sentences should apply to which crimes because it was not something that was touched on in her education system. Futhermore, it was not a topic her mother permitted at home. I find that if I want to facilitiate a discussion on this type of topic is has to be part of a whole unit of work, it's almost as if I have to do a bit of Studies Of Society and Environment teaching along with the EFL. I find the Australian website "Behind the News" very useful for this.
I have also found a lexical approach useful where students have interchangable models language models on the board or on worksheets to help them express themselves fluently. Another apporach, strangely effective, is to put the questions on a game board (you can find blank boards at www.esl-lounge.com). I have also found topics like 'texting', 'lack of sleep' and 'education' work well because they are easy for students to personalise. I now avoid anything to do with 'celebrity', 'film' or 'pop music' because many of my students have never heard of or seen the celebrities who are so well known to most Australians. However, in Europe these topics went off really well on teenage summer programs.
For IELTS practice I give every student questions on a different topic and then ring a bell after 5 minutes and let them all change partners like a speed-dating evening.
I would never force students to speak, in my experience they'll talk when they're ready.
One more suggestion: if you can find an old game of 'Scruples' - that is great for a filler or 2nd conditionals (but take out some of the racier or dated questions)
The perennial problem of getting students to speak!
Adding a few thoughts to the excellent ideas already offered, here are few pre-discussion techniques that might help induce adult and young adult students to speak out more fully in classroom discussions and role-plays:
· To reduce students’ anxiety about your expectations, it’s helpful to provide an idea-framing activity, such as a survey, a questionnaire, or a pair work in which students can compare their ideas with each other, testing them out in a more intimate setting rather than immediately exposing them in the whole-class venue.
· Next, to help students prepare the actual statements they’d like to use to express their ideas, notepadding provides a virtual “private planner” to ensure students don’t get caught off-guard searching for the right word or phrase in the heat of the discussion.
· To further support students prior to an actual discussion, suggest that they look at the reading selection in their textbook to “text-mine,” or circle words and phrases they think might be helpful to them in the discussion.
· And finally, prepare (or have students prepare) “wordposts,” actual at-a-glance wordlists of previously learned and relevant words, phrases, collocations, and social language students can have in front of them to support them in the discussion.
It has been our experience that permitting students time to think, plan, and prepare their ideas and intended language prior to actual discussions accomplishes four important things:
1. It reduces the natural anxiety learners experience when asked to express ideas in a new language.
2. It moves them beyond their natural reliance on fossilized and beginning-level language.
3. It ensures that the discussion will represent the most, rather than the least, that learners can say.
4. It guarantees that students will recycle previously learned language, making it unforgettable.
In case you're interested in knowing more about idea-framing, notepadding, text-mining, and wordposting, I'm attaching a monograph Allen Ascher and I have written: A Process Approach to Discussion. Hope you find it useful!
At some time or another most teachers will come across students who don’t seem to want to talk or participate in class. For some it may be cultural, for others intimidation or confidence issues. In the productive skills unit we looked at various ways of encouraging students to speak. Following are some other useful ideas:
• Use plenty of pair work. This will allow the students to practice in a safe environment, with the support of a fellow student, before having to contribute in open class discussion/feedback.
• Use controlled practice. Ensure the students are able to produce language in a controlled way before expecting them to be able to produce it fluently.
• Use role-play. Some students find it more comfortable to communicate when they are acting as somebody else than when they are being themselves. Role-plays are very helpful in this respect.
• Use a tape recorder. Ask the students to record what they would like to say outside the lesson. This allows the students to express themselves in a less threatening atmosphere. The teacher can listen to the recording and point out errors.
Inspired by Paul Seligson (IATEFL Conference Sept 2010, Bydgoszcz, Poland), this September I'm going to introduce new techniques fostering speaking. These will involve students using their mobile phones to record themselves. This idea of controlled speaking seems potentially promising:
1. ss can record their speaking tasks as many times as they wish in order to produce perfect homework to sent to their teacher via email - you can't possibly get so much speaking practice during a lesson
2. they are given sample recordings of native speakers as an example to follow and in this way they learn rhythm and intonation from the best - they can copy them without being laughed at by their classmates for 'sounding funny'
The listening and speaking material is graded: from simple voicemail greetings, short weather forecasts to radio news and radio interviews.
One disadvantage is the fact that it is definitely a form of controlled practice, which I am not very fond of, but I believe it is the feeling of safety and self-confidence that students lack when they decide to keep quiet when you ask them to speak.
Another weak point of this way of fostering speaking is that it lacks automaticity and spontaneity. However, you can make your students aware of things that make them sound "English": pronunciation, pace, rate of speech, length of pauses, type of pauses, location of pauses etc.
This will be the first stage I believe. After 5 months (1st term) of such intensive training I will introduce another set of tasks that involve independent speaking, starting from familiar talk (based on IELTS coursebooks) to discussing a topic. The 'independent stage' will take 15 months (2-4 term).
What do you think of it?
I will be grateful for any comments
Hello all of you who have contrbuted before,
One great thing about being a teacher is that you always feel you need to try new and new ideas. And this thread has some geat examples.
I have made some experiments with recording student's speaking practice but Hanna's idea is great: get them do it as homework. (I wonder if they'll have technical difficulties with that.)
So, the tip I can give is this: students will speak 1) if the teacher is not anywhere near 2) if they have someting to say.
So most often I let them speak in small groups or pairs and I (pretend to) prepare the next activity while sharply listening out for some L1 use. Another key is the topic. 'Shopping' might motivate them to talk on the way home from school but not in the classroom. They only see it as one of the 'exam topic'. Personal vaules, stories or memories are things they are ready to share. Groups are often mixed so that they talked to new and new people from lesson to lesson.
When a topic must be forced, however, I give them the topic and I let them talk in pairs for a while. Then they each get a strip of paper and can write down the essence of what they have just said. I collect them, correct them for grammar or vocab and all they can get is positive feedback - so they can do their best if they choose to. If not, well, next time.
This is Don Maybin. Sorry, but you've got my strategy all wrong. Yes, I do get my students to stand; however, they work in groups (NEVER individually!) and the group sits if ANY person gives ANY answer. In other words, students are encouraged to attempt an answer and not worry about making a mistake. As for continuing until the last group is left standing, sorry, but wrong again. When 2-3 groups have yet to answer I make a comment along the lines of "Oops - no more time..." and have them sit. Leaving one group standing is nasty and smacks of choosing sides for a sports team!?
In future, please feel free to contact me to confirm some of my rather unorthodox ideas. I am still very much alive - and online!
P.S. After "Coast to Coast" I do hope you "remember a guy called Don Maybin".
With younger classes an element of competition usually does the trick. As soon as you divide the class into teams and start awarding points for whatever it is, there tends to be a steady hubble bubble of English.
I know competition can be frowned upon but it tends to do the trick int erms of language production in my experience.