The Productive Skills - Speaking
Jun 24, 2012 Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) 7016 Views
Speaking and writing are the 'productive skills.'
We teach speaking as learners consider this particular skill as one of the most important and also the most challenging. Speaking communication is the most common way of building interpersonal relations. Furthermore, speaking is important if we want to get things done, find out information and give instructions.
Speaking is considered by learners as one of the most difficult skills as it involves real-time processing which means that learners don't have much time to formulate what they want to say and how to say that students often avoid speaking and therefore never get the opportunity to build up confidence through practice. A further reason that students avoid speaking is that they are afraid it. It is for this reason, and the fact that they are afraid to make mistakes, of not being understood because of poor pronunciation. This poor pronunciation often stems from previous learning experiences where there has been an emphasis on written accuracy with little chance to develop oral skills. Students may also, in many cases, have little opportunity to practice their English speaking outside of the classroom environment.
Steps to Teaching Oral Skills:
1. It is advisable to present and model language that is understandable and appropriate to the learners' level of proficiency. This may be done in a number of ways: You could opt to:
• use visuals or other materials
• use dialogue, or situation in dialogue, role play, information gap, questions and answers, drills, opinion, etc.
• explain new vocabulary and grammar
2. Check comprehension frequently by:
• asking questions that require verbal and nonverbal responses
• eliciting answers from individual students
• allowing students to discuss (agree/disagree) with responses
• moving around the room and listening to responses
3. Give students ample opportunities to practice by:
• providing materials for practice (visuals, worksheets, etc.)
• have learners practice in different groupings - pairs, small groups, whole groups, individually.
A class discussion is not as easy as one may think. Students may not have an interest in the topic you have proposed, no motivation or a real fear of speaking in front of the class. These objections will need to be addressed if there is a chance of any worthwhile discussion taking place. There may be a number of aims for a discussion; the main aim usually being an opportunity to improve fluency as opposed to accuracy. In order to ensure that everyone gets an equal opportunity to speak, it is a good idea to organize speaking activities into pairs, groups and whole class.
Fluency before Accuracy
It is important to establish whether you are encouraging fluency or accuracy? Once this has been established, you can adapt your role in the lesson appropriately. If the main aim of the lesson is to encourage freer speaking and communication, then the teacher should adopt a less conspicuous role, thus allowing for a freer flow of language and ideas (fluency).
Drama and Role-play
Using Drama in the classroom setting provides a useful and enjoyable medium in which to discover language. Students can express themselves in a variety of ways and may be transported into a world of imagination. Students are able to shed their inhibitions, taking on the role of an entirely different character and shaking the shackles of culture and social expectations. Furthermore, these characters may find themselves in a new environment, totally removed from the constraints of the classroom. In this way, the classroom can be miraculously transformed into banks, airports, shops, bars, social gatherings etc. Drama and role-play can also be a very useful starting point for skills and systems based work, providing practice in specific language areas. In order for role-play to be successful, there needs to be a good report between the teacher and students based on mutual trust. Without such an atmosphere the likelihood of success is greatly diminished.