Speaking is a crucial part of second language learning and teaching. Despite its importance, I believe that for many years, teaching speaking has been undervalued and English language teachers have continued to teach speaking just as a repetition of drills or memorization of dialogues. However, today’s world requires that the goal of teaching speaking should improve students’ communicative skills, because, only in that way, students can express themselves. Communicative language teaching and collaborative learning serve best for this aim. Communicative language teaching is based on real-life situations that require communication. By using this method in ESL classes, students will have the opportunity of communicating with each other in the target language. In brief, we should create a classroom environment where students have real-life communication, authentic activities, and meaningful tasks that promote oral language. This can occur when students collaborate in groups to achieve a goal or to complete a task.
I love both role-plays and simulations in my class!
Simulations are very similar to role-plays but what makes simulations different than role plays is that they are more elaborate. In simulations, students can bring items to the class to create a realistic environment. For instance, if a student is acting as a singer, she brings a microphone to sing and so on. Role plays and simulations have many advantages. First, since they are entertaining, they motivate the students. Second, they increase the self-confidence of hesitant students, because in role play and simulation activities, they will have a different role and do not have to speak for themselves, which means they do not have to take the same responsibility.
There are two ways a role play can go: scripted and non-scripted. With a scripted role play, the teacher might use an example in a text book. This is a good idea for a warm up exercise, by getting everyone to split up into pairs and allow them to speak to their partner, taking on different roles. Non-scripted ones are when students are given a role each and must use whatever knowledge they have in order to speak with that partner or to the class! Non-scripted ones, are my favourite!
When it comes to role-plays , it is all about the creative use of language. The student must put what they know to the test. This doesn’t mean they have to list off a boring dialogue. I allow them to be as creative as they can. I put them into challenging situations, and this will allow them to think of new ways of saying things.
Body language is just as important as spoken language, so in their role plays I try and let the students get into the role.
I also have my students conduct interviews on selected topics with various people. It is a good idea that we provide a rubric to students so that they know what type of questions they can ask or what path to follow, but students should prepare their own interview questions. Conducting interviews with people gives students a chance to practice their speaking ability not only in class but also outside and helps them becoming socialized.
What I regularly do is ,to have my students report to the class about their group project work! They report to their friends what they find as the most interesting thing in their project research. Students can also talk about whether they have experienced anything worth telling their friends while working on their projects.
I also love debates! I often have groups of students work on their topic for a given time period, and present their opinions to the class. It is essential that the speaking should be equally divided among group members. At the end, the class decides on the winning group who defended the idea in the best way.This year, we have been working on a British Council project called “LIfe Skills”. This activity fosters critical thinking and quick decision making, and students learn how to express and justify themselves in polite ways while disagreeing with the others.
Rather than leading students to pure memorization, providing a rich environment where meaningful communication takes place is desired. With this aim, various speaking activities such as those listed above can contribute a great deal to students in developing basic interactive skills necessary for life. These activities make students more active in the learning process and at the same time make their learning more meaningful and fun for them.
Once the students are having fun and speaking English, there are no limits to their own learning!