This long week has been really fruitful. Our colleagues and I have been dealing with potential issues that might raise difficulties in our lessons.
One the most recurring issues is the difficulties learners have when they must speak in public, or, in other words, when they must speak in English.
Spoken English is the big issue, we could say. Historically, most teaching approaches were based on the written language, bot reading skills and grammar acquisition were paramount if learners were supposed to “succeed” in a language course. Of course, that did not account for succeeding with the use of the language they learnt when they had to use it in real-life situations. There are many adults who have undergone years of English lessons and who are not able to ask for help in English if they get lost in the middle of Seattle. This approach given in ELT classrooms has proved to be a reason why this happens.
With time, new generations of teachers have come to the classrooms, and many of them have given a different approach to lessons: learning through songs, TPR, role-play activities… Listening skills have been enhanced widely without neglecting reading and writing skills. But speaking is still down there… why?
Most of the times we try to encourage our students to speak by asking questions in class, or asking them to work in pairs and role-play. If they are not confident, progress will be scarce.
We might want to step further into more compelling drills that place students in a situation where they must use spoken English: Sketches to be played in front of the class, with dialogues created either by teacher or students; short talks given by students on topics assigned by the teacher; short sketches recorded with a videocamera, either depicting a story or simulating a news broadcast, giving a weather forecast or even explaining a cooking recipe!
Accuracy is important, style is also desirable, but the ability to communicate meaningfully is the real target!!