Reflections on a Course: Post 3 (Week 4)

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!!

photo credit: Wayne Large via photopin cc

6 thoughts on “Reflections on a Course: Post 3 (Week 4)

  1. Yuliya

    Hello, Ricard!
    I like the way you advocate Communicative approach by stressing its underestimated position in the past almost in every post.
    I think in our globalized world where borders are blurred, it is difficult to find a person who will not be able to express themselves in English, especially in case of emergency. I think basic communication skills are best acquired when a person is put in such a condition that he/she either sinks or swims. The method has proved to be effective in teaching swimming, riding a bicycle etc. The main point is to break that barrier that paralyzes the tongue and prevents you from saying anything.
    I agree with you that speaking in public requires much courage and confidence.
    You suggest sketches and dialogues, which are great, but not with those who are shy and do not possess artistic talent or have very quiet voice. Do you think they should be pushed to speak anyway?


  2. rgarcia5 Post author

    Hi, Yuliya!
    It’s not a matter of pushing them… it’s a matter of helping them to realize that there’s nothing wrong with making mistakes. It also deals with making activities which cretae a relaxed atmosphere, something that helps students to feel at ease and more prone to express themselves, in whatever words they can use or in those easy expressions you ask them to use. Of course, I agree with you that some of them find it embarrasing at the beginning, but I’m sure that if you help them along they will be able to break that barrier!
    Hugs, Yuliya!

  3. Marina

    Hello Ricard,

    I agree that speaking is the most difficult part of language acquisition. But it rather used to be than it is now especially for learners who happen to travel a lot, or participate in multilateral projects and communicate with students from other countries via skype or face- to -face. And when there is a need, there is a way. It is the motivation stronger.
    So apart from creating real life like situations in class, which is absolutely recommended, we should encourage students to take part in all sorts of educational or cultural exchanges with other countries, don’t you agree?


  4. Orquidia

    Hi, Ricardo.

    Adorable your blog!

    I’m really impressed with your articles and links congratulations!!

    Let’s share our hands with your opinion to push ,encourage,motivate to our students to speak, to write, or to read to break the fear to this new language, making mistakes, but try on and fighting to learn..It is difficult to nonnative speakers to learn a new language in a mother tongue context, step by step will realize their advances and their mistakes..It is my own experience asa student, now I’m an english teacher, I have never lived,or studied in an english speaker country, travel as tourist,that is different, abd everyday and making mistakes, reviewing or listening suggestions and studying a lot to improve them…

    Go ahead Ricardo with your students!


  5. rgarcia5 Post author

    Hi Marina!
    I do agree with what you say, of course. The best way to learn a language is through real life… learners who get involved in intnl’ projects such as penpals, keypals, Comenius or eTwinning improve their English dramatically if they get highly involved.



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