3 Pages, Grade: 2
We want our students to speak. We want them to speak fluently and accurately. But how can we encourage the shy student to speak? On what do we have to pay attention to when we do speaking exercises? How to correct mistakes to help our students to improve their language level? In the following essayI will focus on these main questions about teaching speaking. Furthermore I will try to compare the theory with my own experience as a teacher?
How to get Students to Speak?
Nobody likes to make mistakes. Nobody likes to blame himself in front of a whole class. These are the main reasons why many teachers stay in front of a silent class. They did not succeed in creating a relaxing classroom atmosphere in which the students feel comfortable. If we want to teach speaking we first have to create an environment in which the students feel comfortable and in which they like to speak. There are two main aspects which are important for a good classroom atmosphere:
- Students should speak as much as possible during a lesson: One reason why many students do not want or like to speak is: they are not used to it. For them speaking is something special and difficult. Every time we do something new, we feel nervous or even afraid. But if we do it over and over again we get used to it and may start to enjoy it. The same thing should happen in the classroom. Students should get used to speaking English. It is the teacher’s responsibility to create enough opportunities for the students to speak.
- There are no mistakes, there is only learning. Students have to realize that making mistakes is totally normal. There are different ways how a teacher can establish such an atmosphere. For example the teacher should stop focussing too much on mistakes. It is important that students become self-confident in speaking a foreign language. If the teachers mentions every little mistake students make, they will become frustrated quickly. It does not mean that teachers should stop correcting. Rather they should give the students sometimes the opportunity to talk without focusing on total correctness. There are different ways how we can correct speaking mistakes. We will talk about it later on in this essay.
Fluency versus Accuracy
After you have created a good classroom atmosphere to teach speaking, you now have to focus on your goal of teaching. What is the goal of your speaking exercise? Should your exercise help the students to become more fluent or more accurate? This question has to be answered every time before you teach speaking.
Fluency: If you decided to teach fluency, you have to adapt your teaching behaviour. To a certain degree you have to ignore the mistakes students make. Rather you should encourage student to express themselves as often as possible. The more the students can speak the better and the more self-confident they become. Discussions in pairs or in small groups help the students to feel more comfortable, safe and to speak more often. Exercises for improving fluency can be really “open”. For example student could talk about experiences, events or current media topics. If the language level of the class is not really high yet, it is important to give a little help. Expressing an opinion may be an over challenge for beginners. In this case we have to adapt the exercise to the class. By handing out a vocabulary list or an example of the task, students get the necessary help to do the exercise.
Accuracy: If we want to teach accuracy, students need more help and leading. The exercises have to focus on one specific topic. Corrections become really important to achieve your goal. Before we teach accuracy we have to know exactly what we want to teach. Do we want to teach the past simple, vocabulary or the time? We cannot teach them everything at the same time. We have to focus on one thing at the time. If we teach the past simple, student have to know on what they have to focus on too. Everyone has to know what the goal is. To teach accuracy, the exercises need to be really precise. As a teacher we have to check the correctness precisely.
How to Correct Speaking Mistakes?
When it comes to correction we have to know the difference between an error and a slip. An error is a mistake the student cannot correct himself because it is above his current level of language. A slip is a mistake that occurs because a student is tired or is not concentrate enough. He actually would know the correct form but he “forgot” it for the moment. It is important to know this difference to adapt our correction. If there is a slip, we could only tell the student that there is a mistake and let him correct it himself. If there is an error we either have to give an explanation or we do not correct it because it is not part of the current exercise.
There are many different ways how we can correct speaking mistakes. The method we use depends on the task, the situation and the goal. There is no method which we could describe as the best. There is only one thing we have to pay attention to: If we want to correct, we have to do itimmediately after the mistake occurred. But generally, everyone has to know for himself how he wants to correct his students. Here are some different ways to correct speaking:
- The teacher corrects: The teacher mentions that the sentence was not accurate and corrects the sentence.
- The teacher mentions the mistake, but this time he asks the student to correct the sentence.
- Correction by a classmate. Students can work in pairs to correct each other.
Correction is important. But it is not everything. Positive feedback is important too. Probably it is even more important than correction. As a teacher we have to find a balance between positive feedback and correction. We also have to find a balance between fluency and accuracy exercises.
Without speaking there is no communication. It is important and essential to teach speaking. But before we can teach speaking we have to create a classroom atmosphere in which the students feel comfortable. If the students do not feel comfortable or are even afraid about speaking, we (the teacher) did something wrong. As soon as we have created a relaxing atmosphere we have to focus on our goal of teaching. Do we want to teach fluency or do we want to teach accuracy? And finally we have to know how to handle mistakes. If we take care of these three aspects of teaching speaking, students will improve their level of language more easily.
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