Overview

ESL Learners

Cultural Bridges

Teaching ESL

English skills

Lesson Planning

Activities

Lesson Materials

Further Resources

Bibliography


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Authors & Contributors

Teaching Speaking

Speaking English is the main goal of many adult learners. Their personalities play a large role in determining how quickly and how correctly they will accomplish this goal. Those who are risk-takers unafraid of making mistakes will generally be more talkative, but with many errors that could become hard-to-break habits. Conservative, shy students may take a long time to speak confidently, but when they do, their English often contains fewer errors and they will be proud of their English ability. It's a matter of quantity vs. quality, and neither approach is wrong. However, if the aim of speaking is communication and that does not require perfect English, then it makes sense to encourage quantity in your classroom. Break the silence and get students communicating with whatever English they can use, correct or not, and selectively address errors that block communication.

Speaking lessons often tie in pronunciation and grammar (discussed elsewhere in this guide), which are necessary for effective oral communication. Or a grammar or reading lesson may incorporate a speaking activity. Either way, your  students will need some preparation before the speaking task. This includes introducing the topic and providing a model of the speech they are to produce. A model may not apply to discussion-type activities, in which case students will need clear and specific instructions about the task to be accomplished. Then the students will practice with the actual speaking activity.

These activities may include imitating (repeating), answering verbal cues, interactive conversation, or an oral presentation. Most speaking activities inherently practice listening skills as well, such as when one student is given a simple drawing and sits behind another student, facing away. The first must give instructions to the second to reproduce the drawing. The second student asks questions to clarify unclear instructions, and neither can look at each other's page during the activity. Information gaps are also commonly used for speaking practice, as are surveys, discussions, and role-plays. Speaking activities abound; see the Activities and Further Resources sections of this guide for ideas.

Here are some ideas to keep in mind as you plan your speaking activities.