5 ways to encourage your students to get talking!

Par: Alexandra Coutlée

19 mars 2018

To learn a second language, communication is key. But communication in a second language can be a source of stress for some students. There are lots of things a teacher can do to foster communication in the classroom and encourage students to take risks and talk!

1-Being a good role model
First, ESL teachers need to be good role models themselves. If students see that their second language teacher needs to revert to their mother tongue to explain something, students will certainly feel the need to do the same at some point as well. Showing students that there are many communicative strategies will help them feel more confident. Teachers need to model various communicative strategies like rephrasing, using cognates and many others so that students can see those strategies in action and feel comfortable using them in their own conversations.

2-Creating a safe environment
Students need to feel that it is ok to make mistakes and that mistakes are actually encouraged. Using lots of positive reinforcement when students speak will help students feel comfortable taking risks. Teachers should never tolerate other students making fun of a mistake and should also make sure not correct students in a way that makes them feel ashamed. Using a variety of corrective feedback strategies can help teachers encourage students to improve while ensuring they feel respected. For example, a teacher can recast which means to simply reformulate what the students has said and provide the correction without actually pointing out the mistake.

3-Providing functional language and visual support
Students often become anxious when speaking because they are struggling to find the right words. Providing students with functional language can help students get started in a conversation. Beginners can be provided with fill in the blank type sentences that will allow them to participate and gain confidence. A list of expressions or a vocabulary bank of words can also help students to add to their conversation. These tools can be provided to students on individual handouts or as visual support (e.g.posters) around the classroom. Of course, teachers will need to teach students how to use these resources so that they become a tool students are comfortable using. Many textbooks offer functional language for communicative activity. For example, the Poptropica English collection often provides functional language in the form of cartoon dialogue. Using the comic strip type functional language can help students formulate their own answers by simply changing some of the information presented to reformulate their own answer.

4-Providing lots of opportunity
Students need to practise speaking… and then practise some more. For students to become proficient and comfortable speaking in their second language, they need to have the opportunity to do it and to do it often. Making sure students have opportunities to discuss in small groups, as a class and work with a partner will ensure they get the practice they need. Have students share their answers, express their opinions, give feedback to each other on a written text; most activities can be an opportunity for communication.

5-Making it fun
Communicating does not only mean discussing issues. There are lots of fun activities that will have your students communicating in no time. They will be having so much fun that they will forget they were anxious to speak a second language! Try a speed dating type activity, bring in board games or play two truths and one lie and see how fast some students start to communicate! 

An ESL classroom should be noisy with the sound of your students communicating. C1 (Interacts Orally in English) is the core of both the primary and secondary program and should also be at the centre of most of your classes. While making your classes loud with the sound of students communicating, remember to be respectful of the class next door!

Tags: blog, communication, ESL, speaking,

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