6 Efficient Speaking stratagies for adult ESL students

Speaking is the primary form of communication for most people, and in the majority of cases, one of the fundamental reasons why students study a second language. Students need to develop the skills, and the accompanying confidence to be able to speak aloud in any circumstances and to not just follow the lead of others who may be more self-assured then themselves. For students to merely mumble along, or wisper under their breath is not good enough, and falls far short of the expectations of a person who has invested the time, money and effort that it takes to learn a second language.

Today the teaching of languages has digressed from that of a mere educational necessity, to a multi-billion dollar international industry based around teaching the chosen language as fast as humanly possible, a mentality which has had obvious negative consequences on the communicative skills of many students. This necessity for everything to be done expediently has mandated the necessity for almost everything in life to be done in a manner that is time efficient. Effective communication skills take time to develop, they take extensive practice, and unlike reading or listening skills, has a psychological element to it that can, in many cases, affect a students level of presentational confidence.

Today, skills such as speaking and writing are, in many cases, delegated by book publishers to rudimentary activities that require the simple development of mere sentences or paragraphs, or speaking activities that are barely minutes long rather than the comprehensive activities that are required to develop a high level of fluency. When this fact is combined with the over crowded, and generally rushed schedules that languages are taught under in schools and institutes, then communicative skills are negatively affected.

Whilst there are innumerable activities for practicing speaking in the classroom, below I would like to share some stratagies that have worked well for me when it comes to improving an adult students overall speaking skills.

1. Have students stand up in front of the class and give a presentation.

Activities such as these can be either a well planned out, well executed activity such as a project that requires students to research, develop and present, or, as it is in many cases, a spare of the moment activity where students are required to think as they go. Both activities can be highly effective in their own way, the choice of which depends upon the requirements of the program and / or the teacher. Activities, rather than being merely generic and subsequently utilized for all classes, need to be morphed to suit the individual needs of each class. Evaluate your students, their skills, their level of confidence and their willingness for active participation, and based upon these, créate activities that will best suit their skills and abilities.

2. Student debates

Debates are, and always have been an excellent academic activity that requires students to express themselves, either rejecting, or defending a concept or principle in a public fórum. In many countries, debates, primarily through organized institutional clubs, are an age old tradition in both secondary schools, and universities. The principles of debates can easily, and effectively be transfered to the general classroom through a variety of activities. As an example, students can debate a point that directly relates to the subject of a unit that they have been studying in their English books, for example, ´The pros and cons of social media´, or ¨Is mans environmental footprint as serious as some may claim´. Debates can either be well planned, well thought out activities with the students being given an opportunity to pre-plan their presentations as a homework assignment, or, as a spare of the moment classroom activity. Debates can be between two deliberately selected groups which will perform for the rest of the class, or, as a pair or small group activity. No matter what form the debate may take, or the parameters set for it’s planning and preparation, a debate, from the perspective of an adult student, is more often than not a very productive way to have your students practice their communacative skills.

3. Have students present a dramatic or comedic reinactment or role-play in front of the class.

There is an old English expression “All the worlds a stage”, and when activities are planned and executed correctly, then they can become an excellent form of communactive exercise for students. Evaluate your students, determine their personalities, and plan suitable activities for them to perform. In the case of role plays, these can easily be planned and executed in one class, giving students the opportunity to perform in a totally ad-hoc fashion, often with comical results. When you are looking at activities that require extensive planning and preparation, and which involve larger groups of students, you will find that some of the students are suitable for performing, others may be better suited to organizational roles whilst others maybe better off in behind the scene roles. No matter who your students are, or their personalities, there will always be some form of role for them where they will have to communicate, either amongst themselves, or to the entire class.

4. Set up activities based around students working in pairs.

From the perspective of student confidence, and the non-threatening environment that accompanies it, activities where students work in pairs have generally been proven by many to provide an opportunity for even the most reticent of students to speak more freely. When working in pairs, every student must participate to some level, and whilst some may be more communactive than others, each student will interact to a level which they feel comfortable with.

5. Ask students to provide suggestions for the subjects that are to be discussed in class.

Rather than basing the speaking activities solely on the exercises in your books, at the beginning of each month, ask your students to write a list of 5 subjects that they feel would be interesting in talking about in class. By empowering your students this way, you are allowing them to discuss subjects that are important to them, subjects which they find interesting, and the consequence of this is that generally speaking, students will speak with greater fluency, confidence and fervor. It doesnt matter if the subjects being discuss dont correspond with those being covered in the book, what matters is that students are improving their skills of communication.

6. Small group activities based around the news and issues of the day.

Using the news of your country, or of the world, créate small groups where students discuss the issues that are affecting their world. World issues, and current affairs are an excellent foundation for a conversation activity. In most non-English speaking countries, you are able to find websites where the national news is presented in English specifically for expats, and of course, for international news, sites like the BBC or CNN offer stories about all of the important news happening in the world. Use these sources to créate small group activities where you can introduce stories which you feel would be interesting for your students to discuss.

There is no doubt that the entire English teaching industry needs to place more emphasis upon improving our students speaking skills. I hope that these few ideas which I have shared through this article are able to give you an insight into the importance of speaking, and the activities which we are able to implement in our classrooms in order to achieve a higher level of fluency.