In Language Classrooms, Students Should Be Talking
In the realm of language education, we have made some critical errors that need to be corrected immediately. Traditionally, the instructor would stand at the front of the classroom and lecture on various aspects of grammar. Students sat at their desks, which were arranged in rows facing the direction of the instructor, and took notes furiously. After that, they completed the worksheets and made an effort to learn the material that had been presented by the all-knowing instructor. And this is the case for many people even in modern times.
Where is it lacking? Students are not permitted to concentrate on the one aspect of learning a language that most piques their interest—speaking the target language. Students rarely have the opportunity to use the language in an authentic context because so much time is spent teaching them about the language. When students realise that they are not actually making progress toward their goal of speaking the target language, the majority of them make the decision to discontinue their study of the language.
The acquisition of an understanding of proficiency is the first step in teaching students to speak a language fluently. Excellent language educators are aware of the various proficiency levels and ensure that their pupils do as well. Grammar is no longer king in the classroom once proficiency has been established as the primary objective, as communication has taken its place. It is essential to spend time in the classroom on all modes of communication, including interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational modes of communication; however, the primary emphasis should be placed on interpersonal communication. In order to accomplish this goal, the instructor needs to step aside.
If the teacher is constantly talking, then the students aren’t participating. The solution is straightforward: the less the teacher talks, the more the students talk for themselves to achieve the necessary level of communicative practise for the students.
During my time spent observing different teachers in the classroom, I’ve noticed that some educators are much more at ease than others when it comes to giving their students the spotlight. And I’ve come to the conclusion that teachers who are most at ease in classrooms that are centred on the students see the greatest linguistic results, have less attrition from one level to the next, and have more students who are engaged in their learning and happy in their classrooms.
STRATEGIES FOR FOCUSING ON STUDENT PROFICIENCY
Start each day with a conversation-building activity with other people.
In class, the students should be required to speak the target language.
Remove any and all activities in which individual students are questioned by you. Instead, encourage students to work in pairs because, in larger groups, their individual words and the meaning of their negotiations carry less weight. (It is important to give careful consideration to the pairings; pairing a student with a grade of A with a student with a grade of D will frustrate both of them, and pairing close friends will most likely result in a distraction.)
Introduce students to engaging topics that provide them with opportunities to use the vocabulary they are currently learning as well as vocabulary they have previously learned.
Make sure everyone knows you’re there. Mentoring should take place as you continually circulate around the classroom.
Spend some time role playing what you would like your students to be doing, but avoid being too obvious about it. An authentic activity can very quickly lose its authenticity if, for instance, the verb tenses and vocabulary that are required to be used during their exchanges are specified in advance.
Train yourself to be at ease with disorderly chaos. It is possible that students will not use the tenses you had hoped for, that they will make up words, and that they will even throw in English words here and there; however, this is perfectly normal and a natural part of the process of learning a language.
5 INTERPERSONAL ACTIVITIES TO GET YOU STARTED
Speed dating: Although it may sound risqué, all that is involved is arranging the desks in rows so that they are facing each other. Use a website like Wheel You should make it a point to switch topics every two to five minutes. The students in one row always stay in their seats, while the students in the row opposite them rotate seats every time the allotted time is up. New conversational partners are introduced at regular intervals.
Creating a Poster: Before beginning, think of a question that is relevant to your study unit. For example, “What do you do to get ready for school?” Instruct your students to use a website such as Canva or Easel while they collaborate with a partner. , to make posters that provide responses to the question. Next, have them give a presentation to the class about their posters.
Create a pail of prompts by writing different scenarios related to your unit on slips of paper and putting them in the pail. Have the students draw them out of a bucket and then have them practise having a conversation about the subject. Next, call each of the groups up to the front of the room and give a one- or two-minute presentation on the subject of their choice. Have them talk for the allotted amount of time that you have set on the timer.
Give students who are working in pairs a topic that is related to the unit that they are currently studying and have them engage in silent exchanges. Instruct each pair to create a Google document that they will share with you, as well as with the other pair member. Every two people have to have a conversation about the topic in written form. The instructor is able to keep an eye on the discussions and provide comments directly through the Google doc. Students are given the opportunity to gain valuable experience in interpersonal writing through this activity before moving on to the more challenging exercise of interpersonal speaking. After they have completed the silent practise of the conversation, you should have them read it aloud.
First Five Fridays: During the course of the school year, you should designate one or two Fridays for each student in your class, during which that student is responsible for guiding the conversation that takes place during the first five minutes of class. During this time, he or she is free to bring up any subject that is appropriate. The students are responsible for keeping the conversation going throughout the entire allotment of time, which is five minutes.
These are just a few of the activities that you can use in the classroom to get your students talking. Please feel free to share any others that you’ve found useful in the comments section below.
Many thanks go out to Greg Duncan and Sabrina Huang for providing the inspiration that went into certain aspects of these activities.