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Promoting Listening and Speaking in Secondary Foreign Language Classrooms

Promoting Listening and Speaking in Secondary Foreign Language Classrooms Classroom theory and practice Speaking up in class… The development of L2 oral and aural skills are being increasingly emphasized in Taiwanese secondary classrooms.

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Promoting Listening and Speaking in Secondary Foreign Language Classrooms

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  1. Promoting Listening and Speaking in Secondary Foreign Language Classrooms Classroom theory and practice

  2. Speaking up in class… • The development of L2 oral and aural skills are being increasingly emphasized in Taiwanese secondary classrooms. • Politicians, administrators, teachers, parents, and students have all called for speaking/listening exercises to receive more prominence in secondary instruction, but no one has yet produced any comprehensive guideline as to how to include such activities.

  3. Why focus on oral skills? • Speaking/Listening are the most fundamental and widely used L2 communication skills. • Recent booms in travel, international business, and information technology has increased the likelihood of using L2 skills in professional or private capacities. • Speaking/Listening skills are often considered to be “knowing” the language.

  4. Resistance to Speaking Activities • Nevertheless, implementing activities designed to compensate for the lack of L2-speaking opportunities in the students’ native environment can often meet resistance from: • Students • Teachers • Administrators

  5. Student Anxiety • Anxiety in foreign language classes is often centered on speaking/listening anxiety. • Anxious students may also have difficulties in discriminating sounds and structures or in catching their meaning. • The use of new approaches/teaching methodologies (such as using a communicative language teaching approach with Taiwanese students unused to such a classroom format) my heighten anxiety, thereby preventing students from obtaining any benefit. • Many students fear embarrassment or correction, and are thus afraid to use the TL in class.

  6. Many students exhibit surprise and emotions of confusion or fear at the thought of having to speak up in the classroom (Rao, 2002) • Unquestioning cooperation, on the part of the students, is viewed as a sign of respect throughout the region, though it is often mistaken for boredom or apathy on the part of Western teachers working in Asia

  7. Teacher Concerns • Teachers may feel that speaking/listening activities take limited time that is better allocated to test preparation. • Teachers are often under pressure from administrators and other peers to stick to their textbooks, and to use their authority in order to be viewed as competent and committed. • Teachers sometimes lack confidence in their own communicative abilities. • Teachers may fear a “loss of control” when the class gets noisy – and it may be hard to guarantee that students remain on-task or complete the activity in the TL. • Teachers fear students will not be able to understand instruction administered in the TL.

  8. Teachers, themselves, often do not perceive communicative teaching techniques to have any value. A survey by Burnaby and Sun (1989), interviewing Chinese teachers of English found that the teachers mostly viewed communicative activities to be “games,” as opposed to serious learning. According to these teachers, concentrating teaching upon grammar, literature, and analysis of linguistic features was seen as much more prestigious (i.e., being a ‘real’ teacher) than teaching activities to improve real communicative competencies. • Cambell and Zhao (1993) showed that students and teachers in China agree that “the teacher should dominate the classroom while students listen passively and engage in exercises on command. A teacher who does not dominate the classroom is seen as lazy or incompetent by all concerned” (p.5).

  9. We can’t always change the syllabus or administrator expectations. It may be impossible to “add” communicative activities into an already-busy syllabus. So how can we promote speaking activities in class? • First, we need to motivate students to use English in class. • We must use speaking activities to teach and reinforce what is already in the syllabus. Use communicative teaching methods are a means, not an end to itself.

  10. Motivating Students to speak in class • Speak in the TL: The teacher sets the classroom environment. The more time the teacher spends speaking the TL, the more willing students will be to respond in kind. • Extrinsic motivation: make a portion of the final grade dependent on speaking. For example, students may be required to either answer or ask one question each class period (or week, dependent upon time limits and class size), or students may be rewarded for use of a “daily buzz word.” • Truly listen to the student response – not to the structure (grammar), but to the meaning!

  11. Motivating students to speak in class • Promote a classroom environment where making mistakes is ok. Point out your own errors (through stories). When students make mistakes, point out what they said right in addition to what they said incorrectly. • Don’t try to “throw” discussion questions at learners unfamiliar with Communicative Language Teaching Methodology. Listening to a single speaker (even a fellow student) can be monotonous. Pair and small group work more accurately reflect how language is used in most life situations. Discuss in pair-small group- large group – class order. • Desk rearrangement can help to break routine.

  12. Using Speaking Activities as a teaching tool • Any given lesson plan can implement communicative activities. Use the activities to cover/reinforce material. • Examples: • Using directed picture-drawing to practice prepositions of location • “Find a person..” interviews to practice specific grammar points. “Do you…?”, “Have you…?”, etc. • Situational skits/dialogues as a prelistening/prereading activity.

  13. Sample Speaking/Listening Activities: Beginning level students • Physical Descriptions: describe a picture or person, giving or following directions to draw specific scenes… • Information Gap Activities: Finding the differences between two pictures or stories… • Human dictionary/computer: Free-choice vocabulary building exercise whereby teacher translates anything students want to know how to say. The teacher may first require practice of “classroom language” (i.e., “how do you say…?”) or circumlocution/explanation. • Direction Activities: TPR, directed craft-building, puzzle solving, etc.

  14. Sample Speaking/Listening Activities: Advanced level students • debate: organized discussion of viewpoints on topic matters – can be in group or pair-work or whole class. • opinion/subject presentation: Prepared presentations teaching about a given subject. • conversation circles: A means of literature/theme discussion. Organize students into consistent (semester-long) “conversation circles” wherein they can discuss opinion matters before engaging in class dialogues. It is generally advisable to conduct issue discussions in the following order: pair, small group, small group with teacher input, whole class.

  15. Various Speaking Activities • There are literally thousands of speaking and listening activities available for teachers to choose from. Use creativity in adapting them to your larger class focus. Games such as $64,000 Pyramid, Jeopardy, 4 Truths and a Lie, etc. can be used to cover a wide variety of language goals while simultaneously enlivening lethargic classes.

  16. Activity Examples:British Council: http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/try/speaktry/speaking_activities.shtml

  17. Activity Examples: Dave’s ESL Caféhttp://www.eslcafe.com/idea/index.cgi?Games

  18. Any lesson can be adapted to include communicative components! A reading activity: • Copy story, cut out individual paragraphs and paste around the room. • Divide students into teams of 4. Each team has a reader, a writer, a speaker, and a listener. • The listener goes to the teacher and is given a question, which the student must then deliver to his/her group. • The writer copies the question. • The reader takes the written question and looks at the pages pasted on the walls for the answer. • When the answer is found, the student reports back to the group. The writer then writes the answer. • The speaker then goes to the teacher and reports the answer and then becomes the listener as the teacher gives him/her the next question. • Everyone shifts roles. The first team to answer all the questions wins. Students may then be encouraged to pull the paragraphs off the wall and assemble the story into the correct order of events.

  19. Use your imagination! • You can always integrate speaking activities into the FL classroom… All that is needed is a little imagination, ingenuity, and work. The more oral communication becomes as regular component of classwork, the more students will respond to it. Good Luck

  20. The End

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