There are plenty of articles around about how to practice your speaking outside the classroom, but now let’s look at the most obvious opportunity you have – your actual speaking class.
Your teacher has taken the time to carefully think about what you all need and wants you to practice in front of him or her. They will give you a variety of opportunities to do this but there are some things I think you need to know (if your teacher hasn’t already told you).
- If you are opening your mouth and saying words – you are speaking!
The teacher may not necessarily say every 15 minutes ‘this is a speaking exercise’ (though it is helpful if they do), but you need to know that if you are talking to the teacher, to your partner, to your friend from another country, or simply asking a question, you are…speaking. From this point the teacher is:
- Listening to understand you
- Listening to answer your question (if necessary)
- Listening to correct your errors
- Listening to hear if you can speak clearly
- Listening for your pronunciation
This is a lot for a teacher to do for not just you but every person in your class every day, so they may spread out some of the tasks through the lesson or even through the week.
So when your teacher asks you to speak…..speak
- Do extra partner work
If you are speaking with a partner and your teacher is busy listening and correcting another person, take responsibility for the activity yourself and practice with your partner not just once but as many times as possible. Switch roles if necessary, and take the lead and correct your partner and get them to correct you too….
- Listen to yourself as you speak, are you mumbling?
If you don’t know what ‘mumbling’ means, look it up now – it means you are speaking in such a way that all the words sound the same and so are difficult to understand. Even native speakers mumble, and they shouldn’t! Nobody should. There is nothing cool or worthwhile about it. Your teacher may tell you that you are mumbling…here it from me now…..just listen to yourself and stop it!
- Listen to yourself, are you speaking too fast?
So many esl students are so desperate to become fluent that they confuse it with speaking fast. Speaking fast will never make you fluent, it will only look like you are trying to cover up your mistakes. Take your time to speak slowly and clearly and your will impress everyone. (Make sure you don’t sound like a robot though….)
- Put that Mobile away
The speaking class is there for you and only you….to be using your mobile during this time is going to make you lose your opportunity to speak. Take every opportunity given to you and participate fully. It will all pay off in the end, trust me….
- Don’t dominate your teacher’s time
Some students want the teacher to listen to them so much they constantly ask questions and want to answer every question first. Good for you for being really eager, but your teacher is there for everyone else too. If you really are so urgent to speak English, think about whether you are being fair to other students who may wish to speak as much as you. Take your time to speak to your partners in English and of course at break time is the best time of all to get that English out of your back pocket and show off. You will be an admiration and role model to everyone in your class.
- Change your seat in the class every day
I know you have just met someone in the class who you get on with really well, he/she makes you laugh and you just want to talk to them all the time, but really it would be better for you to change seats in the class daily, this way you may find you have quite a few other students in the class who want to speak English with you too… Plus you may end up learning a lot more from your classmates too. You can have a coffee with your new found friend at break time!
- Count how many times you speak in your lesson each day
Your teacher is watching you, don’t worry, but you can help yourself too by making a note of how often you speak English in the class (and not just to the teacher!) How many partnering activities did you do, how long was the passage to read, did you read it to the class, did you speak to the class, did you role play or act out a situation, did you do a presentation? Did you speak English in your break time? Etc…these are all great speaking opportunities. Check it over a week and if you feel you didn’t get enough opportunities to speak – tell you teacher, they will give you more or perhaps include more opportunities for everyone.
Tell me how many times on average to you speak English a day. Also let me know what level you are, e.g. elementary, intermediate, etc. Just curious…
DID YOU KNOW: Listening exercises are 80% of the time, used in the class to help you not only develop your listening skills but your speaking skills as well. Don’t forget to listen and speak too!
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- How to give a killer presentation
- Getting over shyness
- Dealing with dominating students