Teaching Speaking

By Yolande Deane
DELTA qualified EFL teacher with 5 years’ teaching experience

Micro-conversations in Kindergarten

I have been teaching kindergarten for about six months in China so I have had some time to reflect on teaching young learners. I try to use moments in the classroom to create some moments of authentic interaction even though they are quite young.

A quick word

I often like to have what I call micro-conversations with the children, for what might take less than a minute, before the actual class starts. I often view these “micro-conversations” as an important part of the lesson. It is in that tiny amount of space that I really communicate with the children in English. I often use language that is not in the set book, or, adheres to any chants, but the children are listening and often repeating, and even confirming with me in their native tongue the meaning of the words or sentences I have used.

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By Yolande Deane
DELTA qualified EFL teacher with 5 years’ teaching experience

How do you balance culture and new methods of teaching?

Let’s Go Teach

So, you are now living abroad, and you want to make your classes fun and communicative, you really want to help your class develop their English.  But you may be in a culture that is not open to your communicative methods, maybe the learners just want to pass their exams, and English is just one of many of the exams they have to take.  Perhaps your learners do not want to speak in class, either because of embarrassment, or the fact that they are from a culture where the teacher is expected to do most of the talking.  Maybe there is a book you have to follow and set exercises that need to be done, and it is frowned upon if you stray from it, in fact maybe there just is not enough time in one lesson to even put your communicative tasks into practice.

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By Yolande Deane
DELTA qualified EFL teacher with 5 years’ teaching experience

Autonomous learning

It would be great if all our learners had a native English speaking language partner, but many students who come to live in London, and I assume other cities in Britain, often complain that they do not get much of a chance to practice their speaking with native speakers. They may work in shops where most of their colleagues have English as a second language, or, they live in accommodation where everyone comes from their country. Therefore they tend to speak in their mother tongue for most of the day. Even so, there are ways that students can help themselves improve their speaking.

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By Robert Howard
London-based tutor with 20 years’ experience of language teaching

I was very interested to read Yolande Deane’s ideas on teaching the phonemic script posted on November 3rd.  She suggests that pronunciation practice is a very constructive way to fill a natural lull in a lesson.  It seems to me that the circumstances in which most of us teach mean that this is probably the most realistic approach to the teaching of pronunciation.  Pressure from language schools and colleges to produce high pass rates in exams means that we tend to ‘teach to the test’ and we all know that students can pass exams even if they have far from natural pronunciation.  As a result, we would all too rarely make pronunciation the main focus of our lessons.

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By Yolande Deane
DELTA qualified EFL teacher with 5 years’ teaching experience

'perpetuate' in phonemic scriptIf you are a teacher who is concerned about improving your students’ pronunciation, you may decide to do a series of lessons where you introduce the phonemic script over a few classes. However, when you teach in a school that has continuous enrolment, focusing on a particular teaching point over a period of time can be difficult, especially if students only stay for two weeks or so.  Students are also often working in cafés, bars, and pubs and do irregular shifts, which in turn affects their attendance.  An easy way for teachers to deal with this lack of continuity and raise students’ awareness of the phonemic script (without burdening them with the ‘weird symbols’), is to take advantage of the spare minutes in a lesson that may arise -after a natural lull in a classroom discussion or task- and use the new lexis learnt in the lesson as an entrée into the script.

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