Monday, 29 June 2015

Discussions---Series 18--ELT Professionals Around the World

Please visit Post 68 and then come back here. Thanks.

Discussions—Series Eighteen
Topic 55

I am looking for ideas to make students speak more in open class. My students speak in pair and group work but calm up when I pose a question to the class. Grateful for all ideas here. Manager's Choice
Marjorie Rosenberg Instructor of English, University of Graz; ELT Author; Teacher Trainer; IATEFL BESIG Coordinator, IATEFL MemCom


Supervisor at Tobest International English
I don't know how old your students are, if for children. Bring something like silly putty. Give them a topic and ask to make something using silly putty. The students will like a lot because the atmosphere is relaxing, the students will get quite involved since its their own creation.
 Marjorie R. likes this

Hi Jessica,

I should have clarified but ran out of space.These are university students preparing for the CAE exam. I used to use modelling clay with adult learners but stopped for a variety of reasons and switched to pipe cleaners as they weren't as messy. I can imagine that silly putty works well with young learners. My problem is that my students are at C1 level but for some reason hesitant to talk in open class. Very baffling.

Well, actually, i teach adults English. I think a " silly putty" class need very good warming-ups. This thur was the white valentine's day. We told the students the love story of the king, and asked them questions based on the readings. The students were so touched by the story. And when we come to the silly putty making part, everybody was very excited and it was real good class. (PS, my class size is 6 people, and they are between 25-45 years old.)

Thanks Jessica. I have 20 in the CAE class and they need to learn to give mini-presentations. We have 90 minutes and a fairly short semester to get through all the materials. And I realised I made a typo in the question -. should be 'clam up' not 'calm up'.

It seems that the students are not interested. Have you ever thought letting other teaching help you in the class? The students may feel quite refreshing if they see a new face and new ideas. Maybe you can have some other teachers set examples of the mini-presentations, the students learn from the real "mini-presentation" rather than something on the book. The student learn by giving comments. I tried it a few times in my class, it works well.

typo: other teachers help you in the class, if there is a teacher the students especially like. Ask him/her help you.

Sorry, I am not sure what you mean. It's just me with the 20 students - we get along wonderfully, not a problem, it is just getting them to get over being afraid of making mistakes in front of their peers.

I don't think interest is the problem - they are fine in small groups discussing the topics - it is only in the open class. And finding another teacher who has time to come would be very difficult at the institute I teach at - we are all in classes or teaching elsewhere. But I will keep trying and report results.

well, my point is try to do something relax the atmosphere. If they are afraid to make mistakes, just try to make them feel mistakes are no big deal. The idea of letting other teacher cooperate with you in class is just one approach.

Ok, i am sorry i didn't help, but if i have new ideas, I will connect you.

thanks for the ideas Jessica - I can ask if they are just bored with the topics - will let you all know what they say.

Marjorie,

What nationality are the students? - some cultures don't expect to respond and speak to large groups of people.

What kind of topics/language are you asking the students to speak about as part of the whole class? - I'd start getting them speaking about what they know well, have a grip on. Avoid topics which demand a lot of academic vocabualry/knowledge (despite the CAE study). Their interests/world. Teens / young adults want to talk about issues with significance and meaning - voice their own opinions. Here's a presentation about teaching teens with some ideas.http://eflclassroom.com/TESOL/teachingteens.swf

Do you stand or sit (sitting can often relax students). Sitting can put them more at ease, create an informal mood.

Do you move around the class and speak from different parts of the class? This will make the classroom seem more egalitarian and less like you are judging them.

Is there a social hierarchy of any sort in the class? Get to know who the leaders are. Get them involved, others will follow. Maybe even talk to them personally about this but I wouldn't address this head on in class. Also, step back, sit down with the students as part of the class and let some of them lead the class, if that is an option. Seems to me they are more partial to speaking when the teacher isn't part of the dynamic. That isn't a slight on you, just the way some classrooms are.

My students are mostly Austrian students (20 - 30 years old) in a CAE class at an Austrian university. In addition, I have several foreign exchange students. I move around the class to encourage them to talk and as I mentioned they are fine with the topics in groups. the topics in the CB are fine, superstitions, celebrities, families, studies, travel, etc. That isn't the problem. And when I ask them to talk, I sit. Our rapport is great - they stay after class to chat and contact me per email, it is just the speaking in front of the group although I can't get them to stop when they are in pairs. I have some ideas to try out this week and will report back.

Area Sales Manager at Cambridge University Press
Marjorie, I have the very same problem with my group of CPE students, aged 17 to 22. The class is from 11.45 to 2.15 on a Saturday so with the previous week of studying and I imagine some degree of Friday night "socialising" they come in to class quite tired - a number of them are always 15 to 20 minutes late, despite living only 3 or 4 metro stps away from the centre.
As in your case, there's no problem getting them talking in their groups (there are three hexagonal tables, with four or five to a table). They lap up any amount of course book exercises; in fact I could spend the whole 2 1/2 hours doing grammar and they wouldn't complain. But overcoming the shyness, embarrassment and general awkwardness is a herculean task.
I get them talking in their groups on topics with picture cards, newspaper articles, topics for debate or whatever, and once they have started, I go to each of the tables, sit down, listen and gently join in, but there is a palpable "clamming up" if I try to engage them even in small groups.
I've been teaching 23 years, 18 of those years at this centre, I speak both their languages, my wife is from here, I consider myself well integrated and I would say I "connect" with them and their culture and I've never had thissort of problem before, certainly not on this scale, but sometimes, there's just nothing to be done.

Marjorie, I have the very same problem with my group of CPE students, aged 17 to 22. The class is from 11.45 to 2.15 on a Saturday so with the previous week of studying and I imagine some degree of Friday night "socialising" they come in to class quite tired - a number of them are always 15 to 20 minutes late, despite living only 3 or 4 metro stps away from the centre.
As in your case, there's no problem getting them talking in their groups (there are three hexagonal tables, with four or five to a table). They lap up any amount of course book exercises; in fact I could spend the whole 2 1/2 hours doing grammar and they wouldn't complain. But overcoming the shyness, embarrassment and general awkwardness is a herculean task.
I get them talking in their groups on topics with picture cards, newspaper articles, topics for debate or whatever, and once they have started, I go to each of the tables, sit down, listen and gently join in, but there is a palpable "clamming up" if I try to engage them even in small groups.
I've been teaching 23 years, 18 of those years at this centre, I speak both their languages, my wife is from here, I consider myself well integrated and I would say I "connect" with them and their culture and I've never had thissort of problem before, certainly not on this scale, but sometimes, there's just nothing to be done.

Thanks so much Andrew, good to know someone else is in the same boat. I have gotten some ideas from various sources and people on this site and I plan to try two things on Tuesday. I have written out the vocab words from the last lesson and printed them as cards and am going to make 2-3 people pull a couple of cards and talk using the words for 2-3 minutes. We'll see how it goes. I may make the others write down the words they think they had to use to make them listen. then I got an idea from David and have made small cards of 'things to talk me out of'' - things like continuing class for several hours - standing instead of sitting - bringing a family member to class - bringing a childhood toy to class, etc. I will report on how these two ideas work. Fingers crossed. One thing I did do last week, a student asked a question I couldn't answer and I have assigned him a mini-presentation of 3 minutes on the topic after he has done the research. But in this case it has to come from the students first and only if they ask something that I don't know the answer to or would be interesting. This question happened to be the one about the difference between and language and dialect, curious to see what he finds.

Pay them. Put a tall stack of 8 or 10 euros on your desk and pay anyone who asks a question, comments about the lesson, shares a personal story...It gets their attention and gets them over the hump. You can't pay them in cash everyday - but you don't have to, it's like an icebreaker in that the ice only has to be broken once.
Alternatively, "Who is Your Hero" is a good one. I model a 2 minute explanation of why Christopher Columbus is my hero (he believed in himself and was right when everyone else was wrong - He is not my hero for discovering America because he didn't discover America - he thought he was in the Far East!) Students are often happy to talk about something or someone they feel strongly about and their own passion takes them over the hump.

I actually give out reward stickers when they do something well and may go back to making that a big deal in this class. Or bring chocolates along - not so sure about the euros in a university class but bribing in general with stickers or sweets is a good idea.

at Holmwood's Online Learning
Top Contributor
One of the most effective things I have found to get anybody to talk is to find something slightly controversial about which they have strong opinions. Of course you need to find that topic, but often it can be as simple as "do you believe there is a God" or "is Obama a good president" or "are Mac's really any good, surely Microsoft is better"
Shilpa H.Marjorie R. and 1 other like this

Thanks Mark, I may look into some ideas here as well. This already began with the dialect vs. language issue.

Marketing Associate & Photographer | Designing attractive promotions and branding for international markets
A discussion topic that my German students loved was, "Discuss the benefits and disadvantages of having films dubbed." I'm not sure if Austria is the same way, but in Germany all movies are dubbed and subtitles are hard to come by. My students all had very strong opinions!
Marjorie R. likes this

thanks - We get the films from Germany so they are all dubbed. Good idea to work this one in. And here in Graz (Arnold Schwarzenegger's home town) they love to debate whether or not he should be heard a) in English, b) himself in German or C) dubbed by someone speaking high German. A BIG topic here.

ESL Instructor at New America College, Denver
I use voicethread.com with great success to improve speaking and pronunciation. Below is my class presentations recorded in voicethread. I found that recording their presentations prior to presenting in front of the classroom helped with confidence and clarity.http://www.susielenny.com/1/post/2013/02/voicethreadcom-is-a-great-esl-classroom-tool.html

English Language Teacher, Trainer and Consultant
A couple of suggestions:

Get them to organise the presentations themselves in small groups (eg 3s/4s) - they are adults after all. First ,as a group they need to source a video clip (English speaking) from you tube or the like and prepare an oral presentation together on: why they have selected it, what they like about it - any interesting language they have noticed etc. Then each week one of the group becomes the presenter to the other groups. The other groups ask questions at the end of the (very short presentation) - the other team members can answer the audience questions as a group. You can then build in feedback sessions on how to make the presentations more effective, particularly drawing on the strengths of previous presentations.

Also, some learner training - where they discuss what they find difficult about speaking out in class in small groups and write down the issues - then swap so that groups can come up with solutions. Finally regroup (1 from each group) and they ask and give each other advice.
Robert F. likes this

English language teacher, oral examiner & researcher. Experienced in authentic materials in foreign language instruction
Since your students have something to say when they work in small groups or pairs, I would say that, maybe, it's a matter of anxiety when speaking in front of the whole class. I would make clear that I value each and every contribution, even if there are errors or even if it is a bit off-topic. I would explain that every little contribution helps in order to expand a topic and explain that everyone has something new to learn from the other classmates. I am sure that the rapport between you and your students is great but there may be a problem among students themselves. Some students may be very advanced and dominating. This could intimidate less advanced students who are not very confident. Ofcourse, providing information about the topic beforehand and giving time to students to prepare before they speak could help reluctant students. Just to let you know that this boat is full of English language teachers, I would like to inform you that I face this problem quite frequently as well.

Coordinator of Social Program at Baptist Church in Salinas, P.R.
Marjorie, I haved this experience in my classroom at university level. One strategy that function in my case, was change the structure of room. Instead keep chair in line, I made a circle and I sit with them, ocasionally. The teacher standup have an authority and control meaning. And its correct. But when students can see the teacher as the same level, sure that in corporal positions, they can feel more confidence. You will discuss the topic of the day, it no change, just the structure of room. I taught psycriatric and mental health and learned that sometimes the more simple way is more effective then other learned in college.

Instructional Design - Curriculum Development
I relate talking subjects to real world issues as a way of getting students to talk more. I use group discussion for quiet ones to talk. The quiet ones that are talking in small group IS talking. Some cultures produce people unable to speak in large groups eg asian families sometimes produce girls that won't talk in large classes because they might be silenced at home culturally.

Training Consultant & English Language Specialist; Performance Strategist; Operations & Project Manager
Use an ice-breaker - 5 minutes each session - pass them a ball to through around - start with a story line like There once lived a lonely lion high up in the mountains - and the student you throw the ball to needs to carry the story forward and then throw the ball to the next random student who must continue the story - make sure to monitor so they stay on track and start introducing student names - the student who throws the ball should name the student he/she is throwing the ball to and so on.

A few of this type of activities will get them going to think out loud - don't be afraid to chuckle or even appreciate innovative twists in the story - a great fun activity.

Would be interesting to get feedback on how this turns out to help your class open up in front of each other - look forward to hear back on this :)

Professional Foreign English Teacher, China
The ideas mentioned here are all wonderful. I will also use them in my middle school and high school kids. As to the question posted, I assign a topic for them to prepare and everyone has to say it one by one in class the next time. This is to break the ice of speaking in front of many people. When they have developed enough self confidence, I throw follow up questions on their speech and ask other students if they agree or disagree. There are many ways to solve the problem. The solution will really depend on which method would be best for your particular kind of students. My two cents ...

Abdul, I have used this idea successfully in adult ed courses and it works wonderfully. I am not sure if this will work in my CAE prep course with university students and we need to concentrate on particular lexis and grammar. I agree that this is a great ice-breaker. I have a couple of things I am going to try out today and will report back on them. thanks everyone.

Have you considered letting them prepare for a speaking activity in class, say, in small groups, before they launch into a group discussion?
Surely the problem is that they feel that they don't have the words/phrases and so on that they would like to use?
Or you could take a topic, work in small groups and then pool the vocabulary and ideas - improving on them where necessary - and then jump into the speaking?
I shall come back to this, it's a good topic and one which may be relevant for me with a new group I will have soon.

Professeur d'anglais at SOFIQ (Société de formation industriel au Québec)
Choose volunteers!

Hi Marjorie, I had a similar problem in the past . My adult students were at A2 /B1 level with mixed abilities . I thought it was a problem of language, but it was not as they were not shy to speak in English. It was the topic that they were not interested in. Therefore , I asked them to make a list of things they liked to talk about. One student ( Oil n Gas technician ) wanted to talk about how to extract oil ( quite interesting as I learned a lot from my student) , another wanted to draw the falcon and talk about it , and again I learned a lot about the student's culture. Now, I know what kind of questions I ask my students.

Beginners are often very shy, and I give them specific tasks....to draw something on the board representing a word on a card I've given them, charades, that sort of thing, and having two come up , not one on his own. Groups reporting back to the whole class - again 2 of them or all 4, whatever, helping each other to present, and answer questions from the floor.
I have found that Italians for example just talk, you have to stop them at times (!) but Northern Europeans are infinitely more reserved, and really don't want to look foolish, so you have to start them off on very specific things, untiil they have the habit of being more spontaneous.

Cool - Let me know what they were and how they worked out - For CAE, especially the grammar bit, I would throw in a lot of relative clause activities or similar - let one student pause on the relative pronoun/adverb and the other should finish the clause. They need to finish each other's sentences as this will open psychological barriers which are at times cultural and lingual constraints.

All the Best!

I tried out the idea of having them convince me not to do silly things - I wrote out a number of them on cards and chose several of them to pull them randomly out of an envelope. It was fun, worked well and when one got stuck the others jumped in. We will definitely continue with this activity through the semester. I am also assinging mini-talks when they come up with a question that I can't answer. I have also openly adressed the problem and they realise that they also have a role to play - it is not only up to me to get them to speak in open class and not just with a partner. Next time I will give them vocab (also on cards and pulled randomly from an envelope) to make sentences with. Thanks all for the suggestions.

Do your students have this resource, Marjorie: 
http://www.amazon.de/Oxford-Collocations-Dictionary-Students-English/dp/0194325385/ref=sr_1_1?s=books-intl-de&ie=UTF8&qid=1363770909&sr=1-1 
You might like to also look for this book: 
http://www.amazon.de/Teaching-Collocation-Michael-Lewis/dp/189939611X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363770974&sr=8-1

Basically, the main problem for learners at this level is that they use the wrong collocations and have too few of them at their disposal. 
In the "Teaching Collocation" book there are some great practical ideas from practising teachers in real classrooms (not just dry theory that you know will never work). 
One of the ideas I would love to try out is to get students to use their bilingual dictionaries (or smartphones) to prepare talking about a topic. 
First they discuss what words they would use in German; second, they see if they know them; third, they look them up. Then they use their collocation dictionaries to see how the words work in practice and write up the expressions they need.

If your students won't talk, then fear of grammar mistakes and lack of vocabulary is probably the root cause. 
The fear can be broken down by giving them - or helping them to find them themselves- the words and expressions they need.

Being allowed to practise something first, and then being given the opportunity to repeat the exercise later - when the expressions needed are better known - can also build confidence.

It's not your activities which are the problem, I would guess, it's their lack of vocabulary which is at the root of their confidence issues.

Have you simply asked them - perhaps even in German to get honest answers - to TELL you why they feel uncomfortable about speaking in front of the whole class?

translator at free-lance english/greek translator
let me suggest something very simple.you could give them some questions and ask them to write short answers.then you could correct them and ask them to read them in class. after that you can ask them to memorise what they have written for next time.this is not the best idea but it works in extreme situations.they will feel more confident to speak up because they'll know that their answer is correct and no one will make fun of them. you can work with this technique for a while and gradually they'll be able to answer alone. also when you talk about a theme-fashion for example- you can pre-teach them some topic vocabulary or provide them with standardized expressions so as to reduce anxiety and make them feel more confident.

English Language Trainer at LETA - Learn English Through Action
It looks like you are making a fundamental mistake: You are putting a question to a crowd. If you would direct your question to each individual of that crowd you'd get an answer from each and every one them. Ask the crowd as a whole, and you'll get silence…
Why? A whole lot of different reasons ranging from not wanting to appear [whatever], over being a quiet type, to being isinterested, to having trouble forming an answer in their mind, to not having understood the question, issues with authority, peer criticism and what have you.

People feel "safer" in pairs and small groups as we all know. Why not use those small groups to work up from small input to full-blown presentation?

If you need to get answers from a group of people, then group your class and appoint a spokesman for each of your small groups (or have each group elect one themselves) and get your answers from them.

If you need individuals to speak to the whole class, then have a group work out what their spokesperson needs to convey.

This also allows you to run multiple topics simultaneously (each group could be working on a different topic) And it allows you to have these 4 or 5 spokespersons to exchange group results, engage in a debate about results, find pro and cons of each other's results etc, and all that from the safety of their own little groups yet still in front of the whole class. You already have 4 or 5 people holding mini-presentations right there!

Then appoint new spokespeople for each group and for a new task so everybody gets a turn to present something. And you can take this as far as you desire. You could even have one person sum it all up at the very end, which would definitely be a full-blown presentation that was actually worked out by EVERYBODY!

I obviously don't know what kind of material you need to cover, nor what your teaching style is, but my point is to keep people in their safety zones. Rearrange the furniture, create a low key "coffee shop" atmosphere where nobody is in charge and where you are available to help, and not to tell them what to do other than what their task is.

You need to get them to present something, anything, asap. Tell them not be afraid of mistakes, because they learn by them. Once they are getting comfortable with conveying results and talking to a larger group you can start to introduce the finer points, look at technique, correct individuals, and so forth. But on the whole I'd say have them learn by doing it and you'll get them to speak.

This is a 90 minute university class which is preparation for CAE so there is a lot to cover. I do ask individuals questions and they will sometimes say something but not much, however they are fine in group work, after class, etc. We can't move furniture around but they are luckily in a U-shape - I do lots of group work with a spokesperson - that hasn't been the problem and they all carry on conversations at the same time and then report back. They know that they don't need to be afraid to talk - it's just been getting them to do it when it isn't pair or group work. But the ideas I tried last week worked well and I will keep trying out some new things in different classes. Strangely enough it is more difficult to get the C1 students talking in front of the others than the B1 groups I have which is why I was wondering what is going on here. The odd thing is that they then complain on evaluation forms that 'I' don't make them speak so I was trying to find ways to get them to do this in open class. And this is the first class in 31 years I have had this problem with so it has been baffling.

Thanks everyone - I have gotten enough feedback on this - think I will now bow out and try out the ideas which are working - we'll see how it goes and hopefully they will realise that the responsbility lies with them as well. It is difficult in these forums to diagnose problems but some of the suggestions have been helpful and we'll see how it goes.

Chef, teacher, artist.
Marjorie - apologies, I have only skimmed over the replies however could it be a reflection of the changing times? I wondered if you would you consider hooking your students up with peers from another country, for task based conversations or collaborative peer to peer study online? Students today are digitally aware I think and they need to begin connecting globally to create PLN´s of their own - from both a career and learning perspective. One of my students is a Professor at a Business School here - and she is very inquisitive. I am sure she would love to participate. As you say - group work after class could be based around online discussions with overseas students - just an idea for you to consider. A blend I guess.

Might be a little late but recently posted on ways to get students speaking. Though, only really push students to speak when they themselves are ready.... 
http://community.eflclassroom.com/profiles/blogs/getting-your-students-talking

Me
For whatever it's worth (because of the time delay in responding to this post), here are some experiences of mine while handling English classes for undergraduates of engineering disciplines in Thamizh Nadu, India.

Some of my students had studied in the regional language medium at school and hence they had this fear complex so much they wouldn't speak at all in classes. They heard English all the time from 9 am to 4 pm which hardly made any sense to them--even physics, chemistry and mathematics. For the jargon was in the garb of English.

I spent the first few classes for confidence-building. I introduced myself, my family, my schooling, my fears, my desires, my hopes. Then I got them to introduce themselves in five or six sentences--giving them a sample. I got English-medium students to introduce themselves first so the regional medium students heard the pattern and got used to it.

When they faced the class to speak, every one clapped, many smiled to them and said words of appreciation.

Next I spoke about my interests--politics, music, films, sport (cricket is very popular here), asked for their reactions as part of my talk, responses came involuntarily, discussed certain events and films in some depth, involved them in the discussion.

Next I asked them to speak about their favourite hero (herione), sportsperson. I made them watch English movies, Charlie Chaplin's films, got them to talk about these, react
to specific instances.

In due course, they were able to get rid of this to a great extent. Their self-belief began to grow. By the time they were in second or third year when they need to make presentations, they were better off.

Of course, all these didn't work with some regional medium students. They were so fear-struck, they wouldn't come out of their shells.

Hope this will give you an idea or two.

Director at Belgrade English Language Theatre
Dear Marjorie,
I teach drama and theatre in English to Serbian young people in Belgrade. I am familiar with the challenge that faces you. You may not have time for this but I find it helps overcome nervousness and self-consciousness.
One word at a time story
a. The group sits in a circle and begins to tell a story one word at a time going around the circle in order.
b. Try the game again with three words at a time and you can build up the number of words each time.
It works as a piece of reverse psychology, because they usually end up wanting to say more words than just one, three or whatever the limit is.
Good luck,
Paul

Top Contributor
Hi Marjorie,
ask your students to write and prepare one by one irregular verbs, the verbs in the past simple, the verbs in the present progrssive, the object pronouns, and so on. before going to your classroom, think some sentences for them to form, and in the classroom, ask them to come to the whiteboard, holding the papers on which verbs, nouns, modifiers, and soon are available randomly. e.g: "the leg of the table is broken". ask them to put the words in order to form a meaningful sentence. so long as you want them to put the words in order to form a meaningful sentence, everystudent will be stimulated to come to the whiteboard with their papers that they have prepared before. these activities will help and reveal their desire to speak in the classroom without having any fear of being unsuccessful.

Hi Marjorie , I realize this is an old conversation, but the topic is relevant for many of us.
When I have a small group of 20-30 adult learners, I find out about their interests, likes and dislikes at the beginning of the course ( getting to know them ). I utilize this info when I have to do a speaking activity with them, I begin each such session with a nugget of info from their backgrounds ( esp. the very shy ones), we discuss around it , with related info and this acts as the ice -breaker.
Works well for me and gets the shy ones participating, so I thought of sharing it here:)

Hi Paul Murray...we learnt this technique in a session on storytelling by Nell Phoenix, and I now know where to use it, thanks to you!
Paul M. likes this

Director Academico at Globoworld
First they need to be grammatically empowered, have a good repertoire of vocabulary on each topic, positively reinforced, complimented on their slightest efforts. But also they must be challenged and they must know that they are expected to produce orally. Then push them. Ask for complete oral sentences, always ask "why" or "why not" on every thing they say, and show them you are waiting on more explanation although their opinion seems obvious or logical. Show you are intrigued or even shocked by what they say (even though you're not). Learn their names and try engaging them by NAME...

First they need to be grammatically empowered, have a good repertoire of vocabulary on each topic, positively reinforced, complimented on their slightest efforts. But also they must be challenged and they must know that they are expected to produce orally. Then push them. Ask for complete oral sentences, always ask "why" or "why not" on every thing they say, and show them you are waiting on more explanation although their opinion seems obvious or logical. Show you are intrigued or even shocked by what they say (even though you're not). Learn their names and try engaging them by NAME...

First they need to be grammatically empowered, have a good repertoire of vocabulary on each topic, positively reinforced, complimented on their slightest efforts. But also they must be challenged and they must know that they are expected to produce orally. Then push them. Ask for complete oral sentences, always ask "why" or "why not" on every thing they say, and show them you are waiting on more explanation although their opinion seems obvious or logical. Show you are intrigued or even shocked by what they say (even though you're not). Learn their names and try engaging them by NAME...

Also limit correcting them to a minimum, allow them to get away with mistakes unless they really obscure the meaning of their sentences/ideas...

Professional Educator/Expert English Instructor
Judy, I think you were a bit harsh with your comment. There are various types of classes, teachers, students and environments, never mind cultures, albeit there are methodologies that have been 'proven' to work with certain ESL communities. When he said grammatically empowered I am sure he meant that they have acquired the knowledge to stream a sentence as well as the vocabulary to ensure their meaning is correct. Students, in my experience, insist and require, grammar in order to feel empowered with their L2. Like I said, there are numerous ways to teach and we as educators have to be consistently and constantly assessing our students and our classes in order to deliver the best possible ESL education possible.

I agree with Linda there...most ss feel intimidated and scared to shed off their hesitancy because they feel they lack an armoury of vocabulary....as an ESL teacher you do have to provide scaffolding words and pre-teach some vocabulary, before expecting ur ss to participate in discissions.

Yes, Judy. You were very harsh with your comments. It seems you blindly jumped to conclusions and perhaps ignored the bigger picture. And sorry for having to say that here, but we take students' money because we are proud of the quality of the service we offer! We are not perfect but we try and improve every day.

I know nobody likes grammar but let’s be honest that it can’t really be overlooked if you have enough respect and consideration for your students to help them reach standard and precise communication. Everyone deserves correct and accurate communication skills…Grammar goes from empowering students to say “yesterday you were..” instead of “you yesterday is…”, perhaps all the way to using the subjunctive adequately... Also it involves helping them to utter a good stream of words to furnish their ideas, paraphrasing and thanking Linda for the way she so eloquently and intelligently put it.

The question is what are the steps, techniques and precautions (method) you’ll use to get them empowered in that sense. Trained and experienced teachers use methodologies because we look for results in a record time. We shouldn't allow ourselves to be blind fanatics of a particular methodology. We use what gives the best results depending on the circumstances (which is where experience comes in to allow us to reinvent ourselves and adapt). Yes, it may appear obvious to address students by name, but that is emphatically important for good classroom management, especially in a 20-student class size. Often up and coming teachers would throw questions in the air and expect everyone to answer. It won’t happen unless you address the shiest/less advanced ones by name, acknowledge them and show them the respect of giving them too a chance to participate….

I am even more shocked than you, dear Judy, to read that “Complete sentences are unnecessary …[sic]. They are “not appropriate” for “basic or intermediate students.”… I must admit I have heard and explored this. And I do know how controversial my opinion might be, but for us, if we are talking about the same approach, it only works when working on developing students’ listening accuracy, then we don’t particularly accent students’ responsive structure… So please do enlighten me, but teachers also need to encourage and develop students’ oral production, not just utter isolated words. It makes little sense to say for instance: “need coffee” which could mean: “ my brother needs coffee to start his day” or “you need coffee to make a cup of latte”. Perhaps everyone will agree these are basic (not even intermediate!) concepts that are unclear unless all the words are correctly streamed by the student in a complete sentence.

Everyone, of course, is entitled to their methodology. What really matters is that they work. And let’s not forget that the ultimate goal is that students get enabled to clearly express their ideas and fully grasp other people's in a context of mutual respect and consideration without frustrations for both parties in the name of the beautiful art/science of communication.


Hello,

It depends on how you teach grammar to your students. As a language learner , my English teachers thought me grammar 'rigidly' I knew about all the tenses and the forms. I played ' English teacher ' at the age of 12 in the Independent Learning room and explained all the grammar to my classmates. I passed all the English Exams.
Yeah , maybe grammar had empowered me to be known as the Grammar Geek at school , but when I found myself in an authentic English Environment , I couldn't express myself in English. I was silent ! I was thinking all the time" I need to produce accurate sentences in the past perfect and the conditionals ", But, we don't need the past perfect , the conditionals and the passive to communicate simple needs in English , do we?

Another problem, they ( my English teachers ) never made us aware of the English pronunciation and talked to us like robots. They simplified LONG English texts. We listened to their voices and answered true and false questions. What a waste of time !

What we really needed as learners was a short segment of 'natural' English from the news or a conversation between friends or strangers . Again when I was in an authentic English environment , I thought the English were 'aliens' and didn't speak English . To save face, I smiled and said ' yes please! even when I didn't want milk in my tea. I just didn't understand what my host were saying to me.

Now , as an English teacher , I don't repeat the mistake my teacher did in the past. I teach my students English Language so they pass their exams and use it in REAL-life situations. .