Strategies to Encourage Speaking in the EFL Classroom

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The number one reason our students come to our lessons is to learn how to communicate in English. For the most part, this means speaking. In order to become better at speaking in English, it seems logical that our students need to practise speaking in English, which they can do in the classroom.

However, there are a number of reasons our students may not speak as much as we would like them to during our lessons. These include:

  • Not feeling confident in their abilities
  • General shyness
  • Not being used to speaking in class i.e. coming from an educational culture where students are not encouraged to speak freely
  • Fatigue
  • Boredom
  • Disinterest

In order to combat any of these reasons, there are a few things you can do:

tefl strategies
Strategies to Encourage Speaking in the EFL Classroom

Start each class with a speaking activity.

Help your students become more comfortable speaking in class by utilising speaking activities at every opportunity. Choosing to do a speaking activity at the beginning of every lesson will make sure your students have the opportunity to speak a lot and are prepared for speaking, since they will learn to expect it.

Use pairwork and groupwork.

Speaking in front of the whole class can be daunting for many people, even if it’s in their own language. Putting students in pairs or small groups for speaking activities means that students will only need to speak in front of a small group of people which is not as intimidating.

Use delayed error correction.

There is nothing more off-putting when trying to translate a thought into another language than someone stopping you at every word. Instead, let your students speak freely and allocate ten minutes at the end of every lesson to dedicate to error correction.

Allow them prep time.

For each speaking activity, allow a few minutes for your students to gather their thoughts and take some notes. Bear in mind that our students not only have to come up with ideas but they have to figure out how to say them in English too. This can be difficult to do off the top of your head, so giving them time to think will help them have more to say.

Give them space.

Don’t be afraid of silence. It doesn’t mean your students don’t know what to say or don’t want to say anything; it might mean they are simply thinking. When asking a question, don’t expect an immediate answer and jump in with your own opinion if nobody says anything for a few seconds. Give it a few minutes until you’re sure no one has anything to say before continuing.

Speaking in a foreign language can be a stressful time for anyone and the students in our EFL classrooms are no different. Don’t get too demotivated if your students are not as chatty as you would like them to –give them time and encouragement and soon you should see results.

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