Jan 16, 2013
New post on RELO Andes
by Andean Region RELO
This is the first of a three part blog entry on the elusive skill of speaking. I hope to explore the centrality of speaking to not only language learning, but also to professional development and policy shaping.
For those of you not yet familiar with TED talks, please indulge your mind by clicking here. Though aimed at native-like English language users, the content of many of the video or audio clips is so interesting, it will no doubt attract the attention of even lower level students. At 15 minutes maximum, they provide new ideas in a digestible timeframe. And all are downloadable.
I recently listened to one about Claron McFadden, the American Soprano living in the Netherlands. She says the voice is “the vessel on which all emotions travel… the vessel of expression that opens travel from you to me”; that it is “mysterious, spontaneous, primal.” I wonder if have allowed our students’ voices to be their “mysterious, spontaneous, primal” selves. If our students say, “lo que recuerdo de mi clase de inglés es ‘thees ees an apple’ y también recuerdo esas cositas como ‘arteecles y present seemple,” then perhaps we have missed the mark.
My five core questions are:
Do teachers make enough time for students to practice speaking? If not, why?
If teachers do not feel confident with their speaking, if they are not risk-takers, what impact will this have on the students?
Do teachers provide sufficient linguistic support to help students navigate speaking activities effectively?
Speaking in class often consists of students responding directly to teachers. Why is interaction between students so rare?
What is likely to happen if topics do not engage the students?
Below are some of the more common responses I hear. If you were a teacher-friend or trainer, how would you respond to them?
We don’t have enough time to spend on speaking activities. We have lots of other exercises we need to work through.
Students are too shy to speak in class.
I let the students speak a lot. Every time we have a reading section, they have to say it aloud.
It feels fake. I mean, we all speak Spanish, right?
It’s easier to measure progress in written exercises, especially grammar.
Students aren’t really motivated. They don’t feel the reason.
Students speak a lot. I ask them lots of questions, and they give me answers.