Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Four Terrific Ways to Motivate Your English Language Learners to Speak in Class


Getting English Language Learners to Speak in Class

If the attitude of your English language learners is anything at all like mine, you need to provide some stimulation or motivation to get them to speak or give any extended oral discourse in English in class. Fear of peer criticism or fear of “making stupid mistakes” along with a decided lack of extensive speaking practice in English are three key factors which contribute to English learners’ reluctance to speak aloud in class. The same holds true with any other foreign language which the students might be learning. To help with this, I often assign or allow learners to prepare oral discourses using a number of different formats. This way, learners can get additional speaking practice using a format they feel more comfortable with.

Here Are Four Useful Speaking Practice Formats
The ten most useful formats I’ve found to aid in motivating my EFL learners to speak in English class are the following:

1. Reciting Poetry
Learners of English or any other foreign language just love poetry in many of its forms. Even Rap is a rhyming, poetic form of sorts. Though you might not have a taste for the late Tupac Shakur (pictured above) you should be able to find something useful. Your learners can be of help with this too. Give them a selection of poets, rap artists, literary works from which to choose or allow them to come up with something on their own and it’s a sure hit.

2. Reading Aloud
Any prose text from an encyclopedia listing to an article excerpt could prove to be useful for reading aloud. A short passage from any favorite story, novel, article or other written form of authentic English will do just fine, especially if pre-selected by the learner. Remember, these need not be lengthy. An oral discourse or reading lasting not more than two to three minutes is more than enough to make a start.

3. Giving a Narrative
A speech excerpt, a newspaper piece, wholly or in part, an essay or review given as a narrative is frequently a good choice made by the learners. An oral discourse of as little as two or three minutes will often suffice for extensive English speaking practice. Treading should be done though, with gestures and expressiveness to highlight, emphasize and lend focus to key parts of the narrative.

4. Performing a Soliloquy
With access to a play, or a screen play from Shakespeare’s “To be or not to be, that is the question…” to contemporary works, even dialogue from popular movies will often spark interest in the learners to “perform” a speaking activity in front of the class. Scenes from the “Dirty Harry” film series are perennial favorites. But lots of other film scenes and many other film genres get equal time too.

A true plethora of ways exist to help motivate your English language learners to speak with more frequency and fluency in class. These four will get you started. We’ll be examining some additional options for motivating English or other foreign language learners to speak as we continue in this theme in upcoming articles.


Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 80 countries. Get your FREE E-books,"If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" or "7 Techniques to Motivate Your English Language Learners and Make Your Classes More Dynamic" by requesting the title you want at: lynchlarrym@gmail.com

2 comments:

MarĂ­a Fernanda Franco said...

Your suggestions about how to promote our learners to speak in class are very useful. I have tried all the time to get my students speak in class, but the results are poor although I got more participation this year. However, the principal problem with the students is that they don't have enought vocabulary and a management of the grammar structures so they don't feel that they can speak. But they don't want to improve their competence if it implies some extra-work. Our educational system teaches them that it's not neccesary to effort for being promoted to the next year.

Victoria Eugenia Carrillo said...

Fear of making stupid when trying to speak another language is increased by the presence of classmates who parade their greater knowledge, but do not know the meaning of the word "fellowship". Their brilliant minds and they do not know well teamwork.
All items described in this blog are important but can be added using the lyrics of some songs that give us motivation to speak and also singing in English.