Recently a colleague and I were lucky enough to attend a professional development course about promoting speaking and listening activities. It was really informative and relevant. Below are some of the things that really struck me.
It is really important that we give students the opportunity to speak and share what they have done in class, in all different situations.
- Ask children to explain what they have made and how. Ask them to explain step by step so that their peers can make the same thing. This can work well with activities like origami, making paper planes, cooking, drawing activities etc
- Show n' Tell. This is my least favourite speaking activity because it is so often not implemented in a useful way. There needs to be guidelines or visual reminders for the speaker to include in their talk e.g. when, how, what, who, feelings about the event/item. It is important to give the listeners some visual reminders and practice of how to ask a question.
- Sit 2 students back to back. One student has a drawing or a picture. They then describe that picture to their partner, who has to draw it on a blank piece of paper. e.g. Draw a square in the top left corner. In the square draw a small triangle. This can work too if you give students a background (laminated if you want to re-use them). Background ideas are rooms in the house, beach, castle, jungle etc. The student would then be using very specific language e.g. draw a small monkey in the tree on the right side of your paper.
- Allow students to have some time for 'free chat'. I do this in the morning as many of my students find it very hard to settle at the beginning of the day. Students get into pairs and sit opposite each other. This is to encourage eye contact. I set a timer for the first speaker, when the timer goes off, it is the next person's turn to speak. There are no limits to what they are allowed to speak about. I have noticed that during our morning routines (roll, changing the date), students are much more focused.
- Allow play.
- Set up stations for independent work. Set tables up with different activities and set a number of students who can be working at each table. You can use a timer and students move together as a group, or give them a time frame e.g. until recess, and explain that they need to complete each activity.
Speaking and listening activities are extremely important for all students, and critical for ESL learners. The above activities are not confronting for students as they can be done in small groups, which is comforting for all those students who are not strong in their confidence.