Teacher Tip – Getting your students to speak

Many of our adult ESL students are hesitant to use their English. They are afraid they will not be understood, or they are embarrassed by their pronunciation. Here are some tips for helping your students overcome their fear of speaking.

  • Create a warm atmosphere. Whether you are teaching a group or tutoring one-on-one, the first step is to make sure your classroom is a safe space where the student knows they will be supported. Make sure you get to know your students’ names and some of their interests. Greet them warmly each class; show them you care and are interested in them.
  • Focus on fluency. In a speaking activity it may be appropriate to focus on fluency, rather than grammatical correctness. Consider taking notes and making corrections at the end of the activity. You may want to correct only errors that impede communication, rather than every single mistake in order not to overwhelm your student.
  • Move around. Most of our students come to class after a long hard day. They are tired and concentrating on English is a challenge. Make sure get students energized by having them switch partners or stand up and stretch in class.
  • Work on pronunciation. One of our students’ greatest fears is mispronouncing words. By working systematically on pronunciation, you can help alleviate this.  Allow some time in every class for working on minimal pairs in the Pronunciation Fun Include work on the Color Vowel Chart (see the back cover of your Interactive English workbook.)
  • Prep your student for speaking outside of class. Does your student need to schedule a medical appointment? You can help by creating a practice dialog and role playing the situation. You can provide support by having your student actually make the appointment while you are there. Another great way to practice speaking on the phone is to have your student call you and leave a voice message. Your student can also record herself for practice using the recording feature on a cell phone.
  • Assign speaking activities for homework. Every day in the Interactive English workbook has a “Hello World” section on the homework page. Make sure to go over that in class. Have your student commit to using their English outside of class. Remember to check on this the next class.
  • Praise your student’s efforts. It takes a lot of courage to speak English. Praise your student frequently for the great effort they’re putting forth.