Enhancing Speaking Skills
Valarmathi, École Anglaise
Practicing Picture Description
When I have to deal with a new lesson, I usually begin by showing a picture to my students and try to elicit suitable responses from them. I ask the students to describe the picture in their own words. They are allowed to provide the description either using simple English or in their mother tongue. With support from their peers, the students try to find the meaning by themselves. However, in case they are unable to find out the appropriate meaning, I provide it to them in English, the target language, and write it down on the board.
I have noticed that at this stage of their learning, many of my students struggle to communicate with ease. While conducting these exercises, I have intervened as a facilitator and have helped them to come up with more words that are related to the picture. The students are then encouraged to use the new words in simple sentences in English. However, the students were only able to come up with single-word responses.
Offering a Model Description
I had decided to help my students learn certain patterns of framing sentences. This would help the students describe a person, a place, a thing, or even themselves. An example of what I gave them is provided below. I presented the example first in speech and then wrote it on the board.
This is a sea world (showing a picture of the sea world). I can see many fishes. The shark is the biggest animal. I love the sea horse. I love to eat crab. The starfish is a beautiful fish. I love spending time at the aquarium.
This was the initial step taken to guide the students towards improving their speaking skills. However, I soon realized that this approach may not be the best method to enhance speaking skills, since language cannot always be replicated in specific patterns or structures.
Using a Mind Map to Generate Ideas
To ease the process of learning the language, I decided to help the students form ideas about a given topic using a mind map. For instance, if the topic chosen is ‘trees’, they would create a mind map as shown in the picture below.
After having formed a mind map, they would be encouraged to write a few lines using the ideas and the hints that they had formed. A model example of this is as follows:
Trees give us fruits and vegetables. They also give us air to breathe. Many trees are cut for making paper. Birds, animals, and humans make use of it for shelter and shade.
Describing Pictures in Newspapers
I provided the students with pictures from newspapers and asked them to prepare descriptions of those pictures. With due practice, the students were able to express their views in a confident manner. It is needless to say that their speech was not perfect and had a few errors. However, by encouraging the students to talk in in the target language - English, I have been able to help them speak more confidently in the English language.
Dramatizing a lesson
While teaching a lesson, I follow the steps mentioned below:
- I sit with the students in a circle and show them a picture from the textbook. I ask certain questions about it, and the students are asked to describe the picture.
- I ask the students to list all the words that are related to the story. For example, for the lesson titled ‘Flying Together’, they came up with words like: forest, geese, flying, net, hunter, and so on.
- I write down the words on the board and ask student to read it out loud.
- Next, the students are asked to identify difficult words in the textbook that correspond to the lesson. If they are unable to identify the meanings of words, I try to provide the meaning of the same through gestures and actions. For instance, for a word like ‘flapping’, I would gesticulate as if I am flying, and the students would be able to identify the meaning of ‘flapping’ as ‘flying’.
- Following this, I would also ask the students to identify sentence patterns in the lesson that recur and are similar. Some examples of these sentences are ‘Destroy the creeper’, ‘We’ll see, ‘“Help! Help!” cried the geese’, and ‘Do you see that creeper?’
- I ask the students to try and guess the meaning of these sentences. If they face any difficulty and are unable to do so, I help them by providing the meaning to them in simple terms.
- I, then, ask the students to have a discussion regarding the materials that are required for enacting the story. I suggest they use materials that are already available in the classroom. Suggestions are also given on body postures and gestures.
- I also ask for their responses regarding the number of characters that may be required and how they will be chosen.
- Finally, after having understood the plot of the story and having developed confidence in terms of using the language in speech, the students enact the play.
Improvements and Progresses Observed
I have realized that there is no singular approach to teaching a language. In fact, being engaged in multiple learning approaches in the classroom has helped my students speak English in a confident manner. So much so that they even volunteer to perform in the school assemblies. It makes me happy to see the progress that they make each day.
Term: Term 2