The use of various activities and techniques in teaching speaking

The majority students are eager to develop their communicative skills than to acquire writing, reading or even listening skills. Even if they understand that all these skills are important and connected with each other they consider that only fluent speaking people «know» English.

According to this point of view they have greater chance to get better job and travel opportunities. Therefore, activities which lead to the development of communicating through speech ability are one of the important components for the most English language learners.

Nowadays the development of communicating through speech ability is a crucial part of ESL or EFL learning and teaching.

According to the opinion of Hornby given in the well-known

«Oxford advanced learner’s dictionary of current English»[1] speaking is used «to express or communicate opinions, feelings, ideas, etc. by or as talking and it involves the activities in the part of the speaker as psychological, physiological (articulator) and physical (accoustic) stage».

Shumin [2, 8] shares the following idea that «speaking is one of the central elements of communication».

Chaney defines speaking as «the process of building and sharing meaning through the use of verbal and non-verbal symbols, in a variety of contexts» [3, 13].

As for Florez «speaking is key to communication» [4, 7].

Brown as quoted by Florez [5, 2] gives the next definition of speaking: «an interactive process of constructing meaning that involves producing and receiving and processing information».

Teaching speaking is very important in ESL or EFL learning. Developing the ability to communicate in the foreign English language will contribute to the successful future of every learner.

For many years teaching speaking has been defined as a repetition of different kinds of drills or memorization of monologs or dialogues. However, today’s world, the world of globalization and internationalization, and global net requires that the goal of learning and teaching speaking should improve learners’ communicative skills. It’s well known, that only in that way, learners can express themselves and learn to follow some social and cultural rules relevant to definite communicative circumstances. What is meant by «teaching speaking»?

David Nunan [6], one of the proponents of task-based language teaching (TBLT) in «Practical English Language Teaching» defines that «teaching speaking is to teach ESL or EFL learners to:

  • produce the English speech sounds and sound pattern,
  • use word and sentence stress, intonation patterns and the rhythm of the second language,
  • select appropriate words and sentences according to the proper social setting, audience, situation and subject matter,
  • organize their thoughts in a meaningful and logical sequence,
  • use language as a means of expressing values and judgments,
  • use the language quickly and confidently with few unnatural pauses, which is called as fluency».

Today many researchers, educators and ESL or EFL teachers agree that learners improve their speaking by «interacting». Communicative language teaching based on real-life situations as well as collaborative learning serve best to reach this goal. By using this method, learners will have the essential opportunity of communicating in the target language. One of the main requirements is that ESL or EFL teachers should create an English speaking environment where students have real-life communication, activities, and tasks that promote oral language. This will occur when learners collaborate in small and big groups to complete a task and to achieve a goal. What are activities to promote speaking? There are the most essential ones: discussion, brainstorming, role play, information gap, picture describing, picture narrating, simulation, interviewing, storytelling, story narrating, reporting, playing cards, story completion, making comparison, and etc. Here is their brief description of the majority of these effective activities given one by one.

While brainstorming, learners can produce their ideas and express opinions on a given topic Time should be limited. Depending on the definite context, individual as well as group brainstorming can be effective with learners generating their ideas freely and quickly. One of the important characteristics of brainstorming is the learners are not being criticized for their ideas so they may be open to sharing opinions.

Another way of getting learners to speak is role-play. Students pretend to be in different social contexts and have a big variety of roles. In role-playing the teacher monitors giving learners information who they are and what they feel, think, etc.

The purpose of discussion is set by a teacher, groups are formed by 3-4 or 4-5, and each group works on a given topic for a given time, presenting their opinions to the whole class. It is essential that the speaking should be equally divided among group participants. The learners may aim to arrive at a conclusion, share points of view on a given topic, or find solutions participating in the discussion group. This kind of activity fosters quick decision making as well as critical thinking. In discussions, learners should be encouraged to be active participants: asking questions, checking for clarification, paraphrasing ideas, and etc.

The next activity is simulations, which is similar to role-plays but more elaborate. The difference is acting as an engineer, a journalist, a doctor, and so on, the learners can bring some items to create relevant realistic environment. Simulation will increase the hesitant students’ self-confidence. While playing out their roles, speaking for others and having appropriate responsibility uncertain students become assured.

A pair work activity is information gap. Every participant has the different portion of information from the same original next. The task can be completed if each learner provides the information the other side needs. The activity achieves purposes like collecting information and problem solving. This activity is effective giving each participant the opportunity to speak extensively in the target language.

In the storytelling learners can briefly represent a story they heard beforehand, or create their own ones to tell the group mates. This type of activity fosters creative thinking. It helps learners express ideas in the format a story has to have: beginning-development-ending. Another version of this activity is telling jokes, anecdotes or funny stories.

One more kind but having some peculiarity is story completion. The tutor or one of the learners starts telling a story. After 3-5 sentences the narrating is stopped, and the next participant goes on narrating from the point the previous learner stopped. The activity is held in enjoyable and freespeaking way. Each participant can add several sentences. New characters, interesting facts, events, etc. can be created and added.

Activity called reporting requires learners to be informed beforehand to read some newspapers, magazines, search the Web and get ready with report representing the whole group interesting news, including facts, events connected with real life. They can even report facts of personal lives.

Learners can conduct interviews on selected topics with group mates. They choose the rubric or the teacher provides it, so learners know beforehand what path to follow as well as what kind of questions they can ask, but interview questions should be prepared by each student individually. While conducting interviews learners get a chance to practice speaking ability and to socialize. After activity the study is presented to the whole group.

The whole group is divided into groups of 3-4 participants doing picture describing. Each group is given one picture to be described to others. The activity fosters learners’ public speaking skills, imagination, as well as creativity.

Several sequential pictures, the picture narrating activity is based on, are given to the learners. They create the story taking place in the sequential pictures and taking into account the criteria provided by the teacher as a rubric, which includes the relevant vocabulary range or grammar structures needed to be used while narrating.

This is another activity called ‘find the difference’ for pair work using pictures. Each pair is given different pictures: one picture of young people dancing in the club and another picture of young people working in the office. Learners define differences and similarities.

One can agree that there are always some problems while teaching ESL or EFL class. Learner’s inhibition is the most common. Exposure to the whole group having all the eyes on oneself will give the participants stage fright. The learner may get nervous about losing the face, or just making mistakes in front of the audience. Another common problem with oral communication is the lack of confidence in the speaking ability and feeling that they have insufficient English to express their points of view. The next problem is the presence of dominant learners which makes the reserved students feel difficult to express their opinions freely. The following common problem is learners insisting on using native language. The last fact will take away oral practice time and decrease the progress.

In the task-based learning one of the forms used by the teacher while facilitating and monitoring the teaching process is scaffolding. What can be understood by the term ‘scaffolding’? «The overriding drive in current changes occurring in second language teaching is the need to teach language through something essential and meaningful to the student. When the goal is to prepare students for academic success in classes taught in English, then ESL is best taught through lessons that teach meaningful … language arts

concepts simultaneously with second language objectives» [7, 310]. Helping ESL or EFL learners master language can be challenging. Scaffolding speaking emphasizing learners’ active involvement will provide success in this area. The following types of scaffolding can be defined as the most effective for ESL or EFL learners:

The teacher can simplify the language by using short, complete sentences in a normal tone of voice. The learners can be asked to complete a partially finished outline or paragraph or to choose answers from a list.

Appropriate actions and illustrations can be used to reinforce oral statements, i.e. prompts and facial expressions help convey meaning.

The information may be presented and the learners can be asked to respond through the use of graphic organizers, tables, charts, outlines, and graphs, encouraging learners to use these tools to present this information.

What are other suggestions in the process of facilitating and monitoring of teaching speaking? Teaching oral language includes providing:

Maximum opportunity to students to speak the target language.

A rich environment which contains authentic materials and tasks, collaborative work, and shared knowledge.

Written feedback like «You have done a good job. Your presentation is really great. We appreciated your efforts in preparing the materials.»

The vocabulary beforehand students need in speaking activities.

As well as mentioned above the following suggestions are very essential:

Involving each student in every speaking activity, practicing different ways of learner participation.

Limiting the teacher talking time and giving the students opportunity to speak as much and often as possible; creating the most productive environment for successful speaking results.

Indicating positive signs while giving comments on a student’s response.

Asking eliciting questions, for example: «What do you think? What do you mean? How did you define …?»

Trying not to correct students’ pronunciation mistakes while they are speaking not to distract students from their speech.

Involving speaking activities not only in class but also attending English clubs, etc.

Circulating around to ensure students whether they are on the right track and seeing whether they need your help working in groups or pairs.

Diagnosing problems faced by students having difficulties in expressing themselves in the target language and providing opportunities to practice the spoken language.

What are other characteristics to be successful and get the students’ higher results in communicative skills? the speaking time duration of all learners will

be the same, and there shouldn’t be too talkative participants;

learners speak being interested in the topic;

Learners say something relevant; each participant is understood by every learner;

The limited number of interruptions while the learner is speaking.

To add more to promote learners’ success in acquiring certain speaking or other skills teachers will use all the available resources and technics to get round common speaking problems. Among them the following ones can be mentioned:

P����g���p����m w��k: It will increase the time that is available for oral practice and allow several learners to benefit from the given speaking time. Working in groups also decreases the inhibitions of some shy learners who do not feel comfortable speaking being exposed in front of others.

U���g ���y ���g��g�: Simple language will make it easier for learners to speak for longer without hesitation and will give them a sense of successful accomplishment. Essential target vocabulary must be pre-taught or can be reviewed before the activity enabling students to enrich the speech with interesting sentences and language.

C������g ����������g ��p�c: The topic choice according to the learners’ interests ensures their motivation. If the task instructions are clear and are enthusiastically presented learners will be more likely to be more motivated and challenged.

D���g���g c���� g��d������: Stating clearly the teacher’s expectation from each learner is essential in ensuring that every group participant contributes towards the discussion. The less the group there are more opportunities for the reserved students to participate in the discussions. Feedback motivates each learner to follow the guidelines and reveals the discussion results.

O��y E�g���� m�������: Students should feelstrong resistance to use their mother tongue having problems expressing their ideas and opinions.

Teaching speaking is very important in ESL or EFL learning. Developing the ability to communicate in the foreign English language will contribute to the successful future of every learner. Therefore, it is essential for ESL or EFL teachers to pay great attention to teaching speaking. Rather than leading students to a repetition of different kinds of drills or pure memorization, providing a rich environment where meaningful communication takes place is desired. To reach the goal, various speaking activities, technics can contribute a great deal to students in solving above mentioned problems and developing basic interactive skills vital for their life. The development of communicative skills is vital to learners’ success. Active student involvement is the key to success.



  1. Hornby A.S. Oxford advanced learner’s dictionary of current English. – Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. – 1440 p.
  2. Shumin Kang. Factors to consider: developing adult EFL students’ speaking abilities // English Teaching Forum: Vol.35. – 1997. – № 3. – P. 8.
  3. Chaney A.L., Burk T.L. Teaching Oral Communication in Grades K-8. – Boston: Allyn&Bacon, 1998. – P. 13.
  4. Florez Mary Ann Cunningham. Improving adult English language learners’ speaking skills // ERIC Digest. ED435204 1999-06-00. – P. 7.
  5. Brown as quoted by Florez. Mary Ann Cunningham. Improving adult English language learners’ speaking skills // ERIC Digest. ED435204 1999-06-00. – P. 2.
  6. Nunan D. Practical English Language Teaching. – NY: McGraw-Hill, 2003. – 342 p.
  7. Ovando C.Collier V. & Combs, M. Bilingual and ESL classrooms: Teaching multicultural contexts (3 rd ed.). – Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2003. – P. 310.
Magazine: KazNU BULLETIN
Year: 2015
City: Almaty
Category: Philology