The main three strategies for teaching oral skills in a classroom where English is the second or foreign language are; using minimal responses, recognizing scripts and using language to talk about language
1) The first, “using minimal responses”, basically consists on providing the students with a small set of easy words and expressions that they can use as a quick reaction almost in every situation. Minimal responses are defined as “predictable, often idiomatic phrases that conversation participants use to indicate understanding, agreement, doubt, and other responses to what another speaker is saying.” (Mujibur 2010: 8). This resort makes students feel a lot more confident with regards to their oral performance, because they will always have the opportunity to give an answer to their conversational partner, and they will have fewer chances of going mind blank. You might find interesting the following list of examples of minimal responses.
2) Another strategy teachers can use with their pupils is helping them recognize scripts. This means that as the communicative situation is more or less organized or settled beforehand, students can predict what they will hear and as a consequence, they will be able to prepare their response. “Greetings, apologies, compliments, invitations, and other functions that are influenced by social and cultural norms often follow patterns or scripts”.(“The Essentials of Language Teaching”) Teachers can prepare a great variety of activities so that their students practice and learn the vocabulary that different scripts can contain.
3) The third strategy that can be used is called “using language to talk about language”. Its aim is to instruct students on how to solve a communicative misunderstanding, and also to make them become aware of the importance of clarifying the information given if the listener has not understood him. Teachers have to explain that it is perfectly normal that misunderstandings take place in the speaking process and also, explain them that whichever their level is, this can always happen. So then, students should be encouraged to use clarifying phrases and to rephrase their sentences to make them understandable. (Mujibur 2010: 8)
Apart from these three strategies that can positively influence English language learners, there are several activities that instructors can carry out to improve their pupil’s oral skills. These activities are the following; speeches, role plays, conversations, discussions and audiotaped oral dialogue journals.
When making a speech, students will choose a topic of their own interest; they will work on it and afterwards expose it in front of the class. Sometimes speeches can be done instantly, without preparation. At the end of the speech, there is some time for making and answering questions, as well as for the teacher’s comments. Role plays, however, are quite different. They imply that students have to work in groups. They are given a precise situation and they have to prepare it and perform it in front of the class. In the case of conversations, they are normally held in couples and their particularity is that students have to analyze the language produces by others, think, and create a response to it. Discussions are very similar, but unlike in a conversation, students are given a problem and they have to come up with a solution. Finally, the audiotaped oral dialogue journal consists on a series of recordings of the students speaking in English. This will enable them to listen to themselves and be able to create their own feedback.
Watch this video on the importance on feedback and motivation.
As it is very well known, the main problem of those who learn English as a foreign language is mainly lack of motivation, because they are afraid of speaking in public, and thus, there is no chance to obtain feedback. (Celce 2001: 19) Therefore, English instructors should apply all these techniques and motivate their students to talk, talk and talk!
Celce, Marianne. Teaching English as a Second Foreign Language. Los Angeles: 2001. Heinle & Heinle, a division of Thomson Learning
Kenworthy, Joanne. Teaching English Pronunciation. Longman Handbooks for Language Teachers. New York: 1987. Longman Group UK
Mojibur Raham, M. “English for Specific Purposes World” Teaching Oral Communication Skills: A Task-based Approach, Web Page 23/03/2014 http://esp-world.info/
“Strategies for Developing Speaking Skills”The Essentials of Language Teaching. Web page 23/03/2014 http://nclrc.org/
Ainhoa Calzada Mina