I’m here to ask for some suggestions for improving English speaking skills with my pupils. I have worked with children ages 4-10 for the past four years.
I notice that after a while, they understand me and can say vocabulary words we learned together in class, but they can only answer with a complete sentence when I prompt them. Their listening skills are fine, and the guided activities work pretty well, but I need more to reach my expectations regarding their English speaking skills, like chatting, making questions, or producing by themselves. It seems like everything they learn is in compartments, and they can’t manage to use their knowledge outside those moments.
Do you have any suggestions for me? How can I improve my lessons and guide children to fluency and independence?
Improving English speaking skills
To improve your students’ English speaking skills I suggest you use much more revision in your lessons. Every lesson should include some review, and not just of what you covered the week before. In fact, nearly every lesson I gave included a review of almost everything we had covered. So, to pack all that in, I had an ongoing quiz that we added to every week.
So, my young students and I had a pack of homemade cards, that we’d run through, sometimes as a group, sometimes in teams. The cards would have all sorts of language questions on them, for example:
- a colour
- a vocabulary item
- a flashcard of a verb, like waking up
- a number or a simple sum, like 5 + 9
- a sketch of town and a question mark to prompt for Where do you live?
- a question mark and a birthday cake with some candles to prompt for How old are you?
- Questions to answer like How are you? What’s your name? How old are you? Where do you live? Do you like apples? What day is it today? What time is it now? What time do you wake up in the morning? What do you have for breakfast? How do you go to school?
And so on. This regular revision helps the kids have language on the tip of their tongues. As well as the quiz, play revision games, of which there are many in my games books.
The other tool I use to improve my students’ English speaking skills is my book of plays. Kids would learn the skit by heart, through language games and rehearsing. Ultimately, we would perform them to parents or the school at the end of every term, which was a great motivator. My students learned not only their lines, but could swap roles at the last minute if necessary. As a result, their fluency skills were vastly improved while having a lot of fun at the same time.
Finally, I used a lot of pairwork and speaking games, say Find a friend and Happy Families. We all need lots of repetition to integrate knowledge and produce it without consciously thinking. Using a small-group game like Happy Families makes questions starting with do you have or have you got become second nature. In addition, learning and acting short role-plays are a stepping stone to fluency and using language in a wider context.
So, I’d say that you need more speaking time for the kids in class but reinforced with plenty of revision. Unfortunately, kids forget everything you teach them if they don’t use it. They need constant practice. Even adults need help remembering information that they do not use. For example, I forget English words because I no longer live in the UK despite being a native speaker!
Please give it a go and let me know how your pupils progress. You should get results after a few weeks or sooner if you see the kids more than once a week.
Paperback and Kindle Books
Should you prefer a paperback or Kindle book rather than a PDF from me, you will find my books on Amazon. Good Reads and Book Depository are sister companies to Amazon and pay a much lower royalty, all the more money for Amazon! Therefore, even if you are averse to making multi-billionaires even richer, I earn more if you go direct on Amazon. You may of course favour your local bookshop and have them order my books for you.
I’m here to help if you need me – just go on over to my contact page via the tab in the top menu and drop me an email.
All the best
Shelley Ann Vernon