Attitudes towards Speaking Practice among EFL Learners in High School

Generally, students have various attitudes towards school subjects, depending on their feelings and life experiences. According to the student’s interest in learning, social background, family support and self-esteem, learning a foreign language can be very challenging and the students’ attitudes can show their opinions about the native speakers of the language. Also, attitudes in class are connected to the group acceptance, empathy, self-esteem and teacher’s attitude in class and towards teaching.

Although many editors of English activity books bring new exercises and introduce authentic material so that students are more attracted to learning a foreign language and use technology to facilitate the possibilities of learning, students prefer speaking in class with their classmates, rather than outside with strangers, native speakers, because they are afraid of making mistakes as teacher’s control is no longer present and not all of them are willing to communicate in real contexts.

The best environment for learning a foreign language is the one in which students feel safe, are encouraged to develop and start conversations based on the communicative approach.  Either working in pairs or groups, students develop their speaking skills, time management, reading, listening and writing.
Developing oral and communication skills in students means that classroom activities allow them to exchange ideas with each other, express their opinions, and develop learning strategies and communication skills for successful social interaction. The teacher should provide his/her students with the necessary input to let them develop their oral and critical thinking skills in order to have a successful English language class.

When planning an EFL lesson, teachers should consider what methodology they will use, the techniques they will apply as well as the specific activities they will introduce to tackle a topic. The teachers will assess the strengths and weaknesses of their classes. Students’ perspectives towards the class are important because they develop effective lessons, always working towards a better communicative ability which maintains a balance between fluency and accuracy. It seems important that teachers plan lessons that give students enough practice time and free use of the language.

Generally, student-centered activities are more likely to motivate learners, and also provide them the opportunity to engage in the type of communication and critical thinking that will help them develop their ability to participate and intellectual skills necessary for effective oral skills teaching and learning. This type of activities makes students face each other’s opinions with the purpose of developing their communication strategies and skills.
Group work provides opportunities for students to be involved in cooperative classroom communication and helps to create a comfortable and motivating atmosphere in the classroom. Group work activities actively engage students in interactive communication and negotiation of meaning while respecting others’ words, ideas, opinions and thoughts.

In addition to small group work and pair work, whole class discussion also allows students to freely engage in interactive communication while they express themselves and exchange ideas and information. Class discussion activity enables open communication because learners are able to talk face-to-face, while in rows, they are challenged by an authority and will talk less.

Conversation activities include: role-plays, question-and answer activities, class discussions, problem solving, games, and other group activities. Organizing the classroom around specific activities rather than writing tasks is the strategy to result in authentic use of language among learners. When students are engaged in an activity or task that interests them, they learn language incidentally and naturally. Students learn the foreign language in the context of doing something that is naturally meaningful, and instructions are centered around interesting and interesting activities, integrating the use of the foreign language. If the activities turn around an issue or topic that is relevant to students’ daily lives, language learning becomes even more efficient because of the students’ interest in the activity.

Choosing topics that reflect the students’ backgrounds and past experiences or issues that students and their families are dealing with in their communities are very efficient activities.

One of my favourite exercise is using a song that is well known by teenagers and making them create a monologue about the ideas, emotions expressed in the song but on a more personal observation.

Listening to a popular song / Class: 10th grade, whole class / Lesson: monologue/ Lexical area: life, being young or old
Material: Avicii’s song “Wake me up”

Procedure: Students listen to the song and write down the key words. After that, they create their own monologue about life and main ideas in the song, but from their own perspective. The text must be 8 lines long and must be presented in front of the colleagues.
Difficulty: the students do not receive a transcript of the song and they have to pay attention to the words heard. Some students can find it difficult to express their emotions.

The first date/ Class: 12th grade/ Lesson: describing character using present simple/ Lexical area: hobbies and interests

Procedure: This game can be played with any number of students. The teacher copies twice as many cards as there are students in the class. The students work in pairs and receive four cards. They are asked to discuss the pictures on the cards they have received and to fill in the details on the card, according to their impressions of the character in the picture. The teacher collects the cards. The class is then divided into two main groups, one represented by the matchmaking bureau and one with suitable partners. The ones that want to go on a first date have to describe themselves at the matchmaking bureau in order to find a suitable partner.

The Alibi/  Class: 10th grade/ Lesson: describing past experiences/ Lexical area: interests, hobbies, travel

Procedure: This game may be played with any number of students. The teacher copies one role card for every member of the class, ensuring that every “robber” has a corresponding “police officer”. The students do not know that they are robbers and police officers, but rather guests at a party where they have to socialize and talk about their hobbies, interests and plans. The object of the game is for the police to identify their suspects. After some time, the teacher asks the police officers to come forward and identify their suspects, giving reasons. The robber that is caught must confess everything.

In my English classes I always use a laptop for listening activities, a video projector for presentations and video-based speaking activities, flipchart sheets and markers for presentations and discussions, worksheets with extra exercises for more interaction especially during the History or Geography lessons and the whiteboard. Although it is a common object that we see in all classrooms, the whiteboard is like a map that needs to be filled with knowledge. Exercises like brainstorming, drawing maps and even characters are more fun and can be easily created with a set of markers on a whiteboard. As long as we speak and encourage speaking, English as a second language is gradually revealing itself in context-based situations thus leading to more motivated and actively involved students.

Khamwan, T. (2007). The effects of interactional strategy training on teacher-student interaction in an EFL classroom. Nakhon Ratchasima: Suranaree University of Technology.
Nguyet, N. T. M., & Mai, L. T. T. (2012). Teaching conversational strategies through video clips. Language Education in Asia, 3(1), pp. 32-49.
Smith, S. M. (1994). Second Language Learning: Theoretical Foundations, London and New York, Longman.
Swain, M., & Lapkin, S. (2001). Focus on form through collaborative dialogue: Exploring task effects. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.


prof. Iulia Mihaela Gheorghe

Colegiul Național Pedagogic Constantin Brătescu, Constanța (Constanţa) , România
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