Creative Teaching Activities for Improving the Speaking Skill

Jeremy Harmer[1] offers three fundamental reasons for which the teachers should provide students creative speaking, which might provoke them to produce and use English.

The first one refers to the fact that the students get the chance to rehearse discussions that may be encountered in real life situations. For example, if the teacher creates a role-play activity at an airport or one at a supermarket, the students prepare, rehearse and then produce speaking for this particular situation, which can be a good starting point for the future. Producing speaking in the class, comes with feedback, both from the students and the teacher, and the students can find out how well or bad they are doing. Speaking activities, if they are designed with the clear intention of helping the students to build trust and confidence in their abilities, then, they can be satisfying and rewarding in the long run. The third reason which Harmer considers to be worth taking into account is the engagement. The students should be highly motivated within speaking activities, because they know that the fake situations they practice at class, might become real, gaining a real advantage in preparing themselves for real-life.

Harmer continues by giving four examples of speaking activities, which follow the patterns of all the three reasons listed above. These activities are broad in perspective, being too general, and we have felt, that they can be upgraded in detail or the manner of applying in class.

Role-play is a speaking activity that combines learning with fun, meant to create both a relaxing environment and to help the students acquire new knowledge. Although role-play is seen as a playful activity, it has an increased educational value. It is considered as: “ more than just play-acting: it offers chances for rehearsal and engagement that some other activities fail to give.”[2]

The main advantage of a role-play activity is that it encourages students to interact, to use all knowledge to play a part in an imagined circumstance. In role-playing in the classroom, students are provided information about a role they have to play, but in similar conditions, with a situation they might encounter in real life. Together with a partner or in a group, the students devise a communication activity in which they have to improvise, adapt to the other partners, change direction depending on the turns of the communication flow. The role-playing is dynamic, it progresses independent of a plan, the participants can bring their own originality to the role, few limits are established.

The main advantage of role-play activities is that it encourages students’ interaction, forcing them to adapt to the needs of the conversation, enhancing their collaborative skills. The teacher takes a step back, he is a mere observer of the students’ interactions, but ready to intervene whenever necessary, to help them carry on. Role-play allows students freedom of expression, it increases self-confidence and the quality of the final product in real life, as it has been rehearsed in simulated conditions. The students have the chance to become somebody else in role-play activities, and thus they have to imagine and produce possible verbal exchanges, develop initiative, spontaneity, and conversational competence. In conclusion, role-play is an activity through which “children could start to make sense of the adult world around them.”[3]

Role-play activities help students to gain self-confidence, as they feel safer in speaking as a different person, not themselves, developing their empathic skills, as they are required to place themselves in someone else’s shoes, while also increase their comprehension skills.

Cohen, Manion, and Morrison underline the benefits of using role-play activities, pointing out that:

  • role-play develops sensitivity and awareness, as the students learn to understand the feelings, points of view, or opinions of the roles they interpret ( e.g. teacher, musician, politician);
  • role-play encourages free communication;
  • it brings a breeze of freshness and dynamism in class;
  • role-play creates a strong connection with reality, preparing students for what they need in real life.[4]

[1] Jeremy, Harmer, How to Teach English, Edinburgh, Pearson Education Limited, U.K., 2001, p.87.
[2] Jeremy, Harmer, op. cit., 2001, p.94.
[3] Sue, Rogers; Julie, Evans,  Inside Role-play in Early Childhood Education, New York, Routledge Taylor& Francis Group, U.S.A, 2008, p.55.
[4] Louis, Cohen; Lawrence, Manion; Keith, Morrison, Research Methods in Education, New York, Routledge Taylor& Francis Group, U.S.A, 2007, p.455.

prof. Amalia Antochi

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