Of all the four skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing), speaking is considered as the most important one because the ability to speak a language is synonymous with knowing that language since speech is the most essential means of human communication.
First of all, we must take into account that the level of language input (listening) must be higher than the level of language production expected of the students. So, we have many speaking activities used in the first levels that enable students to participate with a minimal verbal response. However, in the last levels, students are encouraged to begin to manipulate language and express themselves in a much more personal way.
In order for any speaking activity to be successful, students need to acknowledge that there is a real reason for asking a question or giving a piece of information. Therefore, the teacher must make sure the activities he/she presents to the students, provide a reason for speaking, whether this is to discuss upon a literary text or to find out information about friends in the class.
Once the activity begins, the teacher should make sure that the students are speaking as much English as possible without interfering to correct the mistakes that they will probably make. The teacher should try to treat errors casually by praising the utterance and simply repeating it correctly without necessarily highlighting the errors.
Speaking competence must be built systematically, beginning with easy to more demanding tasks. It is achieved successfully if the topic for speaking reflect real-life issues, the students’ interest and age and if the students are allowed to express opinions freely. Students should be encouraged to experiment with the language, be aware of variations in language use, express themselves, and use language for real purposes.
There are several things which must be taken into consideration when we define a good speaking class: the teacher, the students, the atmosphere, correction and activities.
The teacher should exploit any opportunity for short spontaneous conversation and the features of natural conversation should be incorporated into classroom activities. The teacher should not interfere too much, but assign topics which encourages students to speak.
The main sources available to develop the students’ skill of speaking under school conditions are the interchange between teacher and students and the texts, as a source of developing skill in speaking.
Each stage of the lesson offers possibilities for teaching students everyday expressions:
- organization of the class: Who’s absent? Who’s on duty?
- motivation and discipline: Attention, please! Silence!
- checking the homework: What’s the correct tense? Are there any mistakes?
- at the blackboard: Write the correct sentence! Clean the blackboard!
- pictures: Look at the picture!
- at the end of the lesson: There is the bell!
Exercises in speaking can be devided into two categories: receptive exercises (based on listening and comprehending the teacher’s voice) and productive exercises (based on receptive work – imitation of what has been heard, word guessing games, giving instructions, poem reconstruction, describing things).
“The introduction of new language is frequently an activity that falls at the non communicative activities. Often, here, the teacher works with controlled techniques, asking students to repeat and perform in drills. At the same time the teacher must insist on accuracy, correcting where students make mistakes. Although these introductory stages should be kept short, and the drilling abandoned as soon as possible, they are nevertheless important in helping the students to assimilate facts about new language and in enabling them to produce the new language for the first time”
Successful speaking activities in the classroom are to let students talk a lot and to offer all students have the chance to speak, in this way, students are highly motivated because they are interested in the topic and the language is accessible, students understand the others’ speech easily.
Unsuccessful speaking activities in the classroom:
- inhibition. Unlike reading, writing and listening activities, speaking requires some degree of real-time exposure to an audience. Learners are often inhibited about trying to say things in a foreign language in the classroom: worried about making mistakes, fearful of criticism or simply shy.
- nothing to say. They have no motive to express themselves beyond the guilty feeling that they should be speaking.
- low or uneven participation. This problem is compounded by the tendency of some learners to dominate, while others speak very little or not at all. – mother-tongue use. They tend to use simple words.
1. Doff Adrian, (1991), Teach English, Cambridge University Press, p. 66
2. Brumfit Christopher, Carter Ronald, (1986), Literature and Language Teaching, Oxford University Press, p. 192
3. Widdowson, Henry, (1981), The Use of Literature, Hines and Rutherford, p. 213
4. Bonta, Elena, (2001), English Teaching Methodology, Universitatea Bacau, Centrul pentru Invatamant la Distanta, p. 24-26
5. Harmer, Jeremy, (2007) The Practice of English Language Teaching, Pearson Education Limited, p. 70.