How to Improve Your Students’ English Speaking Skills

Clacts - How to Improve Your Students’ English Speaking SkillsLearning English, as with any new language, is incredibly fun with absolutely no obstacles to overcome in the journey towards fluency. Ok, so unless you’re a linguistic genius, the road towards mastering English speaking skills is an uphill battle as any ESL teacher will confirm.

Your young English students are most likely just like most other people and get so frustrated sometimes with the challenges they face when learning English as a second language, or angry at the lack of improvement despite the tremendous effort they put in, and feel like giving up.

As children, we learned our first language by listening to others around us. All we had to do was have fun experimenting with saying our first words and things fell into place slowly but surely. But not many of us grew up hearing the unique sounds of two distinct languages. And it’s the same story for your English students; otherwise they wouldn’t need to attend your class.

As teachers, we feel the need to focus our student’s efforts on grammar rules, memorizing vocabulary, making flashcards, and only practice speaking during lessons. But encouraging your class to record themselves speaking in their new favorite language might just lead to a huge breakthrough in improving their English speaking skills. Why?

By recording themselves speaking everyday sentences in English, they can:

  • Vastly improve their English speaking ability.
  • Eliminate or significantly reduce mistakes.
  • Build their collection of useful vocabulary.
  • Understand complicated grammar.
  • Improve their listening and understanding skills.
  • Increase their confidence.
  • Enjoy learning English even more.

Recording their voice is both simple and cheap. Whether you are teaching English class or tutoring one on one, the method is the same.

Step 1: Before the English Class Activity

Before your next lesson, prepare a list of simple English sentences and their corresponding translation in the children’s native language. This list can come from your English textbook or other material. Try to make them as simple as possible at first; you can increase the difficulty later.

Grammar and vocabulary are not important when recording their voices because this English activity is all about learning how to speak English with others, which is the main goal of learning any language.

Step 2: Running the English Speaking Activity

Now grab your voice recorder. I use the Sony ICD-PX312 digital voice recorder, which has a handy noise reduction feature to drown out the noise from busy traffic outside and also records directly in MP3 format. iPhones and most smartphones also have a voice recording app that is just as useful as long as your environment is relatively quiet.

The method:

  1. Press the record button and ask the student to say the native language version of the first sentence out loud.
  2. Silently read the sentence in English at a slow speed. This will create a pause in the recording long enough for each student to think about the translation in their heads. We’ll come back to this point later.
  3. Read the sentence in English again, and at the same slow speed as before.
    Did You Know? The first practical sound recording and reproduction device was invented by Thomas Edison in 1877.
  4. Say the sentence in the English out loud.
  5. Silently read the English sentence again, but this time read it only once. Only a short pause is necessary the second time.
  6. Say the English sentence again out loud.
  7. Repeat these steps with the next sentence and continue the process until the lesson is complete.

Step 3: It’s Practice Time

You now have a complete set for one student raring to go. Now it’s time to practice. Give the students a digital copy of their recording to practice at home, in class or in the car. Students will listen to their recording to practice speaking English.

  1. They will hear the native sentence first, then try to translate that sentence during the first long pause.
  2. They will then hear themselves saying the correct English sentence to find out if they got it correct or not.
  3. The next pause then gives them another chance to say the English sentence out loud before the next pause.
  4. The students should have practiced saying each sentence in English 2-4 times and further strengthened the connection between the sentence and what it means in their own language.

After making the new recording, it is most beneficial that the student listen to the recording at least once within the following two days. This helps their brain to make and retain the necessary connections within the brain for better recall later. I suggest that they continue to practice the lesson until they can easily recall each sentence within the short pause after saying the English part. You’ll be amazed at how much they will be able to say and understand in future conversations.

The other important point to all this English speaking practice is that during conversations, it becomes easier for students to understand questions and quickly come up with responses because they have already practiced saying them many times. Just change the noun and they have a perfectly good answer.

The benefits of recording their own voices should be obvious by now. Let’s highlight a few more advantages of recording your voice that you may not have thought of:

  • The time spent recording their voices can also be considered as more time spent practicing English.
  • Saying the words out loud rather than in their head gives them more confidence to speak in public.
  • Audio files are quite significantly lighter than textbooks.
  • Audio files are more convenient to practice with – especially at home and in the car.

As they become more and more experienced with this practice and get better in their language ability, you can go back and rerecord their lessons. This time they not only eliminate any mistakes on previous audios but also record themselves speaking at a faster rate. Additionally, you can reduce the length of the first pause after they say the English sentence. With this method, I am confident that you will have your whole class speaking like an English native in next to no time. Good luck and enjoy your practice.

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