Учебно-методический комплекс материалов по дисциплине «Методика преподавания иностранных языков»

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4.2 Teaching speaking

Speaking a FL is the most difficult part in language learning because pupils need ample practice in speaking to be able to say a few words of their own in connection with a situation. This work is time-consuming.

The stimuli the teacher can use for developing speaking habits are often feeble and artificial. There must be occasions when the pupils feel the necessity to inform someone of something, to explain something and to prove something to someone (situational and communicative approach).

Of all the four skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing), speaking seems intuitively the most important: people who know a language are referred to as 'speakers' of that language, as if speaking included all other kinds of knowing; and many if not most foreign language learners are primarily interested in learning to speak.

Classroom activities that develop learners' ability to express themselves through speech would therefore seem an important component of a language course. Yet it is difficult to design and administer such activities; more so, in many ways, than to do so for listening, reading or writing. We shall come on to what the problems are presently, but first let us try to define what is meant by 'an effective speaking activity'.

Characteristics of a successful speaking activity

1. Learners talk a lot. As much as possible of the period of time allotted to the activity is in fact occupied by learner talk. This may seem obvious, but often most time is taken up with teacher talk or pauses

2. Participation is even. Classroom discussion is not dominated by a minority of talkative participants all get a chance to speak, and contributions are fairly evenly distributed

3. Motivation is high. Learners are eager to speak because they are interested in the topic and have something new to say about it, or because they want to contribute to achieving a task objective

4. Language is of an acceptable level. Learners express themselves in utterances that are relevant, easily comprehensible to each other, and of an acceptable level of language accuracy

In practice, however, few classroom activities succeed in satisfying all the criteria described above.

Problems with speaking activities

1. 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 losing face, or simply shy of the attention that their speech attracts

2. Nothing to say. Even if they are not inhibited, you often hear learners complain that they cannot think of anything to say they have no motive to express themselves beyond the guilty feeling that they should be speaking

3. Low or uneven participation. Only one participant can talk at a time if he or she is to be heard, and in a large group this means that each one will have only very little talking time This problem is compounded by the tendency of some learners to dominate, while others speak very little or not at all

4. Mother-tongue use. In classes where all, or a number of, the learners share the same mother tongue, they may tend to use it because it is easier, because it feels unnatural to speak to one another in a foreign language, and because they feel less 'exposed' if they are speaking their mother tongue If they are talking in small groups it can be quite difficult to get some classes - particularly the less disciplined or motivated ones - to keep to the target language.

The other factor is the fact that the pupil needs words, phrases, sentence patterns and structures stored up in his memory ready to be used for expressing any thought he wants to. In teaching speaking the teacher should stimulate his pupils’ speech by supplying them with the subject and grammar they need to speak about the suggested topic or situation. The teacher should lead his pupil to unprepared speaking through prepared speaking.

What the teacher can do to help to solve some of the problems

1. Use group work

This increases the sheer amount of learner talk going on in a limited period of time and also lowers the inhibitions of learners who are unwilling to speak in front of the full class. It is true that group work means the teacher cannot supervise all learner speech, so that not all utterances will be correct, and learners may occasionally slip into their native language; nevertheless, even taking into consideration occasional mistakes and mother-tongue use, the amount of time remaining for positive, useful oral practice is still likely to be far more than in the full-class set-up.

2. Base the activity on easy language

In general, the level of language needed for a discussion should be lower than that used in intensive language-learning activities in the same class: it should be easily recalled and produced by the participants, so that they can speak fluently with the minimum of hesitation. It is a good idea to teach or review essential vocabulary before the activity starts.

3. Make a careful choice of topic and task to stimulate interest

On the whole, the clearer the purpose of the discussion the more motivated participants will be.

4. Give some instruction or training in discussion skills

If the task is based on group discussion then include instructions about participation when introducing it. For example, tell learners to make sure that everyone in the group contributes to the discussion; appoint a chairperson to each group who will regulate participation.

5. Keep students speaking the target language

You might appoint one of the group as monitor, whose job it is to remind participants to use the target language, and perhaps report later to the teacher how well the group managed to keep to it. Even if there is no actual penalty attached, the very awareness that someone is monitoring such lapses helps participants to be more careful.

However, when all is said and done, the best way to keep students speaking the target language is simply to be there yourself as much as possible, reminding them and modelling the language use yourself: there is no substitute for nagging!

Rules for the teacher (principles):

  1. Speech must be motivated. It is necessary to think over the motives which make pupils speak. They should have a necessity to speak and not only a desire to get a good mark. Rule: ensure conditions in which a pupil will have a desire to say something, to express his thoughts, his feelings.

  2. Speech is always addressed to an interlocutor. Rule: organize the teaching process in a way which allows your pupils to speak to someone, to their classmates in particular. When speaking a pupil should address the class and not the teacher or the ceiling as is often the case. When he retells a text nobody listens to him. The speaker will hold his audience when he says something new. Try to supply pupils with assignments which require individual approach on their part.

  3. Speech is always emotionally coloured for a speaker expresses his thought, feelings, and his attitude to what he says. Rule: teach pupils to use intonational means to express their attitude, their feelings about what they say (prove, give your opinion).

  4. Speech is always situational for it takes place in a certain situation. Rule: real and close-to-real situations should be created to stimulate pupils’ speech.

Speech and oral exercises

Speech is a process of communication by means of language examples. Oral exercises are used for the pupils to assimilate phonetics, grammar, and vocabulary (making up sentences following the model). Oral exercises are quite indispensable to developing speech. However, they only prepare pupils for speaking and cannot be considered to be speech.

There are two forms of speaking: monologue and dialogue. In teaching monologue we can easily distinguish three stages:

  1. Statements level

  2. Utterance level

  3. Discourse level

Accordingly, we can differentiate the following types of exercises:

  1. Drill exercises with the sentence pattern (substitution, extension, transformation, completion). When pupils are able to make statements in the FL they may learn to combine statements of various sentence patterns in a logical sequence.

  2. Pupils are taught how to use different sentence patterns in an utterance about an object, a subject offered. The pupil’s utterance may involve 2-4 sentences which logically follow one another. At this stage pupils learn to express their thoughts, their attitude to what they say using various sentence patterns. Thus, they learn how to put several sentences together in one utterance.

  3. After pupils have learned how to say a few sentences in connection with a situation, they are prepared for speaking at discourse level. Free speech is possible provided pupils have acquired habits and skills in making statements and in combining them in a logical sequence. At this level pupils are asked to speak on a picture, a set of pictures, comment on a text, and make up a story of their own.

To develop pupils’ skill in dialogue pupils are taught:

    1. How to make responses:

    1. question-response,

    2. statement-statement,

    3. statement-question,

    4. question-question.

2. How to begin a dialogue, i.e. to ask questions, to make statements etc.

3. How to carry on a conversation, i.e. to start it, to join a conversation, to confirm, to comment using the following words and expressions: well, look here, I say, you see, do you mean to say, and what about,…to tell the truth, I mean to say….

In acquiring necessary habits in carrying on a conversation pattern-dialogues may be helpful. When a pattern-dialogue is used as a unit of teaching there are three stages in learning a dialogue:

  1. Receptive: They listen to the dialogue, then read it silently for better understanding

  2. Reproductive: Pupils enact the dialogue. Three kinds of reproduction:

a) Immediate. Pupils reproduce the dialogue in imitation of the speech just after they have heard it. The pupils are asked to learn the dialogue by heart for their homework

b) Delayed. They enact the dialogue on persons. Before calling on pupils it is recommended that they should listen to the dialogue recorded again to remind them of how it sounds.

c) Modified. Pupils enact the dialogue with some modifications in its contents. They change some elements in it. Pupils use their own experience while selecting the words for substitutions.

  1. Creative: Pupils make up dialogues of their own. They are given a picture or a verbal situation to talk about.

To make the act of communication easier for the pupils the teacher helps them with “props”. The pupil needs props of two kinds: props in content or what to speak about, what to say, and props in form or how to say.

Pupils’ speech may be of two kinds prepared and unprepared. It is considered prepared when the pupil has been given time enough to think over its content and form. He can speak on the subject following the plan made either independently at home or in class under the teacher’s supervision. His speech will be more or less correct and sufficiently fluent since plenty of preliminary exercises had been done before.

The main objective of the learner, however, is to be able to use the linguistic material in unprepared speech.

      1. Speak on the text heard

      2. Discuss a problem or problems touched upon in the text read or heard (to compare the system of education)

      3. Have an interview with a foreigner (one of the pupils is a Londoner, the classmates ask him various questions and express their opinions on the subjects under discussion)

      4. Help a foreigner, e.g. to find the way to the main street, or instruct him as to the places of interest in the town.

There are of course other techniques for stimulating pupil’s unprepared speech. In conclusion it should be said that prepared and unprepared speech must be developed simultaneously from the very beginning. The relationship between prepared and unprepared speech should vary depending on the stage of learning the language.

4.3 Teaching reading

Reading is one of the main skills a pupil must acquire in the process of mastering a FL in school. Reading is one of the practical aims of teaching a FL. Reading is of great educational importance. Through reading in a FL the pupil enriches his knowledge of the world around him. He gets acquainted with the countries where the target language is spoken.

Reading develops pupils’ intelligence. It helps to develop their memory, will, imagination. Reading is not only an aim in itself; it is also a means of learning a FL. When reading a text, the pupil reviews sounds and letters, vocabulary and grammar, memorizes the spelling of words, the meaning of words and word combinations and in this way he perfects his command of the target language. If the teacher instructs his pupils in good reading and they can read with sufficient fluency and complete comprehension he helps them to acquire speaking and writing skills as well.

There are two ways of reading: aloud and silently. People usually start learning to read orally. In teaching a FL in school both ways should be developed.

When one says that one can read, it means that one can focus one’s attention on the meaning and not on the form. A good reader does not look at letters, nor even at words, one by one, however quickly; he takes in the meaning of two, three or four words at a time, in a single moment such reading is the end to be attained.

As a means of teaching reading a system of exercises is widely used in school which includes:

  1. Graphemic-phonemic exercises which help pupils to assimilate graphemic-phonemic correspondence in the English language.

  2. Structural-information exercises which help pupils to carry out lexical and grammar analysis to find the logical subject and predicate in the sentences following the structural signals.

  3. Semantic-communicative exercises which help pupils to get information from the text.

Reading in the English language is one of the most difficult things because there are 26 letters and 146 graphemes which represent 46 phonemes. It is not sufficient to know English letters. It is necessary that pupils should know how this or that vowel, vowel combination, consonant, or consonant combination is read in different positions in the words. The teacher cannot teach pupils all the existing rules and exceptions for reading English words.

The most difficult thing in learning to read is to get information from a sentence or a paragraph on the basis of the knowledge of structural signals and not only the meaning of words. Pupils often ignore grammar and try to understand what they read relying on the knowledge of autonomous words.

Pupils sometimes find it difficult to pick out topical sentences in the text which express the main ideas.

To make the process of reading easier, new words phrases, and sentence patterns should be learnt orally before pupils are asked to read them.

Consequently in order to find the most effective ways of teaching the teacher should know the difficulties pupils may have.


  1. The first group of exercises is designed to develop pupil’s ability to associate the graphic symbols with the phonic ones.

Teaching begins with presenting a letter to pupils, or a combination of letters. The use of flash cards and the blackboard is indispensable. The same devices are applied for teaching pupils to read words. In teaching to read transcription is also utilized. It helps the learner to read a word in the cases where the same grapheme stands for different sounds (build, suit).

  1. The second group includes structural-information exercises. They are done both in reading aloud and in silent reading. Pupils are taught how to read sentences, paragraphs, texts correctly. Special attention is given to intonation since it is of great importance to the actual division of sentences, to stressing the logical predicate in them. Marking the text occasionally may be helpful. At an early stage of teaching reading the teacher should read a sentence or a passage to the class himself. When he is sure the pupils understand the passage he can set individual and the class to repeat the sentences after him.

This kind of elementary reading practice should be carried on for a limited number of lessons only. When a class has advanced far enough to be ready for more independent reading, reading in chorus might be decreased, but not eliminated.

Reading aloud as a method of teaching and learning the language should take place in all the forms. This is done with the aim of improving pupils’ reading skills.

In reading aloud the teacher uses:

  1. Diagnostic reading (pupils read and he can see their weak points in reading).

  2. Instructive reading (pupils follow the pattern read by the teacher or the speaker).

  3. Control (test) reading (pupils read the text trying to keep as close to the pattern as possible).

Silent reading

Special exercises may be suggested to develop pupils’ skills in silent reading.

Teaching silent reading is closely connected with two problems:

1. Instructing pupils to comprehend what they read following some structural signals, the latter is possible provided pupils have certain knowledge of grammar and vocabulary and they can perform lexical and grammatical analysis.

2. Developing pupils’ ability in guessing.

Grammar and lexical analysis helps pupils to assimilate structural words, to determine the meaning of a word proceeding from its position in the sentence, to find the meanings of unfamiliar words, and those which seem to be familiar but do not correspond to the structure of the sentence (I saw him book a ticket). Pupils’ poor comprehension often results from their poor knowledge of grammar (syntax in particular).

Some examples of tasks:

- Read the following sentences and guess the meaning of the words you don’t know.

- These sentences are too complicated. Break them into shorter sentences.

- What is the significance of the tense difference?

The third group of exercises help pupils to get information from the text. To read a text the pupil must possess the ability to grasp the contents of the text. The pupil is to be taught to compare, to contrast, to guess and to foresee events.

Before-questions may be very helpful for reading comprehension. They direct the pupil’s thought when he reads the text. The teacher instructs pupils how to get information from the text. Communicative exercises are recommended. They are all connected with silent reading. These may be:

- Read and say why…

- Read and find answers to the following questions

- Read the text. Find the words which describe.

- Read the text and say what made somebody do something.

- Read the text and prove that.

Comprehension may also be checked using the following tasks:

- Read and draw.

- Find the following information

- Correct the following statements

- Find the most important sentences in the text.

Some of the assignments may be done in writing.

If the text is easy enough the text uses those techniques which are connected with speaking, with the active use of vocabulary and sentence patterns (asking questions, making up questions, summarizing, discussing).

The work must be carried out in a way which will be of interest to pupils and develop not only their reading ability but their aural comprehension and speaking abilities as well.

If the text is difficult, i.e. if it contains unfamiliar words and grammar items the techniques the teacher uses should be different as intensive work is needed on their part.

The intensive work may be connected with:

  1. Lexical work which helps pupils to deepen and enrich their vocabulary knowledge.

  2. Grammar work which helps pupils to review and systematize their grammar knowledge and enrich it through grammar analysis.

  3. Content analysis.

The exercises are mostly connected with recognition on the part of the learners (find and read, find and analyze, find and translate, answer the questions, read those sentences which you think contain the main information).

Unfortunately, some teachers have a tendency to test instead of teach and they often confine themselves to reading and translating the text. This is a bad practice. The procedure becomes monotonous and the work is ineffective.

Reading texts should meet the following requirements:

- Interesting and have something new for the learners.

- Deal mostly with the life of people whose language pupils study to achieve the cultural aim.

- Be of educational value.

- Easy enough for pupils’ comprehension to get pleasure from reading.

- Should help pupils in enriching their knowledge of the language, in extending so-called potential vocabulary.

While reading pupils are taught to perform the following “acts”:

- To anticipate the subject of the text. This may be done through the title and skimming are “selective reading”

- To search for facts in the text. This is done through before – questions and other assignments phrases and sentences by his own for the purpose. All this results in better comprehension. In this way they are trained to give a summary of the text read.

- To interpret the text. Pupils have to acquire necessary habits in interpreting the text (evaluating, giving their opinion).

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