06 March 2007

Top Ten student speaking activities in order of stress

In a discussion about classroom speaking activities for students a teacher suggested: "Perhaps there is a middle ground between forcing students to speak and letting them stay completely silent."

Most people are shy or timid in unfamiliar situations. Most of us who are professional teachers have gained confidence through the expertise in what we do but may still be timid in unfamiliar situations. Some of us have reached the point where we can boldly go where angels fear to tread and are ready to laugh at our bumbling. We could say this is not an English teacher issue but a human issue that all people have to deal with.

But within the realm of the classroom, is there something we can do to help students, a middle ground as Maria put it? There are various speaking relationships that are easier than others. Here's my Top Ten list of speaking activities in order of stress:

10. Pair work with a student friend. Least stressful.

9. Group work with student friends.

8. Pair work with student who is not a friend. (I find this very effective if the problem of students not talking is they are too cliquish or cool with their buddies.)

7. Group work with fellow students who are not friends.

6. Talk with teacher.

5. Talk in front of class and teacher.

4. Talk with native English speaking strangers who are not part of the class.

3. Make an announcement to a group of people.

2. Make a presentation to a large number of people.

An the #1 most stressful speaking activity would be:

1. Give a talk to people who are hostile to the idea you are presenting, like a press conference about something controversial.

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