Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Telling stories to improve speaking

One of my assignments for my Masters in TESOL course was to write an analysis of a high stake examination. The task required me to observe how such an examination was conducted, to assess its strengths and weaknesses and to interview the candidates to obtain first hand response. I chose IELTS because many of my students were future candidates for the examination. The security surrounding any high stake examination is always tight and IELTS is no exception. So after several weeks of email correspondence, followed by phone calls, I was finally permitted to observe one such examination being conducted, subject to stringent conditions.

I asked the candidates what worried them most about their Speaking Interview. Their response was: “poor grammar,’ pronunciation and fear of being tongue tied.” Their anxieties sum up the general feeling of most ESL students preparing for the IELTS. The main cause for their worries is the lack of exposure to an English speaking environment. This implies that they speak and learn English only within the confines of the classroom but once out in the market place or at home, they revert to their mother tongue.

In order to improve students’ speaking proficiency, I often tell them inspiring stories taken from 'Chicken Soup for the Soul’ or from other reading sources as well as TV programs. Then I make them repeat the stories in their own words.
They continue to rehearse the same stories or stories of their choice as they go about their daily business and to present them in class or to willing listeners. At the same time, they are encouraged to maintain a constant dialogue with themselves in English based on potential IELTS topics. This approach has been very effective in improving spoken English.

No comments: