LESSON TIP: How To Improve Students’ Fluency
Students often need to express their opinion in 1-2 minutes, by responding to some questions, analyzing problems and/or proposing their own ideas. They don’t only need to do this, but should do it with adequate fluency and accuracy. Still, they waste time by looking for a word or try to put together a complex grammatical form. More than ever before an exam they need to understand what it means that they need to analyze and comment about a topic while the clock is clicking. Read this article describing a lesson tip about fluency training.
SPEED UP YOUR ONE MINUTE
To help them understand time, handle time pressure, concentrate on vocabulary and quickly choose correct grammar, repeat this quick exercise at the beginning (warmer) or at the end (wind-down) of your lessons:
– Put your students into pairs and give them random topics/statements on cards (you can also list these together during the lesson). These topics can be anything, but should be linked to the level and unit you are discussing with them. For example, general topics are: classical music / your city / Italian food / the English language; statements could be: It’s good to listen to classical music while you are studying. / I would never want to live in another city. / Italian food is the best in the entire world. / The English language is not that easy after all.
– Put onto the whiteboard the four stages you want them to respect, for example:
1) I think / In my opinion + your point of view (if they have a topic)
I couldn’t agree more / I completely disagree with this statement (if they have a statement)
2) On the one hand, …
3) On the other hand, …
4) To sum up, … / All in all, …
– Explain the task to your students: One of the pairs draws a card and has 15 seconds to think about it. The other students sets up their mobile phone or watch to one minute, starts the timer and listens to the first speaker expressing their opinion on a topic. Once the time is over, the students with the timer give quick feedback and suggestions. Then they repeat the task with the same topic/statement and the same layout (ergo, the same student tries to express their opinion in a minute the second time). This second time, they should be more concentrated, fluent and include more details into their one-minute talk.
– Monitor the students for accuracy, without interrupting them. They can repeat the task up to 3 times. You can correct relevant errors between two rounds if it is really necessary. The task should be really dynamic: draw a card, think for 15 seconds, talk for 1 minute, give feedback in 30 seconds, talk again for 1 minute, etc.
– After 2-3 rounds, ask the students to swap roles and repeat the task.
– At the very end or in the next lesson, give feedback on accuracy based on your monitoring. Always consider what mistakes you need to correct: re-occuring errors or mistakes with currently taught language forms need to be readjusted, but you don’t need to correct every single mistake. Even in exams, the communicative skills and the overall achievement are way more important than perfect grammar or knowing niche vocabulary.
The first time you explain and rehearse the task might take up about 15 minutes. The second time you do this exercise, your students will know what to do and what expressions to use, so it will become a quick 5-minute warm-up or wind-down task.
You can also recycle the topic/statement cards, but after a while, you might want to add new expressions for giving opinions (to my mind, as I see it, etc.) and you will need to adapt the topics to a new unit.
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