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How do you motivate your L2 students to speak?

asked 2015-05-19 10:52:19 -0400

Leapam gravatar image

updated 2015-05-19 10:58:41 -0400

Hi, I'm a high school teacher of language and literature in the Philippines. I've been reading quite a number of articles from linguists and researchers about teaching grammar, and I find the approaches and theoretical frameworks useful (esp. the focus on form). However, no matter how sound and reliable these approaches are, if the students would not want to speak, all the teacher's effort would end up being wasted. So, I would like to seek advice: How can I motivate my students to use the language in speaking?

If you could share some strats and techniques, I would appreciate it a lot. Thank you so much!

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answered 2015-05-26 13:21:32 -0400

Nike gravatar image

Whenever students are reluctant to speak, I think it's useful to give them small speaking tasks, meaning they are required to speak a few words or one or two sentences at a time only, and in my experience it helps if the setting feels a bit informal. For example:

  • Play a game such as Taboo ( ) or Who Am I ( ).
  • Give them a list of interesting questions (e.g. ) and have each student ask a question to the student next to them.
  • After explaining a particular grammar point you let each of them think of a sentence with this grammar point, and you can even give them each a word/verb that they have to use.
  • Let them talk about something that they find interesting. You can reserve a fixed time span (say 10 mins) for conversation and let them all give you suggestions beforehand about the topic.
  • Show them pictures of funny situations (e.g. ) and ask them to describe what they see.
  • Let each of them bring a photo and have them describe when and where this was taken (and ask them one follow-up question - or ask if anybody else can think of a question). Start with your own picture if they need an example.

If necessary, I'd also stress beforehand that making mistakes is okay, and is in fact part of the learning process. Everybody who speaks a foreign language started out speaking it badly. Also, you might tell them you are available as a human dictionary and a lifeline, so you are there to help them formulate what they want to say.

Finally, it's always easier to get students to talk when they are in a smaller group, or on their own, so if you can arrange that, it might be helpful.

Good luck!

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answered 2015-05-24 20:23:24 -0400

usagi5886 gravatar image

updated 2015-05-24 20:24:50 -0400

What makes language teaching (or any kind of teaching, for that matter) so complicated is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The best approach will depend on your skill set, the students' needs and desires, the institutional context, etc., etc. So I'd recommend trying many things and finding out what works in your specific situation.

A good place to start looking for strategies and techniques would be a post on the Calico Spanish blog called 29 Proven Ways to Motivate Your World Language Students

You might also find some additional useful ideas from the article Motivating Students to Study a Foreign Language from the Bob Jones University Press website.

From my own experience teaching foreign languages, I think the best advice would be to close your eyes and pretend you are one of your students, walking into the classroom. Imagine what their day-to-day life is like - what they do immediately before/after your class, as well as the rest of the day. Looking at things from their eyes, what could you do as their teacher to get them to be more motivated? What I would guess would probably work the best in your situation is to find a way to make it clearer what the practical value/usefulness of learning English is (to their career, to them having fun on the Internet, etc.)

I hope this helps!

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Asked: 2015-05-19 10:52:19 -0400

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Last updated: May 24 '15