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How to Improve Speaking Skills in the ESL Classroom

How to Improve Speaking Skills in the ESL Classroom

Dorit Sasson

What do you do when students don’t want to put that extra mile to do a speaking presentation, so they get cold feet and read from their notes just to get by. Improving speaking skills takes a lot of classroom practice, motivation to speak, and skill. Sometimes it is necessary to think beyond the box, adding creative elements wherever possible depending of course, on the skills of your students and how open they are to creative thinking.

Improving the speaking skills of your students may be difficult, but the added benefit is building confidence in students for speaking skills and strategies in a foreign or second language. Even though the professional years are still way in the future, help your students by starting small.

Speaking Activities

1.Use picture prompts. Depending on the variety of visual resources and class level and ability, a teacher can brainstorm with the class a variety of sentences, (key) words, and phrases around a particular category or situational context that is the building block for a presentation.

2.Follow-up with a memory game or exercise. Students then work in pairs writing down or translating the words they remember.

Effective Teaching Continues

1.Another teaching activity involves asking questions or presenting statements that are not true about themselves, and then asking their friends to decide whether they are true or false. Students have a lot of fun with this one.

2.Play Adjectives All Around! Students have one minute to present all the adjectives they can in a sentence.

3.This person is _______________________________________________.

4.The other student then tries and guess who the person is. Make sure they include a minimum of five adjectives and no more than seven or eight. A teacher can use this activity to draw the students’ attention to the different categories that make up an adjective.

Additional Tips for Improving Speaking Skills

*Allot a time limit for each and every speaking activity. Take into consideration those activities that involve either group or pair work.

*Keep the activity fun and simple. Make sure the instructions are also crystal clear.

*Don’t overdo speaking activities in one lesson.

*Make sure you aim for a balance between speaking and listening.

*Have a back-up plan for the entire class and for individual students who are withdrawn.

*Always reflect on what can you do as a teacher to help students improve their speaking skills.

Remember, the more diverse and creative your speaking activities become, the easier it will be to train your students to improve their speaking skills and speaking exercises will become much more automatic. I’ll be giving away a FREE teaching report on how to improve fluency in English language learners to those who leave a comment at the New Teacher Resource Center. Now…I hope you’ll visit the next site on the blog chain sponsored by the National Writing for Children Center. That site is; For a list of all the links on the chain, go to

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