Category: Develop Students’ Speaking Skills

The Top Five Tips That Help Students Speak English

1. Praise them for speaking and pronouncing English well:

Encourage them to peak in English without fearing of making mistakes. Focus on the use of English and reinforce any successful attempts to produce English in real-life situations.

2. Set goals, give clear instructions and model activities:

Tell students WHY an activity is done and what objectives should be achieved at the end of each activity. Tell students HOW to do the activity and give them clear instructions. You should model the activity with one of your best students so everyone can see what they need to do and say.

3. Force students to think and express personally:

Don’t focus only on questions that require mechanical answers but surprise students with questions that force them to pay attention and think personally to give answers. This will improve the class atmosphere and not only enhance speaking but also develop listening skill.

4. Vary your activities:

Start with simple, mechanical activities, then continue with something more meaningful and finish with communicative activities. Variety is required to keep students’ attention and improve their involvement in activities accordingly.

5. Use competition to motivate students to speak:

Divide the class into teams and design a challenge for them to encourage each team to do their best to express well so as to win.

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The Eight Ways to Engage Shy Students in Speaking Tasks

Supporting and encouraging shy students within classroom can sometimes be one of the most important things that the teacher should focus on. But first, you should think about it, some students are naturally introvert and quiet. They like to be silent. So, your mission is not to turn them into extroverted students, but your aim is to increase their self-confidence and improve their speaking skill. It may take some time, but you can have positive results in the end. Just be patient an persist.

Don’t make special exceptions for “shy” students in the class as this will bring attention to them and create more anxiety for them. Here are ten suggestions you can try to encourage and support shy students in your class

1. Build a relationship with them:

Find out their likes and dislikes and then make their interests as triggers for them to speak and answer questions. Explain to them that there is no right or wrong answer to a certain question, so they should try to speak to untie their tongue and improve their speaking skill. There is no need to be shy or afraid to participate in the discussion.

2. Motivate them:

Any kind of participation from them in speaking tasks even it is just repetition must be encouraged and praised from you.

3. Create comfortable and supportive learning environment:

All students including shy ones will not speak and participate in class tasks unless they feel comfortable and not threatened.

4. Use collaborative learning:

Using pair and group work can encourage students to take small steps in speaking. When the shy student become a member of a group, he/she feels less threatened and less anxious. In groups, students exchange opinions freely without fear because they are not exposed directly to the whole class-environment which can lead to silence and reluctance to participate.

5. Use role-playing:

Use social interactions, situations or stories that may occur in real life and encourage shy students to participate in role playing them. Introduce how to play each role and teach the class some social openers for greeting others.

6. Involve parents and past teachers:

talk with them about what works and didn’t work with shy students. Ask parents about how their children feel at home and how they support and encourage them to speak up more.

7. Provide confidence:

All the time tell students that it doesn’t matter if they make mistakes while speaking as it’s normal to happen. The only most important thing is to talk in public in front of the whole class. Add, be confident and try again and again, and you will not feel embarrassed for sure.

8. Let them do easy tasks:

Ask them to repeat after you or after a brilliant student. Tailor as easy tasks as possible to them to give them the push they need.

Always observe their behavior and take notes of their reactions for situations particularly uncomfortable ones to change the setting for their favor.

Do you have any more suggestions. Let us know by leaving a comment. 

Why and How to Use Stories to Motivate Speaking in EFL Classes

“Storytelling” … Why?

As we all know, stories have always played a significant role in children’s growth. Stories not only help in stimulating children’s imagination and understanding of the world, but also in developing their language ability and appreciating literature. So, storytelling is highly recommended in EFL speaking classes and here are some reasons:

Firstly, motivating and immensely interesting stories can best attract listeners and promote communication.

Secondly, stories are an enormous language treasure. For hundreds of years, thousands of stories have been created and passed down. Many old stories are regarded as the models of language and treasures of the culture. Learners at various language levels and age groups can find suitable stories to read and tell. It would be a waste and pity if they are neglected in the course of EFL/ESL. In addition, stories are easily accessible and storybooks can be found in bookstores and borrowed from libraries or friends. Today, the most convenient and quickest way to find stories is from the Internet.

Thirdly, the lively atmosphere and real life environment created by stories encourages students to talk and discuss with each other. When telling and listening to a story, the learners will easily be plunged into the scene and the plots which will, to a great degree, relieve their nervousness.

Fourthly, storytelling helps EFL learners become more self-confident to express themselves spontaneously and creatively.

Fifthly, stories can solve the problem of having no time to meet with partners to practice dialogues. Sometimes, partners are dispensable to practice storytelling though it is better to have an audience.

How to Use Stories?

At first, if students are not confident in their speaking skills, it is recommended that they are given enough time to prepare. As students build their confidence and their classroom language becomes more free and active, the teacher can gradually increase the difficulty and make the game more versatile. To motivate and encourage students, points and prizes are granted to good tellers and groups each time.

Warming Up

Students listen to some stories downloaded from the Internet and repeat as they listen. This gives them an opportunity to improve their pronunciation, stress and intonation. They are offered three stories each time and required to practice the one they like best. A competition is held every two weeks. Every student is required to tell one to three stories naturally and expressively. When they do so, they will feel much more confident in telling stories in English than before.

Activity 1

Divide the students into groups and each group prepares a story. Each member of the group tells two to three sentences and the next one continues until the end of the story. The length of the story could gradually increase from two or three minutes to four or five minutes. Before the lesson, students could divide their tasks in advance and practice their own parts. The teacher moves among the groups and chooses two or three groups to present their stories before the class. Because students have enough time to prepare and work together, this helps them build confidence and create a lively and brisk atmosphere.

Activity 2

Ask each student to prepare a story (about two minutes long) in advance. Divide the students into groups with four to five members in each group and ask them to tell his/her story in the group. Each group selects the best storyteller to compete for the best storyteller of the class. The class selects the best and the second best storyteller. Since the performance of each storyteller is connected to the score of everyone, students will be greatly involved in the whole process and listen to the stories attentively, which will in turn promote the performance of the storytellers.

To avoid the few best storytellers dominating the activity, the best storytellers will be arranged in the same group next time. They will have to work harder in order to win again. This will make the winners stronger, increase the opportunities of others and promote the whole class participation.

There are many ways to use stories in speaking classes. It is also advised to encourage students to find more interesting stories and create different ways to use them. Besides, in the course of looking for, rewriting and completing stories, their reading, writing and imagination can be further developed; teamwork and friendship will become stronger by working in groups. So let stories be there in your speaking classes.

Four Main Factors Discouraging Students from Speaking in EFL Classes


Most students hope they can speak English fluently. Although they have the desire to participate in speaking tasks in EFL classes, EFL teachers describe their response to these tasks as “Not good”.  There might be some factors demotivate them. Here are the main four factors that discourage them from participating in speaking exercises.

1. Fear of making mistakes:

Speaking skills are often neglected because of large classes in some places. There, students have little chance to practice speaking in class. This leads to the result that speaking skills of most students are low.

On the other hand, the fear of “losing face” prevents students from speaking in class. For many English learners, they believe if they make mistakes or fail to find suitable words to express themselves, they will lose face. To protect themselves from being laughed at, they are reluctant to speak. So they rotate in a vicious circle: the less they speak, the less they improve their speaking skills, and the more they are afraid of speaking.

2. Topics are not interesting:

The dominating speaking tasks according to communicative approach aim to enable students to cope, in the target language, with typical situations in school and work environments as well as in ordinary life. Most of these tasks require students to role-play and learn dialogues according to given situations or topics. Students often complain that they have been repeatedly asked to introduce their families or schools, talk about their hobbies or favorite studies, make dialogues on topics such as job interviews, meeting visitors or shopping. These “practical” topics and situations provide little space for students to imagine and create. Therefore, dialogues on these situational topics are hard to develop in depth and width. Students tend to lose interest in what they learn if they find they make little progress and say repeatedly what they have learned.

Another problem with this kind of topic-based speaking training is you can’t expect all the listeners to be interested in your hobby or favorite studies. Moreover, the other students in the classroom are talking about similar things, which could hardly offer anything new to each other. Consequently, students in the speaking tasks are not very attentive and the speakers just make a perfunctory effort instead of getting involved, not even to mention enjoying it.

3. Classroom atmosphere is not encouraging:

The effect of classroom atmosphere on language learning, especially an oral class, is obvious and immediate. A free and friendly atmosphere promotes communications, while a nervous and stiff atmosphere builds invisible obstacles in communications. So, teachers should create real-life and various situations that sound enchanting and encourage students to participate.

4. Feedback of the listeners is not supportive:

Listeners’ feedback also has a strong influence on the performance of the speakers. Very often, at the beginning of the performance, the speakers are confident and active when doing some dialogues or role play exercises. However, when the listener students lose interest in the speakers, begin to talk to each other or just do whatever else instead of listening attentively to the speakers, the speakers tend to, consciously or unconsciously, speed up or cut down their words, trying to flee back to their own seats as quickly as they can.  Even the slightest indifference or impatience indicated by the listener students can be immediately felt by the speakers, which, in turn, greatly inhibits their passion to communicate. Of course, teachers can force the listener students to listen to the speakers but it is of no use blaming them. The most effective way is to use interesting topics that relate to the listeners’ life.

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