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The Best Technique To Increase Students’ Participation In EFL Classes

In this article, I’m going to shed a light on the best technique that the teachers can use in their EFL classes to increase their students’ time of participation and talking.

In order to judge a lesson as it is going well, the proportion of time spent by the students to speak should be more than that time spent in speaking by the teacher.

Competent teachers should be able to maintain students’ participation of 60:70% with ease and limit their own talking time.

Some techniques can do this job effectively. The best one of them is:

Using Replacement & Substitution Drills

Like many other practice techniques, the basic principle is to set a pattern which the students follow.

Usually, students repeat a sentence and then change an element in it.

Here is an example of a drill on the simple past tense you can have with a student :

  • T: How many times did you go to the theatre last year?
  • S: I went to the theatre about 10 times last year.
  • T: And the cinema?
  • S: I went to the cinema about 30 times last year.
  • T: And your wife?
  • S: She went to the cinema about 30 times last year too.
  • T: And the theatre?
  • S: She went to the theatre about 5 times last year.
  • T: And the children?
  • S: They didn’t go to the theatre last year.
  • T: And to school?
  • S: They went to school about 230 times last year.
  • T: And on holiday?
  • S: They went on holiday 3 times last year.
  • T: And last month?
  • S: They didn’t go on holiday last month.
  • T: And you and your wife?
  • S: We didn’t go on holiday last month too.
  • T: Either!
  • S: We didn’t go on holiday last month either.

In this example, you can see that the use of prompts or cues from the teacher to elicit a new sentence instead of a full question cuts down his intervention time considerably.

The potential for a drill like this in even a simple sentence is enormous.

Subject, object, verb, adjective, adverb, tense.

All can be changed to create a new sentence. Take this simple sentence as an example:

“Tom goes to Liverpool twice a week by car.”

Tom=A, Liverpool=B, Twice= C, Week=D, Car=E,

Each element A-E can be changed in a replacement drill.

Take these few examples:

A: Peter, Mr. Jones, My assistant, The man next door, A girl who works with me, you, me, my husband and I.

B: Brighton, the country, the seaside, work, a nice little pub by the river.

C: Once, 5 times.

D: A day, a month, a year, an hour.

E: By taxi, by bicycle, on foot, in his veteran steamroller.

Of course, the teacher should use replacements that are suitable for students’ levels of learning.

Using Replacement Drills To Elicit Tenses

Slightly more sophisticated use of replacement drills is to use them to elicit structural elements, especially tenses.

  • T: How many times did you take a plane last year?
  • S: I took a plane 5 times last year.
  • T: And so far this year?
  • S: I have taken a plane only once so far this year.
  • T: and last week?
  • S: I didn’t take a plane last week.
  • T: and this week?
  • S: I haven’t taken a plane this week either.

The student must switch from simple past to present perfect and back again according to the prompt.

Numerous variations on this theme are possible. And they are useful to find out if a student can use tenses correctly and spontaneously; that is without the teacher using the tense in a question.

Another example might check a sequence of perfect tenses. We can make it more difficult by using passives and getting the student to ask the questions:

  • T: How many French cars were exported last year?
  • S: I don’t know!
  • T: Ask me then.
  • S: How many French cars were exported last year?
  • T: 300,000…. and by the end of June last year? Ask!
  • S: How many cars had been exported by the end of June last year?
  • T: Good, 120,000…. and so far this year?
  • S: How many cars have been exported so far this year?
  • T: Only 100,000 … and by the end of this year?
  • S: How many cars will have been exported by the end of this year?
  • T: 400,000…. Now let’s try it with “imported”.
  • S” How many …….etc.

Once again the teacher is using a very short prompt and this time the student has a lot of work on his plate to adjust his sentence accordingly.

As you see, this kind of drill is appropriate at every level of teaching.

In other words, it can be used not only for the basic practice of certain structures which just require a lot of repetition but also for the teacher to explore what needs to be done with more advanced students.

That’s it.

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