This is a very big question that I always ask myself, ‘how to make my students speak English without tears?’. I am still searching for the answer. 

Being given 7 classes to teach this semester seems like a nightmare for me. Not only that, each class contains about 40 or even 50 college students. Well, it is not as large as last semester when I got up to 80 students in one class. Yet, still, handling 40-50 students in English for Communication class is a big challenge for me as an English teacher.

Honestly, I encounter many difficulties in teaching English at my institution. First, I teach Public Health and Sports Science students who have low English proficiency especially speaking skill. Second, as mentioned before, the amount of students is too large (for me). Can you imagine how difficult do I carry on the class? I need to decide teaching strategies and learning objectives appropriately thus students can take a part in my class. Third, the faculty provides small meeting room for both of me and my students to study with U-shape seating arrangement. The tables can’t be moved. It is difficult to ask students to work in group then.

Within the situation I’ve been asked by the faculty boards to teach communication skills. Oh my god, what should I do? It is difficult to invite students to speak English. Yes, absolutely, they are reluctant to speak English due to they are afraid to make mistakes. I’ve been trying to motivate my students to speak foreign languages by sharing them my experiences. I did a lot of mistakes when speaking Thai when I firstly came to Thailand. Then, I ensure my students that it is normal to make mistakes when they are speaking English since it is not their mother language.

I hope by motivating them day by day, I can encourage them to speak up during the class. ‘Well, don’t give up! You need time to engage them to be attractive’, I said it to myself. Lol

Then, I realize that self-confidence is the password to make students speaking English. It’s like a key to open the door. What door? Door to provide opportunities for them to speak and speak. It’s like a captcha which determine that they are human beings, not robots, so it’s okay to make some errors. So, building students’ self-confidence is like a login access that I need to do at the very first of your class. Of course it’s done by motivating them.

Again, building students’ self-confidence is not as easy as ABC. It is not as easy as falling off a log. It’s not like clicking a magical button ‘abrakadabra’, then my students have high confidence to speak.  It’s one of the biggest challenges which needs more efforts and struggles.

So, here is what I’ve been doing in my class to encourage my students to enhance their confidence:

Let them to make errors.
Finding my students speaking English in my class is a happiness for me. So, I just let them to make errors as long as they speak English. Some of them might speak short phrases (not full sentences), as long as I understand, I will respond them. If I don’t understand what they mean, I will ask them to explain again.
However, as a teacher I should sometimes correct their sentences or pronunciation. I correct the errors in a right time by not interrupting them when they are speaking. I give them feedback after they are finish explaining.

Provide easy and interesting topics

Well, by providing them an easy and interesting topic which they are familiar with, they will have a lot of ideas in their mind. It will ease them to speak out. I sometimes ask them about which Korean Drama they have already watched. What is their opinion about the drama. Or, for male students, I sometimes asked which football club that they like the most. Simply, I invite them to have small conversation with me.

Give them guiding questions

I give an outline for students regarding a certain topic, for example talking about ‘Thailand Culture’. Then, I ask them to work in group and select one category of culture (festival, famous food, traditional dance, and so on). After they select one category, I will give guiding questions for each group. For example, if they choose ‘festival’, I will ask, what is the name of the festival?, when the festival is held?, where the festival is held?, etc.

Give them time to prepare
I will give them time to prepare what they want to speak. They may write the script on their notebook, but when they present they will be not allowed to read or to cheat the script. The duration that I give them for preparation depends on the topic being discussed. 5 or 10 minutes is enough. Or I give about 20 – 25 minutes for work discussion activity. 

Allow them to speak Thai language at the end of the class

Before closing the lesson, I ask students to discuss what they have learnt in Thai language. It is done to ensure that they understand the lesson and the learning objectives are achieved. After discussing in Thai language, I will ask one or two students to explain in English.

Well, that’s what I’ve been doing in my class to engage my students to speak in my class. Hopefully it can inspire you all.

Do you have any other ideas? Please feel free to share with me in comment box. 

Thank you for reading ^^
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