What if most students of 9th and 10th standard appeared for an assessment of speaking skills and sat silent? What does one understand from this? What does one do about it?
My assumption is that at this stage, students have learnt enough English to be able to express themselves, but what stops them from speaking is their mental block. This block stems from lack of practice in speaking the language. The environment in many schools is such that the students do not get sufficient opportunities to speak English even in the English period!
I have tried different activities from the students speaking, after preparation, in front of the class on the topic of their choice to the students speaking extempore in front of the class and making presentations in English. But these activities do not achieve the desired results as the students do not get sufficient opportunities. In a class of 30 to 35 students, for example, a student gets to speak only once or twice during an entire month. This is not enough. Also, shy students stay away from such activities.
What are my pedagogical objectives?
Students do not lack ideas, what they need help with is in organizing their ideas. In other words, similar to writing skills, their communicative competency suffers from incoherence and this affects their ability to speak fluently.
Generally, helping students enhance their speaking skill involves improving
2) Fluency: coherence and language style
Rubric for the Assessment of Speaking Skill
*Lots of specific details
*Some specific details
*Some weak points
*Some specific details
*All weak points
*Some specific details
|*Lot of hesitation
|*Negligible error in grammar
*Negligible error in pronunciation
*Effective use of intonation
|*Few errors in grammar
*Few errors in pronunciation
*Some use of intonation
|*Some errors in grammar
*Some errors in pronunciation
*Less use of intonation
|*Lots of errors in grammar
*Lots of errors in pronunciation
*Hardly used any intonation
|*Maintains eye contact
*Takes turn to speak
|*Fulfils almost all the criteria
|Fulfils some criteria
|Fulfils few criteria
I have specifically focused on helping students improve their content and fluency.
What is my integrated approach to enhance students’ speaking skills?
The approach consists of integrating speaking with pre-reading and post-reading activities.
Integrating speaking to pre-reading
Before reading a text: articles, stories, poems, or plays from the prescribed textbooks, all the activities are designed to be speaking using ASL (Assessment of Speaking and Listening) format:
a) Introduction: Students introduce themselves.
b) Topic presentation: Students have to plan before they speak on a given topic. This includes brainstorming on the topic, choosing the three best ideas, making a thesis statement, outlining the thesis and elaborating the main idea. After that students present their views on the given topic in accordance with the plan.
c) Discussion topic: Usually a debatable topic related to the curriculum is given for extempore speaking. The students do not get time to prepare for the activity.
d) Summing up: According to their weekly rotational roles, spokespersons of the groups have to sum up the main ideas of the group topic.
e) Panel discussion: The respective spokespersons of the groups participate in the panel discussion on the discussion topic. They share their views on the topic and argue for or against the opinions of the other members of the panel.
Integrating speaking with post-reading
After reading a text from their prescribed book, students are engaged in the following speaking activities:
a) Group discussion: Students discuss their doubts and questions from the text as well as beyond the text.
b) Class discussion: The group discussion is followed by a class discussion. Spokespersons of the groups play an active role here as well. Also, doubts and questions remaining unresolved in the group discussion are clarified here.
The challenges I have faced
Conducting ASL of a large number of students before the term end, twice within an academic year, consumes a lot of time and energy. Besides, the entire exercise is taken up in haste to meet the mandatory CBSE requirements. So, I came up with the idea of incorporating it into the class routine. I have used this activity not only to assess students’ speaking skills but also as a framework to structure their speaking activity. Therefore, instead of just twice a year, students practice their spoken English using this format every week.
What does the data reveal?
The following graph and table are the quantitative representation of the data collected based on the performance of the students in their speaking skills, viz., content and fluency, from 2018 to 2019.
Overall Effect of Integrated Approach to Enhancement of Students’ Speaking Skill:2018-2019
The graph highlights that there has been a steady rise in the content of students’ spoken English as it increased from 43.75% in 2018 to 58.75% in 2019. Regarding the improvement in fluency, it progressed from 41.25% in 2018 to 56.25% in 2019. The strategies I have applied appear to have brought the desired results.
Improving a skill is a slow and long process. Therefore, the improvement in fluency has not caught up with the content, but the improvement in content must have pushed up their score for fluency because as per my assumption with regard to their proficiency in English, at the secondary level of schooling, students have learned enough English to express themselves. What impedes them is their mental block caused by the lack of skill in coming up with ideas and putting them in a coherent manner and their lack of confidence to speak in English due to the dearth of an English-speaking environment in our schools.
The author is P.G.T, English. He works at Tibetan Children’s Village School in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.