Problems with speaking activities
1. Inhibition: Learners are often inhibited about trying to say things in a foreign language in the class room. They are worried about making mistakes, fearful of criticism or losing face.
2. Nothing to say: Even if they are not inhibited, we often hear learners complain that they cannot think of anything to say.
3. Low or uneven participation: Only one participant talks at a time or he or she dominates the group while others speak very little or not at all. In a large group each member gets very little talking time.
4. Mother-tongue use: In classes where all or a number of the learners share the same mother tongue, they are likely to use it. It is easier and it feels unnatural to speak to one another in a foreign language.
Some practical Ideas to solve these problems
1. Use group or pair work: This increases the sheer amount of learner talk going on in a limited period of time and also lowers the inhibitions of learners who are unwilling to speak in front of the full class.
2. Base the activity on easy language: In general, the level of language needed for a discussion should be lower than that used in intensive language-learning activities in the same class. It should be easily recalled and produced by the participants, so that they can speak fluently with the minimum of hesitation. It is a good idea to teach or review essential vocabulary before the activity starts.
3. Make a careful choice of topic and task to stimulate interest: On the whole, the clearer the purpose of the discussion the more motivated participants will be.
4. Give some instruction or training in discussion skills: If the task is based on group discussion then include instructions about participation when introducing it. For example, tell learners to make sure that everyone in the group contributes to the discussion; appoint a chairperson to each group who will regulate participation.
5. Keep students speaking the target language: You might appoint one of the group member as monitor, whose job is to remind participants to use the target language, and he or she report later to the teacher how well the group managed to keep to it. Be with the weak group yourself as much as possible helping and reminding the group to use the target language.
Characteristics of a successful speaking activity
1. Learners talk a lot: most of the time allotted for the activity is occupied by learner talk not by teacher talk or pause.
2. Participation is even: Classroom discussion is not dominated by a minority of talkative participants. All get a chance to speak, and contributions are evenly distributed.
3. Motivation is high: Learners are eager to speak because they are interested in the topic and have something new to say about it or because they want to contribute to achieve a task objective.
4. Language is of an acceptable level: Learners express themselves in utterances that are relevant, easily comprehensive to each other, and of an acceptable level of language accuracy.