Why do pupils find speaking challenging?
One of the myriad of reasons why pupils find speaking in a foreign language difficult, is their confidence. In my experience this seems to have increased in line with the perceived difficultly of the subject and pupils are not as resilient as we would have liked. This can make it very difficult to cultivate good habits in our young and budding linguists and our desire to improve their speaking skills. That’s not to say that there aren’t some exceptionally confident pupils out there. However, to what extent are they able to manipulate the language, beyond a highly scaffolded and constructed situation?
My personal experiences
This takes me back to my experience of being a sixth former, with a truly magnificent French teacher. She seemed to have had improving speaking skills, fluency and language manipulation at the heart of what she did. There was a routine to our first and final lessons, a chat, about the weekend. At the start, it was quite slow, but by the end of two years, this had developed quite a lot. We were able to take ownership of the language for ourselves and have our own conversations. They were not those that were “scripted” for us.
It was this regularity, coupled with weekly verb tests, in multiple tenses that enabled my peers and I to develop our skills as linguists. There was some rote learning, but eventually that became less and less, and we became more familiar with the grammar rules of the language. Finally, some freedom to express the language for ourselves! It was certainly one of my frustrations as a younger pupil, i.e. I can order stamps and say that the car is broken, but I can’t have a chat with someone my own age from the target language country!
Adaptations and recycling
So, as an NQT, I adapted this technique for my own needs to improve my pupils speaking skills. I made a couple of simple slides, that I still use, with some key verbs to help answer the past/future tense questions. I highlighted the patterns and some irregularities. The pictures are the same in order to give the pupils something to link the tenses together. It starts out quite simply, but with questioning, the pupils can then develop a greater degree of independent speech development. However, now I would perhaps update this a little, although this would be for the demands of the new GCSE. Does this then become my aim, rather than trying to bring about enjoyment in developing language skills?
The resources are below, and comments are welcome.