I think these English classes are a waste of time and money. We don’t get to practice speaking enough.-unnamed student
I overheard a student say that, though, thankfully not my student. Truthfully though, after doing a mental review of my classes, I could see that my own classes were part of the problem. I tended to teach grammar in every grammar lesson, reading and writing in the reading and writing class and kept the speaking activities restricted to the, yep, you guessed it. The Speaking/Listening class. We didn’t sit around and talk about gerunds and infinitives.
We weren’t exactly encouraged to do otherwise. Each class had clear objectives, and speaking was not part of any objective for a grammar lesson. So, students often made it through the entire two-hour grammar class without speaking unless they had a question. This hardly helps with improving speaking skills, one of their biggest goals.
Speaking should be a part of every class–even grammar class.
Students who had flown thousands of miles and were paying thousands of dollars to study in an Intensive English Program (IEP) while being immersed in an English-speaking environment were basically on mute for most of the day. No wonder they struggled to speak to local citizens outside of class!
But, grammar class is for grammar lessons, some teachers protest. And, they’re right. Students who want to have speaking opportunities are also right, so how do we marry the necessities? Why, we have speaking activities centered on whatever grammar concept makes up that day’s lesson!
Let’s say that your lesson is on gerunds and infinitives. You’ve already shared a grammar guide with them, and maybe they’ve completed some gerund and infinitive worksheets. So what now? Just have them read aloud the sentences from the worksheets? Or, have them complete the worksheet orally? Nope.
A grammar speaking activity?!
You want something better, and so do your adult ESL students. Interaction with others is needed for it to be a true speaking activity. One of my favorite adult ESL speaking activities is Find Someone Who.
Perhaps your argument is that this activity type is too easy (or too hard) for your students. One reason I love it so much is that it is so versatile for level differentiation.
Let’s hear it for differentiation!
You can give them a worksheet with the questions written out exactly as students should ask them and have students simply read them to others and collect names. If the grammar lesson is on the present perfect, for example, Find someone who has quit drinking coffee. → Ask, “Have you quit drinking coffee?” For lower-level students, that’s going to be challenging enough, and it’s a great way to have such students join in the same activity as the rest of the class. (Don’t we always have a mix of levels in a so-called leveled class?)
Here’s how to increase the challenge.
To give them more of a challenge, give them only part of the questions to ask. For example, would love to take a nap today. You can either require them to complete the questions orally when speaking with someone, or you can first give them time to write in the missing parts. → Would you love to take a nap today? Again, differentiation.
Still not enough? Here’s my secret ingredient. I like to add a “More Information” column to my Find Someone Who worksheets. Because I reserve this only for the students who are a bit more advanced with the concept, I leave it up to them on what kind of information they should get and how they should ask for it. It invariably sparks more conversation between students. I’ve personally seen it be the ice breaker that creates friends. Want a free Find Someone Who worksheet for gerunds and infinitives to use in your grammar lesson?
Teaching with activities ALL the time is rarely (if ever) feasible.
Remember, no one is advocating the complete elimination of worksheets, drills, or repetitive exercises. They have their place, and they are effective. They fill you up and keep you alive, but they don’t nourish your soul. Next time you are planning a grammar lesson, find a way to incorporate a speaking activity that reinforces the concept. Your students will love you for it, and they’ll get more out of your lesson as well.
Pre-Made Gerunds & Infinitives Goodies
Whether you are looking for low-prep printable resources or self-checking digital BOOM cards, you’ll love what I have made for you. Below you’ll find a few of the resources I have available.