How to Get your Students speaking 100% English
by David Martin
Establish your 100% goal from Day 1.
(Pictured a hay field in Kanagawa, by Kevin Burns)
On the first day of class make your expectations clear to your students. It's a good idea at this point to contrast the six years of jr/high school (non-communicative) English classes that they have experienced with what you expect of them. I usually have my students make a pact with both me and themselves. The students read the promises (see below) and I elaborate on each a bit. Next, the students sign their names in agreement.
English Grammar -- My Promises
I promise to try to speak as much as possible.
I promise not to be afraid of making mistakes.
I promise not to speak any Japanese
I promise to use English to communicate.
I promise to ask questions when I do not understand.
I promise to try to have fun!
*Copyright 2003 Talk a Lot, Book 1, EFL Press.
You can go back to these promises from time to time throughout the course as necessary.
2. Learn your students' names.
You will not be able to control your class well if you don't know your students' names. If a student is speaking in Japanese you need to be able to quickly say, "Yuki--are you speaking English?" This should not be said in an angry tone, but rather in a friendly, almost joking tone. I cannot overemphasize how important it is to learn your students' names. I make it my first priority, and usually commit all my students' names to memory by the third class.
Pictured: Mount Fuji by Richard Baladad
3. English Grammar -- Teach Classroom English early on.
In the second or third lesson students should be taught useful classroom English. The students should thoroughly memorize and practice using these expressions. It is essential that you explain that these expressions are not just for use with the teacher, but for use with each other as well. Some examples of useful classroom English are:
Do you have a partner?
Let's be partners.
How do you spell...?
What does ... mean?
4. English Grammar -- Start (almost) every class with free conversation.
If I had to choose one technique that is the most effective for getting students motivated and speaking in English this would definitely be my choice. Have the students sit facing a partner and tell them they have to talk on a topic for a set time. They absolutely must not speak any Japanese during this time! Possible topics are yesterday, TV, movies, sports, etc. I usually do this for 2-3 minutes at the beginning of a course and build up to 10-15 minutes by the end (for false-beginners). Over the past few years I have noticed that whenever I fail to have the students do free conversation at the beginning of class, they often speak much more Japanese and the class generally is not as successful. Free conversation works because it warms the students up, and it gives them the sense that English can be used for real communication.
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