Inspiring confidence in spoken English for EAL students
Speaking in English can be the last thing that EAL students acquire. This doesn’t mean to say that it reflects their ability to understand the language; it’s more than likely to do with having the confidence to speak aloud, especially in whole-class situations, as the worry around pronouncing things wrong can be daunting and upsetting.
Teachers should know that it is completely natural for EAL students, both new and developing competence, to feel this way and should respect the ‘silent phase’. Nonetheless, it’s important to give pupils an opportunity to talk in a supportive environment, as it’s so important for EAL students to engage with the lesson alongside their peers.
All students benefit from having more thinking time when asked an open-ended question; EAL students need this even more so. A culture where all students are encouraged to give an answer, be it right or wrong, and to take time with their answer should therefore be established. If your EAL student can listen to answers from their peers who’ve had thinking time, they may feel more comfortable to speak up knowing this rule applies to everyone, and in turn may avoid them feeling too conspicuous.
Here are just some of the ways you can create a fun and inclusive environment to help boost your EAL students’ confidence with spoken English.
Having a collaborative classroom not only aids the learning of a curriculum-based language, but also prepares EAL students for real-life interactions. Effective collaboration doesn’t just mean getting students to work together in pairs or groups, albeit EAL students will gain a lot from listening to others! By establishing group roles and assigning your EAL student a small but key role, they can begin to join in without the pressure to contribute and gradually build their confidence so that next time, they can be assigned a role with a bit more responsibility.
Communicative games are indispensable for eliminating stress and creating a fun, exciting atmosphere that promotes learning and confidence. Information gap activities support the development of realistic speaking and listening skills as they’re an opportunity for purposeful communication. In such games, EAL students should be paired with someone who can provide good models of English. Both students have information that the other one needs, and so they must communicate this information to each other whilst combatting the barrier between them e.g. a large book on its side between the two partners or being sat back to back. You can see more game ideas here.
Drama offers a range of support for making meaning clear in addition to the benefits of working collaboratively. It will be much more comfortable for less confident EAL students not to perform first, as they can learn from listening and watching others, which also reinforces turn-taking! The use of drama also supports interactions that happen outside of the classroom, making learning more memorable and encouraging empathy. It’s worth checking online to see if local or national theatres can work with your school to offer workshops specific to boosting confidence and self-esteem in EAL students!
If you’d like to know more on this then Nicholas Bailey, Actor and Education Ambassador for FlashAcademy®, will be touching on some of the above during his session at the Schools & Academies Show at the NEC, Birmingham, from 10:10 a.m. on Thursday 14th November.
He’ll also be sharing his experiences and ideas on how teachers can reframe the classroom as a performance & storytelling space. Be sure to bring your colleagues along!