Suggestion to have my 10 year-old student speak more English.

by Jolie Mtz
(Veracruz, Mexico)

Hello Naomi,

I'm an ESL freelance teacher in Mexico. I've got a 10 year-old student who is really enthusiastic about learning English. The 'little' problem is that, although I've applied several learning tools I know she likes (such as riddles, puzzles, songs, etc), I haven't been able to make her speaking skill develop. Any suggestions?

Or perhaps anything I might be missing?

We also work on her textbook from elementary school, but it doesn't bring enough input towards practicing four skills.
Thanks in advance for reading and advising.

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Jan 14, 2013
Getting her speaking
by: Naomi

It sounds to me that she may have some confidence issues about speaking up in English. Many students, especially shyer ones, find it easier to write things down than risk saying it and making a mistake.

My advice is to keep the speaking tasks quite controlled until she has gained the confidence to do more open-ended speaking. This can involve a preparatory 'note writing' stage before she starts to speak. This way she doesn't have to focus on both what she wants to say at the same time as working out how to say it. It breaks it down into more manageable chunks.

So, for example, if you want her to speak about what she did at the weekend, give her a list of activities in English and verbs for her to circle the ones that are relevant. Ask her to match the verbs to the activities and put them into the tense you want.

When she has done this, point to them one by one for her to produce the sentences. If necessary, model the first ones for her to repeat. If you keep to the same language pattern, she should then be able to do some of the sentences on her own.

It is also important to do what you can to remove anxieties about making mistakes. Many students would rather say nothing than risk making a mistake. Remind her that language learning is about communication and that getting the message across is more important than pronouncing every word correctly. Everyone has to make mistakes to learn - it is a normal part of the process. If she does make a mistake, make sure you praise her for speaking, then say the sentence again correctly for her to repeat.

My elementary school textbook series specializes in skills training. It is Family and Friends and is available in a Mexican edition (published by OUP. This may help, although any good course can be adapted to provide extra skills training.

Good luck. Do let me know how you get on.

Naomi Simmons
www.teachkidsenglish.com

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