Getting students to speak
Bill Burns & Michael Hensley

In our experience teaching students fresh out of University, one of the first tasks we face is in getting speaking and listening skills to catch up with reading and writing skills. The biggest challenge here is changing how the students think about English conversation. We see conversation as a way to communicate and connect with other people. Because they are encountering English in a classroom setting, they see it as a test. That means there is a correct answer. They are hesitant to speak because they don’t know what they are supposed to say or how to say it. Worries and second guesses about grammar and word choice fill their heads, resulting in silence; or whisk away, resulting in difficult to understand speech. In creating “By The Way”, we wanted to make a book that focused on the techniques for how to have a conversation in English. Simple skills like clarifying what was said, or bouncing a conversation back are things that beginner level students need to get in the habit of doing. If these habits are not developed early, they quickly fossilize into set patterns that result in awkward conversations. Being able to converse at the low beginner level is not something that only gung-ho extraverts are able to do. Giving the students framework of the conversation and how to keep it going can get them speaking more.