In the previous article, I mentioned some of the reasons that students don’t like to participate in speaking activities as well as some of the benefits of doing pair work and group work.
In this section, I would like to make a few suggestions for making pair work and group work go as smoothly as possible. Some of these suggestions may work in your teaching situation, others may not. You may wish to try one or two out in your next lesson.
1) Remind yourself of the reasons students don’t participate in speaking activities (see Part One of this article). This is a good way to avoid getting frustrated with quiet students.
2) Explain to students the reasons you want them to work in pairs and groups (see Part One of this article).
3) Make sure that an activity is suitable for your students. Ideally, the activity should be close to the students’ level. Additionally, students should know something about the topic and be interested in it.
4) Model the activity for the students. You can ask another teacher or a student to help you demonstrate the activity for the class.
5) Put some relevant words and phrases on the board. Drill these with the class a few times before beginning any group work.
6) If your students all speak the same first language, ask them to practice the activity once in their language before doing it again in English. This can help them prepare what they want to say, making it easier to do in English.
7) Keep pair work and group work activities short. If your students are not enthusiastic about speaking English in class, don’t let speaking activities drag on too long.
8) Follow up group work with a report session, where each group reports one or two things they talked about.
In the next section of this article, I’ll give a few extra tips for encouraging students to participate more in group work.
Hall Houston teaches at Kainan University in Taoyuan County, Taiwan. His articles have been published in periodicals such as It's for Teachers, Modern English Teacher and English Teaching Professional. His first book, The Creative Classroom: Teaching Languages Outside the Box, was published in 2007 and his most recent book is Provoking Thought: Memory and Thinking in ELT. His third book, The ELT Daily Journal: Learning to Teach ESL/EFL, will be available in 2013.