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TEFL Masterclass – Speaking Strategies for Managing Difficult Questions

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Nicky Partridge – Teacher Trainer & Centre Manager@Peartree Languages.

Nicky Partridge, Founder of Peartree Languages, is both Owner and Manager. With a profound commitment to teaching, she specializes in English for Exams, notably IELTS, amassing nearly two decades of expertise. Her passion extends to teacher training, continually enhancing her skills to provide the best for her students. Proficient in grammar, pronunciation, and natural English, Nicky imparts knowledge both in-person and online.

What you will learn

Being tongue-tied or simply not knowing the answer to a direct question is always an uncomfortable situation to be in. Factor in needing to speak in a second language and that scene becomes terrifying!

In this workshop, we will explore three scenarios where pre-taught natural, functional lexis could be used strategically to give students a framework to manage difficult questions when speaking in English. We will carefully consider the pitfalls of memorisation and suggest how the risks can be minimised. There will be concrete takeaway language examples served up that can be used immediately in your EFL classroom.

We will identify why these techniques are important in the context of IELTS and other mainstream English language exams, such as the PET and FCE. However, the relevance of this linguistic toolbelt is also expanded upon as relates to its importance for any General English learner or indeed, for any student of life! Lastly, there will be the genesis of a discussion on classroom activities that can be used to teach strategic speaking.

Just for fun, I’ll also be telling a couple of EFL anecdotes along the way! 

Workshop Summary

Introduction to Effective Speaking Strategies

Nicky Partridge introduces a masterclass titled “That’s a Very Interesting Question: Speaking Strategies for Managing Difficult Questions”. The class aims to impart practical speaking strategies and functional language for ESL teaching, focusing on real-time communication and everyday contexts. These strategies are designed to help students articulate their thoughts beyond rote learning of phrases.

The Essence of Speaking Strategies in Language Education

Speaking strategies are critical in ESL teaching, as they facilitate effective communication in real-time scenarios. Unlike written language, spoken language requires a dynamic approach, integrating functional language for various everyday situations. The masterclass emphasises the importance of teaching these strategies, not only to improve fluency but also to enhance understanding in different communicative settings.

Authentic Language: A Tool for Enhanced Learning

The incorporation of authentic, natural English is highlighted as vital for enriching communication skills. Teaching phrases such as “It’s on the tip of my tongue” provides a more sophisticated way of expressing difficulty in recalling words, as opposed to simply stating “I don’t know”. This approach is particularly beneficial in examination contexts, aiding students in navigating conversations more effectively.

Strategies for Managing Conversations

The masterclass covers various strategies to manage conversations, especially in challenging situations. For instance, slightly altering the topic to a more familiar area while staying within the broader subject is an effective technique. This strategy is essential in exams and real-life scenarios, enabling students to steer conversations towards areas they are more comfortable with.

Pitfalls and Cautions in Using Speaking Strategies

While speaking strategies are invaluable, overusing or incorrectly applying pre-taught language chunks can be counterproductive. The masterclass warns against repetitive use and emphasises the importance of using these strategies judiciously. Ensuring accuracy and natural flow in communication is crucial for maintaining credibility.

Importance of Speaking Strategies in Various Contexts

Speaking strategies serve multiple purposes: they are crucial for exam preparation, enhancing confidence in students, and are invaluable life skills for managing real-world conversations. These strategies provide frameworks for students to articulate their thoughts more coherently, especially under pressure. The teaching of these strategies is, therefore, an essential aspect of language education.

Effective Teaching of Speaking Strategies

Selecting realistic language forms, providing opportunities for practice, focusing on specific functions like pivoting or bridging language, is essential. These strategies should be viewed as part of a comprehensive ‘tool belt’, offering various options for students to adapt to different speaking situations.

Conclusion: The Role of Speaking Strategies in Language Mastery

In conclusion, the masterclass stresses the integral role of speaking strategies in communicative English. These strategies are not just tools for passing exams but are crucial for building confidence and fluency in everyday conversations. They form a vital component of language learning, enabling students to navigate through various speaking challenges effectively.

Reflective Questions

Have a quick think about the reflective questions below in order to get the most out of the workshop:

  1. How do you help your students to acquire language?
  2. What kinds of opportunities can we provide to our students to practice strategy language?
  3. Do you think it’s acceptable for a candidate to refuse to answer a question in an exam such as IELTS?

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