The one thing every teacher dreads is a silent classroom. Though of course there is a place for quiet study, individual reading or test situations, usually it’s a good sign when our learners are actively participating in our lessons and this is when they are talking. No matter how well you plan, if your learners aren’t willing to get involved in an activity, it’s not going to be as effective.
Sometimes, though, there are days when even our chattiest students are unnaturally quiet and our usual activities look set to flop unless we can encourage our students to get talking. However, talking is usually one thing our learners enjoy doing so it shouldn’t take too long to get their tongues wagging, provided you push the right buttons.
Here are a few ways you can turn your quiet classroom into an energetic, interactive classroom:
Increase the energy in the classroom
The mood of the learners naturally mirrors the mood of the teacher. If you need your students to be quiet while they are doing a reading task, for example, you are more likely to succeed if you speak quietly and calmly. On the other hand, if you want your learners to open their mouths and get chatting, you need to be energetic and speak loudly. They will naturally copy your liveliness.
Give them time to think
Especially with lower level or shyer learners, speaking in English can be intimidating. When setting up speaking activities, allow time for your learners to think and prepare what they want to say. Giving them time beforehand will ensure they are better equipped to participate in the activity and won’t feel shy to speak out.
Don’t focus on their mistakes
When your students are talking, if it is not an exercise on accuracy, focus more on what they are saying than how they are saying it. They are trying to communicate their ideas and this is what should be taken into consideration. If they are stopped, interrupted or corrected every time they make a language mistake they will no longer want to speak out.
Teachers often have to resist the urge to participate in classroom activities themselves. If we set a discussion topic and find none of the students contributing, it’s easy to jump in with your ideas to get the conversation started, but if you resist that urge and keep quiet instead, you’ll soon find that one of your students will start talking and once one starts talking, soon everyone will want to have a say.
So there you have it: a few simple ways to encourage your learners to speak more in the classroom. Encouraging thinking, cultivating an energetic classroom atmosphere, allowing students to express themselves and taking a step back will all ensure your learners are more than willing to participate vocally in classroom activities.