Speaking: Teacher’s Beliefs

David Deubelbeiss
Nov 14, 2019 · 4 min read

Today, ELTchat held a session all about teaching speaking to lower-level students. It reminded me of an activity that I’ve used successfully with teachers — getting them to reflect on and challenge their own beliefs about teaching speaking.

It’s adapted from a portion of a fine thesis by Asket Tleuov, “ The teaching of speaking. An investigation of teacher beliefs.”

Print out the scenarios as cards and teachers read and then discuss. Then read the reflection and discuss further. Hopefully you teacher trainers out there will find these handy. Download as a PDF.

Teaching Beliefs
What Would You Do?”

is very easy to “believe” one thing but then quite difficult to
make those beliefs central to what happens in your own classroom.

these scenarios and discuss what you would do in each case. Be
prepared to argue your case in class.

Scenario 1: You aim to
promote a whole-class discussion in the classroom as part of an
activity designed to improve students’ speaking skills. You want to
involve students in the discussion by asking questions. However, you
realize that students resort to short answers such as ‘yes’, ‘no’
or one-word responses. How would you react in this situation? Why?

Reflection: Are your students ready for free-response and conversation? Maybe you should use more controlled language production activities. Maybe your students feel anxious — how can you lower their affective filter? Did you model the activity well enough so students understood what they had to do? Did you dominate the conversation too much and not allow enough wait time or proper turn-taking?


Scenario 2: You are in
the middle of a discussion of one fascinating topic with the whole
class. Students are very engaged in the discussion and are taking
turns in expressing their opinions on the matter. Suddenly, one of
the students raises his/her hand and asks — Teacher, I want to add
my own opinion to the discussion but I’m afraid I can’t do it in
English. May I say it in ….? How would react in this situation?

Reflection: What is
more important at that moment — meaning or the activity? Is there
some administrative or institutional reason that at times students
can’t use their L1? Do you believe students should be able to use
their L1 in class and it helps them even with speaking activities?


you employed a communicative activity in the classroom which mainly
involved a teacher-student interaction. However, you were not able to
involve every student in the activity because of the limited time
available. After the lesson ended, a couple of students approached
you and said they were upset. What do you think you should have done
to involve all the learners in the activity?

Reflection: Do you
believe that it is more important for students to interact with the
teacher (a more competent English language speaker) or with peers
when it comes to speaking activities? Would you explain to the
students that it is important that they learn by speaking with their
peers and not just the teacher? Do you model this in your classroom?


a situation in a foreign language class where a teacher comes in,
stares at the class and says ‘Today we’re going to talk about
traffic problems. What do you think?’ Following the teacher’s
question, the students look down at their tables, make faces at each
other and keep silent. How would you encourage students to speak in
this situation?

Reflection: Have you given the students some say over speaking and discussion topics — engaged them in the curriculum development process? Could you use a “hook” and capture student interest in the topic and get them excited? Does the grouping or seating arrangement in the class have any effect on their enthusiasm for speaking on the topic or speaking in general?


is a question that you might hear from a student. How would you
answer it? Why? — “Teacher, I try to speak a lot in English
whenever I get the chance in the classroom but you never seem to
correct my mistakes. Do you think I’ll ever improve this way?”

Reflection: Do you believe that fluency is more important than accuracy in the classroom? Did you explain this to your students — their need to not worry about overcorrection by the teacher? Might you suggest other ways the student can get corrective feedback outside of the teacher? Involve other students, recording?


of your students approaches you after a class and asks — ‘Teacher,
I really want to improve my speaking skills and I am prepared to do
some extra work to achieve that. What do you think I should be
doing?’ What would you suggest your student in such a case? Why?

Reflection: Does your
student have technology at home or access at school for online tools
that you might suggest? What other options might you provide to this


Scenario 7: You have divided students into groups in order to start a discussion in the classroom when a student turns to you and says — ‘Teacher, I don’t think we need to practice speaking because there are no speaking tests in the state exams. We can learn to speak later.’ How would you react to such a statement? Why?

Reflection: Do you
explain and promote in class how important English is as a lingua
franca? Can you argue that speaking also fosters other language
skills and will benefit the student regardless, on the state exam?

Adapted from Asket Tleuov, dissertation, 2016. The teaching of speaking. An investigation of teacher beliefs.

Originally published at ELT Buzz.


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David Deubelbeiss

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Writer, thinker, educator, poet and homeless mind. A life is never finished, merely abandoned ….



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