Ways to Improve Speaking and Listening

by T.Odonchimeg.
I want to share my experience with other English language teachers.  There are some methods to improve listening and speaking English I have used in my lessons. 

Teaching songs

First, teaching a song is the best way to make the students interested in learning foreign languages, to improve listening and speaking, and to review all learning materials.  In order to achieve the above aims, work with songs should be divided into the following aspects: listening, speaking, reading, vocabulary, grammar, and phonetics. 

Now I want to tell about the listening and speaking sections of teaching songs. If we teach songs to new students, we can start teaching with the speaking section.

Teacher: Music is a part of our lives. In their free time people listen to music and sing. What about you? Do you like listening to music and singing? Why?

The answers will be different because everyone has his own idea.

Possible student answers:

- It puts me in a good mood, because it is the perfect way to relax.

- It helps develop my skills.

- It is simply pleasant, when the music is good or the meaning of the song is good.

- Dynamic music makes me energetic.

Teacher: Which is more important, the music or the lyrics? Why?

Possible student answers:

-Personally I think it is the lyrics. The main sense is in the words.    

-To learn a foreign language it is important to increase vocabulary and to improve listening.

-In my opinion it is the music. If it is energetic and dynamic, it makes me think of happy days and parties with friends.
Steps for teaching songs

Step 1. Write the title of the teaching song on the blackboard or say the title.  Students talk about the meaning of the song. They imagine about it and tell one or more words and sentences about the contents of the song. All sentences and words they say should be written on the blackboard. 

For example, to teach the song We Are Sailing-

Teacher: What do you imagine when you think about the title of the song? Students should offer concepts through the title of the song.

Students:  Love, traveling, water life, ocean, going abroad, going home, like to sail, ship, boat, sailing through the world and etc.

Then combine all the sentences and words in a short story with one sentence for each word.

Step 2. Give the words of the song and talk about it.

These steps are the best way to improve speaking.

Now I will discuss the listening section.

Step 1. If it is the first time to teach the song, the students should listen to the tape and write the words. But this activity is not for beginners because it is difficult. But of course listening can be used. Listening to songs is very useful for improving listening for students and teachers. For lower level students, we can choose songs with very easy words. The students can listen to the song line by line.

For example, the words of the song We Are Sailing are very simple.  It is possible to listen and to understand the meaning.

Step 2.  This is the checking section. After the students listen to the song and write the words, the teacher checks the words as correct or incorrect, or asks some questions associated with the song, or the students can check themselves by listening to the tape again.

There is another method for checking listening.  If the teacher teaches songs to the students regularly, the teacher should omit some words in the middle of the song. Students complete these missing words and then listen to the tape. This is a good method to check for understanding of the meaning of the song by the students.

Teaching songs is a very effective way to improve listening. This is one of the best methods I have used in my lessons.

Seeing films in English

A second method of improving listening and speaking is seeing films in English.  It is one of the most important ways to learn foreign languages effectively.

I think I should tell how to see the films. It also includes many parts. But I will tell only about the listening and speaking sections.

Step 1. The teacher should choose the film. When the students see the film, they can write some new or useful words and expressions. This activity is the listening section. If students don’t understand the words and expressions and don’t listen, they can’t write any words. So they should pay attention and listen. The teacher can explain important words and expressions. But listening will improve best without any explaining.

Step 2. After seeing the film, we talk about it. To do this, the teacher asks some questions or the students ask each other questions. Using new words and expression, students talk about the film. The class talks about the main characters.

Using breaking news in the classroom to improve speaking

It is important that students reach to the events of that day and that the teacher uses reports of such events in the classroom.

I choose a news story based on two factors. First is the factor of motivation. I choose a news event which I think would be one which the students would find exciting, relevant, and motivating to talk about. Second, breaking news illustrates certain language features of English. I consider the news situation with its obvious and dramatic illustration of the differences in aspect between the tenses.  I also consider whether the story will create a communicative need and to advance my students understanding of the language system through fulfilling this need. From the point of view of a language instructor rather than an educator, my guiding principle has been to provide students with the opportunity to express themselves (the situation), and the means by which they can do this (the language form).

The teacher may split the class into groups and  ask each group to tell the news. Their task is to share with the other groups the news they have found. They talk to each other about it. Every student or group gives an opinion. It is a very effective step to speaking English more.

Using pictures to improve speaking English

The task is that students can describe the pictures, using new expressions, which are given by the teacher, or they use their own vocabulary.  Teacher can give some useful expressions and choose any kids of pictures. Choosing pictures depends on students’ level. Teacher checks, who describes perfectly, and uses more useful expressions. So there is a goal for the students to find  good expressions. Following this they listen to each other and learn some new words and expressions from each other.

Using dialogues is available to improve speaking

The goal should be to make dialogue by using a giving situation, then to act it, or to memorize the dialogues and to act. It is good to memorize the language expressions and to use them in speech automatically.

Using games is a useful method to improve speaking and listening

There are many kinds of games.

Retelling the reading story

Retelling the reading story is also a very effective way to improve speaking and listening. Reading is good for a foreign language learner, but the retelling is more important. It consists of three steps:

I. Retelling facts and understanding ideas. In this section, students should remember the meaning of the text.
II. Interpreting. This is the step to describe the conflict and the method to solve it.
III. Extending. Students express their own ideas about the text.

Retelling is one of the most useful methods I have used to teach texts.

Using pictures to improve speaking English

          The task is that students can describe the pictures, using new expressions, which are given by the teacher, or they use their own vocabulary.  Teacher can give some useful expressions and choose any kinds of pictures.  Choosing pictures depends on the students' level.  Teacher checks for good descriptions. Following this the students listen to each other and learn some new words and expressions from each other. 

T. Odonchimeg teaches at Hovd University.  She graduated from the university in 1999 and received her master's degree in 2001.  She has been working for seven years as a Russian and English teacher.