18/100: Reflecting on Penny Ur’s Teaching Tips – 14. Speech & Memorization

The lampost doesn't have to bore the chair... (Naomi's Photos)
The lamppost doesn’t have to bore the chair…
(Naomi’s Photos)

This is part fourteen of my blogging challenge.

As a veteran teacher it is easy to fall into the trap of doing things a certain way just because I’ve done them that way for years, without remembering the reason why. 

I’ve decided to set myself a blogging challenge – reflect on one tip from each of the 18 sections that compose Penny Ur’s latest book: “100 Teaching Tips”, so as to dust off old practices that may have remained unexamined for too long.

Tip Number 74: “Let students use memorized text” {for speaking activities}

I sincerely believe this helps the students. Even the Deaf ones, not just the hard of hearing students.

The first things my students want to know how to say in English are set phrases , useful for dialogues in real life situations “what’s your name?”  “My name is _____”, How old are you”? “How much does this cost”? “I didn’t hear you”. The students with more severe hearing losses need a lot of practice with each phrase individually but once they master them, they become readily available for the students to use fluently. Fluently from the speaker’s perspective, not in the sense of how understandable their speech is to the listener (some of the students’ speech is not very clear).

My students need to practice the same exchanges and expressions over and over again. I used to have the students pull out the names of celebrities from a box. Then they were asked to answer as if they were that character. That would hold students’ interest while repeating the set phrases. This strategy worked better with younger students.

The author has intriguing suggestions for varying simple dialogues so as to keep the necessary repetitions interesting. I  particularly like the suggestion related to “tone”.  Students have to repeat the same words but each time they must say them in a different way – angrily, happily, sadly, etc.

This is something I would like to try.

How about you?



2 thoughts on “18/100: Reflecting on Penny Ur’s Teaching Tips – 14. Speech & Memorization”

  1. I also feel set phrases can help, especially those who are extremely reluctant to speak, but sometimes students might rely exclusively on then. What I try to do is keep a balance between fixed responses and their own ideas. The different tones idea is amazing – it can help with both Speaking and vocabulary. I think it also works really well for Reading practice, especially for identifying a writer’s tone/purpose of writing. For example, I’ve used it with C1 -C2 level students and quotes from famous books which they had to read in a way that is indicative of the writer’s feelings. Also, another activity I try so as to add some variety to the fixed phrases routine is a game inspired by Monty Python. I group students in pairs of interviewers -interviewees. The interviewer has a list of questions which the interviewee needs to answer by choosing pieces of paper from a bag. The bag contains the answers to the questions (all of which are standard, book-based replies) along with some irrelevant responses. The purpose is to get the conversation going without reaching a breakdown.

    1. Maria!
      You have such wonderful ideas, thank you for sharing!
      I would like to point out that Penny Ur doesn’t recommend just staying with set phrases, but that’s the part I chose to reflect on. I’m not covering all that is said in the book, naturally.
      Keep up the good work, Maria!

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