At our high school, we've been able to roughly match the national average scores for reading, listening and writing, in the national aptitude research run by MEXT. For speaking, however, where the national average is 5.7 (out of 14) we achieved a score of 11.7. We're very pleased with that. But how did we do it?
Coursebook Many teachers are unsure of the value of a coursebook, but we have found that a good coursebook can provide structure to a course and can streamline the teacher's preparation. In addition, if the course takes into account Can-Do statements (as popularized in the CEFR and GSE) then teachers and students can focus on clear goals. At our high school, we are currently using English Firsthand. This coursebook provides a variety of relevant, high-quality, ready-made activities for students, which made our life easier. In addition, the audio contained many different English accents, and the goals of the lessons were clearly spelled out and logically sequenced. The online component MyMobileWorld allowed digitally-minded students to study pronunciation and more out of the classroom.
Student Presentations One of the things that we found particularly interesting was the Presentation Model in English Firsthand. Here students are given video models of how to make presentations on a variety of topics and are provided support to make their own presentations. It seems easy for our students to learn and copy the examples, since the performance of the model is not too perfect.
In our case, we have a rehearsal where 10 students would form a group, with the students taking turns being presenters, advisors, evaluators and timers. In order to plan the presentations, we set up rotation schedules and evaluation sheets. After students collect all of the advice and evaluations, they use the peer evaluations to improve any problem areas in their presentations. They can then show their refinement at the presentation.
Role Rolling Model
The CAN-DO List and Student Presentations In our use of student presentations, we directly link the Can-Do List to speeches so that presentations embody the ability of a student to act in English. Importantly, we share the choice of Can-Do goals and have students advise and evaluate those presenting on this basis.
In our classes, students would first be given clear models of good presentations before preparing their own presentation with other students. They would then make their presentation, obtain advice from other students and be evaluated by other students. Once their presentations are completed, the students continue to take on the roles of advisor or evaluator, before becoming a presenter once more.
Presentation skills such as body language, eye contact, confidence, clarity of speech, organization of thoughts, use of visual aids etc. are learned more thoroughly by students taking on the roles of advisor and evaluator, as well as presenter.
Conclusion Intensive, repeated practice of presentations with peers who also are involved as advisors and evaluators, combined with a communicative coursebook with a Can-Do List at its core vastly improve our students speaking ability and confidence.