The Fantastic Speaking Fluency and Where to Find It: Part 2

This post expands on the article I wrote for ELTA newsletter.  The post consist of two parts (Part 1 here). Part 1 focuses on the definition and components of fluency, while Part 2 suggest practical ways of developing fluency and addressing specific issues hindering fluency. 

In Part 1, I talked about what speaking fluency is and what might stop students from developing it. Now, armed with that knowledge, let’s see what we can do to overcome those difficulties.

Fluency Development Strategy #1:  Repetition and time pressure

How many times have we heard  repetition is the mother of all learning? Turns out, it really is!  Paul Nation, my go-to source for everything ESL, suggest “repeated practice on the same material so that it can be performed fluently” as an effective approach to developing fluency (in Nation & Newton, 2009:157). To ensure that learners do not become bored with repeating the same message, they suggest changing the audience for each subsequent retelling, and introducing a time limit.


A technique that incorporates both suggestions is 4/3/2 where learners repeat the same text with the time limit decreasing from 4 to 3 and then 2 minutes, speaking to a different partner every time. Research (Nation, 1989) shows that 4/3/2 helps learners increase the rate of speech and reduce pauses and hesitations. In addition, repeat performances help learners build confidence in speaking.

I like to combine this technique with a task-based approach for a complete speaking lesson which can be done with minimum (or none!) materials  and be tailored to any level/grammar or vocabulary area/subject matter.

In this example, pre-intermediate level learners are revising the use of past tense and the language related to people’s lives and life events by delivering a short talk about their personal hero.

The lesson handout is here: Personal Hero Lesson Handout and while it can’t be readily used by anyone else (because it talks about my personal hero who happens to be my grandmother), it serves as an example of how easy it is to create a lesson out of thin air, and may be used as a template of sorts.

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I did my CELTA with the Campbell Institute in Wellington, New Zealand in 2013 and was awarded Pass A, the highest grade which was was awarded to only 5% of CELTA trainees that year.  Despite the fact that the course was every bit as intense as I thought it would img_4400be, it was an extremely positive experience.Our teaching practice groups (elementary and intermediate levels) have been patient with us and enthusiastic about learning. We had the most amazing tutors on this course: Mo Killip, Jo Leach and Annie Marenghi – collectively and individually -were everything a teacher trainer should be: patient, encouraging, extremely knowledgeable, inspiring and supportive. When I enrolled into the course, I had been teaching for about 5 years and I still learned loads and loads of things as well as made some great friends among my fellow trainees that I keep in touch with to this day.

Reflecting on my experience, I came up with some tips on doing the CELTA – and some lessons I learned from my own experience on the course. I suggest reading these tips prior to the course and then going over them again once you start on the course and learn about the things I mention here.

Tip #1. Make CELTA your one and only priority

If you are doing a full-time face-to-face CELTA course, forget about working and possibly socializing. You won’t be much fun to socialize with anyway because nobody will want to hear about how cool Cuisenaire rods turned out to be or how you learned to write awesome concept-checking questions for grammar and vocabulary which by then you will be referring to as CCQs, further confusing your friends and family.

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