2 Classroom chats

Giving your students opportunities to talk about their interests, activities and commitments will encourage authentic communication in your classroom. It will also enable you to assess your students’ speaking and listening skills. This is especially helpful in the case of those whose home language differs from the school language.

The following practical activities are designed to help you get started.

Activity 1: A daily chat

Over the next school term, initiate a daily routine where you have a brief, informal chat with students, either individually or in a group. This can be at the start or end of the day, or during a break time. Make sure that you communicate with all of your students over time. You can keep a simple tick list to monitor this.

You could ask them whether they enjoyed a recent festival, if they have been affected by recent storms, or are following a particular cricket match, for example. Look for opportunities to link what your students learn outside school with what they are focusing on in the lesson. You might say:

'I know lots of you helped your parents in the market this month, even in this terrible weather. Well done! In the maths lesson today you can show off your skills, because we are working on adding and subtracting money. How many of you gave change in the market? Did you check your sums with your mother or father?’

Your students’ responses will give you insights into the knowledge and skills that they bring to their learning at school. Keep notes on what you learn about your students, and which of their interests and activities are shared with others.

As you do this throughout the term, refer to your textbook, your syllabus and your teaching plans, looking for possibilities to link upcoming topics with what your students know about or are interested in.

To extend this speaking and listening activity, ask your students to write a weekly ‘diary’ about what they do when they are not in school.

Read Resource 1 for more information on involving all your students in the classroom.

Video: Involving all

Activity 2: A class discussion

Plan a class discussion on students’ out-of-school interests and commitments. Use a single focused question as a prompt. Here are some ideas, but you will need to choose questions based on your own context:

  • What kinds of things do you do to help at home? What do you like doing best? What do you like doing least?
  • What was the best part of your weekend? What didn’t you enjoy so much?
  • What will you do during the school holiday?

Write the question on the blackboard. Start by answering it yourself.

Then ask two or three students the question. Extend the exchange by using follow-up questions and prompts such as ‘Really? Where did you learn that?’, ‘What will you do next?’ and so on.

Organise your students into small groups and ask them to discuss the question on the blackboard together. Encourage them to ask one another follow-up questions. As they talk, move around and monitor the groups, ensuring that everyone is participating.

As an alternative to the small group discussions, you could ask your students to interview each other in pairs and then take notes and write a short account of what their partner told them.

1 Students’ learning outside school

3 A class project