Three ways to build confidence for the ESOL Speaking and Listening exams

Posted by Janet Golding on 26 June 2017

Topic: ESOL

A lack of confidence can be the biggest barrier to learning when it comes to Speaking and Listening. Add in a dose of exam nerves, and students can freeze up even with the most sympathetic of examiners.

Fear of the unknown in an exam can lead to nerves and stress.

The Skills for Life qualification would be less authentic if it didn't prepare students for the unknown. So it stands to reason that there will be unpredictable elements in the exam. How can you prepare your students for this?

You can't remove the unknown element. But you can remove your student's fear of it.

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1. Familiarise your ESOL students with the assessment format

Most conversation in real life is spontaneous and unplanned. Skills For Life is designed to give learners the confidence to use English in the real world. You might not be able to prepare your students for the exact content of the whole exam, but you can familiarise them with the format and procedures involved.

Trinity College London's website and YouTube channel are both full of videos showing real examples of each element of the speaking exam. These are great resources to help you show your students exactly what they can expect.

2. Encourage immersion for ESOL learners

As you know, skills practice outside the classroom is crucial if your students are going to improve. Encourage them to immerse themselves in the target language as much as possible.

Learners can find many opportunities for English language immersion. A few popular and effective methods include:

  • watching English language films and television programmes
  • reading English language books
  • listening to English language music and radio
  • changing the language settings on their smartphones and sat-navs

3. Make ESOL learning fun

Everyone likes a game! With their minds focused competition, learners will find it easier to drop their inhibitions about language learning. Try using an app such as Heads Up to help learners get used to having to speak and listen under pressure.

This activity is reminiscent of party games, with players are split into two teams. One person has to guess a word by listening to their teammates describe it. Whichever team has guessed the most words in the given time limit wins. This is a great way to encourage learners to use adjectives, synonyms and antonyms and to develop their communication skills.

How are you building confidence in your ESOL classroom?

At Trinity College London, we would love to know more about how you help students grow in confidence. What activities are you using and how do you differentiate these tasks for different types of learners?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

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