Welcome…

…to the website of the Speaking Cyclist, an English Language teacher, trainer and author who believes the best teaching material is the students themselves! A speaking cycle is a simple template for highly-personalised speaking practice with students at any level. The first one – ‘Speaking in public’ – can be found at the bottom of this page. New cycles, all following the same template and useable immediately with minimal preparation, will be posted regularly and can be found at the top of the page, below this introduction.

In the meantime, ‘Speaking Cycles – A Brief Introduction’ and ‘Speaking Cycles – Behind The Scenes’ provide further details.

Speaking Cycles – A Brief Introduction

These notes explain the concept of ‘speaking cycles’. These are structured free speaking activities which follow a specific framework aimed at maximizing the attention of students, whether in the role of listeners or speakers. The concept of ‘speaking cycles’ was the basis of a presentation I gave with Ceri Jones, a former colleague and fellow ELT author, at the 2000 TESOL Spain Conference in Madrid. I have recently been inspired to revisit them for two reasons. Firstly, the DOGME ELT movement led by Scott Thornbury & Luke Meddings encouraged me to question the extent to which students are truly engaged by most commercial ELT teaching material. Secondly, having worked as a Director of Studies in the past I am well aware of the pressure which many DoSes, and indeed teachers, are under to teach at short notice, with no time to put together lesson plans or to source material. In this respect, speaking cycles are the perfect solution. I hope time-stretched teachers everywhere will find speaking cycles helpful in this respect.

The following notes are divided into two sections – Rationale and Procedure.

Rationale

Two key concepts/techniques provide the theoretical foundation for speaking cycles:

1 The ‘Pushed Output’ Hypothesis

This theory, put forward by Swain (1985), asserts that learners acquire language when their linguistic knowledge is pushed to the limit during meaningful interaction. In the context of free speaking activities, then, learning is more likely to take place when speakers know that they are being listened to.

2 Process Writing

A ‘process’ approach to writing is based on the notion that the benefits to learners of carrying out writing tasks are largely the result of the learning which takes place during the writing process (i.e. brainstorming ideas, structuring and organising content, and editing and peer-correction) rather than through ‘correction’ of the finished product. The same principle can be applied to speaking tasks, so that the framework outlined below can be described as a “process speaking cycle”.

Procedure

Stage 1: Activating

Students are asked to brainstorm key language relating to the topic of the lesson. This language is written on the board.

Stage 2: Sharing

Students are asked to think of personal experiences relating to a specific aspect of the topic. They are then organised into groups and are asked to share their experiences within their groups. Students are given a listening task here which requires them to listen carefully to what their colleagues say.

Stage 3: Preparing

Students are asked to choose one member of their group to talk to the rest of the class. The nominated student will tell the rest of the class about one of the personal experiences they have been talking about as a group. It doesn’t matter if the person who speaks is the person who had the experience or if they talk about the experience of someone else in their group. The groups are given 15 minutes to prepare what their nominated speaker will say to the class. They should focus on both information content (e.g. the experience itself; when and where it took place; how the speaker felt before, during and after the experience etc.) and the organisation and structure of what the speaker will say.

Stage 4: Performing

Each nominated speaker talks to the rest of the class. The rest of the class are given five listening questions which require them to listen carefully to what the speakers are saying (these questions can either be dictated or copied and pasted onto a handout). Four of the questions should focus on identifying specific information, and one on their own response to what they hear. The teacher makes notes of errors, good use of language etc. for use in the later feedback stage.

Stage 5: Reporting

When all the nominated speakers have spoken, students check the answers to their listening ask questions with the other members of their group. As a group, they are then asked to rank the experiences they have heard about according to a criteria given to them by the teacher.

Feedback Stage

The teacher conducts a feedback session. This has two sections: a) checking the answers and following up any interesting information revealed during the performance stage; and b) focusing on language used – this should include both mention of good use of language and highlighting of errors or use of inappropriate language.

For an explanation of the rationale of each stage of the speaking cycle procedure, see Speaking Cycles – Behind The Scenes.

Speaking Cycles – Behind The Scenes

These notes explain the rationale behind each stage of the speaking cycle.

1. Activating

· generating interest in the topic
· whole-group brainstorming of ideas and useful vocabulary
· activation of background knowledge

2. Sharing

· relating the experiences of peers to oneself
· identification of common experiences
· personalisation of the topic
· promotion of attentive listening within peer group
· promotion of mutual interest and curiosity
· development of a positive group dynamic

3. Preparing

· encouraging group investment in the task
· peer group negotiation and decision-making
· selecting appropriate language
· organisation of ideas
· asking peers/teacher for new language
· refining of language through self-correction and peer correction
· rehearsal in a ‘safe’ environment

4. Performing

· attentive listening for gist and specific information
· comparing performance of other groups with one’s own group
· ‘pushing’ speakers to optimise their performance by speaking to an audience
· monitoring performance of peer group ‘representative’

5. Reporting

· checking and correcting answers with peer group
· relating all the experiences to each other
· ranking and cognitive decision-making

Feedback Stage

· (teacher-led) clarifying of meaning, if necessary
· (teacher-led) correcting and refinement of language
· (teacher-led) highlighting and drawing of attention to noteworthy use of language

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Speaking Cycle 17: Get festive!

festival

1. Activating

· What different kinds of festival can you think of?

· What kinds of activities can you find at festivals?

2. Sharing

· Think of one or more festival which you have been to.

· Work in groups of three. Tell your group about these festivals. As you listen to your partners, decide if you have been to any similar festivals.

3. Preparing

· Choose one experience of one member of your group. One of you is going to tell the rest of the class about this experience (it doesn’t matter if the person who speaks is the person who went to the festival or if they talk about a festival experience described by someone else in their group).

· Spend 15 minutes, as a group, preparing what the speaker is going to say. Think about a) information, such as what kind of festival it was; when and where it took place; who the person went to the festival with; and what the person enjoyed/disliked most about it; and b) the organisation and structure of what the speaker will say.

4. Performing

· The speaker from each group talks to the rest of the class.

· As you are listening to other speakers, try to answer the following questions.

a) What kind of festival was it?

b) When and where did it take place?

c) Who did the person go with?

d) What did the person enjoy/dislike most about the festival?

e) Would you like to go to a similar festival?

5. Reporting

· When you have heard the speaker from each group, check your answers to the questions with the other members of your group.

· As a group, decide which of the people you have heard about, in your opinion, most enjoys going to festivals.

Speaking Cycle 16: Mythbusting

untitled

1. Activating

· What different mythological or legendary characters can you think of?

· What different qualities do characters in myths and legends have?

2. Sharing

· Think of one or more myths or legends associated with your country.

· Work in groups of three. Tell your group about some of these myths and legends. As you listen to your partners, decide if you have similar myths in your country.

3. Preparing

· Choose one experience of one member of your group. One of you is going to tell the rest of the class about this experience (it doesn’t matter if the person who speaks is the person who described the myth or if they talk about a myth described by someone else in their group).

· Spend 15 minutes, as a group, preparing what the speaker is going to say. Think about a) information, such as what different people or characters form the myth; what time and place the myth is associated with; what are the main events connected with the myth; and what are the modern-day consequences or legacies of the myth; and b) the organisation and structure of what the speaker will say.

4. Performing

· The speaker from each group talks to the rest of the class.

· As you are listening to other speakers, try to answer the following questions.

a) What characters does the story involve?

b) What time and place is associated with the story?

c) What events are associated with the story?

d) What consequences of the story are evident today?

e) Why do people believe the story?

5. Reporting

· When you have heard the speaker from each group, check your answers to the questions with the other members of your group.

· As a group, decide which of the myths you have heard about, in your opinion, is more based in fact.

Speaking Cycle 15: A holiday to remember!

holidays-last-minute-deals-post-1

  1. Activating
  • How many different kinds of holiday can you think of?
  • For what different reasons do people go on holiday?
  1. Sharing
  • Think about some memorable holidays you have had.
  • Work in groups of three. Tell your group about some of these holidays. As you listen to your partners, decide if you have had similar holidays.
  1. Preparing
  • Choose one experience of one member of your group. One of you is going to tell the rest of the class about this experience (it doesn’t matter if the person who speaks is the person whose experience it was or if they talk about an experience of someone else in their group).
  • Spend 15 minutes, as a group, preparing what the speaker is going to say. Think about a) information, such as who went on the holiday, and who were they with; where did they go, and how long did they go for; how did they travel, and what was the reason for the holiday; what made the holiday memorable; and b) the organisation and structure of what the speaker will say.
  1. Performing
  • The speaker from each group talks to the rest of the class.
  • As you are listening to other speakers, try to answer the following questions.

a) Who was the holidaymaker?

b) Where did they go?

c) When did the holiday take place and who was the person with?

d) What form of transport was used and what was the reason for the holiday?

e) Would you like to have a similar holiday yourself?

         5. Reporting

  • When you have heard the speaker from each group, check your answers to the questions with the other members of your group.
  • As a group, decide which of the people you have heard about, in your opinion, had the most memorable holiday.

Speaking Cycle 14: Chchchchchanges!

change

  1. Activating
  • What different kinds of change might someone experience in their life?
  • How do people feel when they experience change in their lives?
  1. Sharing
  • Think of different changes you have experienced in your life.
  • Work in groups of three. Tell your group about some of these changes. As you listen to your partners, decide if you have experienced similar changes.
  1. Preparing
  • Choose one experience of one member of your group. One of you is going to tell the rest of the class about this experience (it doesn’t matter if the person who speaks is the person whose experience it was or if they talk about an experience of someone else in their group).
  • Spend 15 minutes, as a group, preparing what the speaker is going to say. Think about a) information, such as what kind of change it was; when and why the change took place; how did the person feel before, during, and after the change; and whether the person would behave differently if they experienced a similar change in the future; and b) the organisation and structure of what the speaker will say.
  1. Performing
  • The speaker from each group talks to the rest of the class.
  • As you are listening to other speakers, try to answer the following questions.

a) What kind of change did each person experience?

b) When and why did he change occur?

c) How did the person feel before, during, and after the change?

d) Would the person behave differently if they experienced a similar change again?

e) Which person found it most difficult to adapt to the change?

         5. Reporting

  • When you have heard the speaker from each group, check your answers to the questions with the other members of your group.
  • As a group, decide which of the people you have heard about, in your opinion, is the most open to change.

Speaking Cycle 13: Testing times

Exam

1. Activating

· What different kinds of test can you think of?

· For what different reasons do people take tests?

2. Sharing

· Think of different tests you have taken.

· Work in groups of three. Tell your group about some of these tests. As you listen to your partners, decide if you have taken similar tests.

3. Preparing

· Choose one experience of one member of your group. One of you is going to tell the rest of the class about this experience (it doesn’t matter if the person who speaks is the person whose experience it was or if they talk about an experience of someone else in their group).

· Spend 15 minutes, as a group, preparing what the speaker is going to say. Think about a) information, such as what kind of test it was; when and why the test took place; how did the person prepare for the test (if at all); what was the result of the test; and whether the person would prepare for the test differently next time; and b) the organisation and structure of what the speaker will say.

4. Performing

· The speaker from each group talks to the rest of the class.

· As you are listening to other speakers, try to answer the following questions.

a) What kind of test did each person take?

b) When and why did they take these tests?

c) What preparation did each person do for the test?

d) What was the result of each test?

e) Which person prepared most effectively for their test?

5. Reporting

· When you have heard the speaker from each group, check your answers to the questions with the other members of your group.

· As a group, decide which of the people you have heard about, in your opinion, is the best at preparing for tests.

Speaking Cycle 12: The best of friends

friendship

1. Activating

· What different ways do people typically make new friends?

· What different kinds of things do people enjoy doing with friends?

2. Sharing

· Think of different friends you had when you were growing up.

· Work in groups of three. Tell your group about some of these friends. As you listen to your partners, decide if you had similar friendships when you were growing up.

3. Preparing

· Choose one childhood friend of one member of your group. One of you is going to tell the rest of the class about this friend (it doesn’t matter if the person who speaks is the person whose friend it was or if they talk about a friend of someone else in their group).

· Spend 15 minutes, as a group, preparing what the speaker is going to say. Think about a) information, such as what the friend’s name was; when and how the friendship began; what kinds of things the two friends involved used to do together; how the friendship developed; and whether the two people involved are still friends now; and b) the organisation and structure of what the speaker will say.

4. Performing

· The speaker from each group talks to the rest of the class.

· As you are listening to other speakers, try to answer the following questions.

a) What was the name of the friend in each case?

b) When and how did each friendship begin?

c) How did each friendship develop?

d) Are the people involved in each friendship still friends now?

e) Which of the friendships is most similar to friendships you’ve had yourself?

5. Reporting

· When you have heard the speaker from each group, check your answers to the questions with the other members of your group.

· As a group, decide which of the friendships you have heard about was, in your opinion, the strongest.

Speaking Cycle 11: Emotional intelligence

Sam

1. Activating

· How many different emotions can you think of?

· In what situations do people express these emotions?

2. Sharing

· Think about a time when you expressed a particular emotion.

· Work in groups of three. Tell your group about this experience. As you listen to your partners, decide if you have had similar experiences to theirs.

3. Preparing

· Choose one experience of one member of your group. One of you is going to tell the rest of the class about this experience (it doesn’t matter if the person who speaks is the person who had the experience or if they talk about the experience of someone else in their group).

· Spend 15 minutes, as a group, preparing what the speaker is going to say. Think about a) information, such as what the emotion was; when and where the person involved expressed the emotion; why they expressed this emotion and in what way they expressed it; and what the consequence was; and b) the organisation and structure of what the speaker will say.

4. Performing

· The speaker from each group talks to the rest of the class.

· As you are listening to other speakers, try to answer the following questions:

a) What emotion was expressed?

b) When and where did each situation take place?

c) What caused each person to express the emotion?

d) Were there any particular consequences in each case?

e) Do you think you would have expressed the same emotions, and in a similar way?

5. Reporting

· When you have heard the speaker from each group, compare your answers to the questions with the other members of your group.

· As a group, decide which of the people you have heard about, in your opinion, expresses their emotions most clearly.