Get your Students Speaking 100% English Part 2

TEFL Training

Get your students Speaking 100% English

TEFL Training — Get your students speaking 100% English

From TEFL training to Page One of this article

by David Martin

5. Explain that real communication opportunities arise after they say “finish” (sic).

After finishing a set task the teacher has given, and while waiting for the other groups to finish, students will invariably say “finish” and proceed to speak in Japanese with their partner. The goal should be for students to speak to each other in English between activities as well as during them.

6. TEFL Training — Arrange the classroom so that students are sitting in rows facing each other.

As with free conversation, I have noticed whenever I fail to arrange the chairs in this fashion the students have been much more reticent to speak out. Ideally, there will be no desks or barriers between the students, only chairs in two rows facing each other (see diagram below). There is something magical about this arrangement that gets the students talking. It may work because the students are out in the open and have nowhere to hide and so feel obliged to speak only English. Also, sitting face to face affords direct eye contact which somehow improves communication in English.

Another advantage of this arrangement is that it allows for a very easy and fair way to change partners. Students simply stand up and move in a clockwise direction a set number of chairs and end up sitting across from a new partner.

7. TEFL Training — Do the “Speaking Marathon” at least twice during your course.

I usually do the speaking marathon in the fourth or fifth lesson and after that once or twice more as needed.


Work with a partner. You can talk about anything you like with your partner, but you can’t stop talking! If you stop for more than 3 seconds, your team is out! Also, if you speak any Japanese your team is out! Which team can keep talking the longest?!

*Copyright 2003 Talk a Lot, Book 2, EFL Press.

(Pictured: Kamakura by Richard Baladad)

I tell the students they can say anything when they can’t think of what to say, but they must fill in the silence. They can say “umm…”, “Let’s see…”, “chicken”, “kitchen”, and so on. Amazingly, students usually pause very little, and I have often had groups go on for 20-30 minutes without pausing for more than three seconds. During this activity you must act as a “policeman” and go from group to group counting off three seconds and noting when a group has spoken Japanese or has stopped for more than three seconds. However, it’s best if you don’t tell a group when they are out so that everyone continues speaking for as long as possible. There is simply no better way to build students’ speaking confidence than the speaking marathon.

8. TEFL Training — Have the students write down every word they say in Japanese.

At the start of class pass out small slips of paper about the size of a post-it note. Explain that they are to write down every word, phrase, or sentence that they say in Japanese during the class. Tell them that at the end of the class you will collect their slips and count how many Japanese entries they have made. Writing down what they say in Japanese helps students to monitor their output, and this heightened awareness helps to decrease the amount of Japanese spoken. I have continually been amazed at how little Japanese my students speak while doing this type of self-monitoring.

As a variation, if you can speak a little Japanese, write some of their Japanese on the board and then teach them how to say the expressions in English.

9. TEFL Training — Let the students go 5 minutes early if they speak 100% English.

From time to time, especially when the students are lapsing into Japanese too much, I stop the class halfway through the lesson and announce that if everyone speaks 100% English for the rest of the period everyone can leave early. The students don’t always make it, but having this goal cuts down the amount of Japanese significantly if not completely. You may think that the students would be afraid to speak out at all in this situation, but I’ve actually found that they speak out more after announcing the possibility of leaving early.

10. TEFL Training — Mimic your students when they speak Japanese.

You will need some Japanese ability in order to do this effectively. If you can’t speak any Japanese, here is an incentive to learn. You will be able to control your students much better if you can mimic their Japanese slips and then say, “Is that English?” and supply how to say the phrase in English immediately. More often than not students quickly realize they already know how to say the word or expression they said in Japanese. For example, a student might indicate that his or her partner can begin an activity by saying, “Iiyo” in Japanese. At this point I would mimic “Iiyo” and say, “Is that English?” (facetiously of course) and then supply “Go ahead” in English. Again, this must be done in a friendly manner.

11. TEFL Training — Be enthusiastic about your students speaking only English.

At times you must be more of a coach than a teacher to motivate your students. Until you have begun to modify their behavior you will have to constantly remind them not to lapse into Japanese. You must be continually aware of what is going on in all areas of the classroom monitoring all student output. Periodically I give “pep talks” to encourage the students when they are speaking too much Japanese and also try to motivate them at times when they have failed. Don’t give up–change will not come overnight, but slowly the students will respond to your enthusiasm.

12. Turn regular activities into information-gaps.

Information-gaps force the students to communicate in English more than in activities where knowledge is shared. I have rarely heard students speak Japanese while doing information-gap activities, and for this reason I use them liberally.

13. Pick topics and activities that your students find interesting and useful.

I’ve put this point last for a reason. None of the techniques elaborated above will be successful in getting your students to speak English if your students simply don’t want to talk about the topic you’ve given, or if they don’t find the topic useful. Motivating and practical activities and topics are necessary to get your students talking in English.


Martin, David (2003). Talk a Lot, Book 2, EFL Press. Saitama, Japan.
David Martin works for EFL Press, a publisher which produces great EFL textbooks.

About kintaro63

Writer and teacher in Japan
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