Teaching speaking

Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

In the spirit of Anne Burns and Christine Goh and their book Teaching Speaking. A Holistic Approach, how can we move from “doing speaking” to “teaching speaking”, that is how can we activate our students in more systematic ways so that speaking activities become genuine learning opportunities?

In this module we explore ways in which meaning-focused output activities can be used in the language classroom and we discuss aspects of learning and teaching speaking. We also explore teachers thoughts/conceptions on important aspects of teaching these skills.


Burns, A. (2012). A holistic approach to teaching speaking in the language classroom. In M. Olofsson (Ed.) Symposium 2012. Lärarrollen i svenska som andraspråk. Nationellt centrum för svenska som andraspråk. Stockholms universitets förlag. sid 165-178. Available here.

Pakula, H.-M. (2019). Teaching speaking. Apples – Journal of Applied Language Studies, 13(1), 95-111. https://doi.org/10.17011/apples/urn.201903011691

Reading questions

Take a look at the tips on reading research at the bottom of our landing page. Feel free to post your answer to question 4 in the discussion forum right at the bottom of this page.

  1. What is the context of the research in Burns’ chapter? And in Pakula’s article?
  2. What is the question addressed in each case?
  3. What are the main take-away messages of the chapter and article?
  4. How are the texts relevant or interesting to your own teaching?


We had the great pleasure of a conversation with Professor Christine Goh of the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore on the topic of teaching speaking and the Teaching speaking cycle. She takes us through the steps of this approach to teaching speaking. We look forward to reading your comments!

Online seminar

There was a seminar to discuss the topic of Teaching speaking on Monday 19 April 2021.


Share your answers to point 4 in the study questions in the forum at the bottom of this page. Feel free to respond to others when you have posted your own text. Please try to build on others’ responses. The discussion is moderated, so your text will not appear immediately.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2 Replies to “Teaching speaking”

  1. Monica Carlsson

    While reading and listening to the input on teaching speaking I was reminded of many of the theories that are behind my teaching; Vygotsky and the CEF but also of the portfolio method and formative assessment.

    When the CEF was first published in 2001 the rubrics with progressive levels in different skills made its entrance into my teaching. It helped me put focus on and evaluating each skill at a time. The syllabus of 2011 continued and emphasised this system of rubrics and now with the new revision of the syllabus the rubrics are gone. Nevertheless the different language skills are described and the progression in the different levels is made a bit more clear.

    Around 2000 my school started using the portfolio method, where pupils save school work in a portfolio (also recordings of speech). Each piece has an entry note where the pupil makes a reflection of why he/she saves this piece of work; what he/she is satisfied with and also what he/she must keep in mind the next time he/she does a similar task. Often each piece also has a comment with feedback from the teacher. Before the pupil does a similar task they look at the “old” one to learn from it and to be reminded of what he/she needs to improve. By looking back at old pieces the pupils can themselves see that they are improving. This is a good way of involving the pupils in their own learning.

    From 2014 my school has also used formative assessment as a method of improving the teaching and the feedback given to each pupil during learning (not only afterwards).

    What does all this have to do with my teaching speaking? A lot. In my teaching I often use models and checklists to show the pupils what they are supposed to learn/do. The checklists can be used by the pupil during the task but also afterwards for peer assessment or by me when I give formative feedback on the task. Giving feedback on speaking is often time consuming and using peer assessment is one way of doing it more frequently. The classroom climate must be good in order to use peer assessment, but creating a good classroom environment is one of the most important tasks of a teacher.

    Another way to organise feedback is to have book circles where the pupils read and discuss a book at their level. Every week the group members perform different roles (discussion leader, summariser, illustrator; creative connector, word finder et c). You can organise this so all groups but one reads and then the teacher can listen to one group at a time when they discuss this week’s text. Depending on the “group climate” the teacher can give direct feedback to each individual after the discussion. I find this is one way of peer learning; to listen to the feedback given to others can also improve your skills. You can perhaps also see your role in the interaction. If the pupils are anxious the feedback must be given individually. I find feedback on speaking is much more personal than feedback on other skills. Like Professor Goh says in the video; the speaking ability is part of your identity and your self esteem. Nevertheless I as a teacher must give feedback to each pupil to help them improve their speaking skills. I find most pupils are ok with me commenting on pronunciation and phrases etc when I walk around in the classroom, but I never correct pronunciation directly in class. Instead I often repeat the word or phrase in a correct way, otherwise perhaps other pupils would react and object.

    I and my pupils always speak English during English lessons. I find we do different meaningful tasks and speak English as we do so; compared to creating tasks to practise English. I feel I can ‘tick off” many of the things mentioned in the papers

    Summative assessment of the speaking skills; interaction and presentations, must be done several times each term. I think it is important to tell the pupils when they are practising and when they will be assessed. It is also important to give the pupils many chances, to “learn from their mistakes” so they can improve the next time.

  2. Monica Carlsson

    Editing the text:
    Wrong year for when my school stated learning about and using formative assessment; it was in 2011.

    I wrote this text yesterday and today when I wanted to edit the year for formative assessment I notice some mistakes; well I hope you can read it anyway.


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