MeetELT ‘Speakeasy’: Overcoming the challenge of teaching speaking

Speaking is not an easy skill, even in our first language. Effective speaking requires the simultaneous awareness and activation of many features and skills: grammar, vocabulary, phrasal verbs, pronunciation, speed, pausing, tone, hesitation, cultural style, conversation skills, social skills, circumlocution, topic changes, interruption, negotiation of meaning and repair…the list goes on. One of the difficult things about teaching speaking is that you can’t see it.

If you were to visualise all the different interconnected elements of speaking from accuracy to fluency, we like to think it may look something like this:


Due to this complexity, it’s very easy to get stuck in the accuracy end of the speaking spectrum; focusing on the ‘what’ in speaking. “What’s the vocabulary?”; “What’s the language?”; “What mistakes are the students making?”. Our coursebooks like to focus on the ‘what’ as well. In contrast, fluency feels annoying and vague. When we come across fluency tasks in coursebooks, they tend to endlessly ask students to talk about shopping, hobbies and education – they don’t focus on fluency sub-skills that could really help them become effective speakers outside the classroom.

The ‘Speakeasy’ event introduced activities which focused a little more on the ‘how’ and the ‘why’. Questions like: “Why do all the students need to use English outside the classroom?”; “How will they get a turn in conversation?”; “How will they keep talking in a conversation when they don’t know the vocabulary word?”, naturally lead us to the fluency and speaking sub-skills that help with effective and fluent speech: speaking sub-skills (pronunciation, speed, pausing); production devices (hesitation devices, vague language); conversation skills (interrupting, turn-taking, back channelling).

The activities in this workshop tried to take the intangible nature of speaking and turn it into something a little more tangible, more hands-on and practical – shifting our thinking from input to awareness raising, and correction to more reflection.

The ‘Speakeasy’ event included presentations from:

  • Carolina Carvalho – Same old story: fluency skills
  • Eve Courtney – Accuracy and fluency
  • Karen Haire – Pause for applause!
  • Laura Christie – To increase fluency practice
  • Denise Metzger – Turn taking in informal conversations. Coming to a group decision. Useful phrases for turn taking
  • Georgia Clarke and Deirdre Lynam – Assessment and feedback strategies for improving fluency
  • Maria Charalambous – Awareness raising and pronunciation
  • Virginia Mawer – Using new vocabulary and transferral of skills

Scroll through or download the presentations’ lesson plans below.

Meetelt Speakeasy Lesson Plans


Watch below for a recap of the event.

MeetELT is a professional development event for teachers across Sydney and Melbourne, masterminded by Navitas English and Pearson. The aim of the long-running event is to bring engaging, accessible PD to teachers who couldn’t or wouldn’t go to more ‘traditional’ industry events like conferences and coursebook promotions.

For more information about meetELT, you can get in touch via their website here.