Speaking challenge: focus on accuracy

My IGCSE students have been preparing for their mock Speaking exams recently – and the real thing is just after the holidays. We’ve spend time focusing on developing answers, on using a range of structures and on using vocabulary to show “shades of meaning” but the students needed to work on their grammatical accuracy. This presented a bit of a problem as some were struggling with basic level things like subject-verb agreement, whereas others were getting mixed up with their 3rd conditionals, and for some it was luck that the right structures got used rather than the fact that they confidently had control of the grammar.

I was lurking about on Twitter when I saw a tweet about retrieval practice grids (here’s a link to her site). I’d heard of retrieval but never seen such a grid. In case you haven’t either, they can be used to encourage recall of past learning and look something like this:

I liked the idea that students could choose a level that was within their reach and succeed, and yet still have motivation to do better and gain the higher points.

I decided to adapt it, not for retrieval, but for accuracy. Each colour would represent a different level of complexity of grammar (unscientifically decided by me).

This is what it looks like:

The students selected a typical IGCSE Speaking topic and then in pairs, took turns to choose a square and offer just one sentence using the structure accurately. It was surprising how often they got it wrong, but also how keen they were to have another try. A number of interesting grammar points came up and were discussed. When a team gave a successful answer, they got their points and I marked the square as used.  When the time was up, the pair with the most points was the winner.

Having played this as a whole class game, one could then go on to play it in pairs or fours, although students would need to be encouraged to check anything they aren’t sure about with a grammar reference, or with the teacher.  I laminated a set of boards for smaller group work which can be wiped clean and reused.

Another way to use a board like this is to develop more precise or interesting vocabulary. We did this in another lesson. The students chose another topic – holidays – and I gave them a time limit in which to send words or phrases related to the topic to a padlet board. Using padlet, they then graded the words a score out of 4, which relates to the number of marks available. They then filled in their own challenge grid choosing a mixture of words and when they were ready, took turns to produce a sentence using the term effectively and appropriately.

They seemed to really enjoy the opportunity to focus on the detail of what they were saying and consolidate what they thought they knew. One of them was heard to say “Arrrgghhh! I hate this game! Can I have another go?”




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