- Keywords: Fluency development, repetition
- Learner English level: All levels
- Learner maturity: All levels
- Preparation time: 2-3 minutes
- Activity time: Varies upon teacher’s objective
- Materials: None
Classroom activities that are student-centered and incorporate repetition can improve oral fluency and boost learner confidence. Fluency squares, adapted from fluency circles (Bohlke, 2014) in which students practice speaking with different partners rotating in a single inner-outer-circle pattern, is a technique with many benefits. These include giving students the chance to speak with their peers one-on-one instead of in front of large groups, maximizing time efficiency by having all students speak at once, and allowing students to interact with more than one partner. In addition, unlike a fluency circle, it is applied in a way that is easy to recreate in any classroom environment with minimum disruption.
Organize students in seated groups of four and inform them they will be working together (see Appendix A). Provide students with a topic to practice. This could be conversational English for an upcoming oral test, task-orientated role-plays, or rehearsing sections of an important individual or group presentation. Explain to the students that a “fluent” response is a response that is spoken easily without long pauses while not relying only on the fewest number of words possible.
Step 1: Model the word, phrases, or dialogue you want your students to acquire. For example, if the students are preparing for an oral test, give them a topic question prompt such as “What classes did you like/dislike in high school and why?” and a possible response, “I disliked math because it was difficult.”
Step 2: Have students practice speaking the modeled language with their first partner: A + B and C + D (see Appendix A).
Step 3: Have students practice with their back-to-front partner: A + C and B + D (see Appendix A). Encourage students to make individual variations and expand upon their answers.
Step 4: Finally, have students practice a third time with their “crisscross partner:” A + D and B + C. To prevent too much overlapping noise, an alternative option is to have D and C students simply switch seats with each other so they are back to front with their final partner (see Appendix A). Having students speak to multiple partners gives them the opportunity to hear different responses and build vocabulary. It also allows them to adjust their speech if there are any misunderstandings. The repetition and adaptations should contribute to boosting confidence and lead to better fluency.
Step 5: Have each member give verbal feedback to their group by restating which responses they thought were the most “fluent.”
Possible Adaptations: Reduce the amount of time given with each new partner. Increase the amount of time to let students contribute more information on the topic. Add supplemental or replacement wordage. Allow students to refer to the text only in the first round.
Through using fluency squares, students can speak more fluently each time they practice with a new partner and internalize what they are using. Therefore, students have a better chance to build their English speaking fluency in an interactive way. Fluency squares is an easy-to-use technique that can be used in practically any teaching context or school level.
Bohlke, D. (2014). Fluency-oriented second language teaching. In D. M. Brinton, M. Celce-Murcia, & M. A. Snow (Eds.), Teaching English as a second or foreign language (pp. 121-135). Boston, MA: Heinle and Heinle.
The appendix is available below.