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How to make FCE speaking practice fun: Part 4

How to make FCE speaking practice fun presents an alternative way to go about preparing your students for their FCE speaking exam. The objective here is to introduce different activities that make FCE speaking practice fun and at the same time help students perfect skills and strategies which the exam requires. This is the last in the series of four posts and it focuses on Speaking Part 4.

FCE Speaking Exam Part 4

  • Focus:  expressing and justifying opinions, agreeing and disagreeing, speculating
  • During the exam: your students will spend app. 5 minutes discussing questions related to the topic from the previous task;
  • Students should watch out for:  giving very short answers and not engaging with an interaction with their partner;
  • Teacher’s job: help your students to get used to the idea of giving elaborate answers (always think about the WHY of their answer) ;

Making speaking practice fun: Questions Brainstorm

Procedure:

  • Divide your students into pairs or groups of three.
  • Choose a topic with your students (using your coursebook table of contents is a great reference i.e: family / school life / leisure / technology etc.)
  • Write the following on the board:
  1. Do you think ………..?
  2. Some people say that………….. What do you think?
  3. Why do you think …………?
  4. What do you think …………..?
  5. What can people do in order to ……..?
  • Tell your students this is how questions in Part 4 of the exam usually start and establish what kind of answer they require  (more elaborate one, no YES / NO answers here, please). Stress  that it’s not about monologuing either, but justifying one’s opinion is necessary.
  • Ask your groups to choose three beginnings and finish the questions (concerning the topic you had chosen). You might brainstorm a couple of examples (ask your students not to use those).
  • Once you have different sets of questions ask your groups to exchange their lists so that nobody stays with the questions they had written.
  • Speaking practice time: students answer new questions with their partners and they monitor each other to make sure the question is discussed in more depth. Encourage your students to interact with each other! Mingle around the room and monitor.
  • Once the groups have finished, choose one question from each set and have a student from that group answer it for the rest of the class to hear.
  • Spend some time at the end of the activity to go through some errors and, most importantly, discussing with your students what were some effective ways of answering the questions in a coherent and varied way (how many alternatives to “I think” have your students used?). Have some examples of good language ready, in case your students find it difficult to come up with some ideas.

Why should you use this activity?

Students often complain that questions in Part 4 of the exam are really dry and they don’t know how to answer.  As a result, they end up giving very brief answers, which is exactly what they shouldn’t do. Reversing the traditional classroom dynamic (teacher distributes the questions, students answer) gets students’ creative juices flowing and makes them more invested in the activity.  It also raises their awareness of what kind of questions they should anticipate in the actual exam.

Allowing your students to practice their answers in a smaller group first, makes them better prepared for the whole-class discussion. Finally, encouraging your students to monitor and correct their partners is a more effective correction strategy than letting them passively listen to each other.

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