Seven minimal-prep/high impact techniques to focus students on function words and less salient morphemes – Teaching grammar through listening (part 2)

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(co-authored with Dylan Vinales of Garden International School and Steve Smith)

In a blogpost I published two months ago, ‘Teaching grammar through listening’, I discussed the benefits of teaching grammar through L.A.M. (Listening-As-Modelling) tasks I devised. In a more recent article, ‘They can’t learn what they can’t notice’ posted last week, I concerned myself with the issue of salience, discussing how the extent to which an L2 item or morpheme is ‘noticeable’ will affect its acquisition, making the point that L2 students are less likely to learn what they can’t perceive or hear clearly. I concluded that post suggesting a few activities that may enhance student perception of less salient items such as determiners, prepositions, discourse markers and suffixes (e.g. those indicating gender and number in nouns and adjectives in French, German and Spanish).

In this post, I suggest more minimal-preparation /high-impact L.A.M. tasks which focus L2-students on the grammar (e.g. morphology, function and syntactic behaviour) of such items through listening. I have been using the tasks discussed below mostly with French, Spanish and German, but can be applied to TEFL too. Please note that L.A.M. tasks are more likely to have an impact when they are practised regularly and in a logical instructional sequence – not haphazardly.

  1. Track the word

Imagine you want to focus the students’ attention on a set of less salient function words (e.g. prepositions). You read to the students a text at less-than-native speed and ask them to track as many instances of that word-set as they can. For example, last week I used this activity to focus my Year 5 students on the difference in pronunciation between ‘un’ and ‘une’ in French. The students truly enjoyed the challenge and reported finding it very useful.

  1. Faulty ‘echo’

This is another activity my younger students appear to enjoy. The teacher utters or plays a pre-recorded sentence; then he repeats it with a mistake or omission. The students are tasked with identifying the omitted word and write it out on their mini-whiteboards or iPads. Example:

Time 1: ‘I am driving at one hundred miles per hour’

Time 2: ‘I am driving one hundred miles per hour’

The omission usually involves short and less salient items. Recently I have used it to enhance my students’ awareness of the use of French prepositions in the pattern ‘I go to + country’ and how they vary based on the gender and number of the noun designating the country (e.g ‘je vais en France’ as opposed to ‘Je vais au Japon’).

  1. Faulty transcript

This activity requires a bit more preparation as you have to modify a text by planting mistakes which focus the students on specific less salient items you want to draw their attention to. You will read the original (correct) version, whilst the students are given the ‘faulty one’. As you read out the students are tasked with spotting the incorrect items and put them right.

Last week, I used this activity to draw the students’ attention to the different auxiliary French verbs required in the formation of the Perfect Tense; so I replaced the auxiliary of verbs requiring ‘avoir’ with ‘etre’ and viceversa and read the text. Usually I cue the students in advance as to the number of mistakes contained in each text.

  1. Find the spot

This activity is suitable when you want to focus students on word order and, more specifically, on the position of specific items (e.g. adverbs) within the sentence. Take adverbs like ‘often’, ‘never’, ‘always’, etc., one could use this activity to show how they ‘behave’ across tenses. The task is as follows: the students are given a set of simple sentences such as ‘I go to the cinema’, ‘I play tennis’ etc.. Then, if he is teaching adverb usage, the instructor reads the sentences adding in an adverb per sentence, while the students are tasked with indicating where each adverb was located. After this activity the students are asked to work out the rule governing adverb usage and any exceptions to it. This is the typical lay-out of use for the sentences I give to my students prior to the dictation.

Students get : ____  I   _____ go _____ to the cinema__

Teacher reads out:  I never go to the cinema

Students write: _____ I _never_ go to the cinema

  1. ‘Gapped relations’

‘Gapped relations’ is a partial dictation technique I use in my French and Spanish primary lessons to direct my students’ selective attention to the grammatical relations between two items in a sentence, a determiner and an adjective. For example the sentence, ‘La cuisine est très grande mais le salon est petit’ (the kitchen is very big but the living room is small) is gapped as follows: ‘____ chambre est tres ______ mais ______ salon est  _______. Emphasizing the gapped items to underscore the gender obviously helps directing student attention to the gender of the determiners, nouns and adjectives involved.

This activity, when carried out frequently serves three purposes: firstly, it focuses students on determiners, items which students of French and Spanish usually find hard to acquire, because of their low salience; secondly it builds, day in day out, a stronger awareness of the of gender of nouns; thirdly, it encourages the students to pay more attention to gender and number agreement – to the point that my students claim that now, after three months of practising with this technique, as soon as they write or utter a determiner they automatically think of the gender of the related noun and adjective(s).

  1. Cued gapped-word dictation

I originally devised this technique a few years ago for a group of English learners of French who really struggled with word endings which appear in the written form of words but are not pronounced (e.g. ils regardent). It consists of cueing the students as to the number of words in the sentences you are about to read out to them whilst providing the endings you want them to focus on. For example, the lay out of the task for the sentence “Ils ne regardent jamais la télé’ would be:

____s  ne _____________ent ________ais ______ _________

Since this lay-out made the above endings more salient, this activity enhances the students’ decoding skills whilst focusing them on two important morphemes (the ‘s’ and ‘ent’ endings in positions 1 and 3).

In my TEFL past, I have used this activity with South-East Asian learners of L2 English who struggled with hearing and producing dental sounds at the end of words and consequently kept mispronouncing past participles and other key morphemes

  1. Minimal-pair partial dictation

I use this technique mainly with French students but it can be adopted to other languages too. The teacher reads aloud sentences, the gapped version of which is given to the students who are provided with two (or even three) options to choose from. This is what it looks like in a French sentence I used in the past with my year 8 French class :

Je ne vois pas la/le/les batiment (I can’t see the building)

As the example above illustrrates, the options provided are items or morphemes (e.g. word-endings) which are near-homophones. Recently, I have used this task successfully to reduce the erroneous use of the partitive article after quantifiers with year 9 students who would say ‘beaucoup du monde’ or ‘plus de l’argent’ instead of ‘beaucoup de monde and ‘plus d’argent’.

Concluding remarks

I believe teachers striving to enhance their students oral and written accuracy cannot overlook the importance of less salient items such as determiners, prepositions, discourse markers and suffixes.  In languages like French and English, in which these items’ low semantic salience is compounded by phonological barriers, enhancing their salience through engaging the aural modality can have a significant enhancing effect on their noticeability with beneficial consequences for their acquisition.

 

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They can’t learn what they don’t notice – on the role of salience in language learning

The extent to which a target language structure is salient (i.e. is noticeable, stands out) is likely to affect its chances to be acquired by a learner. This is consonant with Schmidt’s (1990) Noticing hypothesis (concisely discussed here) which states that noticing a given grammar structure is the starting point for its acquisition.

A number of factors concur to making certain items more salient than others; some refer to frequency and regularity of use, some to their semantic importance, some to how easy it is to hear or perceive them, some to the challenges that the items themselves or the linguistic context in which we process them pose to our working memory.

Why should this be of interest to language teachers? The answer refers to a point that I reiterate to death in my posts: effective teaching is not just about classroom delivery, but also about the way we structure the linguistic input we provide our students with and the way we plan its recycling in our medium- and long-term planning. A teacher who is fully aware of the factors that make certain L2 items s/he sets outs to teach less salient than others and uses such awareness to implement strategies to make those items more noticeable is more likely to secure his learners’ uptake of those items than a teacher who isn’t.

Take prepositions, discourse markers,  word suffixes and pronouns. They are not semantically salient, i.e. they do not provide essential cues to the meaning of a sentence one is reading or hearing; hence, when we read or hear a sentence, especially a complex one, these items will occupy only peripheral awareness in our working memory (meaning: the brain does not pay much attention to them) hence, they are less likely to be noticed and learnt. This happens in our first language and even more so in a foreign language, especially if we are novice-to-intermediate learners.

Add to this the fact that these words are usually quite short and don’t carry stress and are consequently less easy to perceive. A French example: on hearing the French sentence ‘J’y suis allé hier soir après l’école’, as pronounced by a native speaker, a novice is unlikely to perceive the ‘y’ (there). An English example: on processing aurally the sentence ‘Which one of them would you like?’, a novice is very likely not to clearly hear the preposition ‘of’. Unsurprisingly, articles, prepositions and pronouns are amongst the items that L2 learners of French notoriously find the hardest to learn and are usually acquired late in instructed (non-immersive) settings.

In this post I will concern myself with:

(a) the factors which determine the salience of L2 morphemes /grammar structures;

(b) the implications such factors have for teaching, materials design and curriculum planning ;

(c) the strategies we can implement to counteract those factors and make them play in our hands in our attempt to enhance our learners’ acquisition.

Factor 1 – Perceptual salience

As Goldschneider and DeKeyser (2001) posit, salience refers to how easy it is to hear or perceive a given structure. This was briefly touched upon previously and pertains to a number of dimensions of processing in instructed L2 acquisition. One common context refers to phonological processing; if the learner does not hear an L2 item clearly s/he is less likely to learn it. Think about the gender of definite articles in French, ‘le’, ‘la’ and ‘les’ and how difficult it is for a novice learner to distinguish them from one another, especially when they are uttered by a French native speaker at native speed or by a non-native speaker with incorrect aperture and protrusion of the lips.

Perceptual salience is the root cause of many issues that hinder our students’ target language acquisition. To go back to the definite articles example, for instance, their perceptual ‘fuzziness’ not only affects the acquisition of articles both in terms of gender and usage (which differs greatly from English) but also affects the acquisition of noun gender and pluralization because articles usually indicate to the listener if the noun they precede is masculine or feminine, singular and plural.

The fact that phonological salience of some L2 items can seriously hinder acquisition of pivotal grammar structures constitutes one of the most powerful arguments for ensuring that our learners acquire effective decoding skills (the ability to turn letters into sounds) from the very early stages of language learning.

Another common context refers to items that are not salient in one’s mother tongue and therefore one’s brain is not ‘wired’ to pay attention to. A classical example is desinences (word endings) for English learners of highly inflected languages such as French and German. The Anglo-saxon brain is less used to handling the endings of words, as in English desinences are not so important. In French, however, and more so in German, word-endings (suffixes) play a major role in signalling relationships between the various constituents of a sentence or utterance (gender, number, case). The result: the students, even when told time and again – mostly through correction – to pay attention to agreement, keep omitting the required feminine and/or plural desinences.

A third all-important context refers to processing efficiency, i.e. the brain’s ability to juggle the various tasks a novice-to-intermediate must perform in processing an utterance/sentence. Our Working Memory having only limited attentional resources to devote to production, when a sentence or utterance we process is very challenging, the brain will prioritize the items that are more salient (i.e. crucial for conveying the intended meaning) and will neglect those that are less so – a sort of survival mechanism.

As a result, novice learners processing a challenging sentence will be more concerned with its meaning than with the minute details of the grammar (e.g. whether the endings are masculine or feminine; whether an adjective is regular or irregular) and will hardly notice them. Obviously, time pressure and other interferences from the environment are likely to exacerbate processing inefficiency.

Factor 2 – Semantic weight

I have already touched on this. Content words (e.g. nouns, adjectives, most verbs) are semantically more salient than function words (prepositions, determiners, conjunctions) and affixes and suffixes; hence, they are usually noticed and eventually acquired earlier than the latter. Amongst function words, the ones that are less essential to the understanding of meaning – e.g. determiners – are more likely to be neglected by the novice-to-intermediate learners. This is one of the main reasons why your students find learning article usage so difficult to acquire.

Factor 3 – Frequency

The frequency in which an item is processed and produced by a learner makes it more salient, too. This is the strongest argument in support for extensive recycling, especially in the case of items which are intrinsically less salient.

Factor 4 – Regularity

Structures which are regular are more easily noticed than irregular ones, because of their consistency and frequency, and are consequently more salient. That is why irregular forms, unless they occur frequently in the input the learner receives, are usually acquired late and even more advanced students struggle with them.

Factor 5 – Affective response

This refers to the affective response an L2 item evokes in the learner. For instance, a student may be interested or uninterested in learning vocabulary which refer to a topic relevant to its personal interests. Or, a specific set of items is necessary in order for him to pass a test or exam or achieve a personal goal (e.g. getting by in a country is planning to visit in the immediate future).

Factor 6 – Teacher and curriculum focus

The emphasis a teacher and the materials he uses lay on specific features of the language will to a great extent determine their degree of salience. For instance, if the teacher day in day out focuses the students on the phonological qualities of L2 words, or on a specific morpheme (e.g. adjectival agreement) she will evidently render them more salient and noticeable. For example, because of the requirements of the examination board we use in our school, CIE, verb accuracy has become one of my daily foci in lessons, inevitably enhancing their salience in my students’ perception. Unsurprisingly, their attention to and mastery of verbs has increased greatly as a result. In conclusion, we, as teachers are very much responsible for what our students perceive as salient.

Implications

The issues discussed below have huge implications for teaching and learning. The salience of an L2 structure priming its acquisition, it is evident that teachers ought to try as much as possible to enhance the noticeability of less salient items.

The most important implication for teachers is to keep the salience principle in their focal awareness as they plan to teach less salient items, considering all the possible barriers to their noticeability and learnability.

Secondly such items should be recycled more frequently and systematically than one would normally do with more salient linguistic features (e.g. by using my recycling ‘tool’ in the picture below). As I wrote in an old post of mine, one of the greatest shortcomings of current MFL instruction in the UK is the lack of systematic and regular focus on the automization of agreement (both noun-to-adjective and subject-to-verb) at the early stages of instruction.

Figure 1 – Recycling tool

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Moreover, since less salient items are more likely to be affected by error – as they occur less frequently – they may fossilize (become automated) earlier; hence, at the early stages of their teaching, instruction ought to be intensive.

Also, at the early stages of exposing our students to target L2 items that are less salient, these should not occur in linguistically challenging contexts, so as to avoid cognitive overload. So, for instance, in teaching and drilling in prepositions, discourse markers (e.g. connectives) or any other function words, it will be more effective to present them in simple texts, in conjunction with cognates or other words the students are strongly familiar with.

Furthermore, tactics should be devised to enhance their perceptual salience. Thus, in the case of items that are difficult to hear clearly (e.g. ‘le’ vs ‘les’ or ‘je’ vs ‘j’ai’ in French) frequent contrastive work, exaggerating sounds (e.g. through over-aperture or protrusion),  emphasis on decoding, and heuristics (e.g. a mnemonic) could be used to ensure that the students form and consolidate a clear phonological representation.

Other strategies refer to activities which, regardless of the topic-at-hand focus students on less salient items. One such activity is ‘Track the word(s)’, whereby the students whilst reading or listening to a text has to note down as many occurrences as possible of one or more linguistic features (e.g. French: track as many instances as possible of ‘un’ and ‘une’ as you can hear in the recording).

Partial dictations and Cloze reading tasks in which only less salient features are removed is another strategy I often use to focus students on these items. I have recently found partial dictations where word-endings are removed particularly effective in focusing my novice students of French and Spanish on the gender and number of adjectives and nouns – notoriously less salient features.

Typographic (e.g. highlighting word-endings; dotting or underlining letters) or graphic devices can also be very effective in drawing student attention to less salient items if used regularly and consistenly. For instance, in the sentence builders I typically use to introduce new syntactic patterns I make sure that a column is reserved to the prepositions, connectives, determiners or pronouns the students are less likely to notice.

Last but not least, the salience of less noticeable L2 items can be enhanced through teacher focus and exam washback effect. I personally try to enhance my students’ focus on smaller function words not only by recycling them more frequently, but also by rewarding their recognition and correct use both in low- and in high-stake assessments . Lists of desirable linguistic features can be given to the students for them to use for reference in drafting essays – telling them that the occurrence of n correct instances of such structures will result in n extra points.

Conclusion

The perceptual and semantic salience of the items we set out to teach contributes massively to acquisition. In full-immersion contexts, where the L2 learner acquires the language through exposure to naturalistic input, less salient items are acquired relatively late.

However, in instructed settings, where they have total control over L2-input, teachers have a massive opportunity to speed up and enhance the acquisition of such items by encouraging their noticing, by increasing the students’ exposure to them through frequent recycling and by ensuring that the students form a correct phonological representation in order to disambiguate as early on as possible decoding and coding problems that can have disastrous consequence for the acquisition of important morphological features.

In my experience – and that is why I wrote this piece – the principle of salience does not generally guide MFL teachers’ curriculum planning and materials design as much as it should. Evidence of that is the lack of FLE and ELE published resources that focus on function words and noun/adjective/verb desinences practice.

Poor L2 learner mastery of less salient features does not often impair communication; it does, however, often impact the clarity and cohesion of learner output and gives a sense of ‘sketchiness’. Not to mention the fact that research clearly shows that when mistakes with some of these features occur frequently they can highly irritate less sympathetic L2 native speakers.

I have personally found that keeping the barriers to salience constantly in my focal awareness in my teaching has made a world of difference to my students’ learning. In my long-term planning I now constantly look for opportunities to recycle less ‘noticeable’ items (e.g. prepositions, pronouns, discourse markers, affixes and suffixes), especially at the early stages of instruction. In my materials design I try as much as possible to minimize potential for cognitive overload and to proactively direct student attention to those features.

In conclusion, we, as teachers are very much responsible for what our students perceive as salient and have the power to bring less salient items into their focal attention through little daily zero-preparation gestures such as the questions we ask and more incisive, ‘invasive’ and long-term measures such as our material design and curriculum planning.

 

 

 

 

En route to spoken fluency via task repetition – the ‘4, 3, 2 technique’ and ‘Market place’

(this post was co-authored with Dylan Vinales of Garden International School Kuala Lumpur)

 

fluent-english-speech

Introduction

In this post I will concern myself with two  fluency-enhancing techniques that I got acquainted with 15 years ago during my MA TEFL through this very useful article by Nation (1989) but I have only started using regularly last year, after reading  de Jong and Perfetti’s (2011) fascinating report on their experimental study which persuaded me of the potential of such techniques.

As I discuss below, these techniques, have not only benefitted my students linguistically by impacting their fluency and aspects of their grammar accuracy, but also affectively, by enhancing their sense of self-confidence as L2-speakers. What I like the most about both techniques is that they require minimum preparation and my Intermediate and Upper Intermediate classes – the only groups I have used it with – truly enjoy it.

I shall first discuss how the techniques work, then concisely present some research evidence which supports their effectiveness as fluency-enhancers and finally explain why they work and you may want to use them in your classroom, especially with more advanced exam classes.

The 4,3,2 technique

How and why it works

The version of this technique, as found in Nation (1983), de Jong and Perfetti (2011) and in the other articles I read differs slightly from mine. Let us start with Nation’s version: the students work in pairs.  They are given a few minutes to prepare a 4-minute talk on a specific event or topic (note: they are not allowed to write anything down). They then deliver the talk to another student in the 4 minutes originally allocated. After that they are asked to deliver the talk to another student in 3 minutes and to another one still after that in 2 minutes. In their experiments, both Nation and de Jong Perfetti (2011) found that this activity enhanced their students performance. Nation (1989) identified the following improvements in his subjects:

  1. FLUENCY. Firstly, there was an increase in the rate of speaking from the first to the third delivery. For example, one of his subjects went from 86 words per minute in the first delivery, to 100 in the second and 127 in the third – an increase of 48 % in total. Secondly, there was a mark decrease in the number of false starts, hesitations and repeated words decreased significantly.
  2. ACCURACY. Nation noticed increases in grammar accuracy in certain aspects during the activity, particularly for errors not involving inflections, where the speaker repeated the same grammatical context.
  3. CONTROL OF CONTENT. The speakers reduced the amount of words from time 1 to time 3 in certain cases by as many as 100 words, but without making important omissions and negatively impacting complexity:

Analysis of the talks showed that in all except one case omission was the major reduction strategy. In most cases the omitted information was not important. In each of these talks two or more changes of construction resulted in increase in complexity. The increase in complexity was the result of embedding a finite or non-finite clause.

de Jong and Perfetti (2011)’s findings were very similar. In addition they identified three very important benefits in terms of fluency for their subjects that were not shown in previous research. Firstly, they found that the beneficial impact of regular practice with the technique was long-lasting. Secondly, they found that the improvements in fluency were transferred to new topics, not simply to the ones under study. Thirdly, they found that it was not merely speed of retrieval of the vocabulary items they used in their speeches that enhanced fluency, but rather automatization in the production of longer chunks of language and sentence structures through repeated use. They concluded that the 4,3,2 technique can promote automaticity.

Why it works

There are several reasons why this technique is so effective, some less obvious than others. The more obvious ones refer to the short terms gains from Time 1 to Time 3. Fluency development is encouraged from time 1 to 2, firstly, at the semantic level, because the students generate the content during the planning time and the first round of talk; so during the second and third round they do not have to think about the content anymore, which means that the planning does not interfere with other aspects of production and more attentional resources can be freed up. This means that more attention can be focused on monitoring the accuracy of the output or on the retrieval of items that could not be retrieved the first time because of cognitive overload. Secondly, whilst time pressure may cause some mistakes, it may also decrease the pauses and hesitations thereby increasing speed of delivery. Thirdly, when the same structure or chunk is used across all three rounds, the technique allows the speaker to monitor and refine its representation at each time; thus, a structure or chunk one might struggle with at time 1, might be refined at time 2 and perfected at time 3.

The reasons why regularly practising this technique has long-term effects which transcend the boundaries of specific topics or contexts are more complex and beyond the scope of this article. It will suffice to say that they refer to the automatization of processing mechanisms which underlie production and are more morphological and syntactic, rather than lexical in nature. To find out more, read here .

How I use it in my lessons

My experience with this technique leads me to concur with Nation and de Jong and Perfetti’s findings and therefore it will remain one of my oral-fluency-enhancing activities of election par excellence. The way I use it, though, is slightly different from the above.

First of all, I put students in groups of three rather than two. Student 1 speaks, Student 2 notes down the main points in the speech and Student 3 is the critical listener charged with giving feedback on specific features I want him/her to pay attention to (e.g. handling of verbs, use of connectives, range of vocab) – normally no more than two sets of features in order not to cause divided attention. The feedback session at the end of each round is brief, around 2 minutes.

Secondly, I usually give students four bullet points such as the following that I used with my students as a prompt two days ago.

Talk to me about

  • a past holiday;
  • a holiday you are planning to go on in the near future;
  • your ideal holiday;
  • what you usually do during the holidays when you don’t travel anywhere.

Thirdly, during the planning time I allow the students to write down notes, ask me questions or use online resources for help.

The rationale for having three students instead of two is : (1) if you have only one student listening and noting down the main points in the speaker’s speech there would be no critical listener to provide him/her with feedback on performance; (2) if you only have one critical listener attending to the content and the linguistic level simultaneously their attention would be divided. Also, rotating the students across all the three roles widens the pedagogic scope of the activity; the hope is that, as they listen, they will notice and possibly learn new linguistic features from their peers’ output. Throughout the activity, the speeches are recorded on iPads. The students will view the recordings at home and do some self-evaluation in their reflective journals.

Some of my more motivated student have found this activity so beneficial that they actually do it at home alone and send me the recordings – a teacher’s dream !

Market place

This technique, too, involves repetition and a change of audience. Differently from the 4,3,2 technique, however, Market place has not been the object of experimental studies. Based as it is on the same principles, though, is it fairly safe to infer that it would benefit students in much the same way.

In Marketplace, the learners are divided into buyers and sellers.  The teacher briefs the sellers as to what they are going to sell and each of them is allocated some time to prepare their own sales talk while the buyers are given receptive practice in the sort of vocabulary they are likely to hear from the sellers. For instance, two weeks ago, I told my students they had to sell a holiday to the South of France; the brief was:

Talk your customers through the following:

  • the accomodation
  • the facilities
  • the activities offered
  • the excursion to nearby towns/resorts
  • the nightlife

Each seller is given a stall (a desk) and the buyers circulate around the marketplace going from seller to seller listening to the sales talks and jotting down on their iPad or book the main points. I usually give a seller a set amount of time so that every round of ‘sales’ ends at the same time. At the end of the activity the buyers will decide on the holiday they will buy explaining in writing– in the target language – why they opted for that specific package.

This activity provides lots of repetition and chances to perfect delivery. The students love it and it requires minimum preparation.

Concluding remarks

There is plenty of research evidence that repeating the same tasks several times enhances fluency. The 4,3,2 techniques and Market place make repetition a bit more fun and the fact that students talk to a different audience each time makes it a little more interesting. The students’ feedback on them has always been positive; they learnt a lot both as listeners and as speakers and, most importanty, it enhanced their can-do attitude or self-efficacy as L2 speakers. I use it mostly with fairly homogeneous intermediate and upper intermediate groups, as I am not sure it would work with mixed ability classes. It works well with my classes because our examination board requires them to converse with the examiner about two topics in five minutes, hence cutting down hesitations and false starts is paramount, as well as speed of delivery. Giving the rationale for the 4,3,2 technique and telling them that there is research evidence that it works definitely helped to get the students to buy into it in the run-up to their oral exams. I strongly recommend both activities if developing your students’ fluency is high on your agenda.

For more on my ideas on improving speaking fluency, get hold of the book I co-authored with Steve Smith ‘The language teacher toolkit’ available on www.amazon.co.uk