Promoting fluency with very low level students

Published on 31st March, 2011 in Teaching Tips by Frances Watkins

This may seem like a contradiction in terms: how can you get students to talk fluently when they do not have the language? By ‘fluency’ here I mean having meaningful communication, without an accuracy focus.

I like to have bubbles of ‘fluency’ opportunities in even very low level classes – say false beginners to elementary. These opportunities may be planned, or arise spontaneously as the class is in progress. A good example of where this might happen is at the start of a lesson. Let’s imagine a student arrives looking hot and bothered. You can simply ask him / her encouragingly to give details, asking and answering as in a normal conversation; you could gently upgrade their language, where appropriate.

An example of ‘planned’ bubbles of fluency activity in the class, is where you ask students even at very low levels to exchange information. For example they find out who had the most interesting weekend (even before they have studied the past simple); they explain what they are going to have for dinner that evening; they try to remember orally what they have just read.

One of my favourite and simplest activities, which can be used even at false beginner level, is the A / B word game. Students receive one set of words each, eg: A: bus, house, family, teacher, icecream and B: food, coffee, morning, shop. Students work in pairs to describe their words to their partner; they must not look at each others’ papers. They should be encouraged to use any words at their disposal, eg. for bus, they may give a list of fragmented words – car, taxi, train, or just saya selection of words in the general area but not necessarily a correct sentence, eg Me morning come here ticket. Communication is the essence; encourage but do not intervene as this will shift the emphasis.

Activities such as these gradually promote confidence and new language often emerges in the process.


  • is there an american version of this Global book?

    Deyvis on 4 June, 2012
  • Hi there Deyvis,

    Thanks for your interest in Global. Apologies for the late reply – we’ve had a very long weekend for the Queen’s Jubilee!
    Global is neither wholly british or american english but an international English that highlights both versions. The focus is very much on global communication and therefore encompasses both british and american approaches. As such there is not a specific ‘American English Global’.

    Many thanks,

    Charlie and the Global Team

    Charlie on 6 June, 2012