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How To Help Your Students Become Fluent in English - EFL teachers

Updated on September 20, 2015
chef-de-jour profile image

Andrew is a TEFL graduate and has recently taught classes in the UK. A keen traveller and article writer he has also tutored 1:1 abroad.

Regular conversation in small groups can help a student become more fluent in English
Regular conversation in small groups can help a student become more fluent in English | Source

Becoming fluent in English is the dream of every student. As a teacher you want to give your students the best chance of success.

This article will help all teachers deliver high quality lessons on fluency. Extra tips and information provide guidance on how to best approach this very important topic.

Recent research has shown that out of the six elements that make up the art of speaking, fluency and confidence are viewed as most important. The other four elements – grammatical correctness, vocabulary, understanding and pronunciation – come lower down the priority scale.

To attain fluency in English your student will have to immerse themselves in the language - firstly through listening, then by speaking. The more they listen and speak the better their chances of becoming a fluent English speaker. Encouragement is the name of the game!


8 Steps To Fluency

  1. Listening through conversation,reading and response.
  2. Speaking to encourage confidence,eye contact and body language.
  3. Practicing with native speakers so that good pronunciation becomes second nature.
  4. Learning fillers and phrases that help keep language flowing.
  5. Interacting with videos of realistic dialogue.
  6. Perfecting - learning from mistakes.
  7. Exploring new areas of conversation and listening to different accents.
  8. Sustaining conversation within native and non-native speaking groups.


First Listen!

Time - 10-15 minutes

Fluency – fluid – flow. To improve the flow of your students' English you need first to assess their listening skills. This can be done either through :

  • an informal conversation
  • reading from a suitable simple text.

An introductory chat with your students will allow you to gauge their ability to listen and comprehend. Are the students comfortable with the language? Do they make eye contact when they are speaking? Do they finish their sentences? Are there fundamental errors you can work on?

Encourage the flow by asking questions, making observations and not interrupting! If you choose to read a text ask your students to sit and listen and then ask questions to see if they've understood.

  • Make notes and list everything you deem in need of improvement, from grammar to gesture, use of language to pronunciation.
  • If necessary record the conversations. It may come in very useful later on in the course. Don't be too concerned with any errors at this early stage.

Simple written English texts can be found here:

English texts


Make eye contact!
Make eye contact! | Source


Time - 10 minutes

Encourage your students to talk about something that is :

i) Personal - a memory, a family member, an incident/event.

ii) Impersonal - politics, sport, a book review.

The emphasis is on the use of language that's simple but helps bring the subject to life. For example you may suggest that your students tell you a little about what they are wearing. So they could describe a jacket, sweater, shirt, a tie, a watch, a ring. Let them decide. And when they've finished ask a question or two, or give your opinion. Be honest! Say that you think the orange flowers on the purple jacket are way too big!

You may want to limit the time for this exercise but be realistic. Give adequate freedom and try not to stress your students out!


Role Play

Time - 10-15 minutes

To begin with simple role play can be an effective learning process as it allows the students freedom to think for themselves within a given framework.

Tourist and Local

Excuse me, I think I am lost. Can you help me please?

Certainly. How can I be of help?

I am looking for the British Museum. Is it far from here?

Yes! You can walk there but it will take you one hour.

I must be there in twenty minutes to meet my friend! Perhaps I should catch the bus?

The tube is quicker. They leave every five minutes from Waterloo underground station. Just around the corner.

I’m so sorry, I don’t understand. Can you speak a little slower please?



You can develop this idea to include : Tourist and Policeman, Tourist and Waiter, Tourist and Museum Guide and so on. Try to get your students to look at each situation from a different angle by swapping roles, changing the set up, using a range of props.

Introduce them to new phrases that are often informal and used all the time by native English speakers. Like these fillers –

One moment please.......

Let me see…….

You know……

It might just…….

Bear with me….

It's best if you…..

Hang on……


Learning to use such 'home grown' fillers as those above could be a good mini target set over a few sessions and would be a great boost for confidence. You could write them down on white card and have them as visible reminders. Over the weeks your students should be able to pick some up and use them regularly in conversation.

You also need to make sure your students' pronunciation is good. It’s all well and good being fluent when nobody can understand what you’re saying!


Learning From Mistakes

Time - 10 minutes

Have a look at this paragraph:

In fact to be honest the best thing that helping me to say better sentences were the dialogues I did repeat in the early weeks of group class all those was so useful allows my words to be heard especially when dealings took place with most others.Yes? Actually if not for the advices given and such I ain’t for sure been able to learn nothing that was on the agenda the basic stuff like what you all fire off no thoughts of mistakes talking and that business with the language with the English?All that many hours together and isn't it great English now so much better I can speak all about things and people understand. That's so right.


  • break the text down into manageable sentences.
  • restructure sentences using correct grammar.
  • have your students read the corrected version.

What’s wrong with it? Well, on the one hand it kind of makes sense, on the other there's no sense whatsoever!

Get your students to read it out loud then try to analyse it together. If one of your students had spoken like this in reply to a question I wonder what your response would have been?

I hope you'd correct them. You can learn more about how to correct students here.


5 Exercises From One Photograph

Time - 5- 10 minutes

Split the group into smaller groups, say 3-4 people each. Give each group a topical photograph, preferably with people in it! - and spend half the session as follows:

1. Have a brief conversation about the photograph.

2. Progress onto Question and Answer Time – you ask simple questions and the students answer.

3. Watch out for use of adjectives – encourage use of describing words for certain aspects of the photograph, for example, what are the people doing, what’s in the background or landscape.

4. Create dialogue – choose two people in the photograph and imagine what they might be saying to each other.

5. Written exercise – set a 50 word/100 word/ short paragraph exercise for your students to attempt in the 1st person.

When they have all finished choose one or two students from different groups and ask them to deliver a short description of their photograph.


© 2012 Andrew Spacey


Submit a Comment

  • chef-de-jour profile image

    Andrew Spacey 5 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

    I appreciate your visiting comment, your commenting visit. I must get around to your bear hub!

  • TToombs08 profile image

    Terrye Toombs 5 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

    Great job, Chef. Very useful information on teaching fluency with ESL/EFL.