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Accuracy vs. Fluency When Speaking

Accuracy vs. Fluency When Speaking | ITTT | TEFL Blog

In this blog post, we will consider some important educational background theoretical and practical knowledge. The planning of a lesson for speaking skills (one of the two productive skills) requires us to look first at the ideas of accuracy versus fluency.

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We will start by defining our terms.1) Speaking accuracy relates to the correct usage of grammar and vocabulary.2) Speaking fluency relates to our ability to continue speaking without any interruption, such as thinking what the next word should be.

If we consider language learning in general and an ESA style lesson in particular, then within the whole lesson fluency and accuracy are equally important. With an ESA lesson however depending upon which stage we are in during that lesson, then we're either focusing on accuracy or we're focusing on fluency.

Any ESA lesson, regardless of type will have a set pattern as shown below:Straight arrow (E-S-A), Boomerang (E-A-S-A) and Patchwork (E-{any E-S-A combination}-A)

Remember in an ESA lesson, the engage phase is purely to get the students talking and thinking in English. There is no teaching in the engage phase, nor is there any correction. The engage phase (or phases in a patchwork) therefore does not need to consider either accuracy or fluency.

In the study phase, this is where we're looking at the target language and where we're doing our language learning, so it's very important in this stage that we focus on the accuracy of the language. In order to do this we need a very high level of structure in the activities that we get the students to complete. By a high level of structure, what we mean is that the questions we give the students have exact answers. This typically means using worksheets which have activities such as, gap fills, sentence re-arrangement and so on. The purpose of the activities here is to check the accuracy of the grammar and vocabulary being used.

In the activate stage we're trying to get the students to use the language in a realistic way and what we want them to do here is to focus on fluency. Activities in this stage therefore need a low level of structure. In other words there are no fixed right and wrong answers as such. Activities here would be things like a question and answer survey, mill drill activity and so on. Each individual student would give their own version of the answer and therefore we are not constrained to any particular fixed vocabulary. The main purpose of the activate stage is to get the students communicating fluently. It is the fluency here that is more important than the fine detail accuracy.

As with any rule, there are possible exceptions to the above. It is possible on some occasions that you will want to do an activity that involves skills in fluency and accuracy, during the study or activate phase of a lesson. Having said that the general rue of; Study equates to Accuracy and Activate equates to Fluency, should apply.

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