Wednesday, 23 November 2011

B1 or not B1 and other Speaking Issues

B1 or not B1

How do we know what is really B1? The CEFR descriptors are long and complicated, the Maturita criteria are confusing so how can we judge what is B1?

Here are some on the CEFR descriptors for speaking that I believe are best suited to what we are looking for.

And here is my opinion of what B1 is

  • Not perfect – will make mistakes but will be understandable
  • Will be reasonably easy to listen to
  • Will be able to negotiate meaning
  • Will be able to interact with other speakers.
  • Go here for more details -

The link above will take you to a website with speaking samples, it is a nice way to practise getting used to the different levels.

Listen to your students not your student’s mistakes.

4 reasons not to over-correct your students

· students will become demotivated and fear making a mistake

· communicative accuracy is as important as linguistic accuracy.

· being listened to and getting a message across is motivating

· errors can be learning steps, we don’t want to make students think making mistakes is wrong.

4 Reasons to correct your students.

  • if mistakes are learning steps then error correction and coaching is important to help students see the problem and improve.
  • students perceive the teacher’s job is to correct, they will feel like they are learning if they correct.
  • students are passed the natural age for learning language so coaching and correction are important to help the students develop.
  • it is a way to deal with language the students would like to be able to use but can’t. (emerging language)

Golden Rules of Error Correction

  • Don’t correct all the time.
  • Remember what is being said is as important as how.
  • Echo rather than overtly correct.
  • Don’t interrupt… go back to correct.
  • If error causes breakdown in communication negotiate meaning don’t correct.
  • Use errors to help you plan
  • Think about the needs of your students, are they confident, can they handle correction.

This will make the students more confident so they speak more. So they will make more mistakes.

Helping our students make better mistakes.

My tips for helping students make better mistakes

  • The more they speak … the more mistakes they make.
  • Give time to prepare and plan.
  • Encourage a friendly, supportive environment.
  • Allow for lots of variety.
  • Allow chance to repeat the activity.
  • Favour pair and group work rather than whole class.
  • Pick topics that will interest and won’t embarrass.
  • Don’t make them do what they don’t want to.

Making Speaking Fun

Some principles for making speaking fun

  • Make sure there is a task.
  • Make sure the students know what they are doing.
  • Give students freedom to express themselves.
  • Make sure there is a reason to speak and to listen.


  • B1 isn’t Picasso
  • Errors are learning steps
  • Error correction needs to be supportive
  • Students need to feel like they are being listened to
  • Variety is the spice of life.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Gareth,
    many thanks for this handout and the lectures for our secondary teachers. It is important to be able to see mistakes and errors also from a positive point of view.
    The web link to speaking samples of different CEF levels you provide shows very clearly the difference and gives a good exapmle of what to expect from students at different levels.
    Would you mind, if I included the link to this handout in my next e-mailing to secondary teachers in Nitra and Banska Bystrica regions?

    Eva Balazova