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CEFR in Teaching Speaking

Being an English teacher has always been challenging, personally, especially at this time of globalization where the availability of learning sources are variedly easy to find. I mean, what is the role of a teacher when everything is available on the internet?

When I was in Junior High School to Senior High, it’s rather a deficit to find available online sources instead of having printed ones. The Internet hadn’t been popular and vast as the way it is nowadays. 

In the first webinar I attended held by Cambridge University Press on May, 18th 2020, presented by Mr Ben Knight, entitled “Making Sense of How We Develop Life Competencies through ELT”, focusing on the framework of Cambridge Life Competency for Communication, especially in learning speaking. He states that our students are International citizens of the future. 

It means that we, as teachers, need to prepare them for future needs. As for me, teaching the students at the secondary level, the closest one is the University where they can participate in a higher level of understanding towards the issue presented. Concerning this, it is informed that there are four skills needed to master, such as:
  1. intellectual skills, for instance: reasoning, problem-solving, concept formation and creative thinking, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
  2. communication skills enable us to pass information to other people and to understand what is said well, such as: communicating ideas by both verbal and non-verbal which involve listening, speaking, observing and empathizing.
  3. organisational skills, for example, collaboration, communication, delegation, mental organizational skills, physical organization, planning, prioritizing, teamwork, time management, and work-life balance,
  4. interpersonal skills consist of: communication, conflict management, empathy, leadership, listening, negotiation, positive attitude, and teamwork.

Based on the lists mentioned above, I may conclude that one each of them is essential in building the best skill to be the citizen of the future, which eventually in a form of communication.

How do we teach our students with communication skills?

Now, we are talking about not only speaking skill but more than that. 

In the second webinar I attended presented by Mr Allen Davenport from Cambridge University Press, he described that in order to teach our students communication skills, there are four frameworks we can use as the basic ground to fulfil the goal. However, he reminds us to choose the best one which is appropriate to the cultural background, teaching style, level of mastery, and other aspects to well-consider.

Framework 1 is the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference) which is defined as an international standard for describing language ability. It describes language ability on a six-point scale, from A1 for beginners, up to C2 for those who have mastered a language. This makes it easy for anyone involved in language teaching and testing, such as teachers or learners, to see the level of different qualifications. It also means that employers and educational institutions can easily compare our qualifications to other exams in their country. 

This framework is aimed at bringing out the production skills, not focus on the language. It is a fact that merely talking won’t work, but doing more meaning and integrated activity by creating another work may work, for example: making a poster and other design task-based.

Davenport exemplifies an activity where students are asked to compose a dialogue with their peers about a particular topic. Take a look at the image below!

He asked the attendees if there were any mistakes from the dialogue shown.

After having read the example, I found that the dialogue is monotonous and rigid. Yes, he believes that it was robotic, not from the grammar, yet there is something missing. It is the context of flexibility; I think that is supposed to be productive based on the needs of the conversation. When one of the students asked that he didn’t want to go to the doctor, another one should give him another recommendation instead of, seemingly, forcing him to still go to the doctor. 

It relates to the co-operative principle, found by Paul Grice (1975), comprising: (1) quality is when we communicate, we expect people give true information, (2) quantity is when people give the proper information based on the questions asked, (3) relevance, appropriate on the context, and (4) manner, which is not ambiguous, clear, not long-winded, and effective. This happened in the evaluation session where teachers give positive feedback. It is important based on the four values explained. 

This framework expects teachers to stay on the ground, not too much on the process of what the goal is at. Monitoring means to make sure that teachers can help them out with their difficulties not scaring them off when we come to check their progress. We need to make sure that we can facilitate them well not to make them worried if they make lots of mistake during the process. Encouragement! 

The next one is the Oracy which includes: (1) physical – voice and gesture, (2) linguistic, (3) cognitive – the content of the topic discussed at class and (4) social and emotional, like the collaborative learning or teamwork, context production as the aim of the learning process, not only grammar and the expression used. 

There are 6 strategies how to make this framework works well in your classroom by (1) transforming your school into a talk-rich environment, like English Day event, (2) making the switch to student-led teaching, (3) promoting autonomy to get kids talking, (4) encouraging enquiry for deep discussion with philosophy for children, (5) using the power of pictures to prompt discussion and (6) having your class to act up. These activities sum up the whole plan where teachers can manage to make the students active yet meaningful and well-aimed. We can’t just let them wasting time talking without any goal. This leads to a conclusion, in my perspective, that the oracy will be better for the plan of the speaking skill drill. 

I found a site where you can manage to make use of this framework in effective ways. I take the whole description explained by Prof. John Hattie from which found that teaching strategies with high-quality student talk prioritized produced the biggest effect sizes. He then gives five tips for promoting effective oracy, such as:
  1. Rules for Talk by setting out your expectations from the start. What does high-quality talk look, feel and sound like? A display or hand out like the one below might help, reinforced through teacher modelling and constant reminders. You could even appoint student ‘talk police’ to ensure the expectations are met each lesson.
  2. Sophisticated Synonyms by displaying academic verbs in my subject area and a list of synonyms. All you have to do is a point during a discussion to encourage students to vary their vocabulary. It also opens up a dialogue about which verb is most appropriate thereby teasing out the subtle nuances between meanings.
  3. Paraphrasing their peers’ ideas – no daydreaming allowed. It helps students with their concentration in class.
  4. Thought Stems whose idea stolen from David Didau’s work around speaking like an academic or professional in the given subject area. By encouraging students to think and speak using sophisticated phrasing, they are more likely to internalize it and use it confidently in their writing. It goes without saying that the more you can model this kind of talk, the better!
  5. Relentless Redrafting by asking students to replace a word with a more specific or sophisticated synonym; add a subordinate clause or use one of the keywords from the lesson in their answer, you are constantly raising the standard of their thinking and speaking. Again, by modelling this process first, students are able to see, hear and understand the thinking behind the redrafting process. It is worth remembering that if students answer using complex sentences, their thinking becomes more complex too.

The third framework is the Cambridge Life Competency for Communication, which help teachers understand life skills or competencies better. This framework actually is in line with the competences in the 21st century, as we know as the 4Cs: Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication and Collaboration at Schools, although they add two more spots, for instance: Learning to learn and Social responsibilities.

Based on the three frameworks explained, each of them has their own advantages and disadvantages which depend on how teachers make full use of them in their classroom. 

I believe that each of the frameworks was created in order to answer the requisite to deal with the new era. Hence, it is our job to make sure we compose the well-planned strategy to develop our students’ real-life skill in terms of their English communication competence.

Sukabumi, May 19th 2020
Achdi Merdianto

Webinar Making Sense of How We Develop Life Competencies through ELT By Cambridge, Ben Knight, Monday, 18th May 2020
Webinar Speaking is more than saying words By Cambridge, Ivan Sorrentino & Nicolas Mayfield, May 19th 2020.


  1. As long as I get paid, emm I mean knowledge

  2. What a flash work u've done! Whoaaa... I need my lappy now! (Crying mode)

    1. Any advice on the content? I feel my brain a bit numb lately.

  3. What a summary! Glad to read such insightful writing.

  4. It's a very nice and comprehensive writings! Kudos to you, Sir!
    It is known that in many cases the language barrier makes students supress their creativity and critical thinking, they may feel that it is scary to speak in English since the example on text books demand them to speak according to the grammar (with robotic dialogue). It's the role of English teacher to keep innovating with their teaching methods. Wish you all the best in your teaching career yaaa Sir.

    1. Yes, I agree. I hope that I did meaningful learning when you were at my class.

  5. So glad that finally language is used not learnt ���� Nice one, Sir!

    1. What is the word I am missing there? Learn what Sel? 👀

  6. Would you please inform me if there is a webinar again, sir? I am very pleased to hear, thank you for sharing thoughtful insight, sir, :)

    1. The Cambridge Webinar Series started from May 18th to 21st and they all have been full booked. I registered to all of the webinars yet on the day of the event, if I am lucky, I can get in. It is said that the registerers more than 10.000 but they only allow 5000. I'll let you know if I have more info for future webinars.

  7. Thank you for sharing. You have written it clearly. Nice share Pak...


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