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S. Sabbagh Bissat

Teacher Researcher (FRANCE)
It is well known that success in oral communication skills contributes to one’s success in academic and social life. To set the stage for giving focused teaching on OPS (oral presentation skills) and NVC (non-verbal communication), it is important for ESL (English as Second Language) teachers to know their students’ needs and social background, and encourage them to share information relevant to their interests with their peers.

Teachers in ESL classrooms around the world encourage students to express their ideas and views about various topics they encounter and readings they go through. One way to do this is to have students deliver prepared reports and presentations. Another way is to engage students in spontaneous talks throughout classroom activities. Ivanova (2000) points out several advantages on asking students to give oral presentations: it gives the presenting student a good opportunity to practise unaided speaking, it gives the other students good listening practice, it increases the presenting student's confidence when using English, it can be a good diagnostic device, and it can be good practice for the real situation when students may actually need to give presentations in English in their professional lives, and it is an excellent generator of spontaneous discussion and/or essay topic (N/A).

From my experience with grade four, five, and six ESL students, I noticed several issues that encouraged me to sought answer for my study. First, I noticed a lack of instruction and/or emphasis on oral presentation skills from the teachers’ side. Second, I noticed students’ tendency to memorize prepared chunks of speeches with no oral reporting skills or appropriate use of non-verbal communication. Third, I realized that very few teachers give feedback on their students’ use of voice, eye-contact, body language, and other aspects of non-verbal indicators.

Findings from workshops, interviews, and questionnaires contributed to understanding the teachers’ perception towards their teaching of OPS and NVC, as well as the teachers’ attitudes towards their students’ language abilities, the appropriate age of instruction, and the usefulness of teaching NVC and OPS. This research informed participants about, on one hand, important features and teaching techniques that were missing in their ESL teaching, and on the other, the important role of non-verbal communication in adding action and meaning to the language classroom.

Results indicate that the main objective for most teachers is to improve the learners’ fluency. It is a prevailing tendency
for many teachers that oral presentations are used as part of summative assessment, at the end of units, rather than being part of on-going formative assessments. Results also indicate that teaching vocabulary and grammar is generally addressed through writing and rarely through oral fluency practice. Also, results indicate that it is possible to implement focused OPS and NVC teaching techniques to high school students, while allowing practice and direct exposure to these skills to primary and middle-school students. Although teachers have sufficient knowledge regarding NVC, further research and training is required to improve their practice and guarantee the achievement of successful focused NVC techniques in their ESL classrooms.