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ESOL Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.


Speaking Strategy: 4-3-2 (or 3, 2, 1)

ESOL Principles

Most strategies can be used to support all seven of the ESOL principles dependent upon how the teacher decides to use the strategy within their teaching and learning planning cycle. This strategy is usually used to support:

Principle 1: Know the learner- finding out about learners’ language and schooling backgrounds and their prior knowledge, using approaches that build on prior knowledge.

Principle 5: Provide multiple opportunities for authentic language use with a focus on students using academic language.


4-3-2 is a useful technique for developing oral confidence and speaking fluency. Learners give the same talk to three different partners and each time they have less time to convey the same information i.e. 4 minutes, 3 minutes and 2 minutes.

3-2-1 is a variation for younger students or new learners of English. It works in the same way as 4,3, 2 but speakers talk for less time i.e. 3 minutes, 2 minutes and 1 minute. Read more in the English Language Intensive Programme, Introduction Notes, on Page 6.

video icon Primary level: Making Language and Learning Work DVD 3 – Year 5-6 Social Studies

Teaching and learning sequence examples:

Primary level:

Secondary level:

Some possible Teacher Inquiry questions:

Observe your students while they are speaking and notice:

  • Are the students using appropriate academic language/or the taught language?
  • What are the language gaps in your student’s oral language?
  • Do they have the language structures needed in order to convey their message?
  • What is the impact of the 4-3-2 strategy on the English language learners’ English proficiency?
  • What additional language supports would help them to be able to achieve on the task (e.g a speaking frame, or use of their first language)?


Published on: 30 Apr 2012