Top ESL Speaking Classroom Activities 2: Getting your students to speak!

Following on from my last blog on making students aware how we speak, here are some ESL speaking activities to actually get the little (or big) rascals to open their mouths and produce streams of sound. These are ways of easing them in and they are controlled in some sort of way because students have a script or text to read from.
Sounds good to me!
Photo by unlistedsightings


I have to say that I never used to pay much attention to drilling, but after the DELTA I know how important it is. For drilling resources have a look hereHere are a few drilling activities.

  • Before an information gap activity (see below) drill the questions. For example, if the kids are going round asking each other ‘Do you like pizza?’ then drill the question several times and show how ‘do you’ changes to  /ʤə/. If it’s a longer question, like ‘What did you have for lunch today?’ I tend to tap out the rhythm and stress before they practise.
  • Get students to listen to mini dialogues in the books and repeat line by line before they do it themselves, or you can just get them to repeat after you.
  • Drill lines to songs before they sing as a class.
  • Drill the phrases you have just made them aware of (see last blog) before they do the activities themselves.
Reading aloud
  • I used to hate reading aloud at school, but mainly because I never had a chance to practise. Before students read aloud let them have a go at their part. Get them to highlight which words are stressed, where the words join, or sounds change. I’ve read out mini stories as a class this way and it’s great fun, especially when they put on voices.
  • Before checking grammar homework get students to practise saying the sentences in pairs and highlight key words, stress, and intonation.
  • You can read aloud stories, texts, dialogues, even listening transcripts. Anyway they can practise is great for their pronunciation.
Great photo for making a dialogue with your class.
Photo by Pensive Glance

Using the dialogues in the course books

There are loads of ways you can use the dialogues in the course books.
  • Students first listen to the dialogue and repeat line by line.
  • Model the conversation with one of the stronger students.
  • You can be one of the people in the dialogue and the whole class can be the other.
  • Two students demonstrate in front of the class and then the whole class practise in pairs.
  • Model the conversation, but change it in some way. For example, imagine there is a dialogue in a restaurant. The first time they practise it as it is in the book, then model it again but change the food, drink and prices. Students practise again, first with the dialogue, and then without, to see if they can remember.
  • You can even create your own dialogue in class with the students. Start by getting a picture of two people on the board (the one above could make for some interesting dialogues). You start it how you want, maybe related to what you’ve just been teaching, and you write up the dialogue line by line as a class. Do some drilling, students repeat the dialogue in pairs a couple of times, and then you gradually rub it out so they have to reproduce it from memory.
Information Gap Exercise
This is a slightly freer activity, but it’s a great way to practise any grammar point. I love it because they are only asking one or two questions and they get better at asking that question. Also the responses are normally in English. Here’s an example with ‘going to’.

On the board write up three or four ‘going to questions’ and to the right draw three horizontal lines. Like this:

                                                                     _________   __________  ___________
What are you going to do tonight?
What are you going to do next weekend?
What are you going to do this summer?

Spin your pen on the floor to choose three students. Ask each student the questions and write the answers on the board. Students then make their own chart in their books and change the questions. Do some drilling and then rotate the class so they ask three or four other students and fill in their own chart. After that they can write up a text based on the results and present it to the class (that way they practise the 3rd person too). This is great for kids and teenagers because it forces them to use the language. And you can do this for any grammar point, trust me….Also very little prep!

Role plays
I think these are a great way for students to practise speaking. This works best if students have a model so first you have to write up a mini role play and maybe act it out with one of the stronger students. You can also include any grammar point or vocabulary you’ve been teaching into a role play.

Students make their own role plays, using the grammar point or vocabulary you have just taught, and present them to the class. You can give students points for each time they use the grammar point or vocabulary and have a competition.

This is even more fun if you elicit a few famous peoples’ names on the board and students have to be that famous person. You can also set destinations and give them objects they have to use in their mini play.

To make this really worthwhile, help them with the pronunciation. Get them to mark the key words in their part, show aspects of connected speech and really get them to practise before they perform in front of the class. Even if you have to do it over two classes.

So there are a few controlled ways of getting students to speak. The next blog will be on more freer activities to help students improve their speaking. 

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