C’mon, let’s speak

IMG_20150619_111735In this post, I’d like to share a couple of speaking activities I recently tried out with some of my classes. I believe that the activities are worth sharing because they generated a lot of genuine conversation as well as some useful language. As most of the language input was produced by students themselves (not the coursebook or the teacher), the content was highly personalized and thus motivating. In fact, I was just a mediator & moderator while the students were responsible for all the language & content emerging along the way. This enabled me to use the activities with any level and age group I currently work with (from a fairly low-level classes up to C1 level). Also, I needed next to no prep time or materials – just paper and pen (and a coin for Activity 1).

Activity 1:

IMG_20150819_123933Give each student a blank card. Ask them to write a question they’d like to ask their peers. Ideally, the questions should generate some controversy/disagreement/interest. They should neither be too personal nor addressed to one specific student. Examples of how your students can start the questions: Do you believe… What do you think about… What’s your viewpoint/attitude/opinion…. Your students are totally responsible for the content of the questions, but you should keep an eye on what they come up with, just to make sure it’s not going to be embarrassing or inappropriate. This is a great time for working on PARSNIP topics.

Collect all the questions and shuffle the cards. Ask Student X to come to the front of the class and pick a random card. He reads the question and tries to answer it in 4-5 sentences. Then he flips a coin (a real one or a virtual one). If it’s heads, other students will have to find arguments to support Student X’s opinion. If it’s tails, they will have to disagree/find arguments to oppose his original opinion. This is much more interesting than if you just let everybody say what they think. Some students noted that they didn’t like the fact that they had to pretend disagreement or agreement, but I explained to them that they can circumvent this by saying something along these lines: I personally don’t agree but I imagine some people might argue that (for agreeing) … I agree but my friends often say that (for disagreeing)  ….. 

Activity 2:

Ask your students to help you generate a list of pairs from certain lexical sets. They can be opposites such as day/night, black/white, or just similar items, i.e. smartphone/tablet. Ideally, they should always be nouns or gerunds. Prompt Ss with categories, such as sports, food, colours, electronic gadgets, school subjects, seasons, etc. Record the students’ ideas on a sheet of paper. When you end up with a list of about 20 pairs, ask Ss to take a piece of paper and a pen. Tell them that you are going to read the pairs one by one and that they quickly have to decide which item they prefer, i.e. day or night? fishing or golf? English or maths? Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings? movies or books? etc. They always have to choose and record one option. If they aren’t sure, they still have to make a quick decision. Based on my experience, at this point, even the most demotivated and lazy Ss will liven up. So, each student will eventually end up with a slightly different list of words. Now, put Ss into pairs/groups and ask them to glance at their lists first to see if they are ‘on the same wavelength’, i.e. if they have the same preferences. Then, get them to discuss their answers one by one. My students came up with interesting ideas and lots of useful language which we then worked on as a class, such as: I prefer night because everything’s quieter and more peaceful (comparatives). I prefer black to (preposition) white because it goes with every clothing item (countable vs. uncountable nouns).

As a follow-up activity, you can ask Ss to come up with five more pairs each (crazy ideas allowed here) and during a mingling activity, they can ask people in the class about their preferences. This can be done as a survey, for example, which can later be presented in front of the whole class: Question: What surprised you most? Answer: That most girls prefer wearing pants to skirts. 

I hope these activities will work as well as they did for my classes. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!



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Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages and levels for almost 30 years. You can find out more about me and my passion for teaching here on my blog.

8 thoughts on “C’mon, let’s speak”

  1. The first activity is very learner and learning centred, and could have come straight out of a dogme resource book. I love the way all the material and content is generated by the students, and the fact that they have to play a role when defending the arguments makes it even more motivating in my opinion. I’ll try it out when I get the right class. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Nick,

      many thanks for leaving a comment. Let me take the opportunity to say that I really loved your plenary speech for the P.A.R.K. conference you gave last year here in the Czech Republic. It was one of the speeches I’ll remember for the rest of my teaching career. And I’m happy I’ve finally discovered your blog too. 🙂


      Liked by 1 person

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