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Successful speaking activities

Tips for teachers on what makes a speaking activity successful.
Some students doing a discussion activity
© British Council
In the video in the last step, you watched teachers talking about different ways that they motivate their learners to speak. You’ll have noticed the learners in the classroom clips were enthusiastic and were participating well, both in the primary classes and the secondary classes.
Read the tips about what makes a speaking activity successful and give your own ideas below.
  1. Choose the right topic
    A bit obvious this one! Of course learners will be more motivated to participate in an activity which they are interested in and which relates to their lives or experience.
  2. Be specific
    Speaking activities with a clear communicative goal work best. For example, ‘Tell your partner what you did at the weekend and find one thing you have in common’ gives learners a specific task and an end goal so that they know when they have achieved it. Vague activities like ‘Talk about things you like’ can leave learners wondering what a teacher wants.
  3. Give support and preparation time
    Sometimes, a speaking activity falls flat because learners simply don’t feel ready to speak. Make sure they have the language they need and give them a bit of time to prepare. This could be time to read instructions for a role play for example. Making notes can help, but writing a speech interferes with fluency.
  4. Allow learners to work together
    If learners talk in pairs or groups, they get much more speaking practice than when you are asking questions to one learner at a time. You could demonstrate the speaking activity with a strong learner first, to make sure that learners are clear about what you want them to do.
  5. Provide a clear purpose
    Activities where learners have to exchange information in order to complete an activity provide a real reason for speaking. These are sometimes known as ‘information gap’ activities. This could be a simple question and answer activity, or something more complex like a group activity where learners have different information which they have to share in order to solve a puzzle.
  • Do you have any other suggestions for criteria for successful speaking activities?
  • Which activities do you use to motivate your learners?
  • Why do they motivate your learners?

Want more ideas?

Download speaking activities to use with your learners by clicking on the link below.
In the video in the last step, you watched teachers talking about different ways that they motivate their learners to speak. You’ll have noticed the learners in the classroom clips were enthusiastic and were participating well, both in the primary classes and the secondary classes.
Read the tips about what makes a speaking activity successful and give your own ideas below.

  1. Choose the right topic
    A bit obvious this one! Of course learners will be more motivated to participate in an activity which they are interested in and which relates to their lives or experience.
  2. Be specific
    Speaking activities with a clear communicative goal work best. For example, ‘Tell your partner what you did at the weekend and find one thing you have in common’ gives learners a specific task and an end goal so that they know when they have achieved it. Vague activities like ‘Talk about things you like’ can leave learners wondering what a teacher wants.
  3. Give support and preparation time
    Sometimes, a speaking activity falls flat because learners simply don’t feel ready to speak. Make sure they have the language they need and give them a bit of time to prepare. This could be time to read instructions for a role play for example. Making notes can help, but writing a speech interferes with fluency.
  4. Allow learners to work together
    If learners talk in pairs or groups, they get much more speaking practice than when you are asking questions to one learner at a time. You could demonstrate the speaking activity with a strong learner first, to make sure that learners are clear about what you want them to do.
  5. Provide a clear purpose
    Activities where learners have to exchange information in order to complete an activity provide a real reason for speaking. These are sometimes known as ‘information gap’ activities. This could be a simple question and answer activity, or something more complex like a group activity where learners have different information which they have to share in order to solve a puzzle.
  • Do you have any other suggestions for criteria for successful speaking activities?
  • Which activities do you use to motivate your learners?
  • Why do they motivate your learners?

Want more ideas?

© British Council
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