One of the most important skills for ESL students to develop, speaking can also be one of the most difficult aspects of the language for your class to master. This is because many students are hesitant to speak due to a fear of making mistakes or a lack of confidence. Thankfully, with the right TEFL speaking activities, you can encourage your students to speak up in class — and have fun while doing it!
How do you motivate students to speak in English class?
Before we jump into some great TEFL speaking activities, here are a few general tips to keep in mind:
What are some ESL speaking activities to get students talking (online or in-person)?
Now, let’s look at some great ESL speaking activities you can use in the virtual or physical classroom to develop this productive skill in your students.
Help students prepare themselves to think in English through speaking warm-up games or activities. It could be as simple as playing “Two Truths and a Lie” or an exciting word guessing game, or it could be a comprehensive but fun way to review the last class’ lesson, like by playing “20 Questions” or finishing incomplete phrases.
Holding debates is a great way for students to speak a lot in class, as you only act as the facilitator or judge during the activity. You can announce the debate topic in advance or spontaneously, then divide students into “pros” and “cons” or “for” and “against” teams.
Make sure that the topics or the range of vocabulary to be used in the debate are appropriate for your students’ English level. Also, be careful of bringing up sensitive or taboo topics like religion or politics, unless you know that your students will be comfortable tackling them.
Aside from reinforcing and reviewing vocabulary and expressions that you taught in previous lessons, role-playing also helps prepare students for many real-life situations that require them to speak in English, such as traveling, eating out, and socializing. For Business English, role-play can simulate job interviews, business trips, and various work situations.
For role-play with beginner students, make sure to provide a dialogue as a guide. On the other hand, more advanced students can write their own scripts for the conversations.
Class poll activity
Get class conversations going by asking about your students’ opinions on various topics that they can relate to. Learners undoubtedly will have a lot to say about recurring themes like culture, food, or lifestyle topics — the sky’s the limit when it comes to what you can talk about!
You can also spark a class discussion and survey based on a news story. For instance, you could interview students on how they maintain a healthy lifestyle during a pandemic or how their country is acting on climate change. Very young learners and beginners can focus on topics like favorite colors, family members, or pets.
Meanwhile, instead of you asking the survey questions, why not let your students make the questionnaires and lead the discussions? You can even make this more fun in a group class by playing “Find Someone Who” as an icebreaker, where learners have to find a person in class who matches a certain description or can answer a question they have created.
Customized lesson fillers
While you may have a curriculum or syllabus to follow for your English course, you can deviate from the list of topics from time to time by creating a special, engaging lesson based on your students’ interests after you’ve taught or known them for some time. For example, you could show a video about tourist destinations in Europe to your student who loves traveling or share a story about a pop culture icon that your student loves. This should spark plenty of discussion!
An oral presentation activity, which can be given at the end of a lesson or as a course project, is great for boosting your students’ confidence, especially in public speaking. If you are teaching a group class, you can assign topics to individual students or have them work on a single presentation as a group.
Whether it’s about famous musicians or tips for shopping abroad, you can find a plethora of podcasts on iTunes, Spotify, or other podcast providers. You can listen to a podcast in class and create a discussion about it afterward or have your ESL students listen to one as homework and report back what they’ve learned from the podcast in the next class.
This is an ESL speaking activity that works well with any group of students. Give your EFL students a prompt and perhaps a few minutes to collect their thoughts. The prompt should allow for enough speaking to fill up four minutes. Once they are ready, put the students in pairs and have them take turns sharing their four-minute stories with each other. Now, mix up the pairs and have them take turns telling the same story, only this time they only have three minutes. Once both partners have retold their stories, mix up the groups one more time. They now only have two minutes to talk.
Decreasing the amount of time they have to speak puts pressure on them to speak quickly while the repetition should allow for more rapid access to the language, i.e., increasing fluency.
Listen to me
In this TEFL/TESOL speaking activity, English students choose whatever topic they want to speak about and then create and write a headline for their story. The teacher divides the class in half, and one half of the class holds up their headlines. The other half reviews the headlines and decides which story they want to hear. Once the selected student has shared their story, have the opposite half of the class hold up their headlines and let the other students choose a story they want to hear. Do as many rounds as you have time for. This activity is very easy to carry out in both the online and physical classroom!
Take 1, take 2
This TEFL speaking activity can be done during class time, but it works especially well as a homework assignment. Have students record a story or their thoughts on a specific topic that you’ve selected. After they have finished, have them listen and make notes on parts that they felt they could do better. Then, they record the story again. The students can go through this process a few times until they are satisfied with their recording. You can then have them submit their notes and recording to you, or else play it to the whole class or a partner. This activity is great for getting students to self-assess their speaking skills.
Finish the sentence
Have each student write down half of a sentence on a piece of paper. For example, they could write “Walking to school today…” or “Guacamole makes me…” or “If I could have any superpower…” Collect all of the sentences and mix them up in a bag or a bowl. Call one student to the front of the classroom and have them draw a slip of paper (this activity could be modified by splitting the class into groups if you have a large class). Give the student a few seconds to prepare what they will say, and then have the student read the sentence aloud, complete it, and continue speaking on the topic for one minute (you can shorten or lengthen this time depending on the level of the class).
Speaking in class doesn’t have to be a chore or scary for students. With the right TEFL speaking activities, you can motivate your students to practice talking and create a fun, lively class!