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Activities to get students speaking

Teenage boy giving presentation in classDiana Corcos, a teacher and teacher trainer, gives us a few tips on how to get students speaking in class.

Recently, I was in the staff room looking at the timetables for the next term. I was worried because I’d been given one of the larger classes…about 30 students. I am not keen on big classes so I decided to spend some time thinking about how I could get them all involved in some speaking activities.

I know from experience that it’s really important for pronunciation and memory, as well as providing a change of activity to keep students interested; but it’s a challenge!

So I thought I’d share with you some of the ideas I’ve used successfully in the past.

■ Get your classroom layout right

Have students’ desks and chairs arranged so they can see each other and you can move around easily. The students need to know that you’re listening and commenting on their progress as well as keeping an eye on them!

■ Keep control – without raising your voice

We all worry about losing control of speaking activities in large classes but they can work if you don’t have to shout. Try this way to get your students to listen

Tell your class that when your hand is held up you expect everyone to be quiet and listen. At first, only a few students will see your hand go up, but they’ll tell others and in a few seconds everyone will be quiet and you can speak. It’s really just the same as them putting up their hand to speak to you, so they’ll soon get used to it.

■ Grab their attention right from the start

Behaviour problems, especially with large groups, can happen when students drift into the lesson and it takes a while before everyone’s ready to start.  So have something they can get on with immediately.  Always have a task ready on the board when they come in – but keep it short. I use a kitchen timer which rings after a set time. My students always work in pairs.

Activities might be as simple as open-ended questions e.g.

  • Why do people live in cities?
  • Is school uniform a good or a bad thing?
  • Does money bring happiness?

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