Thursday, 15 May 2014

Spicing Up Speaking

Speaking can often be the hardest skill to get pupils involved in and to assess on a regular basis. With many of our teenagers being shy and not overly confident with their speaking and presentation skills in English (never mind in another language!), it can be quite a hard barrier to overcome.

Trapdoor/ Encore Une Fois/ Alguna Vez

Trapdoors have become a staple in my classroom when it comes to speaking. Pupils pair up and then each chooses and option for each sentence in their head.  One starts reading out loud, trying to anticipate the other’s choices.  Each time they make a choice, the partner either says 'oui/si' or 'encore une fois/alguna vez' depending on their partner's answer.  If the choice is wrong, play passes to the partner who starts the same process.  If it is the right choice, the student gets to continue.  The aim is to get to the end first.  Answers don’t change, so this is also a great memory developer.  Make sure they don’t write each other’s answers on their sheet, though, or else it won’t be a memory game! Although it doesn't really rely on the pupils producing language themselves, it requires them to repeat vocabulary over and over in turn practicing their pronunciation and memory skills. 

Verbal Tennis

Pupils pair up again for this game. Get them facing each other with their knees touching.  The idea is to keep a rally of vocabulary/sentences going. If one person repeats previously said vocab, their partner gets the point. If one person takes too long to answer, their partner gets a point. By including timers on these slides, it really gets pupils ramped up and in the competitive spirit.

Back to Back Translations

This is a really simple idea in principle but one that gets maximum output in terms of seapking, team work and challenge. Print off two pieces of paper, one with TL sentences on one side and one with the English translations on the other. The pupils then hold the piece of paper between them so one person can see the English and one can see the TL. The person who can see the English must translate the sentence into TL while their partner carefully listens and checks that they are right. Get pupils to swap over each turn so both are speaking! For lower ability pupils, they may prefer to translate the TL into English which can also be checked by their partner.

Say Something Different

For this, you'll need some dice. Give pupils a dice in their pairs. The roll the dice and which ever number it lands on, they have to change the sentence in some way. They may choose to change one word, the tense or maybe the whole sentence but their partner must then explain what they've changed and what the new sentence now means. You can add 'MAKE YOUR OWN' to further stretch pupils and take some of the support away from them.

Running Dictation

This is a four skill activity which really engages pupils while practicing vital language skills. I often place pieces of text outside the classroom and have pupils working in pairs. One pupils goes outside to read a sentence or text and has to memorise it. They then return to the classroom and recite this sentence to their partner who must listen attentively and write the sentence down exactly as their partner has said it. Pupils tend to get really involved with this type of activity without really realising the multiple benefits. This can also be easily differentiated by having a 1 star, 2 star and 3 star text for example increasing in difficulty.

SIDE-NOTE: I've actually caught pupils taking photos with camera phones because they were being lazy so just keep an eye out!

Speed Dating

Give pupils a series of questions on the board and allow them a couple of minutes to prepare their answers or jot down notes. Pupils then must arrange the chairs so there are two rows facing each other. Each pupil takes a seat and then pupils ask each other and respond to the questions they have prepared. Give them a limited time to speak to one another and encourage them to note what their 'date' said. It's also a great idea to give pupils a set of success criteria to tick off when their partner hits the criteria. One line of pupils moves up a seat after each "date" allowing pupils to speak to a variety of people during 
the lesson.


Split the class into two teams and have them starting at opposite corners of the board. They must cross the board but can only give sentences for the hexagons that are touching each other.


Give pupils a blank grid to place 'Battleships' in. This is another paired speaking game that allows for pupils to repeat important vocab with the aim of it 'sticking'. This can be differentiated by giving pupils more boats or boats that cover more squares therefore pushing the more able.

Picture Prompts

I'm always keen to give pupils something to actually talk about and make it relevant to them. Here I've used pictures with adjectives so that pupils can almost 'spend' their words and try to include as many as they can in their speaking using comparatives. Pupils also have access to the Chatty Mats (can be seen below) in order to give their opinions and agree/disagree with one another.

This one is pretty simple and just uses Emojis so that pupils have a stimulus for starting their sentences using opinion phrases and infinitives.

Describing an Image Mat

Lots of the new GCSE specifications require pupils to talk about an image. I created these mats to help them do just that!


If you are lucky enough to have access to IT facilities in school, these sites can be invaluable resources for pupils. Voki allows you to create an online avatar which you can animate. Pupils can then record themselves speaking and upload it so the Voki does the talking for them. These sites are also wonderful tools for self and peer assessment allowing for pupils to re-record or watch each others videos and leave comments based on their performance. 

Chatty Mats

I have already written a post about Chatty Mats which you can find here. These equip pupils with the language they want to use in class but may not necessarily know through their everyday lessons. The repetition of this vocab also allows this to become second nature to pupils and in turn really improves their confidence when they are getting immediate gratification from their attempts at speaking TL.


Again, this is something that I have written about in my Perfect Props post which can be found here. The microphones serve as a distractor mainly with pupils feeling less self aware if they are holding a large inflatable microphone in their hand. I also use these to walk around the class and do spot checks and pretend I'm interviewing a pupil. It just makes the whole situation of speaking in a group a little less intimidating!

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