Quick Lesson Plans: Short Speaking Activities

ESL Class
Speaking in Class. Erik Isakson / Getty Images

As any teacher who's been in the business for more than a few months knows, it's important to have short speaking activities on hand to fill in those gaps that inevitably occur during class. Here are some conversation activities that can be used to break the ice or keep the conversation flowing:

Student Interviews

Introducing Students to Each Other / Expressing Opinions

Choose a topic that will interest your students.

Ask them to write five or more questions about this topic (students can also come up with the questions in small groups). Once they have finished the questions, they should interview at least two other students in the class and take notes on their answers. When the students have finished the activity, ask students to summarize what they have found out from the students they have interviewed.

This exercise is very flexible. Beginning students can ask each other when they do their various daily tasks, advanced students can make up questions concerning politics or other hot topics.

Conditional Chains

Practicing conditional forms

This activity specifically targets conditional forms. Choose either the real / unreal / or past unreal (1, 2, 3 conditional) and give a few examples:

If I had $1,000,000, I'd buy a big house. / If I bought a big house, we'd have to get new furniture. / If we got new furniture, we'd have to throw away the old. etc. 

Students will catch on quickly to this activity, but you might be surprised by how the story always seems to come back to the beginning. 

New Vocabulary Challenge 

Activating New Vocabulary

Another common challenge in the classroom is getting students to use new vocabulary rather than the same old, same old.

Ask students to brainstorm vocabulary. You can focus on a topic, a particular part of speech, or as a vocabulary review. Take two pens and (I like to use red and green) and write each word in one of two categories: A category for words that should not be used in conversation - these include words like 'go', 'live', etc., and a category that students should use in conversation - these include vocabulary items you'd like to get students using. Pick a topic and challenge students to only use the target vocabulary. 

Who Wants a...?

Convincing

Tell students that you are going to give them a present. However, only one student will receive the present. In order to receive this present, the student must convince you through his / her fluency and imagination that he or she deserves the present. It's best to use a wide range of imaginary presents as some students will obviously be more attracted to certain types of presents than others.

A computer
A gift certificate for $200 at a fashionable store
A bottle of expensive wine
A new car

Describing Your Best Friend

Descriptive Adjective Use

Write a list of descriptive adjectives on the board. It's best if you include both positive and negative characteristics.

Ask students to choose the two positive and two negative adjectives that best describe their best friends and explain to the class while they chose those adjectives.

Variation:

Have students describe each other.

Three Picture Story

Descriptive Language / Reasoning

Choose three pictures from a magazine. The first picture should be of people that are in some sort of relationship. The other two pictures should be of objects. Have students get into groups of three or four students to a group. Show the class the first picture and ask them to discuss the relationship of the people in the picture. Show them the second picture and tell them that the object is something that is important to the people in the first picture. Ask students to discuss why they think that object is important to the people. Show them the third picture and tell them that this object is something that the people in the first picture really don't like.

Ask them to once again discuss the reasons why. After you have finished the activity, have the class compare the various stories that they came up with in their groups.

More quick classroom activities to use in a pinch

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Beare, Kenneth. "Quick Lesson Plans: Short Speaking Activities." ThoughtCo, Aug. 15, 2017, thoughtco.com/quick-lessons-short-speaking-activities-1210497. Beare, Kenneth. (2017, August 15). Quick Lesson Plans: Short Speaking Activities. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/quick-lessons-short-speaking-activities-1210497 Beare, Kenneth. "Quick Lesson Plans: Short Speaking Activities." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/quick-lessons-short-speaking-activities-1210497 (accessed September 21, 2017).