My Favorite Prep-Free, Interactive Speaking Activities for ESL Classes

My Two Favorite Prep-Free Speaking (1)

While googling around for new classroom activities, I often find myself thinking, “That sounds like a great idea, but who has time for all of that preparation?” Like many adult ESL teachers, I’m not paid for the time that I spend planning my classes, so I’m kind of obsessed with simplicity when it comes to preparation. I’m always looking for fun, effective activities that are super-simple to set up to add to my teaching routine.

I’ve chosen a couple of my favorites. I like them because they are communicative activities that really get everyone talking. They can both be used at any level, and with mixed-level classes.

So, here you go:

1. One Question Walk-and-Talk:

Tell your students to think of one single question that they could ask their classmates.
For example, What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?, What was the last thing you bought? or What’s your favorite place to visit in this city? (You could leave it open-ended if you’re using it as an ice-breaker, or you might have students ask questions on a specific topic or with a specific grammatical structure.)

After everyone has one question in mind, ask your students to stand up, walk a bit, and then grab a partner. They should take turns asking their question to their partner. After about a minute or two, call out “Switch partners!” Students should grab a new partner, and ask the same question again. You can have them switch partners several times.  It helps to have some kind of bell or whistle around to signal that it’s time for a partner switch.

If you want to add a little more structure to this activity, you might consider asking the questions yourself, instead of asking students to think of them. For example, you might ask students to walk, grab a partner, and then say, “Ask your partner: What’s your favorite food?” And then have all students ask the same question at the same time.

At the end of the activity, I ask students to share one thing that they learned about one person in the room. We go around the classroom, round-robin style, and everyone shares a single sentence about someone in the class.

2. Speak for a Minute:

Before class, cut up some blank scrap paper into little squares. (Or, if you don’t have time to cut them yourself, tell students just to tear a  little piece of paper out of their notebooks.) Give each student one or two slips of paper. Then ask each student to write down a random topic that someone could talk about. The topic should just be a word or two. I usually tell them that it could be something general like “food,” “sports,” or “shopping” or it could be more specific, like “watermelon,” “trash cans,” “monkeys,” or “Justin Bieber.”  After they’re done, ask them to fold their papers in half and give them back to you.

Once you have all of the slips, tell students that they will each take turns choosing a topic from your pile. Their challenge will be to speak for 60 seconds about the topic without stopping. (If your class is more advanced, you might give them 2 or 3 minutes.) If they choose watermelon, for example, they might say, “I love eating watermelon, especially on the beach in the summer. Watermelon reminds me of barbecues in my grandmother’s backyard when I was a child, etc, etc….” If time allows, I usually allow a couple of classmates to ask questions after the speaker finishes.

This activity works well for me because I teach small classes. If you do it in a larger class, you might consider dividing students into smaller groups of 4 or 5, and have them time each other, instead of doing it as a big class activity.

So…

Those are my two simple go-to activities. What are yours? I’m always looking for new ideas, so please, please, please, leave yours in the comment section below. 🙂

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