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11 instant controlled practice speaking activities

Alex CaseTEFL Contributor
ESL Lesson Handouts - 11 instant controlled practice speaking activities
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Particularly in small and textbook-free classes, the best time to practice language is often when it comes up, something that can’t always be planned. Luckily, there are several great speaking games that can be used for almost any point without any preparation. This article presents a few fun prep-free activities that I often use in my own classes.

Make me say Yes/No/I don’t know

Students get one point each time they can make someone say “Yes (I have/she is/…)” with a question using the target language (present perfect, household chores vocab, etc), with no points for other answers like “No”. You can also play “Make me say no” or “Make me say I don’t know”, with one point only for those answers.

You must say yes bluffing game

Students ask yes or no questions using the target language such as “Did…?” questions for past simple or questions with -ed and -ing adjectives. The other person must reply “Yes” to all the questions, even when that isn’t true. Perhaps after follow-up questions, the person who asked the question guesses if the initial “Yes” answer was true or not.

True statements guessing game

This is similar to “Make me say yes” above, but instead of asking questions students try to use the target language to make true statements about other people like “You get up at 6 o’clock” for times.

Things in common

Students work in groups to try to make statements using the target language which are true for both of/all of the people in the class or their group, e.g. “We’re both meeting friends this weekend” for future arrangements. To make the activity competitive and/or more challenging, you can give points for statements which are true for their group and not for anyone else in the class.

Coin bluffing game

Students secretly flip a coin to decide if their next statement or answer to the question using the target language will be true (heads) or false (tails).

Boasting games

Students try to find things related to the target language which are better for them than for other people, e.g. healthy things that they do more often for frequency expressions practice or more recent times they did fun things for past simple.

50% lying game

Students make half of their statements or answers to questions with the target language false, then the other person asks follow-up questions and guesses if each is true or not.

Question memory chains

The teacher asks one person a question using the target language like “What are your parents doing now?” for present continuous, and places something like an eraser on the table to represent that question. That person answers that question, asks the same question to the next person, then places another object down as they ask a new question using the target language. This continues with each person asking all the previous questions and then one new one, leading to more and more questions and objects. They must always go back to the first question, and continue until they run out of new questions or can’t remember the old ones.

Sentence extension activities

Someone says a basic sentence with the target language like “He ran quickly” for adverbs of manner. The next person then repeats the sentence but with extra words, as in “He ran quickly up the hill”. Students take turns making it longer and longer until someone can’t remember the sentence, gives up, or makes it into two sentences instead of one. Words can go at the beginning, in the middle and/or at the end of the previous sentence. You can allow them to change word order, parts of speech, etc, so that new words can more easily fit, or only allow adding and no other changes.

Alex CaseTEFL Contributor
Alex has 25 years' experience as a teacher, teacher trainer, manager, writer and editor in Turkey, Thailand, Spain, Greece, Italy, Korea, the UK and now Japan. He is the author of the "Teaching...: Interactive Classroom Activities" series of e-books on business and exam skills.

Disclaimer  We aim to provide useful ESL and EFL teaching resources and educational ideas. Our articles are written by educators with extension TEFL experience. They contain only general information about teaching English as a foreign language and are meant purely for informational purposes.

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