Sometimes, just playing games to practice the vocabulary or grammar being taught in the lesson isn’t enough. To get your students’ speaking skills up to the next level, you need activities that will focus on the specific areas that they are having trouble with. Making this even more difficult is the fact that you need to make the activities fun and inclusive. This post will provide you with one example of a fun speaking activity for each fundamental speaking skill: pronunciation, vocabulary, fluency and grammar.
Don’t worry, these are all games that I use in my classrooms, and they not only work, but have the student seal of approval. After you finish reading the post, you might also enjoy some mystery games (lateral thinking puzzles) that make great warmers or if time activities. You can gain access to my three favorite mini mysteries by clicking on the button below.
Pronunciation game: “Say it!” (a minimal pairs game)
If you are noticing that many of your students are struggling to pronounce the same phonemes, this is a good game to address these issues. Before playing this game, write minimal pairs on the board with the sounds that the students are having trouble with so that the students can differentiate the sounds. Minimal pairs are words where only one phoneme is different (e.g. bat/pat, jeep/cheap, sleep/steep, etc.). Once the students are making the sounds correctly, you can get them comfortable using the sounds with this game.
- Sentences with examples of the phonemes you want to practice.
- Scrap paper
- Put the students in pairs (A and B). Have the students sit back to back so that student B cannot see student A’s paper.
- Give all the student As a slip of paper with a sentence on it that contains words with the phonemes you are practicing. *Note* it works best if the sentences DON’T make sense. That way they are focusing on the sounds not the content.
- Student A reads the sentence, student B writes the sentence on scrap paper.
- To check, student B is allowed to repeat the sentence and be corrected by student A.
- Once they are finished, have the students compare papers to see if they are the same.
Lexical Resource Game (e.g. vocabulary): “So Typical”
Sure, your students are good at learning new vocabulary, but you may notice that they rarely use these words when they speak. It’s important, when teaching new vocabulary, to encourage the students to try and use the words. They may use the word incorrectly at times, but this is a good teaching moment. This example activity encourages students to use more advanced vocabulary and become aware of potential words for different topics.
- A list of speaking topics
- A stopwatch
- Scrap paper and pencils
- Split the class into small groups (3-4 students).
- Number the members of the groups 1, 2, 3, 4.
- When it is a student’s turn. They will be given a topic or speaking prompt. The student will have one minute to prepare a one minute monologue.
- While the other student is preparing their speech, the other students should predict and write down words that they think the other student will use. *Note* They cannot write down articles, conjunctions, etc.
- While the nominated student is talking, the other students should listen and circle words on their list that the speaker says. Students get one point for each correct guess.
Fluency Game: “Stopwatch Board Game”
One of the biggest struggles that I’ve had as a teacher over the years is getting students to say more than short responses to questions. For example:
“What did you do yesterday?” I ask.
“Homework,” the student responds.
“Where are you going for your holiday?”
“To the beach.”
“Tell me about your family?”
“There are five people in my family.”
While the above responses are not incorrect, or even uncommon (especially if speaking to a teenager), they do not sound fluent. There are many games to help your students to respond with more than a single sentence and to increase their confidence and skills speaking for longer. Here is one of them.
- A printed game board for each pair of students. You should write topics on the list that the students have learned or were the focus over the past month or so. That, or just some general topics they should be able to talk about at length for their level. I suggest twenty squares or so.
- Enough place markers for each student.
- A stopwatch for each team (or wall clock)
- Split the class into pairs and hand out the game board and place markers to each group.
- The students play paper, rock, scissors to determine who goes first.
- Using the topic on the first square as a prompt, the student begins speaking. The other student is in charge of keeping track of the time.
- When the student speaking either loses track of what they are saying, pauses for too long or just stops speaking the timer is stopped.
- The speaking student can move ahead 1 space if they spoke for thirty seconds, 2 spaces for 1 minute of talking, 3 spaces for 1.5 minutes, etc. This can be adjusted based on the level of the class.
- Then the roles are changed and the second student becomes the speaker.
- Continue the game until one student finishes the board.
Grammatical Range and Accuracy: “Beep!!!”
Similar to vocabulary, just because your students know the grammar, doesn’t mean they are using it appropriately. This game encourages students to use difficult structures, or ones they aren’t confident with, while making them conscious of common errors.
- Topic cards
- Buzzer (optional)
- Students can play this game in small groups of four or more students. Each group should be split into two teams.
- Choose a common grammatical mistake for your class. For example, if they tend to use present tense when telling a story about something that happened in the past, use past simple.
- Also, choose a less commonly used structure that you want them to practice. Following the example above, if we are focusing on the past tense, I might choose past perfect.
- A member of one of the teams should volunteer or be nominated to speak first. They will take a topic card and begin speaking about the topic.
- The other team will time the speaker AND listen for a mistake with the past simple. If they hear a mistake, they yell “Beep!” and write down the amount of time the speaker spoke without making a mistake.
- If the speaker successfully uses the less commonly used structure on the board, they are awarded fifteen extra seconds.
- Alternate between speakers until everyone has had a chance to speak.
- The winning team is the team with the longest combined time.
I hope that you have fun using these games in your classroom and that they help your students. Feel free to share any other game ideas that you have in the comments section of this post.
Again, if you’d like some mystery games (lateral thinking puzzles) that make great warmers or “if time” activities. You can gain access to my three favorite mini mysteries by clicking on the button below.