“My students love to play games in class and always ask for more, but what they actually need is to improve their speaking. Can you recommend any games for speaking practice?”
Our students can always use some extra speaking practice, after all, it’s most likely the main reason they signed up for the course: they need to speak English in real life situations. But what they enjoy the most is playing games. So, let’s kill the proverbial two birds with one stone, and let’s play some games for speaking practice!
Have Fun with 7 Fabulous Games for Speaking Practice
When students give instructions, they often struggle to recall the right preposition. Play Crazy Cubes for some preposition practice! First, print two blank cube templates. Let’s say you want to practice prepositions of place. On one of the cubes, write down different locations or places in the classroom: the floor, the teacher’s desk, a chair, a table, a backpack, etc… On the second cube, write down different instructions: put your book, put your pen, put a piece of paper, put a ruler, etc…
Divide the class into two teams. Each team takes turns rolling both cubes. Students must correctly give someone on the other team an instruction based on the prompts given in the cubes: Put your pen on the teacher’s desk. If the student uses the correct preposition, the team gets a point.
Spot the Differences
Here’s another option to practice prepositions of place, this time, by providing descriptions. Print this worksheet. Divide the class into two teams and give each team one set of photos. Team members take turns saying the differences out loud. Team A goes first, then B, then A again. Give each team one point not only for spotting the difference, but also for each correct answer.
This is a great way to practice possessive pronouns. Cut out images of people from magazines. Make sure you have men and women, but also pairs and groups. Next cut out, pictures of cars, houses, dogs, and be sure to get some bedrooms and offices. Put the people in one bag and the possessions in another. Students take turns pulling one picture from each and talking about the items. Let’s say a student takes a picture of a man and a picture of a house: This is John. This is his house. His house is very big and has a swimming pool. There are three bedrooms in his house. Etc... Challenge students to say as much as they can!
Tell Me a Story
Here’s a fun way to get students to tell you a story. You can use this fairy tale boardgame or design your own. Students roll the dice and tell their story by using the character they land on.
Variation: Make your own boardgame by pasting pictures you’ve cut out from magazines or even celebrity photos. You can use people, objects, places, and make the game as long or as short as you want their stories to be.
What a Life!
This game is guaranteed to spark conversations. Print a copy of the What a Life worksheet and cut out the different slips of paper that contain information on major life events. Students take turns taking a slip of paper out of a bag. They read their life-altering event out loud, and the rest of the class asks questions about it. As students take their turns, keep a tally on the board of how many questions each student asks. The student who asks the most questions in total wins.
Variation: Students stand in front of the class and reveal a major event in their lives; it could be a memorable vacation or party, or an important milestone, like a graduation or their first job.
The Doctor is IN!
Try this game to practice giving suggestions/recommendations or using should for advice. Write short messages on slips of paper; each message should describe a problem or a symptom: I have a fever and a stuffy nose. I feel chills, and I’m too tired to get out of bed. Students take turns taking a piece of paper. They must read the problem out loud and then proceed to give their recommendation: This person should stay in bed and get plenty of rest. They should also drink lots of water and take aspirin for the fever.
Variation: Write other types of problems your students could solve, perhaps difficulties related to studying English, financial troubles or any kind they might share advice on.
It’s Movie Time!
This worksheet also provides a great example of how to turn a speaking activity into a game. In this case, the topics revolve around types of movies and the kind your students enjoy the most. They take turns rolling the dice to see what to talk about.
Variation: Edit this very same worksheet, or create your own with any topic you want them to talk about - health, the world of work, the environment – anything and everything you’ve covered in class.
To make some of these activities more of a competitive game and less of a simple speaking activity, simply introduce game elements. My favorites include a basic Tic Tac Toe grid, and a boardgame type of path that students move along with the roll of a pair of dice. They can take their turns after they roll their number, for example, but in order to be able to move that number of steps, they must give a correct answer. You might also want to give more advanced students a time limit, and say, for example, they must speak for a full minute. Or make it a competition to see who can speak the longest!
You can turn any speaking activity into a game if you use the right game elements.
Students of all ages will find speaking more enjoyable and will be more motivated to participate.
* This question was sent in from a real ESL teacher, just like you! If you need any advice on a particular topic, share your question in the comments below. Or tweet your question to @busyteacher_org with the hashtag #ESLTeachersAsk. Your question might get picked and featured in an article!