Published 14th November 2017

We all want our students to speak English. This is usually the reason they find themselves in our English as a Foreign Language classroom. Of course, some may need to take exams or write business emails or listen to university lectures, but for the most part our students consider speaking to be the most important skill they need to get to grips with. So it’s a shame when we find classrooms where the only speaking students are doing is repeating after the teacher, answering grammar questions or reading a simple dialogue.

Where is the reality in these activities?

Our students come to our classrooms to learn language they can find useful in real life, outside the classroom. This is what we need to give them. Our students can then practise these conversational situations in the safety of the classroom before they need to utilize them in a real English-speaking context. Doing these activities will mean they will be exposed to any possible language they may need so as to be able to communicate effectively in such situations.

Here are a few ideas for real-world speaking activities you can use in the EFL classroom.

News Reporter

For this activity students will need to watch the news or read a local newspaper. In groups they must decide on a few stories they want to report on and write down notes on their story. In class, each group must present their news stories to the class.

This activity incorporates authentic materials and requires the students to narrate a story. Although the context may not be exactly how it might happen in real life (unless they’re planning to be news anchors!) telling stories is something we do naturally in everyday life.

Celebrity Interview

In this activity the students will interview each other. Each student will be given the chance to be interviewed but not by one person, but by the whole class. As the “celebrity” takes to the “stage”, their classmates can ask them questions about their life – past, present and future. For this it makes sense for them to use true information rather than pretending to be someone they’re not, but they must think of a realistic reason they are famous – ie they’ve eaten a pizza in record time, they’ve stayed up all night or they won a spelling bee when they were twelve.

This activity mimics real life because we are always asking people questions about themselves. In the classroom we can get stuck asking “Where are you from?” and “Why are you learning English?”. This activity gives students the chance to ask questions they would usually ask their friends or people they have just met – for example, “Why do you eat so quickly?”, “What do you do the day after you stay out all night?” and “How did you become so good at spelling?”.

Scenes from a Hat

This is an improvisation activity. Write down a number of familiar everyday scenes that occur between two or more people – for example, a son arguing with his mother about him smoking, a customer complaining to a waiter about their food, a daughter telling her parents she’s pregnant, or a couple on their first date. In groups let the students discuss the different situations first and think about what could be said in each. There will be many different interpretations of each situation and that’s good. Once this has been done, the teacher can pick students who then choose a situation out of a hat i.e. at random. They must then act out this situation without discussing it first with their partners.

This activity allows the students some preparation but essentially requires them to think on their feet. There is every chance they may end up in such a situation (ok, maybe not all of them!) and this will help them feel more confident getting into discussions off the cuff.

There you are: three activities which bring a bit more of the real-world into your EFL classroom. You’re welcome.