5 Real-World Speaking Activities for the EFL Classroom

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The bottom line for teaching English as a Foreign Language is communication in English. This is usually the reason our students find themselves in our classrooms. Of course, some may need English 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. This is why we’ve compiled our favourite real-world speaking activities for the EFL classroom – keep reading to be inspired!

After all, this is most likely what they need their English the most for. 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 the language they can find useful in real life, outside the classroom. This is what we need to give them. We need to provide our students with the language they will need for a situation, help them understand the language, and then provide a simulation of that situation. Our students can then practice these conversational situations in the safety of the classroom before they need to utilize them in a real English-speaking context.

If the only speaking they’re doing is drilling or answering questions or talking about grammar, then we have a problem.

Rather, we should identify situations that suit the target language we want to teach (and our students need to learn) and create activities that are accurate representations of these situations for the classroom. In other words, we need real-world speaking activities that we can then adapt to the EFL classroom.

5 Real-World Speaking Activities for the EFL Classroom

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.

Read more: How to Choose Authentic Materials for the EFL Classroom

Speaking Activities for the EFL Classroom

Celebrity Interview

In this activity, the students will interview each other. Each student will be given the chance to be interviewed. However, they won’t be interviewed 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 that they are famous – i.e. they can ride a unicycle, 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, “When did you learn to do that?”, “Are you a morning or an evening person?” 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.

Read more: The Importance of Role Plays

Speed dating

Your students might not necessarily find themselves speed-dating in English (or maybe they will!) but the situation provides great practice with a very common language. When you think about it, speed-dating requires you to find out as much as you can about a person in a short space of time. To do this, you need to ask questions about their personal life, while at the same time be polite, friendly, and interesting. Doing this activity gives your students practice with making small talk and asking personal questions.

For this activity, arrange the students so that they are seated in pairs – if possible, each pair at their own table. Before the activity starts, give the students some time to think of possible questions they could ask. Then, pair up the students and give them five minutes to talk to each other. After five minutes, clap your hands or sound a buzzer and the students must rearrange themselves into new pairs and the activity starts again.

Debate

In the real world, there are many times we can find ourselves debating an issue with a friend, acquaintance, or colleague. It’s also a brilliant activity for the classroom. Debating is an opportunity to agree and disagree with somebody politely, while also putting forward our ideas and opinions and questioning others.

For a classroom debate, pick a controversial statement. Divide the class into groups and each group into two more groups. Each group must have statements who agree and disagree with the statement. Spend some time looking at appropriate language to interrupt politely and share opinions. Give the students time to write a few key points of their opinions, then give them time to debate. After a few minutes join two groups together and let them do the exercise again. Keep repeating this until the class is divided into two groups and you are having a class debate that involved everyone.

There you are, five activities that bring a bit more of the real-world into your EFL classroom. Just because we’re in a classroom doesn’t mean we can’t be in the real world too.

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