A New Direction in Teaching Indirect Speech

While preparing a series of lessons on reported speech, I looked at a number of sources both online and off. I observed how the majority of grammarians first noted the difference between quoted speech and reported speech. Some more than others went into detail about proper punctuation in quoted speech, but then the next trend was to highlight common reporting verbs and the syntax each requires. From there, the herd moved on to the biggest pasture: changes in verb tense. Indeed, this aspect gives the most to chew on. Almost as an afterthought, many pointed out additional changes: subject and object pronouns, possessives, demonstratives, and adverbs of time and place.

Working within a ten-minute limit per video, I decided to have a very narrow focus in each lesson of my series. I started out on the heavily trodden path, but soon I headed off in a new direction. My choices reflected a desire to make grammar clear and accessible. I like to build up to more difficult aspects, giving students the time to assimilate each chunk of information and gain enough confidence to take the next step in mastering a topic. Consider this sequence in your own classroom presentation when it’s time to cover reported speech:

  • What is reported speech? How does it contrast with quoted speech? = I gave preference to the term reported over indirect because the former seemed more self-explanatory. I noted that reporting isn’t exact; it’s indirect. That is, words change.
  • What are the most common reporting verbs? = I gave preference to say and tell and held off from addressing the use of ask to keep the focus on statements, not questions. Explaining patterns with say and tell took up more time than I originally anticipated, but it seemed necessary to give some guidance in choosing one or the other rather than just stating that both were common reporting verbs and leaving it at that.
  • What are reference words? How do we change them in reported speech? = I chose the term reference words in an effort to simplify my explanation of changes to pronouns, demonstratives, possessive adjectives, and adverbs. Also, I wanted to start with the most logical changes. When the point of reference changes, it’s logical that many pronouns and words indicating proximity also change. Understanding that “I” can become “she” or he” and “here” becomes “there” is easier to grasp than the idea of “will” becoming “would” or “did” becoming “had done”.
  • What changes are made to verb tenses and why? = My plan is to help students deal with shifts in verb tense after they’re comfortable changing reference words.
  • How do we report questions? How do we report commands? = Once students master reporting statements, I will address questions and commands and the necessary changes in sentence structure.
  • What other reporting verbs can be used? = A lesson on reported speech seems limited if only say, tell, and ask are presented. I feel it’s necessary to point out how reporting allows interpretation.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. taous says:

    thanks, for your help, your lessons really helped me to impove my english and my capaciticies, so i encourage you to do it more and more. God bless you

    1. englishwithjennifer says:

      You are very welcome. Thank you for the support.

  2. Christine says:

    Hi Jennifer!

    As a TEFL teacher, I have also struggled a lot with breaking down ‘reported speech’ so that it becomes accessible to my students.

    I have found your videos to be remarkable in that you truly give students ‘bit size’ amounts so they can truly integrate the different aspects of reported speech.

    Thank you so much for sharing this material with all of us. I also want to let you know that I’m really enjoying your blog.

    Christine (teaching in Barcelona, Spain)

    1. Thank you very much for posting your comment, Christine. I’m very happy to know my series on reported speech is useful to you and your students.

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