4 Variations on a Speaking Task

Do you struggle to increase student production during a speaking task? Sometimes it can be a matter of choosing the format that students feel most comfortable with. With lower level students, you also need to be sure they have enough language support to complete the task.

I sometimes use templates to facilitate speaking. The templates guide the students to use target grammar or vocabulary, but still allow for student input and creativity. Consider my Template Talks for Comparatives and Superlatives_handout. There are ten short templates that focus on superlative adjectives with “the most,” and they incorporate other superlative and comparative forms.

Example:
__________________ and __________________ are two of the most beautiful places in the world. __________________ is beautiful because it has _____________________________.
__________________ is beautiful because it has _________________________________.
I don’t think one is better than the other. Maybe it’s more expensive to visit __________________.

Could turn into:
Hawaii and Switzerland are two the most beautiful places in the world. Hawaii is beautiful because it has beaches and volcanoes. Switzerland is beautiful because it has mountains. I don’t think one is better than the other. Maybe it’s more expensive to visit Hawaii because it’s far. I went to Switzerland. I loved it. The Alps are beautiful. I want to go to Hawaii.

No matter the format, I’d allow students preparation time. When they’re ready to speak, there are different options. Which one would work best for your students? That’s your call.

1. Mini class presentations. 
Have each student address the class. They can speak from their seat if speaking from the front of the room is too much pressure. To make sure students are listening to classmates and not mentally rehearsing their talks, tell them you’re going to quiz them on who said what at the end.

2. Small group work.
Have students work in groups of three or four. After each person has shared, mix the groups up for a second round. Confidence will grow with more opportunities to share the same talk. Advise students to listen out for use of comparatives and superlatives. You can put the onus on them to note down the forms they hear.

3. Pair work.
This is ideal if you have the time to allow multiple pairings. If each student can pair up with at least three different partners over the course of, say, fifteen minutes, they’ll all have had the chance to speak three times and listen to three different talks. There’s less pressure in this format because they only have one listener at a time.

4. Individual recordings.
Students can share a voice memo or use online software like chirbit or Vocaroo. Audio recordings allow students to practice and submit the file when they feel ready. Forewarn students about what you plan to do with the recordings. You can evaluate them privately, but the class would benefit more from listening to one another. If you play them aloud in class, then challenge students to note the comparatives and superlatives they hear. You can later sort them into long and short adjectives as well as regular and irregular forms (e.g., better and worse).

Featured photo by geralt. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/illustrations/exchange-of-ideas-debate-discussion-222786/.

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