Of course, we are not aiming for perfection.  We’re aiming for mastery, and practice is the road to mastery. So why don’t we give our students lots of opportunities to practice?  We have pressure on our class time.  Also, as a colleague once wisely said, “Students love to practice.  It’s the teacher who gets bored.” 

Here are two activities that give students that essential chance to practice the material, yet again.   

Conversation Cards

In every unit, students learn to ask and answer questions.  Many of these are good conversation questions.  For example, in a unit on clothes, some conversation questions may be What is your favorite color?  Where do you shop for clothes?  In a unit on weather, some good conversation questions are:  What’s the weather like in your home country?  Which season do you like best?  Why?  Do you like winter?  Why or why not?

1.  At the end of each class, I write down any new conversation questions on file cards. 

2.  At the beginning of the next class, I give student a few randomly selected conversation cards.   They sit with another student and ask and answer the questions.  As the semester moves forward, we collect more and more Conversation Cards which we recycle every class. 

Hot Seat Monologues

Here is a great activity from my colleague, ELEANOR STAFFORD.   It gives students ample opportunity to practice their speaking and listening skills.  Eleanor does this activity in her low level ESOL class but it works for all levels. 

1.  The teacher assigns students a topic, oftentimes from a book of simple surveys for English Language Learners.   Students write complete narratives, or words/phrases for homework.  Alternatively, students may suggest a topic they’d like to explore.  In the following few classes, each student goes to the front of the class and sits in the “hot seat”–without his/her text.

 2.  Once in the hot seat, the student volunteer gives a monologue on the topic for 1-3 minutes, depending on the level of the class. (The length of the monologues usually increases over the year.)  The other students must listen only, without writing. They do not ask questions. 

 3.  At the end of the allotted time period, a timekeeper says “Stop!” and the speaker must stop wherever s/he is. Having a finite period of time in which to speak gives students a goal to reach for, as well as a feeling of safety that they will not be expected to speak indefinitely.

 4.  Once the student has completed his/her hot seat monologue, the other students and the teacher write down everything they remember on a piece of lined paper.

 5.  The teacher gives a one-two paragraph write-up to the student, which serves to validate that the student communicated effectively.

 6.  The teacher collects the other students’ write-ups and writes comments on them–supplying missinmg  information and correcting inaccuracies–but more importantly, validating that they comprehended much of what was said and were able to record it in English.  The teacher does not correct grammar or spelling in these write-ups, as the Hot Seat Monologue is primarily a speaking and listening exercise.  Some students may write only lists of words or phrases while others may write complete narratives.

 Just a portion of each class is devoted to the Hot Seat Monologue. With a class of 12 students, all students are able to deliver their monologues in 3-4 classes.

What activities do YOU use for speaking practice?