Developing spoken fluency with learners at low levels can be very challenging, but here are some tips and activities which may help.

Clare Lavery
  • Provide careful preparation – give lots of vocabulary practice and language practice beforehand
  • Offer visual support – a grid to follow, a table to complete, a series of picture cards to hold will help students focus and remember language
  • Half an hour is too long. Short ten minute bursts are better.
  • Plan class management – everyone has to know what they are supposed to be doing or the class breaks down into anarchy. Demonstrate with students. Run through with a pair of students.
  • Don’t rely on verbal instructions. Show them what to do.

Stem sentences

Give students the first part of a sentence which they have to complete. Make a list of stems on a handout. This guides them and gives them something to work through and compare in pairs or groups. The sentences can follow a theme.

For example:

  • On Sundays I usually ………………
  • On School nights I usually…………….
  • In the Summer I often……………….
  • On my birthday I sometimes…………….
  • At exam time I usually……………….
  • On Valentine’s day I usually……….
  • In 2006 I was…
  • Last year was…….
  • Last week I went to……
  • Last night I………

Ask me more - improving conversation technique

Each student writes four facts about themselves or their families/friends (guide this with your own examples). In pairs or small groups learners take turns to say one of their facts. You can do this with the whole class. The other students must ask as many questions as they can to keep the conversation going. Give help on the type of questions, if necessary.

Why? Because …

One person makes a statement about their interests. Another students asks them to give reasons. This can be done in pairs, groups or with the whole class.

For example:

A: I like cats
B: Why do you like cats?
A: Because they are more independent than dogs
B: Why are they more independent?
A: Because they are happy if you leave them alone and don’t need a lot of attention
B: Why do they like being alone?
A: Because they are natural hunters.

The witness – a fluency game

Prepare a series of 4 or 5 pictures of people which can be easily copied (for example: 4 men with beards or moustaches of differing ages). Divide class into pairs. Student A is a witness and B is a policeman.

  • Show all Student A's one of the pictures (Student B must not see it). Show it very briefly.
  • Student B must ask the witness to describe the person he saw. Student B can ask questions for details: hair, age, clothes, height, weight. Student B should take notes.
  • Now give the Policemen (student B) the line up of 4 people. Which one did the witness describe?