Teacher talk - Encouraging speaking

The theme of this video is encouraging speaking. Adam Simpson, Lizzie Pinard, Rachael Roberts and George Chilton look at why some students are reluctant to use English. They then provide a number of fun and useful activities that can be used to encourage them to speak more in English.

What activities do you use to help your students feel more confident using spoken English in class? Why not write your favourite speaking activities below in the comments.

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Submitted by EMEMAGHE MBA J… on Wed, 09/24/2014 - 14:00


I really appreciated that article. I would like to share my strategy in encouraging my students to increase risk taking.I just introduced BONUS CARDS ie I gave each student a card with their name on it.I collect the card in relation to his-her contribution in taking part in speaking activities If the card is collected three times in a month the student gets+1 and the more one's card is reported the more your average term mark is positively affected.I found out as a result that all students became eager to take the floor and make their mind speak increasing the whole class motivation.

Submitted by Chezteach on Wed, 09/24/2014 - 15:41


Encourage by introducing a current topic that you believe will really grab their interest. Subject, and the way it is introduced, is so important, and should be targeted on your knowledge of the group. Their interest overcomes the barriers, often to a surprising extent. In the example below: 1. coutline briefly the facts as to how the UK parliamentary system works. (or footballballer transfers, popular music, health service - whatever) 2. ask them how the system works in their country. Discussion, between themselves or with you, on the differences in system and (in this case, democratic) benefits and results. 3. circulate recent newspapers which include a current or recent issue in the UK (relating to the subject) and ask their views. (e.g. Scottish independence). Get them to select an item they are interested in, relating to the topic. 4. identify the differences/similarities between how they feel about the particular issue, and how you/people in the UK view it. 5. highlight what you've learnt from them and what you like about their system - both very important - and whether their views of the UK issue have changed. They'll have learnt something more than just confidence in speaking, and will walk away with something to think about, and talk about together. There's nothing better than spreading understanding of each other.

Submitted by MariaKazakova on Wed, 09/02/2015 - 10:16


Although I found these tips really useful, I would really appreciate any comments on the ways of rewarding and 'punishing' students of different ages.

Submitted by juridicato on Fri, 12/02/2016 - 20:49


I am from the Universidad de El Salvador I think that one way to encourage students to talk in the class giving opinions, suggestions about the content of a topic making them build new vocabulary from the media and dictionaries as tool.

Submitted by Sabina_999 on Wed, 08/02/2017 - 12:21


If your students are beginners in learning English, they might not speak, because they do not have enough basic knowledge for speaking, like phonetics and lexis. Try to warm up first, like using pronunciation drills. When student is used to pronounce some English words, s/he will probably say those words more freely in their speech. Second tip is providing basic lexis on the subject you want your student to speak on. Learner may eager to speak, but without having essential vocabulary and not knowing connecting words, their speech will reduce to several words and this might also discourage further trials in speaking. So, first of all, students repeat and simulate and than they use the words conciously in their speech. By the way, listening connected tightly with speaking skill. And it is important to add emotions and intonation while speaking. Especially children like to repeat the very intonation of the sentence while simulating.

Submitted by Thu Naung Kyaw on Wed, 01/12/2022 - 10:03


As I teach young learners, they are not that afraid to speak English. Although they have the limited English at this level, they are found able to communicate their ideas using the vocabulary and a little knowledge of grammar they have had. Before they are asked to speak, they listen and say the lines in a one-page comic story as a lead-in. Then, they are provided with some useful vocabulary for the upcoming picture description activity. They are made sure to be aware of the required spoken structure given in a little box below each exercise. But there are some moments when they are less productive, at which it requires me to give them incentives (some candies) so as to motivate them to actively participate in speaking activities. It mostly works well. The young children are so fond of playing speaking games and phonics chant.

As for the the adult learners, the affective filters may be the primary cause of their reluctance to speak. My favorite activities for them are controlled practice, substitution drills, information gap and singing. As I do care about their emotional readiness, the aforementioned activities are expected to help lessen the filters.

Submitted by Ishika Jain on Fri, 01/14/2022 - 12:15


Hey! I am Ishika Jain, I live in India. Being an Indian it is quite difficult to make our students calm when it comes to learning english as a language. As they have their own methods of learning it. Persistently, it is not an easy to make them aware regarding the correct use of  grammar. 

 So, I asked them some rapid fire questions related to their hometown, studies, and many more. While listening to them I write down all the points where they need to be improvise. Whether it is vocabulary, grammar or pronunciations. While giving them feedback I let them know where they need to purify themselves.

Submitted by kesavadas Mariyil on Sat, 01/15/2022 - 15:05


I am teaching adults online.First of all I tell them that  mistakes are a part of learning process.I use pictures to start the topic(a traffic jam) Then I ask them to talk about their experiences in trafiif jam etc

Submitted by JFieldhouse on Tue, 01/18/2022 - 15:56


I do not like the concept of negative reinforcement. I think this can have the opposite effect of what is trying to be achieved, namely students becoming silent. I much prefer to use positive reinforcement. I tend to only use verbal praise but if wanted a physical inducement could give stickers for participation. I also tend to grade the tasks by student. If I am asking questions in class, I ask the higherly level students a different question than the lower level students.

I also sometimes choose the partners and groups differently. Sometimes I will make groupings based on similarities (gender, age, life experience, language level). Then I can also adjust the task to the various groupings. In the same way, having diverse groups can lead to interesting group dynamics and progress.

Hi lawalhamed

You could certainly discuss this at the start of the course, as a way of setting objectives, or you might prefer to wait and see how much L1 the students use in class before addressing this if you think that's more appropriate. As always, it depends a little on your class and teaching context!


TE Team

Submitted by Anna M on Wed, 01/19/2022 - 18:47


I teach teens and and I think the older they are, the more difficult it is to invite them to actively take part in the lesson. It is much easier to do that with younger pupils who are still spontenous and open to the expereincing. I often help my students to speak by:

- brainstorming 

- describing photos

- pair disussion 

- fire questions 


Submitted by ekrambeshir on Wed, 01/19/2022 - 20:33


My favorite activity in encouraging my students to speak is to have them role play a setting from real life, like buying a present or helping a customer get the right thing while teaching shopping language or role playing characters of a story after they watch it.

They are mostly energitic and having fun in such activity. They don't need much of motivation and encouragement to participate.

Submitted by ekrambeshir on Wed, 01/19/2022 - 20:48


I hope for better now. The challenge is achievable when it is only for several minutes that they are required to speak only in English. Then more minutes will be assigned to have the maximum time possible for talking in English until it is easy for them to and they get used to it.

Submitted by Elesaba khakha on Tue, 02/01/2022 - 13:13


I believe to open a 'lock of reluctance' we need to provide the 'key of confidence'.

Being an educator I love to give this confidence to my learners that they need to speak up there is nothing wrong in speaking wrong as long as they are learning we all make mistakes but we must give it a try. So, I use different activities to encourage them, Role plays, talking to strange things - my students enjoy when i asked them to imagine things talking like ; what can be the talk between books in the rack or pencils in the pencil box or clothes in the ward robe. 



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