A consistent desire of my students is more speaking practice, and it is a desire I want and try to fulfill. The problem is that so many of the speaking activities I find, or are included in our book, are so scripted and stilted they leave my students bored and unmotivated. These activities are necessary, students need to practice specific grammatical formations and structures, but they do tend to be monotonous. Today I’d like to share with you seven games my students and I enjoy that allow for less scripted speaking practice.
I’ll give you a brief description of each game and link to a former post with more information. Hopefully, you’ll have enough information to make your own versions of the games. If not, you can always purchase mine by clicking the pictures (or buttons if you want the digital versions).
Beginning with one of the more scripted options, Compounding Conjunctions is a great game for practicing the formation of compound sentences. In the version I play, there are six simple sentences in the center of the game board. Each space has a different coordinating conjunction on it. Students roll the number cube, move their piece, and then use the conjunction to expand the given simple sentence into a compound sentence. While the original independent clause is given to students, the only creative restraints placed on the second independent clause are the conjunction to be used and that it has to make sense. It’s a great way for students to practice vocabulary and the creation of independent clauses. It also wouldn’t be difficult to change out the six simple sentences students start with so you could customize the game to fit whatever topic or theme you are currently studying. Or, if you want to make it very unscripted, simply remove the starting sentences all together and allow students to create two independent clauses of their own.
Slightly less scripted than Compounding Conjunctions, Connected Conditionals is a great way to have fun practicing any single type of conditional or mixed conditional sentences. The first step is to decide what conditional(s) you would like to practice and pull out the directions card for that specific game version. The directions card will explain to students what conditional to use for each sentence. The first student then states a sentence in the target conditional, rolls, and moves his/her piece. The second student then uses the first student’s main clause (then…statement) as their conditional clause (if…statement), rolls, and moves his/her piece. The third student
uses the second student’s main clause as their conditional clause, rolls, and moves his/her piece. This continues, with each subsequent student using the previous student’s main clause as the new conditional clause, until someone reaches finish and wins. For example, my advanced class played the third conditional version last week. One of the connected conditionals I overheard was:
- If the weather had been nice, I would have ridden my bike.
- If I had ridden my bike, I would have worn a helmet.
- If I had worn a helmet, I might have messed up my hair.
- If I had messed up my hair, I could have gone to a salon.
- If I had gone to a salon, I…
This game is still slightly scripted because the conditional clause is determined by the previous student, but students still have the opportunity to be quite creative with the main clause.
Proverbs from Around the World
Proverbs from Around the World Game is one that brings in a bit of reading comprehension. My version includes forty different proverbs from all over the world. To play, a student takes a card, reads the proverb, and then explains it in his or her own words. There are no required grammatical forms or structures to be followed and students are free to choose whatever vocabulary they think is best. My intermediate and advanced students particularly enjoy the game and it is not unusual for them to read a particular proverb and not only restate it in their own words, but share a similar proverb from their first language as well. That will often spark other students to share similar proverbs in their first languages and I often hear very rich discussions taking place while the game pieces lie forgotten on the table. I haven’t written a specific post about this game, but a sample of it is included in the reading section of English Skillology, Level 2.
Paraprosdokians: A Figurative Language Game
Another game that brings in a bit of reading comprehension is Paraprosdokians. As I explain in my Back to School Activities post, paraprosdokians are figures of speech in which the second part of the sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected, causing the reader/listener to reevaluate their understanding of the first part. Winston Churchill was known for using them, often in a humorous or insulting manner. My game includes 42 different paraprosdokians and, as in Proverbs Around the World,
students read them and then restate them in their own words and explain why the comment is surprising or funny. It is another good way to give students lengthier, unscripted speaking practice. This game is particularly good to use with intermediate and advanced students due to the linguistic complexity of these figures of speech.
Claim, Evidence, Reasoning: The CER Board Game
Claim, Evidence, Reasoning (CER) is a great way to get students thinking and practicing supporting their ideas rather than just making random statements. This game is almost completely unscripted spontaneous speaking practice. Each card has a claim on it that students must provide evidence and reasoning in support of (each claim has a positive and negative option so students can choose which they want to support). I base my speaking requirements on the proficiency of my students. When using the game with intermediate students, I ask them to simply state a couple of sentences. Advanced students are required to speak for as much as 30-60 seconds each. There are over 50 prompts included in the current version of the game (I have plans to add a second set of prompts for younger students), so if a student draws one he/she either does not understand, or has no opinion about, they simply draw another card. This game also produces a lot of good discussions and the conversations are generally much more serious and use richer vocabulary than some of the other options.
Picture Prompts is a game I originally developed to practice question words. Then I used it to practice cause and effect. Then I used it to practice types of sentences. Then I used it to practice…well, I’ve used it to practice just about everything! It is a favorite of my students and they always smile when I pull it out. While it can be used to practice very specific grammar constructions, it can also be very open ended. The game simply presents students with a picture that they then must talk about in some way (however you direct them). If you want to truly make this undirected speaking practice, you can simply tell students they must tell a story about the picture. How long the story must be can be adjusted based on the proficiency of the students.
Last on my list of games for today is Silly Shorts. This game is my students’ absolute favorite unscripted speaking game. The best part is that if you have a set of story dice and any game board/pieces, you can play this game tomorrow. To play, students roll the story dice, make up a story using the images on the dice, and then roll the regular number cube and move their piece on the game board. I adjust how long students have to speak, and how complete their story needs to be, based on their proficiency levels. For beginners, I ask them to simply name the things on the dice or say a simple sentence about one of the items on the dice. I gradually increase requirements until reaching my advanced students who are asked to tell a complete story (beginning, middle, end) that utilizes all of the
items shown on the dice and lasts at least 60 seconds. I love that the game can be used by all of my students, regardless of proficiency (even in mixed proficiency classes!) and my students love how fun it is. I will also freely admit that I look forward to playing this game with them because it is highly entertaining to hear what they dream up!
There you have it, seven games that encourage students to go beyond formulaic, scripted speaking and be more creative. All of the games encourage rich vocabulary and allow students to stretch their speaking muscles. The best part for me is seeing the looks on their faces go from boredom to excitement as they engage with one another and the various topics. Give one (or more) a try and see how your students react. Happy teaching, everyone!
If you don’t have the time or desire to make your own games, you can buy mine by clicking on the pictures and buttons above. If you’re looking for a bit of a discount, all of these games (and more!) are included in my Speaking Practice Games & Activities Bundle at a 20% discount. This is a bundle I still add to occasionally, so if you purchase it now you’ll receive all future additions for free.