Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ideas for oral English practice

By Karen Stanley - Central Piedmont Community College, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

- provide a list of interview questions, and have students use them to interview each other; better still, have the class generate questions (with your guidance) on a particular topic, and have the students interview each other using them (one example theme: questions related to the person's carbon footprint). Make sure they don't think they have to write complete sentences with the answer to each question - in fact, they don't necessarily have to record the answer at all. Otherwise, they spend more time writing than talking.

- find a problem to solve in small group discussion; George Rooks' "Who gets the heart?" is a classic example. The students are given a list of different people with different characteristics, all of whom need a heart transplant. They then have to agree on how to prioritize who gets a heart. So, on the list you have someone in his 90s who is a national hero (but probably won't live long), a child who may or may not ever do anything of benefit (but who has a long potential life ahead of him/her), a woman in her mid 20s with not such a good lifestyle, but who has no relatives to take care of her three young children if she dies, etc. I recommend all three of George Rooks' books. He provides limitations and details for each task.

Let's Start Talking (lowest level; simpler, more practical tasks, such as planning a party)

Can't Stop Talking (intermediate; example tasks: planning a travel brochure, deciding which person should get a Citizenship Award )

The Non-Stop Discussion Workbook (advanced; example tasks: Who Gets the Heart, Design a Product and an Advertising Campaign)

Other possible lesson plans from posts to this list can be found at:


Eric said...

Insightful, practical, and detailed suggestions for both activities and textbooks!

Problem-solution and process assignments work on all levels - even the most basic.

I would also strongly recommend videotaping short student presentations, posting the recordings on a class website for self and peer evaluations. Sometimes, seeing and hearing is believing as students recognize their "good mistakes".

Finally, I also allow students to use their cell phones to record their presentations too when other recording options are unavailable.

Matthew said...

Thanks for this. This is an excellent blog, and is inspiring to me as I'm starting my own blog about TEFL at

And I agree - "good mistakes" are key.