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How to get them talking 
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
Posts: 2130
Location: Nagano, Japan
Post How to get them talking
I've found that getting young learners to talk (in English) can be a challenge but one of my techniques to get them to speak is just to talk about myself.

I show the students a flashcard "He's hot."

Then, I just say, "I'm not hot." (I have a hand gesture for not.)

Next a flashcard "He's happy."

Then I say, "I'm happy." and so on.

Usually by the second or third card some of the students are starting to say whether they're happy, sad, cold, hot ... Make sure you acknowledge the students who speak up and praise them. Soon (cross your fingers) you'll be bombarded with students screaming out about themselves.

This works with grammar like:
I like...
I don't like...
I have.../I don't have...
I can .../I can't...
I want to.../ I don't want to...
and more

What are some ways you're able to get them talking?

- Mark

Build up! Be positive! Teach hard!

Sat Feb 04, 2006 8:32 am
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Joined: Thu Jan 05, 2006 2:11 am
Posts: 23
Location: Greece
They usually get motivated with flashcards, like the thing Mark described. They actually love flashcards, pictures and anything which doesn't look like a printed text. The young ones (8-9) like describing their immediate environment (classroom, room, family, themselves) with straightforward questions-answers and statements, such as likes and dislikes.
They also like describing what they see in photos, comic strips, an illustrated book, a poster, etc. They love making posters and then talk about them.
Cassettes or CDs also seem to work. Depending on the situation, I record sth and prepare some pics to go with it (eg The dog is near the chair, on the sofa, in the wardrobe, under the table, simple things like that). I ask them to repeat at first and then they form their own sentences with things we see in the classroom or in pics.
Unfortunately I cannot say about younger pupils (5-6-7) because I teach 3rd graders and above.
Things are slightly different with the 10-11-12-yr-olds and this is a long and sad story... :roll:

Sat Feb 18, 2006 4:28 am

Joined: Mon Mar 06, 2006 1:21 pm
Posts: 8
One of the techniques which I find works quite well is to get them out of their seats. This works with most kids and adults. If you can give them an activity where they have to find answers from other students, they will be motivated to talk because they have a specific task. Here are some examples that work for me. (granted they are quite controlled)

1) Find someone who BINGO - This game is like normal BINGO with a 5x5 grid. I just cut up the postersheets from Then I have the students walk around the class asking any target qusetion I like (from the pictures) eg. Do you like playing tennis? Yes I do/no, I don't. If they answer yes, get them to sign - 2 lines makes BINGO.

Next, you can do follow up questions and answers (Tomohiro likes playing tennis etc)

2) Battleship. I think most of you know this game. it works really well for yes/no questions and can be used as a follow up to the previous activity. Students must ask simple Y/N questions and answer. Do a search online for some templates (actually there is a good one on this site but it's a little big - You probably want to make it smaller).

3) Picture stories. if you are a good artist, draw a series of pictures (or you can find them in books, comics, etc.) Get the students to put them in the correct order to tell a story. (There is no correct answer of course) They will come up with some pretty interesting things. I find groups of 3 or 4 ideal for this.

4) Surveys Just design them as a template with a series of qustions down the left hand side and room for different students answers. Have them walk around freely asking difefrent students the question. Remember, for until students get to an intermediate or upper intermediate level, it is very difficult to get them talking freely about things because the language level isn't there.

Okay, these activities look pretty lame but they work. I will post others if I think of them. Imagine if you were in a Chinese class and asked to talk to other students in Chinese without any guidance, you probably wouldn't know what to say either.

Tue Mar 07, 2006 9:01 am

Joined: Wed May 10, 2006 6:56 am
Posts: 4
Those are some cool ideas. I appreciate it. :D

Wed May 10, 2006 7:04 am

Joined: Sat Jun 24, 2006 12:08 pm
Posts: 9
Location: Tokyo, Japan
I use plain get'em cards to do a simple rock-scissors-paper. (This way there is no one delaying his/her play of hand to win/lose.) And then the one who won has to ask the one who lost a question, and the one who lost must answer, both in English.

I usually teach one on one, so if my student wins first and doesn't know what to ask, I let him/her hold on to the winning card(s) till he/she is ready to ask me. When I win, I ask a very simple question, like "How are you?" or "What is your name?" or "What is your favorite color?" "What is this? - anything they know to say. Then the student gets the clue and starts asking me the same question or different ones. I think they think too much when I tell them to ask a question.

If the student doesn't know how to answer my question, I tell him/her to ask me the same question back. "What about you?" is okay if it is a personal question and they know how to say "What about you?" Then I give them my answer. Or, simply giving them your answer without having to make them ask you back may work, too, if you think it may make things more complicated. And then I ask him/her the same question again, and usually they can answer this time.

All my students are young beginners and I speak my students' first language. So it is very difficult to make our conversation only English. But this way they are forced to interact with me in English. So I try to do this at the beginning of every lesson for about 8 bouts. :-)

Mon Jun 26, 2006 12:14 pm

Joined: Mon Jul 03, 2006 12:03 am
Posts: 3
Post Games, games, games!!!
And I don't mean wasting time in the classroom. One of the things I've seen works without their even noticing is to play games and little by little give them the words and phrases they need to perform it. For instance: it's my turn, I want a..., Do you have a...?, etc.
Little by little students perform the game and you start adding phrases according to their needs (but it was my turn, he's cheating, etc.).
The most important issue here, I think, must be that they see the RELEVANCE of using English. Don't allow them to perform an action before they state what they want/need in English. Guide them, they love knowing they can express what they want to say.
The next trick will be, then, to find games to tackle different grammar points or language functions. For example, you can play JEOPARDY to go over formulating questions, and if they create the categories they could even go for passive voice ("this painting was made by..." "What is...?")
Remember, games work when they have to communicate to perform them.

Mon Jul 03, 2006 12:13 am
Site Admin

Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
Posts: 2130
Location: Nagano, Japan
Noriko and Tete - Welcome to the forums :smt006
Those are some great ideas. Thanks!

Build up! Be positive! Teach hard!

Mon Jul 03, 2006 6:33 am
Profile WWW
For a fun game to practise speaking you could give some pupils questions and others the answers, or funny multiple choice answers. Tell the group that the multiple choice answers must match up and find their question.

To keep the class on task have various incentives such as giving a time limit, which is quite tight, so not everyone will finish. When you use this method regularly the students know they do not have time to mess around. You can also give a reward or point to the first group or groups to finish.

You can also say things like, “remember conversations need to be about finding your question or answers”.

See the website below for more ideas speaking games for children.

Mon Oct 09, 2006 8:51 am

Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2006 1:36 pm
Posts: 386
Location: Tohoku Japan
I have found a couple of things seems to motivate my students (among the ususal things listed above)

1 using (play) money instead of points that look reasonable realish (??)
this seems to make a huge difference to games even with my adult classes (make things fun) -- althought this may not suit large classes

2 I have made up some flash cards with famous Japanese in a cartoon format. ie not real photos but an artists impersonation (off the net)
these go down really well (funny pics of people they know well)
you can do various activities with them (as they are often shy about talking about themselves)

hope it helps

Fri Oct 13, 2006 9:21 am

Joined: Tue Sep 19, 2006 9:08 am
Posts: 48
Location: Imsil, Jeolla-buk-do, South Korea
There are a few basic ways I get my young students talking. The first way you have already thoroughly covered here--having them say things that are important for them to communicate (especially within a class and fun activity setting). It's amazing how much and how fast they can pick words and phrases up when they are the thoughts and feelings that they want to express.

Probably the most important think to remember is that children love to have fun, so if speaking is fun then they will speak. Games are great for that, but there are other ways also. Humour is beautiful for this purpose. They love to laugh and say funny things. My students (especially the ones I work with on a one-to-one basis) all know a lot of animal names because I let them have fun with them. Several years ago I had a young Korean girl (age 4) who was starting to learn with me and it was really hard getting her to open her mouth. Then one day when we were doing animal flash cards I looked at her and with a serious face said, "You are a monkey." She was surprised, but quickly declared that I was a monkey and without hesitation I acted the part and did a few monkey actions and sounds. It all started from there. Soon we were calling each other all kinds of animals. It was never mean spirited because we were both prepared to have fun and laugh at ourselves and do funny things. This game soon grew to include her older brother. Then one day the girl put two animals together and called her brother a turkey-monkey and we had to develop new ways to play. We started to imagine what mixed animals would look and sound like. We lots of fun. Eventually we added colours to make all sorts of crazy looking animals. Once body parts were introduced we talked about funny aliens with five arms, etc. In short it was a lot of fun to talk and she never did stop talking after that.

Playing games that involve using English is great, but also try to include humour into the mix sometimes and you'll find that most kids go out of their way to talk (as long as it never because mean-spirited).

Sun Oct 15, 2006 9:18 am
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