Why is it difficult for advanced English learners to practice speaking?
- It’s difficult to determine exactly what they need to improve
- Going over the same material can be boring
- Less likely to enjoy the same old games and activities
- Activities need to be meaningful
In this article we will look at 10 speaking activities for adults or advanced English learners.
(The links to the websites are in the description below.)
Put the students into pairs and each pair with another group so that they are 4 students together.
The first pair thinks of the topic and the other pair has to discuss it with each other for one minute.
You can change the amount of time depending on the level of the students.
This is a great activity because you don’t need to prepare anything and the learners pick the topics. Once they’ve done make sure to get feedback from your students; ask them if they heard anything funny or interesting.
It’s worth doing this, so students can see that their experience of an activity has value.
Each person has something that they’re very good at. Let each student pick a hobby or skill that they are proud of. Quickly write down a few notes about how to become very good at that hobby.
Then they have to explain to a partner step-by-step how to improve at that skill. Make sure that they include at least five steps. And no sleeping or playing video games when done. Ask students what their partner has taught them.
We have one of the best resources in the world at our fingertips. When I start class, I often ask my students to take out their phones and find a photo they have taken recently. Then they have to share the story of the photo in small groups. Social media like ‘Instagram’ is booming and learners really want to share their lives with other people.
Most are so happy to share something interesting or fun that happened in their very own lives or just a pretty picture they took of something. It also makes it easier for them to explain what is going on in their lives.
You can also encourage the rest of the group to ask them the 5 W Questions:
- When was the photo taken?
- Where were you?
- Who were you with?
- What were you doing?
- Why is this photo special to you?
Include these to make this a great activity for adults and advanced learners.
Project-based learning (PBL)
Speaking of phones. Since most people are connected to the internet on their phones, you can ask the students to do some projects together. Pair them up and tell them to present their findings to the class.
Or they are news anchors. They have to find a few news stories to share with class.
I’ve done the same thing when I was preparing students for a trip abroad.
- Plan a day in the city they are visiting
- Itinerary should include restaurants
- Sightseeing and historical places
- Use English sources instead of translating their own language
It can be a class trip and each group has to plan something:
- One group plans the transportation
- Another picks the movie we will watch
- Which restaurant will we eat dinner
- Calculate how much it would be
You can also do roleplaying activities on these choices.
Find something in common
All humans want to form connections with other people so there is nothing better than to find out what you have in common with a classmate.
Challenge your students to have a conversation with a partner and find out what exactly they have in common. It could be that they went to the same vacation spot when they were younger, or both have two sisters. It’s even better if it’s something exciting or interesting.
Give them a couple of minutes to have a conversation. Write their similarities and then they can share it with the class.
You might notice that I insist on getting feedback from the students after every activity. It’s because I believe that at this level you should always have an outcome or a resolution.
250 conversation starters
Trust me, you’re going to thank me for this one.
I found a wonderful list of conversation starters from a website called ‘Conversation Starters’.
It has 250 questions that you can ask someone to get a conversation started. I’ve put the link for the website down below. I also collected all the questions and put them in a word file that you can download for free. Trust me, these are cool!
Cut them out for conversations in class. Students sit in small groups pick up a question and answer.
Here is the link: 250 CONVERSATION STARTERS
Most students have an issue with fluency. They speak very slowly and there are often pauses in between their sentences. Just-a-minute is a great activity to help with fluency.
I first saw this on Jackie Bolens’ website called ‘ESL Speaking’. To start off, write topics on your board. It could be topics you’re already doing in class, or ones that you think of on your own. Make sure that there are more topics than you have students.
Have students play rock-paper-scissors or pick-a-number from a jar. I always think it’s better for students to believe that it’s by chance that I’ve chosen them rather than the teacher picking on them.
The first student comes to the front, picks a topic and then has to talk about it non-stop for one minute. Make sure to emphasize that speed is the most important issue; you don’t care if they make mistakes, but you want them to speak very quickly.
Once the student is done, erase the topic and the next student gets a chance.
Remember, you don’t care so much about what they say, but they have to talk real quick for one minute otherwise they’ll have to repeat later with a new topic.
This is great as it shows students that it’s not important how many errors they make, but how fluent they can be.
Pecha Kucha originated in Tokyo in 2003 and it means cute.
Students make a presentation on PowerPoint with ten pictures and with the slide counter to 10 or 20 seconds, depending on the level of your students. When they do their presentation, they have to quickly explain each slide before it disappears.
This is a very adaptable activity. You can use it for any topic and is another great to improve student fluency.
Interview questions are a useful activity because it prepares students for their professional lives. Preferably do it in small groups of four, where the interviewee will be asked questions by three other interviewers.
Never have I ever
What started as a drinking game now became the final activity for our adult and advanced English learners.
- Students raise a hand with 5 fingers
- Going around, each person says something they have never done
- If somebody else in class has done that, that person has to lower a finger
- Once they lower a finger, they should talk about that experience
- Keep things PG-rated.
This is a great way for students to share experiences from their lives.
Remember, whatever you do in class, plan to make the lessons as student-centered as possible. That is how you will get the best out of your adult or advanced students.
Using speaking activities in class is very important for English learners of all ages but especially for advanced learners and adults because it promotes critical thinking and allows them to express themselves in English.
The best speaking activities to use for advanced English learners are social ones where they interact with a small group of people. Try not to make the groups too big ask that can limit student-talking-time and intimidate shy students.
Remember to take feedback from the students, to share their experiences and what they have learned with the class.
Here are 10 more Speaking Activities that you can try in your class.