7 Easy ESL Speaking Activities to Practice With Teens or Adults

Every language teacher knows that speaking is a core skill to teach and practice, but sometimes it can be challenging to come up with creative or engaging ESL speaking activities. This post draws up great activities that are designed to be quick, high-quality, and enjoyable.

Let’s dive into seven quick and easy ESL speaking activities you can integrate into your lessons to practice speaking with teens or adults. They don’t need much preparation but will get your students talking and help them to hone their conversational skills without even thinking about it.

1. Interview Pop

Student level: Pre-Intermediate to Advanced
Type of Lesson: Group or Individual

This is a great one for students to have fun and be creative. Put students in pairs, or you could also carry this one out in a one-one lesson.

Students choose one person they want to interview. It can be anybody of their choice, and the person doesn’t necessarily have to be alive still. I tell students to choose someone they know a lot about or who they admire because then they’ll have more material to talk about when the speaking part of the activity comes around.

Give each student a list of ten to fifteen verbs. (Can be the same list or different) See the example:

  • Decide
  • Hate
  • Love
  • Offer
  • Prefer
  • Move
  • Win
  • Continue
  • Buy
  • Wait
  • Consider
  • Change

Each student has to choose five verbs from their list. They make a different question using one of their five verbs in each question; these questions are made for the person they want to interview. Each question will have a different verb.

For example, let’s say a student chooses Barack Obama. They have to make five interview questions for Barack Obama, each question using a different verb from their list. Here are some examples:

  • How did you decide you want to become president?
  • Did you want to continue being president after your term finished?
  • What did you love about being the president?
  • What would you change about the USA?
  • What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment as president?

While I usually just come up with the verbs myself, you can also find some verb lists online, along with a list of people for your students to choose from.

While the students are making their questions, go through the class and help students fix the grammatical mistakes. This is a great activity if you are practicing question formation as a grammar topic with your students.

The students then give their partner the questions that they wrote and then assumes the role of the person they wanted to interview, while their partner asks them the questions they just made. So this means that each student answers the questions from the perspective of the person they wanted to interview, as their partner asks them the questions.

Go around and listen for mistakes. You could also then have students report to the class the person their partner chose and how they responded to the questions.

2. Word Racing

Student level: Pre-Intermediate to Advanced
Type of Lesson: Group

A very interactive and high-energy ESL speaking activity. Many students get so into it and excited that they won’t even notice they are speaking in a foreign language and won’t even have time to think about making mistakes.

All you need to prepare for the game is to write down 15-20 vocabulary terms you want to practice with your students, each term is written on a different small slip of paper. Give a stack of these slips to each group. You can also let the students write down the vocabulary (for example on the last topic they’ve learned) but then some words might be double and they also might not think of the words you want them to practice.

Divide your students into groups of three or four and explain the rules of the game. One player from the first group starts. This student then has one minute to explain or define as many words written on their slips to their own group as they can, without saying the word they have on the card. They want their group to guess as many words as possible in one minute.

Each time the members of the group guess a word, they put the card down, which gets them a point, and then they take a new card and repeat the same thing. Once the minute is over, the next group takes their turn.

After the minute is up, each group counts their points and the group with the most points wins that round. If you have time to play more rounds, after all, words are guessed, put them back in the basket and let them play again, although this time they can only use one word to explain the word on the card, for example, a synonym or a word they associate with the word on the card.

An example might be that if the word on the card is ‘handcuff’ then they say the word ‘police’ and the other students have to guess the word ‘handcuff’. Students only get one guess. Once a student guesses, the student must move on to the next card, whether the word was guessed correctly or not. In the last round, they act out or pantomime the words on their cards.

While there are many other good vocabulary-charades type games which can be done with both younger and older students, this one has been my favorite.

3. Guess Who or What I Am

Student level: Pre-Intermediate to Upper Intermediate
Type of Lesson: Group

This is a very simple but effective activity with no preparation needed and can be played in two versions. It’s usually more suitable for lower level students but can also be used in intermediate or upper intermediate students, especially for the other variation of the activity described below.

In version one, one student thinks of a person – it could be someone in the class or a famous person, someone that everyone is likely to know – and the rest of the class asks them yes or no questions about the person until they can guess who it is. The student who guesses the person with the least amount of questions wins.

In version two, one student goes in front of the door, while the rest of the class decides on a person. Then the student comes back in and has to ask the class yes or no questions until they can guess who the person is.

Another variation of this game is to put students in groups and describe themselves from the perspective of an object, and the other students must guess what that object is in the quickest time possible. Each student in the group writes down an object and then speaks from the perspective of that object as if they were actually that object.

For example, if one student chooses ‘handcuffs’ they would say something like:

  • “The police put me around somebody’s wrists when they break the law.”
  • “I have two round rings with chains connected them.”
  • “I am on a person on their way to prison.”

Students shouldn’t do any gesturing or acting on this one because that will give it away. The student who is able to guess the most objects correctly wins.

The reason I like this one more is because that students have to get a little bit more creative about expressing their ideas and they also tend to have more fun with this one.

4. Would you rather…

Student level: Intermediate to Advanced
Type of Lesson: Group or Individual

This is a great way to practice ‘would’ in the conditional form. There’s a lot of different ways you can organize this one. One of the easiest ways is to just come up with some of your own ideas (5-10 should be enough), type them out, and cut them up into cards. Go around the class and have a student draw a card, read it aloud, and then call on another student to answer it.

The goal is to make the ‘Would you rather’ questions funny, crazy, interesting, or controversial. Think about what kind of questions you think would be fun to discuss if you were learning a foreign language. There’s also some good ‘Would you rather’ resources that you can find and pull off of a Google search.

Here are a few examples:

  • Would you rather give up your mobile phone or your pet?
  • Would you rather have $50,000 that is legal or $150,000 that is illegal?
  • Would you rather be the funniest person in the room or the most intelligent?
  • Would you rather have your first child when you are 19 years old or when you are 45?

As stated before, you can make up your own. If you are doing a specific topic for your lesson, then you can try to make them as closely related to the topic as possible. For example, if the topic for your lesson is Meet the World’s Oldest Ice Hockey Player, then you might want to prepare some ‘would you rather’ questions about age or about hockey:

  • Would you rather stop aging at 17 or 35?
  • Would you rather date someone ten years older or ten younger?
  • Would you rather be a famous football player or a famous hockey player?

Give each group or pair of students the same card and have each of them state their opinion about the topic on the card. You can give them a few minutes to take notes on their opinion and what they want to say before starting.

Then students go around and say their opinion and support their argument. This is one is sure to bring some good conversations and even laughs in your class. You can also teach phrases on how to express opinions, such as:

  • “In my opinion…”
  • “I believe that…”
  • “In my eyes…”
  • “From my point of view…”

In addition to this, you could also assign students to make their own “Would you rather…” topics for the class or other groups. Make sure they keep them appropriate! Help facilitate the conversations and ask follow-up questions while students are speaking.

5. How-to Presentation

Student level: Pre-Intermediate to Advanced
Type of Lesson: Group or Individual

This activity is great for a number of reasons: it’s simple to assign and explain, effective for students to develop speaking, and fun because it’s on a topic they’re interested in. It’s also practical because they’re teaching the class how to do something or how something works.

Basically, all you need to do for ESL speaking activities like this one is have students choose some topic. It can be any appropriate topic according to their wishes. Then they give a five-minute presentation on that How-to topic. In order to get students cooperating together, you could also put them in pairs and have them decide on and organize the speech together.

Here are some of the ones my students have done before and they turned out to be great:

  • How to cook [a food]
  • How to play [a sport]
  • How to travel cheap
  • How to do a magic trick
  • How to live healthily

There are some great tips you can share with your students on giving a presentation in a foreign language. Have students prepare the speech at home or during the lesson, and then have them present their topic during the next lesson. You could take notes on their speaking or pronunciation mistakes while they present and go over them after the presentation.

6. Living Memory

Student level: Pre-Intermediate
Type of Lesson: Group

This is a game based on the classic board game “memory” designed for lower-level students. Two students go out of the room (Student A and Student B). The rest of the class gets together in pairs. If you have an uneven number of students, one group can be in three. Each pair chooses a word according to the learning objective.

For example, if your students are learning about food, then in pairs they will mutually agree on a meal or a food they both like. Then the two students come back into the classroom and these two students play against each other to gain points.

To gain points, Student A starts off and asks any student in the class “What do you like eating?” and that student answers “I like eating…”, and then Student A asks another student what they like to eat.

If the second student likes the same thing, then Student A gets one point. Then Student B goes and tries to match the pairs based on the food they mutually chose together. This is a fun game to practice vocabulary and simple phrases.

You can make the game more interactive if students make gestures and movement demonstrating the type of food. For example, they gesture peeling a banana if the food they chose is ‘banana’.

Other good questions are:

  • What is your favorite subject?
  • What do you like doing in your free time?
  • What time is it?

7. Video Talk

Student level: Pre-Intermediate to Advanced
Type of Lesson: Group or Individual

Find a YouTube video topic that you think would be interesting for your students. I would choose a relatively short video (two to five minutes), or something like a TedTalk. Make some preview discussion questions about the topic presented in the video, go through them with students before watching, and then watch the video together.

You can then have some questions prepared based on the video content and some post-discussion activities while going through some of the important vocabulary terms from the video. Students tend to love working with videos and there are so many good ones out there nowadays.

Using video is effective because it brings the outside world to your students and they can generate some great discussions in class, inspiring students to speak their mind and share their opinions and ideas.

While it may take a lot of time to prepare materials and questions on a video for ESL speaking activities, you can check out Veslio.co for some comprehensive lesson plans all based on short, engaging real-world videos on a variety of different topics.

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