Getting Students to Speak

Ideas for getting students to speak


Pyramids/snowballing – students spend 5 minutes responding to a series of questions, making as many notes as they can on a given topic.  Then they discuss with a partner, then into a group of 4, 8, 16 etc.  Then you can have a whole class discussion to summarise all the key points of the topic.


Stand where you stand – give students advanced reading, for example 2 paragraphs for, 2 against.  Then in class ask students to decide where they stand on the argument.  Pick an element from the paragraphs and ask students to stand next to one of 4 signs – Strongly Agree/Agree/Disagree/Strongly Disagree.


Speaking exams – Tell students what your first question will be and ask students to come up with the following questions that demonstrate a clear link.  Students are available to show what they know.  There can be a discussion at the end about other areas to consider.


Provoke debate – Discuss contentious issues and take the opposing viewpoint to the consensus.  Discuss all viewpoints, however un-PC, to ensure students are able to see all sides.


Constrained Discussion – limit discussion to a particular point of view.


Question Time – Students take on the role of a range of experts.  Following the exposition of their initial views, students in the ‘audience’ pose a series of questions.


Pre-discussion – before teaching a new topic, students explore their thoughts and guesswork.  This works best when students have little prior knowledge.  Tests demonstrate that this approach has significant impact on the retention of information once the topic has been taught.


Productive Discussion – Explain the concept of productive discussions, of active listening and ensuring comments are relevant and interlinked with previous comments.


Symposium – Students take the role of expert on a particular area and prepare a small text/talk on a specific topic from a wider area.  Students then ‘pool resources’ to create a coherent whole.


Group work – Small, supportive groups help students to explain, summarise, apply, analyse, synthesise and evaluate the subject matter.  This also prepares students to develop essential social, problem solving and communication necessary for success in the workplace.  Groups help students to personalise their learning experiences, to identify and correct misconceptions as well as gaps in knowledge.  Consider the following steps:

  • Planning – mix groups regularly/ensure challenge/explain purpose/create tasks that require interaction.
  • Implementation – circulate/listen and guide group discussion
  • Reflection – Students share work/highlight outcomes from main discussion points. Teacher and students provide feedback. Use the outcome to plan for the next session


Post It – Split the class into groups and give each student a handful of blank post it notes.  Ask a question e.g. what do you know about the Olympics?  Students write a word on each post it note and place on the table.  After 2-3 minutes, students then order words into 3-6 categories.  Groups then move around the class to the next group to look at the categorised words and the task is to try to work out what the categories are.  Whole class discussion on categories follows and students present feedback.


Diamond Ranking – Similar to the Post It activity above.  This enables students to discuss organisation of ideas and to develop justification.


Six Thinking Hats – Useful once again for organising ideas.  Groups of students are given different tasks.  They discuss their role and complete the task for a period of time and then have a whole-class discussion to bring the ideas together.



ASK, ASK, ASK – In students’ books, where they have made an error that can be discussed with the class, write ASK.  Go over ‘ASKS’ in class so that students have the opportunity to discuss and make note of common mistakes or misunderstandings.  Students could also create a quiz for other students based on ‘ASKS’.  This could be a task completed once a term as part of the interleaving process.


Wrong Text – Give students a text full of errors for them to discuss as a group and to correct.


Odd one out – e.g. what is the difference – Picasso/Dalí/Monet.  Students discuss the multitude of answers.


Visuals – use a picture of anything and ask a series of questions (what is happening?  What else?  What else?)  Constantly challenge the students’ ideas.


De Bono’s PMI

Step 1. Consider the Plus Points of the Situation.

Step 2. Consider the Minus Points of the Situation.

Step 3. Consider the Interesting Points of the Situation.

Step 4. Make your decision.

e.g. Allowing British Police to carry guns

+ increased ability to deal with the threat of terrorism

+ allow police to defend themselves better

lose approachability/friendliness

risk of increased fatalities

* nearly all other European countries have armed police

* How would you train thousands of officers quickly and efficiently


I am the answer – “I’m thinking of a … verb/noun/person/key term” etc.  Students are given 15 questions to ask the teacher or to their group to get the right answer which encourages listening skills and extend understanding of a given topic.


CRI – Certainty of Response Index – When questioning students, use this to monitor how confident students are of an answer.  Students hold fingers up to show levels of certainty e.g. 1 = no idea 5 = certain.  This is a useful metacognitive exercise as it allows them to talk through their answer.


Just a minute – A paired/group activity.  All students write down a list of key words relating to the topic.  One person talks for a minute and the others tick off any words that are mentioned.  During the subsequent discussion, students review the words left over.


Pointless – Discussion based on the TV programme (see the PE PPT)


Guess Louie – (See the PE PPT).  Divide the class into teams.  One member of the team should face away from the board the rest have at the board.  The team members facing the board must get the other member to say the correct word or phrase without actually saying that word or phrase.  If the member with their back to the board guesses it correctly, then the team gets points.


Speed Dating

You have an inner circle of chairs facing outwards, and each student on the inner circle has a student sitting opposite them facing in (the outer circle). You set them a topic of conversation to talk about or a question to answer e.g., ‘explain to your partner the most complex compositional technique you have used today’ and give them a time (with a noise set to signal stop). At the end of the time, students are chosen at random to explain to the class what their partner said. The students in the outer circle then move one chair to their left and a new question is set. Etc.


One student is the ‘driver’ – they write the response on the paper, the other is the ‘navigator’ – they guide the partner about what they should be writing (thus speaking their answer aloud). A third student can also be assigned as ‘examiner’ who stays silent, watches the process and notes down what they have/haven’t done.

Talking Frames

To encourage students to articulate themselves properly and to broaden their responses , display the openers that they MUST use in lessons on the interactive screen.


  • My first ideas are…
  • I’m beginning to think that…
  • I’m not sure others would agree, but…
  • In our discussions we were thinking that…
  • Building on what has been said before, I think that…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.