Speakification activities

It’s often true in classes in Palestine (maybe in classes all of the world) that learners know lots of words in English but they are not always so good at using these words in their own utterances. So perhaps one of our jobs as teachers is to design activities which challenge learners to speakify language.

I think I may have just invented that word! What I want speakification to mean is to put new language to work by using it in speech. I think there are three main reasons for doing this:-

  1. It challenges learners to focus on how words are pronounced.
  2. It pushes learners to think about collocation, colligation and context.
  3. It helps to make language memorable for learners because it challenges a key process involved in memorisation – retrieval

So here’s a simple game that Lozan (their classroom teacher) and I (their remote volunteer) used with a group of 11 year old girls in Beach Elementary Co-ed UNRWA school, Beach camp, Gaza. The stages went something like this:-

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  1. I showed them a piece of paper with drawings of lots of things that began with the same letter as my name. I asked them to try to work out what the drawing represented
  2. I asked them to do the same for their own names.
  3. They showed their pictures to me and I tried to work out what each drawing represented.
  4. I described the words in my drawing to the whole class (without showing the picture again) and they tried to work out the words from my description.
  5.  They took it in turns to do the same activity to me. We made it into a competition by saying that the winner would be the person who could describe the most words in a minute.

Now of course this activity, although it’s quite motivating and fun, isn’t actually that good as a speakification activity. For a start it pushes the listener to retrieve and say the word rather than the speaker. It also doesn’t really challenge anyone to say the word in a natural utterance, thereby failing to address issues of collocation.

So what do you do in your classes to get leaners to speakify new language? Please share some ideas below in the comments so that we can all have some ideas to try out when classes start again in a couple of weeks.

2 thoughts on “Speakification activities

  1. Love ‘speakification’ :-). Ideas from the top of my head: 1. Noughts and crosses with those words. Students have to put the word in a correct sentence which shows the meaning of the word. 2. Possible follow ups after your activity: a/ a team picks a word and makes a sentence saying ‘blablabla’ instead of the chosen word. The listener – teacher or other students/teams guess which word should be used instead of ‘blablabla’. b/Choose three words and make a short story with those three words.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Rebecca. Very nice ideas. I might have known that you’d mention storytelling 🙂 I guess that putting words into a story or a dialogue and then telling it or performing it is the ultimate speakification activity. In fact, after the kids have drawn pictures of as many things as they can which begin with the same first letter as their name, I often ask them to make up a story using as many of the words as they can.

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