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    Listening & Speaking Activities for Classroom/Home


    Descriptive Pairs Activity

    This activity encourages academic vocabulary development by engaging players in active speaking and listening to relevant classroom content. Each person sits back to back, with one person facing the front of the room. A category is announced (for example: mammals, text characters, types of triangles) Facilitator presents an image of one item in this category. The person facing the visual must relay to his or her partner what the image shows. In giving clues, this person must be as descriptive as possible, but cannot say the actual word or words that name the image. The person facing away from the image must engage his or her active listening skills in order to guess what the image is. When the away-facing person correctly names the image, partners hold a high-five or touch elbows and wait for other teams to solve the puzzle. Partners exchange seats and reverse speaking/listening roles.


    Information Detective

    Players work in pairs for this cooperative activity. Each person has a card containing an image or text. The two images or passages are the same, except that each is missing some information. It is important that different information is missing on each card. Place a folder or other divider between the two people. Partners take turns asking each other questions in order to solve the missing information on each card. New information should be recorded on a card or in a notebook. The participants should not view one another's cards during the activity. Sentence starters may be useful.



    Listen-retell is a straightforward strategy that assesses a player's comprehension while working to develop learners' listening and speaking skills. Players work in pairs.  The facilitator gives each pair a prompt that is relevant to a topic being studied.  One player from each pair responds to the prompt.  The other player listens carefully to his or her partner's response.  Then, the listening partner rephrases what was said.  The first partner confirms the accuracy of the listing partner's retelling.  For older or more advanced players, the listening partner will rephrase the speaking partner's statement and then add on to the conversation with a new statement.  After both partners have contributed, a new prompt is issued and players' speaking/listening roles are reversed.


    Mix and Match

    The Mix-and-Match strategy encourages players to interact with one another in a guided format and allows for movement within the classroom.  To prepare for the game, first, create a series of questions related to a topic or unit of study.   Record these questions on a set of index cards.  On a separate set of cards, record appropriate responses to those questions.  Each question card should have a corresponding answer card. In working with older players and/or players with higher levels of language proficiency, it is best to incorporate player-generated questions and responses.  To carry out the exercise, half of the participants are issued cards containing questions.  Give the other players cards with appropriate responses to questions.  Players must move about the room sharing and comparing their cards until they find their match.  Once all players have found their match, pairs may share out their corresponding questions and responses with the other players in the class.


    Partner Coaching

    Partner coaching is a cooperative strategy that allows players to practice using several or all language domains while working to solve a problem together. This activity works especially well in math or science subjects. To begin, arrange players in pairs and assign two challenges or problems to each pair of players. Each player in the pair will be responsible for solving one challenge. While the first player works on his or her problem, the second player acts as a coach, offering advice, feedback, and encouragement. The coach is not permitted to write the answers or solve the problem for the first player. Players reverse roles and solve the other problem. When both challenges have been solved, one pair of students partners with another pair to form a group of four. All four students work together to confirm the validity of answers and make corrections as necessary. Note that it is helpful to model the acts of offering and accepting constructive feedback in advance. Some players may find it difficult to accept peer coaching. Make it clear that the expectation is to try to be as open to feedback as possible. Offer sentence stems and other support to guide players through the cooperative practice, as needed.



    Partner dictation is a fast-paced, simple activity that engages players in all four language-learning domains. To prepare, select a brief passage on a focus topic. Print half the number of copies as players in the class. (Or, choose unique dictation passages and print separately). For the activity, begin by pairing players. Each pair of players stands on one side of the room. Dictation passages are posted in another part of the room (or outside of the room in a hallway or corridor). One player will act as the "runner" and the other as the "recorder". (Players will have a chance to change roles). The "runner" will quickly make trips to and from the printed dictation passage to read it and return to the partner to relay the message. The recorder writes what he or she hears. Players work together to edit scripts as they are being written. The runner makes as many trips to the dictation sample as needed for the recorder to capture the whole passage. Roles reverse, with a new dictation passage. The length and complexity of passages should reflect grade and language abilities present in the classroom and should be modified for paired groups as necessary.



    This is a classic drama warm-up game that works great for EB verb study. To play, select a small group of players (teams of 5-7 players work well, though any number is fine) to enter the "stage". The remaining players in the class will serve as the audience, though all students should have the chance to perform. Have one player from the acting group take center stage while his or her teammates wait "in the wings". The first player begins the game by performing an action, such as driving a car. Another teammate enters and asks the first player, "What are you doing?" The first player can respond with any answer excluding his or her current answer. For example, "I'm brushing my teeth." The second player would then have to begin the action of brushing his or her teeth. The first and second players continue performing their actions. The third player enters and asks the second player, "What are you doing?" He or she responds with a new action, such as "I'm ice skating." The third player mimes ice skating. The process repeats until all players in the group have gone.  The audience applauds and a new group takes the stage. More advanced players may be encouraged to use more complex verb clauses, such as “I’m baking a cake for my mom’s birthday.” Players love this activity!


    Fan N' Pick is a Kagan cooperative strategy that can be used to activate background knowledge, facilitate discussion on a topic or review a concept. To prepare for the activity, create a series of questions related to a text or concept. Write or type questions on strips of paper that are of similar size and shape. Place questions in an envelope. Each working group of four players will receive one envelope. Create as many envelopes as projected player groups. For the lesson, arrange players into groups of four and distribute envelopes.  Players in each group are numbered 1-4. Player 1 will remove the strips, making sure that all of the questions are faced down. Player 1 "fans" the strips and presents them to Player 2. Player 2 reads the strip that he or she chose and provides thinking time. Player 3 is responsible for answering the questions. Player 4 clarifies, praises, or adds to Player 3's response. Then, the sentence strips are passed to Player 2, who becomes the new Player 1. The process repeats until all players have had a turn or all questions are answered.