Lower Levels: Teaching Speaking Skills with Roundtable Role-Play Discussions

Lower Levels ESL teaching speaking skills activityTeaching speaking skills is not easy with lower levels. Unless you are working with a highly motivated group of students, it can be challenging to get good discussions going. With planning and clearly defined roles, discussions can be very successful for a speaking skills lesson with lower levels.

Create Groups – Teaching Speaking Skills

The students need to be assigned to a discussion group.  Give them ten minutes to brainstorm together any points from their position. They can be asked to take simple notes as they listen to each member. Once they have the problem defined and main points noted, they could be given another 10 minutes to individually plan their own 2-3 minute talk. A leader should be assigned to open the talk, and to maximize participation they could be allowed to challenge members after everyone has had an opportunity to speak. Finally, depending on the topic and level of the students, they could be required to vote on the outcome of the talks to reach a consensus.

Language – Teaching Speaking Skills

The type of discussion must be level appropriate. The language they need to be able to give opinions and support their ideas must have been pre-taught and practiced. You might review or elicit phrases they could use to greet their group members and identify themselves, state an opinion, give support and close their talk. For lower level groups, they could be given an outline of functions, so that once they have brainstormed ideas, they have a template of their talk and they only need to fill in ideas from the brainstorming session. They could also be given a note-taking outline to fill in as they listen to each member of their discussion group speak.

Outline of Functions – Teaching Speaking Skills

Greetings and Identifying Yourself

Good afternoon, I am speaking as a parent.

We are here to discuss…..

As a student, I feel very …..

Stating Your Point

In my opinion,…….

…….. is a good/bad idea because…………..

Students like/want/believe ……..because…….

Closing

I ask you to put yourself in my shoes.

Thank you for listening to how the students feel.

Please think about how parents feel.

Challenging

The parent said……….. and I disagree because……….

The teacher stated that……… and this is wrong because………..

Voting

Now we must vote/reach a consensus.

We have listened to everyone talking about………..

Everyone who agrees that…………..please raise your hands.

Choosing a Topic and Roles – Teaching Speaking Skills

The discussion topic must be interesting and relevant to the students. They need to have feelings about the topic, and be able to see the topic from different sides. For younger students, topics of interest might be about rules they must follow at home or at school. For adult students, they could discuss issues involving family, work or any number of issues in their outside communities.

Role examples for school problems: student, parent, teacher, principal

Using a mobile or smartphone at school.

Penalties for tardiness or cheating.

Wearing a school uniform.

Role examples: Community representative, local MP, police representative

Vandalism or crime in your neighbourhood

Increase in taxes

Parking restrictions, transportation problems or limited access to services

Pets in public places, construction site complaints

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