Is it difficult to practise speaking at the elementary level? We don’t think so! Check out our tips and ideas on practising speaking at the lowest levels.
First of all, remember that at the lowest levels, speaking practice does not mean discussing complicated topics. We can establish that, at this level, whenever students say anything, they practise speaking. So, give them as many opportunities to speak as possible. Even if it’s only saying single sentences.
How can you do it?
# 1 Give stimulating material and prompts.
Elementary level students need some kind of stimulating material to help them talk. That way they don’t have to think so much about what to say, but how to say it. It can be a photo that students can simply describe or a series of questions to be answered. You can also present students with some simple topics, e.g. your family, house, work. Their task will be to say as much as they can on these topics.
# 2 Present a model answer.
At the beginning of each exercise, provide a model answer or useful vocabulary. Additionally, if your students are uncertain, make sure it is clearly visible during the activity. Write them on the board or have students make their own notes and refer to them if they need to.
# 3 Use vocabulary that students already know.
For the lessons with the lowest levels, prepare only activities that require the use (for the vast majority) of vocabulary that students already know or have just learned. Otherwise, they will use their native language or refuse to speak at all if they find it too challenging.
# 4 Use language chunks
Instead of presenting students with single words, give them language chunks. They will be easier to memorise in the right context. Language chunks are great for fluency practice. Students don’t have to think of single words to make up a phrase, instead, they already memorised the full phrase.
Language chunks can also be used for short exercises – students can pronounce them in different intonations or use different emotions while speaking to remember them better.
What speaking activities can you use at elementary levels?
It’s a brilliant tool for practising communication, especially at the lowest levels. Just make sure to provide the students with useful vocabulary and a model role play before they begin.
This is one example of stimulating material or a prompt but by far the most “open” one. So make sure that the topics are structured in a way which is easy to understand, and that they are at the right level. For example, at A1, students won’t talk about the influence of art on young people. But something like: Your dream home will be much easier. They might also brainstorm vocabulary that may be useful for discussing this topic.
How can you use topics like that? Ask the students to comment on these topics using the vocabulary they know. You can add a time limit to this exercise, e.g. 60 seconds. Another idea would be to ask students to first create a list of questions on a particular topic that they can later ask another student.
We very often skip practising this skill in conversation, and it is very important. Examples of exercises for asking questions can be role plays or information gap exercises. These are exercises in which each of the students in a pair or group has information that the others don’t. Then they ask each other questions to get the missing information.
Such a simple exercise and yet so effective! Students simply describe the photos. Remember to provide photos with enough detail for the students to use in their descriptions.
If you need more, or you’re looking for ready-made materials, check out our Elementary materials HERE.