8 ESL Speaking Activities for Kids Sure to Keep Them Entertained
A big part of learning English is learning how to actually speak it.
Now, this can be tricky to practice in classroom settings.
After all, you can’t have meaningful one-on-one conversations with every single student every single class.
This is why it’s important to find speaking activities that will include everyone and make learning fun!
Here are 8 different ESL speaking activities for kids to add to your lesson plan!
- 1. Investigative Journalist
- 2. Debate
- 3. What’s Your Secret?
- 4. It’s Your Turn: Teach a Class!
- 5. Following Directions
- 6. Yes, No Game
- 7. Guess Who
- 8. Make a Movie
1. Investigative Journalist
The basis of investigative journalist is for students to interview one another in pairs and present their findings.
It can be used for groups at all skill levels from beginning to advanced, as long as you tailor it to their levels.
Beginners may ask their partners about their family structure, favorite colors and foods, pets and hobbies.
Intermediate students could practice past tense structures by asking about their partner’s childhood or what they did over the summer.
Advanced students might benefit from a murder mystery version of the game, where each student is assigned a character to play and the game concludes with the “murderer” being sussed out as a result of the questions.
A great way to prepare students for this versatile activity, no matter their level, is with authentic videos of English conversations from FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.
The FluentU videos are all organized by level and come with interactive captions, flashcards and exercises to help students pick up new words as they watch.
Through these supercharged English dialogues, news reports, interviews, movie clips and more, they’ll get comfortable with the types of basic English conversations investigative journalist requires.
Students can access FluentU from their devices as well as it’s available as an app for iOS and Android.
Debate is another classic that can incorporate pair or group work, depending on the size of your class.
Create groups and assign each group or pair a side of an argument. Allow the groups time to research their topic and form their argument.
Then you can have the students execute their debate.
While this may sound like a more advanced activity, you can easily tailor it to age and level.
You might have your older and more advanced students arguing a political or ethical issue, while you can just as easily have your younger students argue which candy bar is better.
Debate is made even more interesting when you present students with authentic materials to use as support for their claims.
Check out this video if you want to see how a debate should be run:
3. What’s Your Secret?
What’s your secret? is a pair work activity that truly involves the whole class.
In this game, each student writes a secret down on a piece of paper, things like: “I play the clarinet.” or “I have a twin.”
The papers are placed in a hat and each student draws one: that’s where the game begins.
The game can either be played by allowing students to mill about the classroom freely or by setting up a speed dating scenario, where each pair has 1 minute to speak before rotating.
Students may ask one another yes/no questions—they may not ask directly if what’s on the piece of paper is true about them or not.
Students then must guess to whom the secret they drew belongs.
4. It’s Your Turn: Teach a Class!
This is a fun activity for advanced ESL students that reinforces their learning by having them teach something to the class themselves.
Depending on your class size, you can have each student present something on their own or work in pairs or groups. You assign each student, pair or group a grammar, vocab or culture point that they’ll have to teach to the class.
They then have to prepare activities and lesson plans to teach the point to the class.
Be sure to assign a time limit depending on how much of your classroom time you’d like to dedicate to this activity.
Unlike many of these other activities, the conclusion portion of this activity is built right in: when the students teach the class, the teacher should play the role of the student, but you may evaluate the lesson at the end and feel free to correct any mistakes the “teachers” make!
5. Following Directions
Following directions is an interesting game that offers a change from the classroom routine.
In this game, each student in the pair draws a picture, keeping their paper shielded from the eyes of their partner.
Ideally, pictures should be fairly geometric. Once the picture is complete, they explain to their partner, using words only, how to replicate the image.
For example, if a student has drawn the stereotypical square house with a triangle roof, he might say: “Draw a square in the middle of the paper that’s about a third of the size of the paper. Draw an equilateral triangle on top of the square, using the top side of the square as the bottom side of the triangle.”
The goal of this game is for each partner to replicate the other’s drawing going by these spoken directions.
This activity is great for not only practicing speaking skills, but listening skills as well. If you want to make things competitive, you can offer up a prize for the group that has the best drawing!
6. Yes, No Game
Games can be a great way to mix things up and keep students interested in learning.
This is a game where the only two words that students aren’t allowed to say are yes and no.
Pair students off and have them take turns asking each other questions. Students may answer the questions however they like, they just can’t say yes or no.
When a student loses, he or she is out and the winning partner is paired with another winning partner. In this way, you can create a tournament of yes, no.
Other versions of the game also forbid “maybe” and “I.” Consider these versions when the game is lasting too long or students need an extra challenge.
7. Guess Who
Guess Who is a version of 20 questions that focuses entirely on people.
Students draw the name of a famous person out of a hat (you’ll need to prepare these slips in advance!) and their partner tries to guess who’s on the paper by asking a series of yes/no questions.
Like yes, no, guess who can be turned into a tournament-style game.
To add a cultural aspect, you can have a lesson beforehand on various famous figures in English culture and then have the students play this game to remember who they are.
8. Make a Movie
Making a movie is a fun way to keep students engaged and teach them the importance of speaking.
You can have the whole class do one movie together, split into groups or split into pairs.
If the kids are younger, you can give them a script they need to read out loud. If the kids are a bit older, you can even let them write and perform their own script.
If you do choose to provide the script, try to find the script for a movie that will be familiar to students, such as “Finding Nemo” or “Shrek.”
Try to encourage your students to memorize as much as they can. I recommend at least having a rule that they must look at who they’re speaking to in order to avoid a robotic “reading voice.”
You can either just have the students perform their movie in front of each other or you can actually record it.
I’d highly suggest recording the movie because then you can play it back for the students to hear their own speech and how they’re doing.
Now you have eight different ESL speaking activities to try next class.
You can even mix things up and add your own variations to make things more interesting!