Speaking Activities for One-to-one Classes

Speaking Activities for One-to-one Classes

The improvement of speaking skills is crucial for each language learner. In the case of a large class, with the help of pair work and group work activities, we can arrange very interactive and fun speaking activities. Things get a little bit hard when we deal with one-to-one classes. In these cases, teachers need to think of more engaging activities that will keep the student involved. In this article, we will present a list of cool speaking activities for one-to-one classes. 

 Devil’s Advocate 

The teacher prepares a list of controversial statements and gives them to the student. The latter decides whether he or she agrees with the statements and expresses his/her opinion on each of them. For the next stage, the teacher asks the student to express the opposite viewpoint to his previous opinions. This technique stretches the learner morally, intellectually and mentally. Below you can find a few statements which can be used for this activity. Choose those ones which are suitable for the topic you discussed in the previous lesson or going to cover in the current lesson:

  • You can’t have a happy family life and a successful career at the same time.
  • The death penalty is acceptable in some cases.
  • Military service should be obligatory. 
  • Torture can be acceptable in some cases.
  • Curfews keep teens out of trouble. 
  • We are becoming too dependent on computers/smartphones.
  • Smoking should be banned worldwide. 
  • Single-sex schools are evil. 
  •  Soft drugs should be legalized.
  • A woman’s place is in the home.

The elevator speech 

Do your students like role plays? A teacher can play the role of the partner in different scenarios. Let’s talk more about “the elevator speech” one. The student imagines the situation that he/she has a fantastic idea on how to lessen the paperwork in their company. He/she discusses his idea with the line manager who dismisses it. A few days later, the student meets the CEO of the company in the elevator. So he has 60 seconds to speak to the CEO and persuade him that his idea is worth investing time and money. As time is very limited the student needs to pay attention to the right use of the intonation, use modifiers and intensifiers (fully, totally, extremely, absolutely, etc). One the other hand this is a nice fluency activity. Apart from the linguistic benefits, this activity will be a great motivational tool for one-to-one classes since they oftentimes lack dynamics and fun. Here are some more elevator speech scenarios:

  • A screenwriter has 1 minute to convince a Hollywood producer to shoot a film based on his script.
  • A travel agent has 1  minute to convince the tourist to take their trip 
  • An applicant has 60 seconds to convince the employer to hire him
  • A shop assistant has 1 minute to convince the buyer to purchase the products from their shop and not go to the supermarket which sells the same product at a cheaper price. 

Two-­minute Talks 

Being able to speak for extended periods of time is a skill that is essential in modern life. Students give presentations, deliver monologues at exams, speak at conferences etc. It’s a good idea to practice both prepared and unprepared monologues. 

  • In the first case, you can ask your students to make notes or transcribe their mini-presentation or project on any topic you’ve studied, record themselves and analyse it later. 
  • You can also ask to tell the short version (summary) of the article you’ve read or a video you’ve watched. This is a good exercise to practise spoken discourse markers, summarising and paraphrasing skills. 
  • Teenagers would enjoy two-minute talks if it is set in the task of an audition. Ask them to imagine that they are going to take part in an audition for their favourite TV-series. They rehearse and practise saying their lines in a variety of different ways to be sure they convey the appropriate emotion. If your learner really want to improve their spoken English (intonation, stress patterns, connected speech, rhythm), give them scripts to work from. Push them to stand up, move around and use body language and gestures. Ask them to read a line in different ways. 
  • To practice spontaneous two-minute talks you can play different games, for example, “Would you rather …?” or “The Game of things”. 

TED Talks

This activity is similar to the previous one. 

TED talks are always a great way to implement diversity in the learning process. You can watch TED talks for a certain period of time, discuss them, write out the unknown vocabulary, etc. Later, when the learner feels ok with the structure and the style of TED talks, he/she may be asked to prepare a TED Talk presentation on his own. Before the presentation, you can discuss the usual structure of TED talks, provide the learner with some functional language, analyze some basic body language used in TED speeches. With extended presentations, it is a good idea to provide some assessment criteria such as clarity, speed of delivery, appropriate intonation, body language). The key to this lesson is your feedback and let them try giving the presentation again if they wish.

Critical  thinking

Students have to think outside of the box in their daily life let it be in the office or for personal issues. Therefore, it would be a nice idea to implement lateral thinking speaking activities for one-to-one classes. This will motivate the learners since they not only boost their speaking but also critical thinking skills.

  • A classmate has their head down on the desk. Give at least two reasons why.
  • The teacher assigns you extra homework over the weekend. Give at least two reasons why.

 Here is a link to a number of other activities aimed at developing critical thinking and speaking. 

Get outside of the classroom 

It is a common thing that students are more motivated when they see how they can implement their language knowledge in real-life scenarios. With group classes, it may be difficult to organize lessons outside of the classroom, but with individual students, it is much easier to manage. You can have a lesson in the restaurant (business meeting language and restaurant language), you can book a hotel room, go shopping, etc. This is fun, engaging and surely authentic. 

Find more speaking activities for one-to-classes here.

It is quite challenging to have one-to-one classes since students usually get bored just because of the fact that all the focus is on them, they communicate only with the teacher. With the activities offered by us, the teacher has the chance to cut down on the common question-answer (interview scenarios) and offer speaking cases with varied scenarios.

Which of the activities will you use with your students?  


Лиза Мардоян

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