Developing speaking activities

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  • Developing classroom speaking activities: From theory to practice

    * Richards, J. (n.d)

    When designing speaking activities and materials it is important to consider the different functions that speaking performs and the purposes for which students need speaking skills.

    Richards divides speaking into three functions:

    Talk as interaction - what we think of as conversation.Talk as transaction - focus is on the message - what is said or done - and making oneself understood.Talk as performance - public speaking

  • Talk as Interaction - this can be the most difficult to teach/learn. It is a complex and subtle phenomena that uses many

    unspoken rules.

    Main features:

    primarily social

    reflects role relationships

    reflects speakers identity

    may be formal or casual

    uses conversational conventions

    reflects degrees of politeness

    uses generic words

    uses conversational register

    is jointly constructed

    Skills involved:

    opening and closing conversations

    choosing topics

    making small talk

    recounting personal experiences

    taking turns using adjacency pairs


    reacting to others

  • Examples of talk as interaction

    Polite conversation with the person next to you on an airplane - no future contact is expected.

    Casual conversation with a friend over coffee - ongoing friendship.

    Student talking to a professor while waiting for an elevator - reflects unequal power roles

    Telling a friend about your weekend - sharing personal stories.

  • Talk as transaction - giving/receiving information or obtaining goods/services - easier to plan; many communicative activities



    Asking for the time or directions.

    Checking into hotel. Discussing sightseeing plans with clerk. Making phone call to get flight information.Buying/returning goods at a shop.Ordering from a restaurant menu.

    Features: Speakers use communication

    strategies to make themselves understood. Frequent questions,

    repetitions and comprehension checks. Negotiation and digression Linguistic accuracy is

    secondary to communication.Skills:

    Explaining, describing asking questions confirming info making suggestions agreeing, disagreeing clarifying justifying opinion

  • Talk as performance


    Giving a speech Conducting a class debate Giving a report about a tripMaking a sales presentationGiving a lecture

    Features: Focus on message and audience Organization and sequencing Accuracy is important Similar to written language Often like a monologue

    Skills: Using appropriate format presenting, sequencing info engaging audience pronunciation grammar effecting audience appropriate vocabulary appropriate opening, closing

  • Implications for teaching

    Issues to address when planning speaking activities:

    What functions will the course focus on? Do an informal needs assessment to determine this.

    What teaching strategies will you use? (EX: Role plays, dialogs, information gaps, group discussions, sample speeches.) What kind of support will you provide? How will you model activities? What resources will you need?

    What level of performance do you expect and how will you assess it? How and when will you give feedback?

  • Reference

    Richards, J. (n.d.). Developing Classroom Speaking Activities: From theory to practice. professorjackrichards. Retrieved from