EF Teacher Zone
Ideas, tips, and tools for language teachers around the world.
MenuVisit EF Teacher Zone

3 Activity Adaptations to Boost Student Participation in Class

3 Activity Adaptations to Boost Student Participation in Class

Active participation is what makes a class successful. Engaging in discussions, sharing thoughts and joining in with activities not only allows students to develop their language skills, but also gives them confidence to attempt new things and understand their strengths and weaknesses. It also makes the classroom a more positive place to be, where teachers can be satisfied that students are making progress towards their goals of being confident speakers of English.

However, getting to the point where all students are participating isn’t always an easy task. A host of factors such as students’ feelings and past experiences, the atmosphere in the class and the difficulty of the subject matter may all stand in the way of students participating in your activities.

With this in mind, here are a few adaptations you can make to common activities to try which could help students to get out of their shells and to start contributing to the class.

1. Role Play: Bringing Students’ Lives into the Classroom

The classic speaking activity, in which students pretend to be in different situations, using English to achieve a specific task. Often, it’s intimidating for students if they aren’t sure what they’d do in that situation in real life, or if they don’t think they’d ever be in this situation. To make role plays more engaging, you could make them less artificial by asking students to act out real scenes from their lives, but in English instead of their first languages. For example, have them think back to the last time they were in a shop, buying a transport ticket or having any kind of conversation and get them to act it out. If it was a particularly emotional conversation, such as a ticket inspector arguing with them about which fare they should have paid, have them also think about what they would have said differently with the benefit of hindsight. This then allows students to reflect on their own behaviour and interactions with others, helping them develop interpersonal as well as language skills.

2. Debate Club: Encouraging Critical Thinking Through Role Play

Debates can sometimes demotivate students because they either don’t have the language skills to express all of the complex ideas that they have, or the topic isn’t engaging enough for students to want to choose a side. If you find that your students don’t get too excited by debates, consider adding an element of role play to them.

Warm students up by having them watch a video of a TV debate on a topic they know they are interested in. It could even be in their first language, if you want to increase the chances of them being engaged enough to take part. Then have them take the roles of the people in the debate they watched, but this time it’s being held for an English-speaking audience. They not only have to debate in English, but also explain the issues being discussed for an audience which may not know much about them at all. By doing this, students not only develop their fluency, but also begin to think about how to communicate across cultures, and to explain elements of their own country’s background to a foreign audience.

3. Language Exchanges with Native Speakers: Cultivating Cross-Cultural Communication

Finally, if students want to really get over the fear of speaking, there’s nothing better than actually conversing with native speakers. With the rise of language exchange apps and websites, it’s easy to find language partners and begin chatting to them in minutes. You could prepare students for this in class by having them browse profiles of potential language partners in the class, and make lists of those that they think they’d get on with. Then have them try to do calls with them in their own time and report back on the conversations in the next class. Have a group discussion on how students found the experience, and what they learned about the life and culture of their new language partner. Even if the conversation doesn’t go all that well for students, getting them into the habit of talking to native speakers will help to break down the barriers that many face when learning a language.

There are thousands more ways to spice up activities to get students speaking, so please do share your ideas with us, and let others know what does and doesn’t work for you. Remember, every student is different, so what works for one may not work for another. They key is to find the technique or activity that matches the interests and preferences of the audience. Have fun and good luck!

Want more ideas like these?Get them here