Resources for Speaking

Websites with speaking questions: 

Free Board Games:

Ways to record speaking

Mote (app)

Adobe Spark (Free)

Flipgrid (free)

Little bird tales, Google Apps: Beautiful Recording where students can record their voices. I’ve used this to have students create podcasts.

it is a Google Add on app, on Chromebooks with the app they can save the file they create as an MP3 file and then they sent it to me via Google Classroom.

Quick Time , Keynote, Shadow puppet ed, Raz kids

Websites with demonstrations of speaking games.

Top 20 Speaking Games

Speaking Activities

Adverb speaking game. Cards included.

The Bragging Game. Speaking. (Comparative/Superlative or Simile/metaphor practice.)


Six hats activity:From English Teaching 101:  Link to ideas:

Many various activities:





Corner question posters: New speaking activity from Gordon Dobie.

1 student in each corner of the class. The rest of the students form 4 mini-audiences. Students have prepared a poster on a topic related to the unit theme, but it is only the title plus three good pictures with newspaper-style captions.  Say the topic was "History in Films" That would be the title with perhaps photos from Braveheart, The King's Speech and 12 Years a Slave, with a brief caption below, such as "There WAS a man called William Wallace, but..."  The audience ask questions, rather than the presenter presenting. Instead of a Q&A at the end, the presenter tells the audience any key info they didn't ask. 4 mins + 1 min, then the audience moves on. Noisy and energetic and... everyone gets to do their presentation 4 times, without it being pure repetition. Students enjoy it.

Gordon Dobie I did 3+1 minutes the first time, which with change-over time meant that two "cycles could be done in one 40 minute period. 8 kids presenting for 16 minutes each in total in one lesson. A lot of bang for your buck!


Sentence stems for students to use in a discussion. From TPT It’s a Teacher Thing. Here is a handout (FREE)


12 Fun Speaking  Games for ELLs


Strip Story by Gianfranco Conti .The teacher chooses a story that has roughly as many sentences as students. The teacher writes each sentence from the story on different pieces of paper. The story should be one that the learners have not met before. It should contain known vocabulary and sentence patterns.

Each learner is given a different sentence from the story to memorise. If there are not enough sentences for each learner to have one it does not matter, because they can still participate in ordering the sentences. If there are more sentences than learners, then some learners can have two short sentences to memorise. So, each learner sees only one sentence and does not see the other sentences in the story.

After each learner has memorised their sentence, the pieces of paper with the sentences on them are collected by the teacher.

Then each learner tells their sentence to the others in the group and without doing any writing at all the learners arrange themselves to solve the problem of putting the sentences in the right order to tell the story (Gibson, 1975).

The teacher takes no part in the activity. The technique allows the learners to communicate in the foreign language with each other to solve the problem. The solving of the problem is less important than the communication that needs to take place in order to solve the problem.



Thanks for the post @ Lindsay Ann Learning

Do you struggle with student led discussion strategies? Been there; done that!  Before this school year started, as I was thinking of what I might focus on for a blog series, I kept coming back to the idea of classroom discussion. It’s the heart of what an ELA classroom is about. Our foundation is built on the exchange of ideas, the use of speaking and listening skills to process and further student learning.  Yet, depending on the class, it can be like pulling teeth to get a discussion rolling. 


If you are a tech-savvy soul, you will also want to check out this post about tech discussion strategies and tools for student discussion.


The Gist:  If you’re looking for a way for students to run their own discussion (hello, Danielson Framework Domains 2 and 3!), this is a simple and effective discussion strategy for you! When I first started thinking purposefully about student discussion during my national board process, this one of the first teaching hacks I used.

Have students sit in a circle.  Give each student three different Silo cups – red, yellow, and green.  Discuss with students the procedure for using the cups during discussion:  they will invite their peers into the conversation based on the cup color displayed.  They are building a conversation with each other, not with you, the teacher.  This is a paradigm shift for many students, especially if they aren’t used to student-led discussion, and you may have to remind them that they are not looking to you for “approval” during the conversation. They should be most concerned with what their peers are saying. 

What do the Student Led Discussion Cups Signal?

Tips:  Have students track their own participation and reflect/goal-set after a discussion. To encourage productive student led discussion, you may also need to jump in and call on students who haven’t had an opportunity to talk. At first, your participants may not always follow the norm of equity during discussion. That’s to be expected. Students usually catch on pretty quickly after I’ve done this a few times, especially if I have clearly set norms for conversation.  Hearing my voice means they are not doing their job!  A simple fix is to make sure students all know the names of other students in the class.  I digress, but it is always worth it to make time for team building.  In the beginning of the year.  During the year.  Always!


The Gist:  The basic premise of a snowball discussion is that students will form larger and larger groups over time.  This is great student led discussion strategy to use if you have a series of questions that build on each other or if you want students to hear a variety of different opinions while incorporating a bit of movement.  Most recently, I chose this type of discussion as a processing tool after students watched “The Danger of a Single Story” and responded individually to some questions about Adichie’s themes and ideas.  I had students start out with a partner, and then “snowball” to continue the discussion with another partnership and a different question.  By the time we formed one large “snowball,” the class was warmed up and ready to discuss.  Their last and largest question focused on the big picture “so what” and personal application of the TED talk to their own lives.

Change it Up:  If you want students to practice argumentation skills and have debatable question prompts, you could purposefully select certain students to be the “devil’s advocates” in the midst of the snowball discussion.


The Gist: Speed dating is one of my favorite student led discussion tools if I want to incorporate movement and a variety of different student partnerships.  I divide the class in half and line them up on different sides of the classroom (or hallway).  One of these lines stays in place. One of these lines rotates, with students moving to the left or right to a new discussion partner when I direct them to do so or after a certain number of minutes. Students who get to the end of the line will rotate back to the beginning of the line.

Change it Up: Have students form two concentric circles.  Again, one circle rotates and the other does not.  Set a time limit, and instruct students to rotate to their left or right to find their next discussion buddy.


The Gist: This is great as a warm-up, to help students process a complex topic, or to practice the skill of building a conversation. I will have students stand in a circle or sit on their desks. Everyone must “say something” new about a text or topic.  Each student must briefly summarizing the conversation/comment that came prior to his or her comment before building the conversation, playing devil’s advocate, or continuing with a new idea.  This reinforces the idea that one’s voice in a discussion does not exist in isolation and is really entering into a conversation.  It also challenges students to think of different perspectives and explore different angles for discussion and analysis since they cannot repeat something that has already been said. Like all good discussion strategies, this one is flexible. Want to continue around the circle another time? Sure!  Highlight a rock star moment to “spark” a new discussion topic for students to consider?  Sure!

Tips: As a teacher, you need to be ready and willing to jump in and “flag” a comment as a repeat.  You also may have to help students build a conversation at first by showing excitement, modeling effective “building” and “summarizing” comments, and asking questions.  You can even give this responsibility over to students/a teacher’s assistant.  Have him or her hold up a red card or wave a red flag if a comment repeats rather than extends the conversation. 


The Gist: This student led discussion strategy works well when students all have read different texts and are coming together to discuss a common theme.  It also works well if you want students to explore one text, but from different character perspectives or different analytical lenses. Students form lines, or sit in rows fanning out from a smaller circle of chairs/desks placed in the center of the room.  Throughout the discussion, students rotate into the center seat, seamlessly continuing the conversation.  To see this discussion in action, plus more tips, I suggest checking out this Teaching Channel resource.


The Gist: This tried and true student led discussion strategy is well-known, so I won’t spend a lot of time describing it. The premise of a fishbowl is that students discuss as a small group in the center of the room while the rest of the class observes. I have found that this works best when you set a purpose for the students who are not discussing.  What are they watching for or which student are they watching?  Will they write a reflection or respond to a brief question on Google Classroom afterward?  Are they going to be having their own discussion via a chat tool such as Today’s Meet?  Do you want to keep it lighthearted with by having the students play Fishbowl Bingo?

Change it Up: Assign one or two students as “coaches” to one student inside the fishbowl.  Give them a whiteboard or signs to hold up in order to “coach” the fishbowl participant. 


The Gist: This is student led discussion gold! Assign students any topic to research and discuss as “experts.” This works well if you want students to “teach” the class about different topics or explore inquiry-based questions.

Change it Up: Allow students to rotate in and out of the panel or allow the audience to ask questions which, in turn, direct the conversation.  You could even set up dueling panels to facilitate exchange of ideas on two sides of an issue or synthesis of two related topics.


The Gist: This is a written student led discussion strategy.  Students respond to a question or write about a topic for a set amount of time before “passing” the paper to a partner who then writes for another set amount of time.  After two rounds of response and writing, the paper is passed a third time. This time, each student has to read the two previous responses and “synthesize” them together.  You may want to provide students with sentence stems for synthesis and response. This has natural extension to share-out or a whole-class share out.

Change it Up: Trash talk:  Have students wad their papers up into small balls and “throw” them into the air or to another student.  Each student grabs one, smooths out the paper, responds, and then wads it up again to pass it on. 


The Gist: Think of this as a student led discussion on wheels. Students write or create something and then present it to the class by posting it on a wall or table in the room.  You may choose to divide the class and have half of the students stand by their paper or project in order to explain it to their peers as they stop by, or you may have all students circulate, taking notes to identify trends, ideas with which they agree or disagree, or leaving a sticky note comment/response for each student. 

Tips:  After spending time in the “gallery,” you can have students come back together to discuss what they learned, trends they observed, and extend their learning with a “big picture” application or synthesis question. You could also have students return to their posted work and categories sticky notes left by classmates, write a written reflection, or share out briefly.


The Gist: I’ve used this to generate classroom discussion about reading homework by asking students to “graffiti” the board or a large sheet of paper with a meaningful quote and image to represent their reading.  Then, I ask students to look at the wall and look for trends and patterns to connect the quotes and images together.  You can also ask students to then select a quote or image that they did not personally contribute to the graffiti wall and respond to it in writing before sharing out with a partner, small group, or with the whole class.

Change it Up: You can create an online graffiti wall using Google Drawings or Padlet.

I hope you have gained a new teaching idea or two. Sometimes the best experiences come from a slight tweak or change-up of a tried-and-true discussion strategy. Here’s to flexibility and responsiveness!  📷


The Big List of Class Discussion Strategies

OCTOBER 15, 20


15 formats for structuring a class discussion to make it more engaging, more organized, more equitable, and more academically challenging.

I’ve separated the strategies into three groups. The first batch contains the higher-prep strategies, formats that require teachers to do some planning or gathering of materials ahead of time. Next come the low-prep strategies, which can be used on the fly when you have a few extra minutes or just want your students to get more active. Note that these are not strict categories; it’s certainly possible to simplify or add more meat to any of these structures and still make them work. The last group is the ongoing strategies. These are smaller techniques that can be integrated with other instructional strategies and don’t really stand alone. For each strategy, you’ll find a list of other names it sometimes goes by, a description of its basic structure, and an explanation of variations that exist, if any. To watch each strategy in action, click on its name and a new window will open with a video that demonstrates it.



a.k.a. Chat Stations

Basic Structure: Stations or posters are set up around the classroom, on the walls or on tables. Small groups of students travel from station to station together, performing some kind of task or responding to a prompt, either of which will result in a conversation.

Variations: Some Gallery Walks stay true to the term gallery, where groups of students create informative posters, then act as tour guides or docents, giving other students a short presentation about their poster and conducting a Q&A about it. In Starr Sackstein’s high school classroom, her stations consisted of video tutorials created by the students themselves. Before I knew the term Gallery Walk, I shared a strategy similar to it called Chat Stations, where the teacher prepares discussion prompts or content-related tasks and sets them up around the room for students to visit in small groups.

a.k.a. Values Continuum, Forced Debate, Physical Barometer, This or That

Basic Structure: A statement that has two possible responses—agree or disagree—is read out loud. Depending on whether they agree or disagree with this statement, students move to one side of the room or the other. From that spot, students take turns defending their positions.

Variations: Often a Philosophical Chairs debate will be based around a text or group of texts students have read ahead of time; students are required to cite textual evidence to support their claims and usually hold the texts in their hands during the discussion. Some teachers set up one hot seat to represent each side, and students must take turns in the seat. In less formal variations (which require less prep), a teacher may simply read provocative statements students are likely to disagree on, and a debate can occur spontaneously without a text to refer to (I call this variation This or That in my classroom icebreakers post). Teachers may also opt to offer a continuum of choices, ranging from “Strongly Agree” on one side of the room, all the way to “Strongly Disagree” on the other, and have students place themselves along that continuum based on the strength of their convictions.

Basic Structure: Students are divided into 4 groups. Three of these groups are assigned to represent specific points of view. Members of the fourth group are designated as “provocateurs,” tasked with making sure the discussion keeps going and stays challenging. One person from each group (the “speaker”) sits in a desk facing speakers from the other groups, so they form a square in the center of the room. Behind each speaker, the remaining group members are seated: two right behind the speaker, then three behind them, and so on, forming a kind of triangle. From above, this would look like a pinwheel. The four speakers introduce and discuss questions they prepared ahead of time (this preparation is done with their groups). After some time passes, new students rotate from the seats behind the speaker into the center seats and continue the conversation.

Variations: When high school English teacher Sarah Brown Wessling introduced this strategy in the featured video (click Pinwheel Discussion above), she used it as a device for talking about literature, where each group represented a different author, plus one provocateur group. But in the comments that follow the video, Wessling adds that she also uses the strategy with non-fiction, where students represent authors of different non-fiction texts or are assigned to take on different perspectives about an issue.

a.k.a. Socratic Circles

Basic Structure: Students prepare by reading a text or group of texts and writing some higher-order discussion questions about the text. On seminar day, students sit in a circle and an introductory, open-ended question is posed by the teacher or student discussion leader. From there, students continue the conversation, prompting one another to support their claims with textual evidence. There is no particular order to how students speak, but they are encouraged to respectfully share the floor with others. Discussion is meant to happen naturally and students do not need to raise their hands to speak. This overview of Socratic Seminar from the website Facing History and Ourselves provides a list of appropriate questions, plus more information about how to prepare for a seminar.

Variations: If students are beginners, the teacher may write the discussion questions, or the question creation can be a joint effort. For larger classes, teachers may need to set up seminars in more of a fishbowl-like arrangement, dividing students into one inner circle that will participate in the discussion, and one outer circle that silently observes, takes notes, and may eventually trade places with those in the inner circle, sometimes all at once, and sometimes by “tapping in” as the urge strikes them.


a.k.a. Affinity Diagramming

Basic Structure: Give students a broad question or problem that is likely to result in lots of different ideas, such as “What were the impacts of the Great Depresssion?” or “What literary works should every person read?” Have students generate responses by writing ideas on post-it notes (one idea per note) and placing them in no particular arrangement on a wall, whiteboard, or chart paper. Once lots of ideas have been generated, have students begin grouping them into similar categories, then label the categories and discuss why the ideas fit within them, how the categories relate to one another, and so on.

Variations: Some teachers have students do much of this exercise—recording their ideas and arranging them into categories—without talking at first. In other variations, participants are asked to re-combine the ideas into new, different categories after the first round of organization occurs. Often, this activity serves as a good pre-writing exercise, after which students will write some kind of analysis or position paper.

a.k.a. Speed Dating

Basic Structure: Students form two circles, one inside circle and one outside circle. Each student on the inside is paired with a student on the outside; they face each other. The teacher poses a question to the whole group and pairs discuss their responses with each other. Then the teacher signals students to rotate: Students on the outside circle move one space to the right so they are standing in front of a new person (or sitting, as they are in the video). Now the teacher poses a new question, and the process is repeated.

Variations: Instead of two circles, students could also form two straight lines facing one another. Instead of “rotating” to switch partners, one line just slides over one spot, and the leftover person on the end comes around to the beginning of the line. Some teachers use this strategy to have students teach one piece of content to their fellow students, making it less of a discussion strategy and more of a peer teaching format. In fact, many of these protocols could be used for peer teaching as well.

Basic Structure: Another great idea from Sarah Brown Wessling, this is a small-group discussion strategy that gives students exposure to more of their peers’ ideas and prevents the stagnation that can happen when a group doesn’t happen to have the right chemistry. Students are placed into a few groups of 4-6 students each and are given a discussion question to talk about. After sufficient time has passed for the discussion to develop, one or two students from each group rotate to a different group, while the other group members remain where they are. Once in their new group, they will discuss a different, but related question, and they may also share some of the key points from their last group’s conversation. For the next rotation, students who have not rotated before may be chosen to move, resulting in groups that are continually evolving.

Basic Structure: Two students sit facing each other in the center of the room; the remaining students sit in a circle around them. The two central students have a conversation based on a pre-determined topic and often using specific skills the class is practicing (such as asking follow-up questions, paraphrasing, or elaborating on another person’s point). Students on the outside observe, take notes, or perform some other discussion-related task assigned by the teacher.

Variations: One variation of this strategy allows students in the outer circle to trade places with those in the fishbowl, doing kind of a relay-style discussion, or they may periodically “coach” the fishbowl talkers from the sidelines. Teachers may also opt to have students in the outside circle grade the participants’ conversation with a rubric, then give feedback on what they saw in a debriefing afterward, as mentioned in the featured video.

Basic Structure: One student assumes the role of a book character, significant figure in history, or concept (such as a tornado, an animal, or the Titanic). Sitting in front of the rest of the class, the student responds to classmates’ questions while staying in character in that role.

Variations: Give more students the opportunity to be in the hot seat while increasing everyone’s participation by having students do hot seat discussions in small groups, where one person per group acts as the “character” and three or four others ask them questions. In another variation, several students could form a panel of different characters, taking questions from the class all together and interacting with one another like guests on a TV talk show.

a.k.a. Pyramid Discussion

Basic Structure: Students begin in pairs, responding to a discussion question only with a single partner. After each person has had a chance to share their ideas, the pair joins another pair, creating a group of four. Pairs share their ideas with the pair they just joined. Next, groups of four join together to form groups of eight, and so on, until the whole class is joined up in one large discussion.

Variations: This structure could simply be used to share ideas on a topic, or students could be required to reach consensus every time they join up with a new group.


Whereas the other formats in this list have a distinct shape—specific activities you do with students—the strategies in this section are more like plug-ins, working discussion into other instructional activities and improving the quality and reach of existing conversations.

One of the limitations of discussion is that rich, face-to-face conversations can only happen when all parties are available, so we’re limited to the time we have in class. With a tool like Voxer, those limitations disappear. Like a private voice mailbox that you set up with just one person or a group (but SOOOO much easier), Voxer allows users to have conversations at whatever time is most convenient for each participant. So a group of four students can “discuss” a topic from 3pm until bedtime—asynchronously—each member contributing whenever they have a moment, and if the teacher makes herself part of the group, she can listen in, offer feedback, or contribute her own discussion points. Voxer is also invaluable for collaborating on projects and for having one-on-one discussions with students, parents, and your own colleagues. Like many other educators, Peter DeWitt took a while to really understand the potential of Voxer, but in this EdWeek piece, he explains what turned him around.

A backchannel is a conversation that happens right alongside another activity. The first time I saw a backchannel in action was at my first unconference: While those of us in the audience listened to presenters and watched a few short video clips, a separate screen was up beside the main screen, projecting something called TodaysMeet. It looked a lot like those chat rooms from back in the day, basically a blank screen where people would contribute a few lines of text, the lines stacking up one after the other, no other bells or whistles. Anyone in the room could participate in this conversation on their phone, laptop, or tablet, asking questions, offering commentary, and sharing links to related resources without ever interrupting the flow of the presentations. This kind of tool allows for a completely silent discussion, one that doesn’t have to move at a super-fast pace, and it gives students who may be reluctant to speak up or who process their thoughts more slowly a chance to fully contribute. For a deeper discussion of how this kind of tool can be used, read this thoughtful overview of using backchannel discussions in the classroom by Edutopia’sBeth Holland.

a.k.a. Accountable Talk

Talk moves are sentence frames we supply to our students that help them express ideas and interact with one another in respectful, academically appropriate ways. From kindergarten all the way through college, students can benefit from explicit instruction in the skills of summarizing another person’s argument before presenting an alternate view, asking clarifying questions, and expressing agreement or partial agreement with the stance of another participant. Talk moves can be incorporated into any of the other discussion formats listed here.

Whole Brain Teaching is a set of teaching and classroom management methods that has grown in popularity over the past 10 years. One of WBT’s foundational techniques is Teach-OK, a peer teaching strategy that begins with the teacher spending a few minutes introducing a concept to the class. Next, the teacher says Teach!, the class responds with Okay!, and pairs of students take turns re-teaching the concept to each other. It’s a bit like think-pair-share, but it’s faster-paced, it focuses more on re-teaching than general sharing, and students are encouraged to use gestures to animate their discussion. Although WBT is most popular in elementary schools, this featured video shows the creator of WBT, Chris Biffle, using it quite successfully with college students. I have also used Teach-OK with college students, and most of my students said they were happy for a change from the sit-and-listen they were used to in college classrooms.

An oldie but a goodie, think-pair-share can be used any time you want to plug interactivity into a lesson: Simply have students think about their response to a question, form a pair with another person, discuss their response, then share it with the larger group. Because I feel this strategy has so many uses and can be way more powerful than we give it credit for, I devoted a whole post to think-pair-share; everything you need to know about it is right there.


8 Listening-Speaking Strategies to Engage ELLs

by  Louise El YaafouriJuly 23, 2018


Larry Ferlazzo  Best sites to practice speaking


Debate and discussion questions: