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Activities to support spontaneous speaking (GCSE/A-Level)

In this post, I wanted to share the variety of activities promoting spontaneous speaking that I have been introduced to during my German Expert Mentor (GEM) training. GEMs are a part of the GIMAGINE project facilitated by the Goethe-Institut in cooperation with its partners of the National Consortium for Language Education. The National Consortium for Languages Education (NCLE) is a partnership of UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society (IOE), the British Council and the Goethe-Institut. In accordance with GIMAGINE, NCLE Language Hubs (the Hub schools are to be announced shortly) are being set up to promote the quality of language teaching throughout England. NCLE aims to increase the uptake of language qualifications in English state schools.

GIMAGINE promotes and supports the learning of German as a foreign language in the UK. The project centres around students, teachers and schools. Apart from the offering initiatives for professional advancement to German teachers, the project can fund learning German trough scholarship and provides schools with materials and teaching resources. (source: Goethe Institut website)

All activities can be easily adapted or scaffolded and used at KS3 or even at KS2.

With credits to Christiane Bolte-Constabiei.

A to Z:

ABC of Associations

All students or a group of students have a worksheet with the alphabet listed. They are given time to find a word (diff. word groups) related to a topic for each letter. If the activity is carried out in groups, the alphabet can be divided among them. The words are then presented to the class.

Advertisement Spot

In the advertisement spot activity, students condense the most important content of a topic into an advertisement spot.

American Debate

Students are divided into two groups. One group is responsible for the pro-arguments, and the other group for the counterarguments. The students are given time to gather their arguments. Then, the actual debate takes place, and a discussion leader is designated. Each group appoints several debaters who sit across from each other at a table. The discussion leader opens the debate by giving one side the floor. For example, the pro-side starts with the person sitting to the right or left of the discussion leader. Under strict time constraints, they can present their arguments. Then, it’s the other group’s turn, the person from the opposing group sitting across. The discussion leader strictly enforces the time limits, interrupting each contribution after the agreed-upon time, typically ranging between 30 seconds and one minute. At the end of the first round, the process is reversed back to the starting point. Finally, a general plenary round or a vote can take place.


Students receive a handout with pre-filled times and topics. They enter an appointment (name of a person) for each time slot. They proceed to their first appointment and discuss the displayed topic. After about 1 minute, a new topic is revealed, and they move on to the next appointment. This activity is also useful for activating prior knowledge.

Autograph Hunt

Students receive a worksheet with a task to find a person knowledgeable about specific topics. They move around the classroom and try to collect as many different signatures as possible on their sheet. Each person can sign only once per sheet, and this interaction encourages conversations among students.


The teacher places a large 3 – 4 sheets of paper (e.g., A3) around the classroom. Students individually brainstorm associations related to the topic while walking around. Afterward, the sheets are discussed and further supplemented collectively. This activity adds dynamics to the lesson since students physically move around.


In brainwriting, students collaboratively work to generate a broad range of perspectives on a question or statement formulated by the teacher. The goal is to collect as many ideas as possible on a topic creatively and subsequently reduce them to the central ones during the decision-making process. Students form pairs and receive a written question or statement. Each student individually notes as many answers or thoughts as possible. The ideas are then compared with the partner’s contributions. The pair agrees on a common answer or thought, and the first pair to do so receives a sheet to document their answer or thought. The sheet is passed on to the next pair, who compares their contributions to the answer on the sheet. If the answer differs, they write it down as well. If the answers on the sheet match those of the group, thoughts from the pair can be used, as long as both partners agree. The sheet is passed on again, and once all pairs have documented their answers/thoughts on a sheet, they are presented to the class.

Catch the Word

Students form groups of three and position themselves so that they cannot see each other’s post-it notes. The teacher sticks a post-it note on the back of each student. The students move around, trying to keep their word on the post-it note hidden for as long as possible. They have to move cleverly to achieve this. Once all groups have read each other’s words, they can remove them. This activity is suitable for playfully revising vocabulary and topics.

Class Walk

Students move around the classroom and talk with one another – topics or prompts can be displayed on the board. They then move on to the next person and continue the conversation. Activity is timed (2-3 mins).

Experience Snake

Students line up according to a prompt, answering questions from the teacher. The line has a starting point (much) and an endpoint (little). Prompts may include: “Line up according to your height,” “Line up according to your birth month,” or “Line up according to the distance from your home to the school.”

Expert Interview

Students simulate an expert conversation or expert interview. One student acts as the expert, but there can also be two experts. Other students interview the expert. Questions can be pre-prepared and support given where appropriate.

Expert Panel / Talk Round

Students form a semi-circle to create an expert panel. For example, two proponents and two opponents of a thesis (i.e., advantages/disadvantages of…) can participate, along with a moderator. Empty chairs can also be set up for audience members who wish to join the round. The moderator opens the round, allowing each participant to make a brief statement. The moderator ensures that the discussion remains on topic, everyone gets a chance to speak, and keeps track of time. The audience summarizes the most crucial points after the discussion.


In this method, a group discusses in the middle of the classroom while the other students observe and provide feedback on their discussion behaviour afterward. Only the group in the middle can discuss and speak. There is a discussion leader and an empty chair, allowing uninvolved students to spontaneously join the discussion and then leave the circle.

Four Corner Discussion

In the classroom, posters with discussion topics are placed in each corner. Students rotate and discuss the topics one by one.

Hierarchy on Pyramid

The students agree on priorities (topics) to be tackled and write them down in the form of a pyramid. They are then practised according to the priority using any activities mentioned.

Hot Seat

The teacher places an empty chair in the classroom, making it the focal point. Students who have a question approach the chair, ask their question, and then return to their original seat. The person who has an answer to the question also approaches the “hot” chair. Once they finish answering, they return to their seat. Another person can add to the answer and approach the chair.

I, too!

Each student receives ten game tokens, candies, or similar objects. The first student shares something they can do/have done (e.g., water skiing). Everyone who has done the same thing puts a token or candy on the table. The second student then shares something they can do/have done (e.g., acted in a movie). Again, everyone who has done the same puts a token on the table. The game continues until all tokens/candies are used.

Image Evaluation

The students bring a personal photo or a photo from the internet that reflects their mood and describes/talk about it.

Island Evaluation

Students receive A3 paper and imagine it as the “sea of possibilities.” Each student draws an island on the paper, occupying about half of the sheet. They draw a dashed line around the island, symbolizing the unsettled swampy land. The three areas created are then filled with content:

a) The island: Secure knowledge from the topic, which should be able to do without help

b) The swampy land: Knowledge/grammatical aspects they are aware of but not fully confident to use.

c) The surrounding sea: Knowledge they are completely unsure about, needs to be re-taught.


Students recall their prior knowledge to connect it to new input during the next phase. This activity is also suitable for unconsciously testing students’ knowledge at the end of the lesson or unit of work. Students are divided into 2-3 equally sized groups. Each group receives a buzzer. The teacher, acting as the quizmaster, selects a category/topic or lets students choose one (questions are graded by difficulty) and reads the corresponding question. Students can consult within their groups and agree on an answer. The group that buzzes first gets the chance to answer first. If their answer matches the model solution, they earn the points corresponding to the question’s value (e.g., 50, 100, 150, 200). If the answer is incorrect, they receive no points. In case of doubt, the quizmaster decides whether the answer is right or wrong. The game ends after the last question is answered, and the points from each team are tallied. The team with the most points wins.

Laying Eggs

A group activity based on the idea from Bernd Weidenmann, Active Training, p.61. Two positions are announced, written on each half of the board. Students decide on a position and go to the corresponding side of the board. Each group writes sentences for their position on post-it notes and sticks them under each other on the chosen half of the board. The halves are presented, and if there are any questions, the authors can answer them. Now the “laying eggs” begins. The groups add comments/sentences/phrases to the right and left of the other group’s sides on different colour post-its. The halves are presented again. In the end, the students position themselves in between. This creates a lively picture of opinions.

Learning Poster

Students in groups jot down the most important aspects of a topic or unit on posters.

Mind Map

The students complete a digital or analogue mind map. This way, ideas, arguments, and content can be collected and clustered.

My Right Place

The students form a circle and hold their phrases/sentences clearly visible in front of them. There is an empty space to the right of the teacher, where no person stands. The teacher starts by saying in TL ‘My right, right place is empty, that’s where I wish for (sentence in TL).’ Then the student who holds the chosen sentence in their hand must quickly run to the empty place. If the sentence is present more than once, the faster person decides, and the other person returns to their original place. This activity continues for a few minutes. The goal is to activate the long-term learning.

One-Word Flashlight

The teacher asks students to think of a word/phrase/sentence to describe how they felt about the lesson, or the topic taught. After a brief reflection period, each student shares a word/sentence representing their current opinion. The statements are made in turn, but the teacher and other students do not comment on them.

Paired Reading

The students intensively familiarize themselves with the statements of a text. The teacher forms partner groups. The students read the text, divided into sections, to each other. In the first step, both partners read the text individually. In the second step, they take turns reading it to each other. While one reads, the other sets the text aside and listens attentively. Then, he/she reproduces what they heard as accurately as possible. The person who read checks if everything is correct. Then the roles are reversed. The students proceed with the next sections in the same way.

Paired Reflection

At the end of the lesson, the students sit opposite each other in pairs and identify an A and a B. While A reports on the most important lesson content, B listens silently. After A’s presentation, the roles are reversed, and B reports for about 2 minutes. Potentially, the teacher can offer the possibility for the respective partners to question each other. Finally, the teacher answers open questions that have arisen during the pair reflection among the students (C4U).


The teacher distributes different topics/words to individual students or groups. The students or groups present them pantomimically – without speaking – to others. The other students guess.

Photo and Object

The teacher brings various photos or objects. Students choose one that represents something about themselves or relates to the topic discussed. Students then introduce themselves, for example, in a circle, sharing what their photo or object represents. Other students can guess what the photo or object has to do with the person or the topic.


Students work on a topic/text and visualize the most important aspects as pictograms or pictures on a poster. They then present their topic to others using the visualizations.

Picture Cards or The Group Knows

In this activity, students receive a worksheet with a specific question. Each student has a different question. They move around the room, questioning other students about their assigned question and noting the answers on their worksheets. Then, in pairs, students work together using the collected knowledge (e.g., creating learning posters, summarizing the important points, visualizing the information, etc.).

Placard or Poster Discussion

The teacher notes questions from a topic on empty placards distributed in the room. The students move from placard to placard, answering the question and writing down their own question for the next group. On a signal from the teacher, the groups move to the next placard, answer the new question as well as the question from the previous group, and add another question. The activity ends when all groups have dealt with all questions. Afterwards, the students should have time to read all placards again. Finally, any remaining questions are clarified in plenary.


Students sit together in pairs or groups. Each pair/group receives a large sheet of paper and divides the sheet so that each student has their own field in front of them and a field in the middle remains free for group results. The method has three phases:

Phase 1: Thinking: The students write down their ideas in individual fields.

Phase 2: Exchanging: The individual ideas are exchanged and compared. The sheet can be rotated clockwise in the group, so that all group members have seen and understood the other ideas in the end. The students can then confirm, improve or revise their own results and discuss problems in order to develop more variety of language. This result is entered in the central field in the middle.

Phase 3: Presenting: The students present their group results to the class. They can refer back to the records in the middle field of the sheet.

Quick Consultation

In the quick consultation, the pair or group collectively answers specific questions. Each question is written on a sheet, leaving space below for ideas and answers. Students have a short time to note their responses on the sheets, which are then presented afterward.

Quiz Questions

To work on a topic or as a part of revision, the students receive different topics in working groups. They develop quiz questions about their topic that the others have to answer.

Reading Tree

Students receive a sheet with a tree. They write the theme on the trunk and what they already know about the theme on the roots. Then they receive an input text, where they write the global content on the thicker branches and the details on the smaller branches.

Reciprocal Learning

A text divided into sections is read in groups of four. All students read the first section quietly. Each student assumes a specific role, and the roles rotate clockwise for the subsequent sections. Students support their understanding by asking questions about the text, clarifying difficult parts, providing partial summaries, or expressing expectations regarding the text, etc. The roles can vary.

Running Dictation

In a running dictation, a text is divided into individual sections and placed in different locations around the room by the teacher. The task for the students is to go to each section in a predetermined order, memorize it, and then return to their seats to write down the text segment.

Running Sentences

Running sentences can be used to work on lesson/topic content. The teacher distributes different sentences on post-its/cards to all students. These sentences should reflect central aspects of the topic and be complete in themselves. The students have 3-4 minutes to move around the room and read or recite their sentences to as many other students as possible, also trying to remember the sentences of others. Afterwards, the students return the sentences to the teacher, and in workgroups, they try to note down as many as possible.


Initially, students collect words/sentences/discussion points, etc. in pairs. Then, the pairs join with another partner group and agree on common words/sentences, etc. Another group of four is added, and the large group must once again agree on words/sentences, etc. Finally, they record them, for example, on a poster, Mind map, etc.

Speaking with Pictures

Pictures with different motifs serve as a stimulus for a speaking practice. Students choose a card, and in a carousel, they speak about the topic based on the picture. This approach works well for students who are hesitant to openly share their opinions.

Speech Chain

The teacher formulates a question that is formulated in such a general way that many different answers to the question are possible. Now one student starts answering the question and passes the question on to another student. The teacher does not interrupt the course of answers. Only after a previously set time, the teacher ends the speech chain and summarizes the answers.

Speed Dating

The students line up in two rows so that each student always has a counterpart with whom they can talk. The teacher asks a question/presents a topic, and the students discuss it with the new partner under a specific time requirement. On an acoustic signal from the teacher, the activity stops, and the right row moves one person further. Now the teacher asks a new question or the same question for which the students exchange with their new partner. Start and end of each question are signalled by an acoustic signal from the teacher.

Table Tennis

The students sit face to face in pairs. The teacher specifies a topic that has already been taught. The pairs decide (e.g., by rock/paper/scissors) who serves first in the table tennis game. The starting player says a word related to the given topic. The “opponent” counters with another word as quickly as possible because

this game is about speed. If one of them hesitates, no longer knows a word, or says one that has already been said, the other person has won a point.

Talking Walls

Different walls in the classroom are attached with questions from a topic, possibly supplemented by pictures or quotes on the topic. The students answer questions or describe/talk about pictures. They formulate their answer to each question on a post-it and attach it. When all groups have answered the questions, the teacher presents the answers attached and discusses them.

Treasure Chest

The ‘treasure chest’ can be used as a repetition task at the end of a lesson or as an introduction to the new lesson. In a cardboard box, presented empty at the beginning, new words/phrases are collected throughout the lesson and stored in this chest. The students are given empty post-its and have to think about which new words or phrases they have learned. They throw them into the chest. The next lesson or at the end of the lesson, one student draws a post-it, and the students must translate the word/phrase. This can also be done as pantomime.

Whirl Groups

In Whirl or Expert Groups, students first discuss a topic in different small groups or pairs, each pair/group having a specific sub-topic. This makes each student an expert in that particular sub-topic. Then, one student from each expert pair/group forms a new pair/group with experts from other sub-topics and shares their acquired knowledge.

Downloadable copy here

More ideas click on the link here


German Expert Mentor (GEM) training, 17th – 21st July, 2023, Goethe Institut, London: Source: Christiane Bolte-Costabiei, Stefan Häring, and Dr. Annegret Schmidjell


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