My Top 5 Speaking Activities for Novice Learners

When I polled the members of my Facebook group about the types of activities they’d like me to include in the Novice housing unit I am working on, nearly all of the responders mentioned their favorite speaking tasks.  

Here are their favorites and a couple others that have worked well for me.

  1. Partner Matching Game

How it’s prepared: The teacher prepares the Student A document by making either a 4 x 8 or 5 x 10 cell grid.  They type the numbers 1-16 or 1-25 in numerical order in the even numbered rows. Above each numbered cell, the teacher inserts a clipart image related to the content of the lesson. The teacher prepares the Student B document by making a digital copy of the A document, changing the numbers to letters, and mixing up the order of the images. Note: Depending on the students’ proficiency level, the teacher might include pictures that are quite similar so that the students have to be very detailed in their descriptions and clarifying questions. Click here for an example with fruit vocabulary from this unit

How it’s played: Student A and Student B are each given a digital or paper copy of their document. They take turns describing one of their pictures, asking clarifying questions, and then noting the number or letter of the partner’s picture that matches each of theirs.

When to use it: This one works especially great for reviewing concrete vocabulary. It can also be used to review a narrative text if screenshots or similar visuals are used.  

  1. Same/Different Game

How it’s prepared: The teacher prepares the Student A document by creating a grid as in the Partner Matching game and then making a digital copy for Student B. The teacher then modifies the Student B paper by substituting a similar image for several of the original images on the paper. Click here for an example with vocabulary from a cartoon found in this unit

How it’s played: The students are placed in A/B pairs. They then discuss each picture in order to determine whether they have the same picture or a different one.

When to use it: To review key vocabulary. 

  1. Guess Who Game

How it’s prepared: The teacher chooses 12 images that represent a targeted structure or key vocabulary term and includes a table with the images and captions (containing the targeted structure) at the top of the student document. The teacher then lists 12 different names on the same document.The teacher pastes 8 of the 12 images in a row below each name. Click here for an example with morning routine vocabulary from this unit. Click here for a template that can be used to create your own game.

How it’s played: The students are assigned a partner and each secretly choose one of the identities (names). They then take turns asking questions in order to determine their partner’s identity.

When to use it: To practice key vocabulary related to the unit of study or targeted structures

  1. Pair Crossword Puzzle

How it’s prepared: The teacher uses an online platform, such as, to create a crossword puzzle.  The words (to be placed in the puzzle) should be very concrete for Novice learners. When creating the puzzle, the clue for each word should be the same as the word. The teacher prints 2 copies of the blank puzzle and fills in the horizontal answers on the Partner A paper, and the vertical answers on the Partner B paper. (The teacher will need the clues to know where to write each word.) The teacher then copies an A or B paper for each student. Note: The student papers should not include the clues, just half of the answers placed in the puzzle. Click here for an example using family vocabulary from this unit.

How it’s played: The students use circumlocution to give clues to their partner, enabling them to complete their puzzle. 

When to use it: To review vocabulary, stories, or cultural content

  1. Yes, because… 

How it’s prepared: The teacher creates a numbered list of yes/no questions based on a text or general cultural content in the Partner A document. The teacher types an answer which includes an elaboration for each of the questions in the Partner B document. The teacher then prepares a part B of the activity in which Partner B has the questions and Partner A has the responses.Click here for an example from this unit about Mardi Gras and Carnaval.

How it’s played:  Student A reads their first question and Partner B reads the response that seems like the best fit. The students then share the number/letter of the question/answer that corresponds to each item on their paper. The players will switch roles in part B.

When to use it: To review the details in an informational or narrative text

I’d love to learn from you! Please share a favorite Novice speaking tasks by clicking on the “Leave a reply” link at the top of this page.

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