23 ESL One to One Speaking Activities

1) How Do You?

Pretend you’re a robot that can be controlled only by the voice commands of your student. Ask them to direct you to do a simple task such as make a sandwich, cook an egg or build a space rocket (ok – maybe not that last one!). You can only do exactly as they tell you to. This game is even funnier played with realia (real-life objects). Fabulous for practicing imperative forms or time word connectors, such as before, after, and when.

  1. Top Cards

Great for practicing comparative and superlative forms. Divide the cards into two piles, one for each player. The player who goes first chooses an attribute from his card and reads out the value. The other player reads out their value. The player with the best value (normally the highest) wins both cards. Twinkl has loads of options for Top Cards games – including dinosaurs, trees, predators, and dinosaurs (did I mention dinosaurs?), but this one is a great place to start.

  1. Snakes and Ladders

Studying advanced prepositions is already the most fun you can have. But this speaking game somehow makes it even better! It’s a snakes and ladders prepositions practice game that can easily be adapted for a one-to-one class – make your student answer all the question cards. It’s a win-win situation.

  1. Dice Conversation Starters

Just something simple to add to the conversation. Use the dice as a starting point for different topics. You can make your own with a template after using our pre-designed ones.

  1. Speed Debates 

A fabulous way to start a lesson is by having a three-minute speed debate. It can be really simple: ‘You’re a teenager who wants to come home at 11 p.m. tonight; I’m your mum/dad who thinks you should be home by 8:30. You have three minutes to persuade me. Go!’

These cards can be used for speaking or writing activities and include plenty of ideas for mini-debates you could have, such as ‘students shouldn’t have to do homework.’ It’d be interesting if you lost that debate

  1. Pelmanism

An easy memory game for a one-to-one or small group. Cut the cards out and turn them over. Could you take turns turning over two cards? If they match, you can keep them. This one is ideal for improving reading and pronunciation skills in young learners, but you can make pelmanism cards for just about anything.

  1. Conditional Sentence Chains 

A great activity for practicing conditional clauses. Take turns to complete sentences. Swap papers and repeat. End up with something ridiculous.

You can also have a lot of fun with a similar writing activity. You and your student start writing a story with the same first line. After a minute, swap papers and continue each other’s stories. After another minute, swap again. Continue until you have two brilliant, nonsensical stories. It is great fun, and no preparation is required!

  1. Getting to Know My Teacher

Make sure your student has the chance to ask the questions. Ask students to make their guesses on this worksheet and then see how many they got correct. Encourage them to ask follow-up questions for extra practice with the question form. Different points if you can find many things in common with your student – it’ll help you have many items to discuss in the future.

  1. Make Your Own Board Game

Whatever grammar point you learn can be turned into a board game. Some teachers are reluctant to try a board game activity with adult learners, but it can still be really fun – and all learners need some fun in their classes.

  1. Dominoes 

This game is ideal for practicing phrasal verbs in a one-to-one class. And who doesn’t love phrasal verbs? I know, right? They’re my favorite thing, too! Whoops – sorry about that; I left the ‘sarcastic’ setting switched on on my keyboard. Students struggle with phrasal verbs, and you can see why – these combinations of verbs and prepositions make little intuitive sense and have many meanings. This phrasal verb game helps students practice some of the most common in a one-to-one match.

  1. Guess Who?

A classic game for learning words connected to physical appearance, perfect for just two players. Have one player select a person on the board. The other player has to ask yes/no questions and identify who the other player has chosen. Extra points if they can answer in short form: ‘Yes, he has’ or ‘No, he hasn’t.’ Here’s a simple version of the game, but there’s also a pirate version, too, if you fancy!

  1. Bingo

This is a great game to play if your students ever ask you about the differences between American and British English. Perfect for just one student, too. Examine the differences between British and American vocabulary and see if students can use all the words in a sentence. Bingo!

  1. Spot the Difference

For young learners, spot the difference is a fantastic five-minute game. Make it into a speaking activity by encouraging your student to answer in full sentences, using prepositions where relevant.

  1. Imagine the Topic of the Day

I couldn’t recommend this more for bringing something extra to a one-to-one class. Imagine getting a different picture and questions daily – so you’ll always have something to discuss. You can also look at previous images organized by topic (I do love it when things are organized by topic) so that you’ll have something that connects to the theme of your class. Magic.

  1. Wheel of Questions

A print-out, cut-out, and color-in game for reviewing the question form of the present simple, present continuous, future simple, and past simple tenses. Perfect for beginner or elementary level students who need a little more understanding of question form. Use our pre-made, free version or inspire students to make their own.

  1. Wheel of Fortune 

Spark a conversation with this wheel of fortune activity. It’s wheely good! (I’m so, so sorry.) You could extend this into a lesson of in-depth discussion and debate, and there you have it – a no-prep class. Done.

  1. Fortunately, Unfortunately 

A super simple game, with no resources required and a minimum of just two players. One person says a sentence beginning ‘Fortunately…’ and the next person has to begin the next sentence with ‘Unfortunately…’, e.g.

Fortunately, it was Saturday, and Mr. Dinosaur could sleep until 10 a.m.
Unfortunately, his neighbors woke him up! They were having a water fight.
Fortunately, they invited Mr. Dinosaur to play with them

I think you can see where this is going!

  1. Write a Play

Bring out your student’s inner actor with our resources for inspiring script writing. Writing, practicing, and performing a play can be a fabulous way to improve fluency, especially contractions. We’ve got you all setup and ready to go into Hollywood with our pack for playwrights. My students especially loved making a film – it’s something they can share with their friends and family to show off their talent and English.

  1. Role-Play Games 

Great for keeping a younger student entertained and learning English. A role-playing game is a fantastic way to practice those all-important functional language skills: the phrases we use for daily interactions. Twinkl has loads of resources to facilitate practice, and you can transform your classroom into pretty much anything, from a vet’s to a museum, to a space station!

  1. Anagrams

Play this game with letter tiles, such as Scrabble tiles or something similar. Younger students love this, as it’s a way to practice spelling without having to write anything. Teenage and adult students enjoy this game, too – it’s a fun way to be competitive and inventive with the English language.

  1. Name Five Things

A five-minute activity for the end of class or a way to introduce a new topic for the day. Name Five Things can be extended by asking questions like ‘Which one is your favorite? Why?’ or ‘Which ones have you tried/seen/played?’.

  1. Story Sacks

Bring reading to life for young learners. Ideal for having a ton of fun in the classroom by making masks and acting out the story. It can be played in a one-to-one class or with a small group.

  1. Ten Strikes and You’re Out!

Ideal as an extra activity, whether you have one student or 100. You knock down one of the ten bowling pins every time a student gets a letter wrong. If all ten go, the teacher is the winner.

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