Developing Dialogue Part 1 – Starters.

Here follows a number of speaking and listening activities that can be used as starters:

Word wall

  • Ask students to suggest words for a topic ‘word wall’
  • Teacher types words onto  ‘wall’ grid / picture
  • Teacher can add words
  • Can be extended / varied – nouns, adjectives, verbs, minerals, characters in books / plays, carbohydrates etc.
  • Teacher should give a short explanation of each word, linking to current knowledge to aid understanding
  • It doesn’t matter if a student repeats a word already on the wall – respond positively –‘Yes – that’s there – good we’re all focused on the topic / thinking about the same thing.’
  • Have students add graphics /  pictures for each word.


Ready, steady, teach

Provide groups with a shopping bag of ingredients (for example, modelling clay, string, lollypop sticks, etc).  Tell them they have five minutes to plan an activity in which they use the ingredients to ‘teach’ the topic e.g. how the coastal features, arches, stacks and stumps are formed, cell structure etc.


One thing I know about…..

  • Teacher asks students to tell one thing they know about selected topic
  • Type onto whiteboard as list or spidergram and save
  • Add to in subsequent lessons
  • Choose topic you have been covering recently
  • Accept repetitions – ‘Good you know that too’  to encourage less confident students
  • Have students search for and add appropriate graphics/visuals to the spidergram
  • See what students can remember in subsequent lessons before showing the saved list / spidergram


Who said it?

  • Teacher reads out quotes / statements and asks ‘Who said it?’
  • Or students pick a card, read it out and others answer.
  • Can be used for characters in books / plays, historical figures.
  • MFL can be used for occupations or locations



Describe a word/concept/character/event to a partner without saying the taboo words on the card (cards will need to be produced in advance).


Gimme 5

  • Teacher provides category
  • Students have to name 5 things
  • Students can come up with 5 individually or in pairs / small groups depending on vocabulary knowledge / ability
  • Teacher can give initial letter prompt
  • Teacher can give thinking time by telling pupils in advance – ‘Your category is… I’m going to ask you after Jake’s turn’



Pupils are given a group of objects and asked to sort/imagine/describe/predict/explain/plan an activity e.g.  Given 2 tennis balls must invent a warm-up exercise in PE


What’s the link?

  • Provide 4 images that are related
  • Students to identify what the images are and explain how they are related / linked.


Interesting images

  • Provide images on powerpoint that are related to the topic
  • Can spark of discussion / conversation / thinking
  • Can be extended to have say four images that are linked.  Pupils then have to describe and explain the links.


Video clip

Class watches very short extract, then consider in pairs: What do I already know?  What did I learn from the clip?  What do I want to find out?


Card Loops

Cards have unrelated question and answer on either side.  Pupil reads question and person with answer responds and then reads theirs e.g.  Acids and alkalis in Chemistry, WW1 in History


Sort it!

  • Provide images or written words of items that belong to 2 (or more) different categories
  • Students have to sort them into the respective categories
  • Include a couple of blank cards for students to generate other items in the categories


No Yes or No!

Answer teacher’s questions without saying yes or no.


Odd one out

  • Provide 4 images or words where 3 are related and 1 is the odd one out
  • Students to identify what the images are, which one is the odd one out and explain  why



  • Work in pairs or small group
  • Each group gets a set of cards, with key words and definitions.
  • Place all cards facing down. Take it in turns to turn over 2 cards
  • Match key word to definition of keyword
  • Winner is the one with the most pairs


Verbal Ping Pong

With partner – take it in turns to say words on a given topic, or in a given category, e.g. – World War 1, water, verbs, animals – or to build a story. If you miss a turn or say a word not in the category, you must start again with a new “serve”. You can play this as a competition between groups or pairs of pupils.


Prove it

Make a bizarre statement and ask students to prove it is wrong e.g. Light bulbs suck in dark as opposed to give off light



A question that has no right or wrong answer, but will generate discussion e.g. If you take all the books out of a library, is it still a library?

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