Spontaneous Speaking

Title: Spontaneous Speaking
Author: David Heathfield
Publisher: Delta Publishing
Components: Teacher's Resource book
Reviewed by: Steven Brooks
Review date: January 2008
Summary: A collection of drama-based speaking activities to stimulate interaction in the classroom through imaginative language practice; ideal for large group classes.

Spontaneous SpeakingSpontaneous Speaking is a handy resource book for quickly locating something fun and different to do with students to get them speaking. Whether it be to break the ice or have them practising narrative tenses, there is something in Spontaneous Speaking for every eventuality.

The book is organised into four sections: Warmers, Drama Activities, Personalised Drama Activities and Conversation Skills – with each section broken down further into various types of activities. Each page of the book contains one clearly laid out and explained activity, with an information box including the level, time, language focus, and aim of the task, and step by step instructions of how to use it in the classroom.

The thing that stands out the most in Spontaneous Speaking is the creative aims of the activities when compared to the usual language focuses. For example there is an activity with the Language Focus of Telephoning where the aim of the activity is to manage two conversations at the same time, and there is an activity on relationships with the aim being to describe vividly a family pet! Some of these activities might seem to be a little bizarre, and perhaps in some classes too much time might be taken up reassuring students that there is a point to all this, or even getting across exactly what it is they are supposed to do, but I personally found the describing the pet activity extremely charming and the students enjoyed pretending to pass their imaginary pet around the class, and very naturally got into a rhythm of exchanging information they had just heard.

Spontaneous Speaking does include activities for all levels, with the vast majority claiming to be suitable for Lower Intermediate to Advanced Levels – however I would imagine that many of the activities might be a little too complicated for lower level and less confident students. Most of the activities require a certain amount of creative thinking to make the most of the them, and I would imagine that a lot of the activities would require a lot more time than the estimated time given in the book, and would certainly require a thorough build up in the lesson to the point at which these activities could be useful.

That said, creativity is always something to be aspired to in the classroom, especially for Advanced students who have probably been doing the same role-plays and conversation set-ups for years, and so this book will be extremely welcome for those teachers who are looking to challenge their students in new and interesting ways. Activities with names such as The Lift, The Glove, and Don’t Drink the Water are obviously intriguing and should get students out of their comfort zone.

All in all Spontaneous Speaking is a really useful and fun book that will necessarily improve students’ confidence and fluency if used correctly in the classroom. The activities are original and interesting, and clearly explained. Teachers who are struggling to come up with something new and imaginative need look no further.

TEFL.net ESL Reviews & ArticlesSteven Brooks