More Reported Speech games

I always used to get stuck for interesting games that involved Reported Speech and so tended to skip through that unit of the book quite quickly and then spend far too much time on the First Conditional just because it is so much fun. Not anymore! After sitting down for some serious brainstorming the last […]

I always used to get stuck for interesting games that involved Reported Speech and so tended to skip through that unit of the book quite quickly and then spend far too much time on the First Conditional just because it is so much fun. Not anymore! After sitting down for some serious brainstorming the last time I got stuck with my lesson planning for this point, I came up with 45 fun games, of which this is the second batch.

1. Storytelling

Any storytelling activity should include people speaking to each other, and so can be used in a class on Reported Speech just by telling them to use backshift etc when telling the story. This is especially useful if you have recently done narrative tenses, especially the Past Perfect, as they come up both in telling the plot of the story and in the Reported Speech.

2. Storytelling with reported speech verb prompts

You can add to the amount of Reported Speech produced in a storytelling activity by giving them cards they must use within the story with words like “apologise”, “promise” and “threat”. You can then add to the competition element by making the person or team who manages to use all the cards the winner.

3. Reported arguments competition

Another way you can use competition is to get students to take turns reporting a conversation that it is possible to say someone won, e.g. two people arguing, blaming the other, boasting, two people complimenting a third person, offering more and more help or bigger and bigger presents, or insults. Alternatively, you can get them to do that competitive conversation as a roleplay and then report back to the class how they won. Examples for either game would be “And then I said that you were to blame because you had forgotten to turn to oven off”, “That’s true, but I reminded you that you had forced me to cook breakfast that morning when I suggested just having cornflakes”.

4. Problem pages

This is another commonly used activity for another language point (in this case the language of advice) which can be easily adapted for Reported Speech practice. Students write letters to newspaper agony aunts or their best friends including something someone said that perturbed them and that they don’t know how to react to, e.g. “My boyfriend said that (I was too fat)” or “My husband promised to (buy me a car 10 years ago but he never has and now he has bought a new one for himself)”. The first parts of these sentences can be given to them as sentence stems to help them write the letters. The other students then write replies giving them advice and the people who wrote the problems decide which reply contains the best advice and what that reply said (hopefully using Reported Speech in that stage too).

5. Did it actually happen?

Students report things they or other people said about what was the future at that time but has now passed, such as New Year resolutions, promises, arrangements and predictions. The other person then guesses whether it came true or not. With some research, you can also do the same thing with predictions, promises etc famous people made, e.g. predictions about future technology and promises by politicians, as some of the ones that were never going to come true are quite amusing.

6. Did I do it?

You can play a similar game to Did It Actually Happen? above by students reporting advice, warnings etc they were given and their partners guessing whether they followed it or not.

7. Rotating roleplays

This is a great and much neglected way of organising roleplays that naturally includes a lot of reported speech. Half the students stay seated and the other students go round from table to table to find out how the information that each person has is different, e.g. pretending to be parents choosing schools to send their children to or someone attending different job interviews. As the last stage of the activity people who rotated get together and people who stayed still get together, and each group decides which the best choices was, hopefully reporting back what they heard with Reported Speech.

8. Compare the storytellers

This is another game that involves listening to several people, this time telling the same story. The person listening then has to use Reported Speech to list the differences they heard in the two versions of the story. This can be made more intellectually stimulating by the person who listened also having to guess if the differences were due to memory loss or having made the details up as they went along. You can also add another stage and more Reported Speech by two people hearing the story from two different people, and then getting together to compare what they heard and so try to spot the differences.

9. Stories spot the deliberate mistakes

The games in Compare the Storytellers above can also be played with the differences in the stories being added deliberately. Give out stories and tell pairs of students to change three small details on one of their versions. They then tell the stories and see if the people listening can spot the differences. A simpler version is for one person to tell a story from memory and the people listening to try and spot what bits they changed, either from their body language, pausing etc giving it away and logical inconsistencies in the story or from what they can remember from the story when they read the original version themselves. Any differences they think they have spotted can then be reported to the class.

10. Match the stories

A version of the storytelling activities above that takes a bit more preparation from the teacher but adds a mingling stage is to prepare one variation on the story (usually only with slight changes) per two students and get them to go around the room telling their stories to each other to try and find the one person who has exactly the same story. You can make sure there is Reported Speech in this by putting Reported Speech into the stories you give them, and by making sure that when two people meet only one person tells their story and the other just reports on any differences, e.g. “I don’t think our stories are the same, because you said that he had been there for seven years, but in my story he has only been there for seven days”. This activity can also be done with half the students having the stories and the other half having comic strips that represent them- this involves even more preparation, but can be a good lead into them telling stories based on picture prompts.

11. Story remixes

Another storytelling spot the differences activity that can be done with picture prompts is getting them to work in pairs to put a series of pictures on their worksheets into order to tell a story, then telling that story to another pair for them to spot whether their choice of order was the same or different. They should then use Reported Speech when reporting those differences back to the person who just asked the story or to the whole class.

12. Reported speech alibi game

The Alibi Game is one of the all time TEFL classics- pairs of students pretend to be a suspect for a crime and that person’s alibi and are questioned separately to try to find differences between their versions of the cover story and so to be able to declare that their story a fabrication and label them as the guilty party. You can add Reported Speech to this by encouraging them to report on their conversations with the alibi on the night of the crime, and even more by the suspect and alibi being questioned separately by two different groups of police officers (probably in different rooms) and then the police officers comparing what they heard from the two people to try and find differences.

13. Reported speech running dictations (Three man dictations)

A running dictation is another classic TEFL activity- students run backwards and forwards trying to retain the information they read or heard until they get to their partner and can report it to them so that they can complete the worksheet they have been given. If the source of what they have to remember is another student sat in the corridor or another room rather than a poster or worksheet, they should have to use Reported Speech when telling their partner what they heard. One example of a game that can be adapted to a three man dictation approach is “What’s My Line”. The running student asks the students outside the room questions about their jobs based on the information their partner sitting down has and comes back with the information and runs back out to ask more questions until they have worked out which student has the same worksheet and which students are just making their answers up.

14. Reported speech Chinese whispers

One person whispers something in their neighbour’s ear and they then whisper it to the next person using Reported Speech. This continues along the row until the last person converts what they hear into direct speech and says it out loud. If there are differences between the first and last version of the sentence (and there usually are), you can then use even more Reported Speech in tracking where the sentence went wrong. You can add a comic touch and learning of each others’ names by asking them to report each sentence at the whispering stage as “Juan told me that Henri had told him that Masako had said that she wanted a cup of coffee with two sugars”.

15. Reported speech jigsaw videos

Half of the class watch the first half of a short video (for example an episode of Friends), and the other half (in a different room) watch the last half. While listening they make notes on what people said. When the class comes back together they report some of the things the characters said in their half of the video, and people who watched the other half guess who said that thing and why they think it was that person. If your students are unlikely to come up with such sentences themselves, you could give them a sheet with dialogue from their half of the video to label with who said it while they are watching. They then turn it into Reported Speech to get the other half of the class to guess who said it in the next stage. A more complex but cooperative version is to get different groups of students watching short segments and then report what people said in order to work out which order those segments should be in (switching to reporting the action as well as the speech if they get stuck).

Written by Alex Case for February 2009
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic.


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