Topic: Spoken language

These resources will help you to teach the topic of spoken English.

Clause types in context

Exploring how different clause types help to construct social meaning

The four clause types are a central part of English grammar. An understanding of declarative, imperative, interrogative and exclamative clause types can help students recognise how writers use these structures to create meaning in different ways, and can help them develop a better repertoire of structures in their own writing.

Clause types in context: Activity

You’re visiting a friend’s house. You’re in a cold room and the window is open. What can you say to each of the following to get the window shut?

  1. your friend
  2. your friend’s grandmother
  3. your friend’s annoying little brother

You’re carrying several boxes of DVDs and books. Then you drop one, spilling its contents all over the floor. You need help and there are people around who could be of assistance. What do you say to each of the following?

Pitching a product

In this resource, students will be studying two extracts of very different sales pitches from the BBC show The Apprentice. Contestants on The Apprentice had to design an app for a smartphone and then pitch it to an audience at a technology fair. The pitches are printed in the handout that can be downloaded and printed at the bottom of this page.

To help students analyse the extracts, ask them the following questions, which are also included in the handout:

Can you see any features of spontaneous talk being used in either extract?

Politeness and directness

This task is about using verbs and modal verbs in different ways. We all know that people can be direct or indirect in the ways they phrase things. We often use imperative forms to give instructions, but sometimes these might be seen as too direct and blunt. We sometimes soften them with modal verbs, among other tools.

Politeness and directness: Activity

Try to make the following expressions less direct. Compose alternative sentences for each one.

  1. Shut the window.
  2. Tell me your name.
  3. Stop talking.

What changes did you make to render the expressions less direct? 

Now, make the following expressions more direct. Compose an alternative sentence for each example.

Word frequency in speech and writing

Comparing word frequencies is an interesting way to think about some of the differences between speech and writing. Which are the most frequent words in speech, and how do they compare with the most frequent words in writing?

Word frequency in speech and writing: Activity

Spoken English

the

I

you

and

it

a

’s*

to

of

that

Written English

the

of

Word salads (secondary)

In this resource we’ll look at what grammar is and why we need it. First of all, take a look at the word salads. They can be found in the Activity pages within the menu entitled 'This Unit' in the upper right of this page. The slides show real spoken sentences drawn from our corpus, which have been jumbled up into the wrong order. The students' task is to rearrange the words into an order that makes sense.

Attitudes to new modes

In this lesson, students will explore new modes of communication such as texting, online chat, and Facebook, which often come in for criticism from people who believe that they are damaging the way we use language.

Baby Sentences

Goals

  • Use implicit grammatical knowledge to translate examples of infant speech into complete sentences.
  • (For older students) use explicit grammatical knowledge to identify the types of changes that have been made in translating from the original examples.

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will look at some real examples of English spoken by infants, and translate it into adult speech.

Baby Sentences: Activity

Daddy go work

Mummy read

Daddy bike

What that

Where blanket

Sock off

Teddy fall

Sammy tired

Classroom language and TV drama

In this lesson, students identify and analyse elements of classroom dialogue.

Goals

  • Identify the elements of classroom dialogue.
  • Analyse some examples of real classroom language and classroom language presented on TV.
  • Analyse some elements of real classroom language at students' own school. 

Lesson Plan

Activities 1 and 2

Comparing different modes

Students compare examples of English in use, including various written and spoken examples, and analyse them according to a scale.

Comparing different modes: Activity

Facebook message

How u doing??

Just wondering if u could be my referee, yr gonna be surprised at what the job consists of... its teaching SQUIRTS... yh I know dirty lil freaky children looool

Hope yr good though??

Later

Dizzee Rascal and the textbook

The way we use language can differ dramatically according to context. This creative lesson asks students to translate from one context into another. This is a great approach that allows students to apply their implicit knowledge of language, and to analyse linguistic features naturally and implicitly, based on their intuitive language skills.

Dizzee Rascal and the textbook: Activity

Stress on the brain, complain, too da fool. Stress on the brain, complain, too da max.

I'm gonna search for big money stacks, top tens and platinum whacks.

Ain't got no need for a chain of a chaks. I'm a rude boi, I ain't gotta relax.

I got this game in my head like dax. Got this game in my hand, be cool.

Unstoppable, make a boi relax. I'll take teeth for the money and jaks.

We make money off album tracks. Come on, I'll face it, let's all face facts.

Language and context

Sometimes great humour is born from taking language out of context. This lesson explores that fact with some examples, and asks students to think of some of their own.

Passives with 'get': Activity

Uncle Ahmed was bitten by the snake.
Uncle Ahmed got bitten by the snake.

A large house was demolished on Westmoreland Hill.
A large house got demolished on Westmoreland Hill.

These temples were abandoned in medieval times.
These temples got abandoned in medieval times.

Pragmatics and turn-taking

Goals

  • Identify the place of turn-taking in spoken conversation.
  • Analyse some examples of turn-taking in real spoken conversation.

Lesson Plan

The Activity pages appear in the menu entitled 'This Unit' in the upper right corner of this page. Each Activity page includes a video interview. If you like, you can try this lesson with any other interview or dialogue you would like to use.

Pragmatics and turn-taking: Activity 1

Stacey Solomon TV interview

Pragmatics and turn-taking: Activity 2

Russell Brand TV interview

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