Speaking and listening tasks

There are three Speaking and listening tasks to prepare for in the Speaking and listening module - presenting, discussing and listening, and role-play. Follow advice for each task on what you need to do and how, in order to improve your performance.

Preparing for the tasks

The best way to prepare for a Speaking and listening task is to experience some real-life examples of presentations, discussions or dramatic situations. These can include:

  • Television programmes - look out for news presenters' and journalists' performances on discussion programmes, reality TV and documentaries, real-life situations in court or hospitals etc.
  • School assemblies - notice how teachers, headteachers and students read and speak in front of large groups.
  • Speeches - these might be given at special event in your area, for example.

Task 1: presenting

What you need to do

This task is about communicating information and adapting your language to meet the needs of a specific audience. So before you do anything you need to have answers to the following questions:

  • What is your presentation going to be about?
  • Who are you presenting to? What kind of language is appropriate for your presentation?

Remember, you will also have to respond to your audience, answering any questions people may have about your presentation.

How to do it

If you are giving a speech, you should choose a topic that interests you. You should research the topic and prepare some visual aids (like a presentation with slides) to help you. You should also be prepared to answer a range of questions.

You should be very clear about the ideas you are presenting. You should also be clear about your feelings and point of view. You then need to think about articulation, body language and content - your voice, body language and the points you are going to make.

Task 2: discussing and listening

What you need to do

This task is all about interacting with and responding to other people. You need to show that you can talk confidently and that you can let others speak. In this task, listening is just as important as speaking. It is important to show that you can listen to people and bring them into conversations.

You can do this by:

  • looking at them and responding to what they say using your body language (such as nodding in agreement, or throwing up your hands in dramatic disagreement)
  • directing questions at particular people
  • suggesting that everyone listens to a quieter member of the group

What you say in response should also reflect what people have just said. You should agree and add to someone's point, or disagree with it and explain why. Make sure you agree ways on including everyone. You will not get good marks for just butting in and giving your own, prepared views - however good your ideas are. If you are the quieter member of the group then you need to look for opportunities to talk because if you don't, you won't get the marks.

You should also remember where you are. A formal discussion requires formal language. It also means polite ways of agreeing and disagreeing, offering opinions and looking for opinions. You need to show you understand the difference between a formal discussion and a speaking to your friends.

How to do it

The topic you discuss will always have different sides. Think about as many of the different possible points of view as you can, then make sure these points of view are covered in your discussion. Make sure you are covering issues in depth as well. Complex issues are never one-sided. Even if there is a point of view you don't agree with or can't stand, make sure someone comes up with it. The more unusual points of view can really get group discussions going.

Think about the language you will need to conduct a group discussion. You should agree and disagree politely but firmly. Make sure you ask questions as it shows you are listening and thinking about what is being said.

Your teacher will be paying particular attention to how well you work together as a group so think about being:

  • considerate - respecting other people's right to their opinions
  • positive - helping the conversation develop by bringing other people in
  • balanced - helping to resolve differences that may be bringing a discussion to an end

Task 3: role-playing

What you need to do

You are being assessed during a role-playing activity so the key is to create and sustain a believable character. To do this you will need to come up with a character that is authentic and engaging. You will also need to make sure you contribute to the role-play and find interesting ways to explore problems and find solutions.

How to do it

You won't be able to read from or remember a script so you'll need to respond naturally. You will have to understand the situation and your role in it. To do that you will need to know who you are, which means developing a believable character.

When you are given a role, take some time to think about the following questions on characters:

  • What is their story? What has happened to them in the past?
  • What do they think of the present situation?
  • What are their relationships with each of the people in the role-play?
  • How are they going to respond (eg think or act, laugh or get angry)?
  • Why will they respond this way? (Because of their personality - who they are? Or because of what has just happened to them moments before the role-play?)

Make sure your character is not one-sided. We are all complex and your character needs to be too. Think of some aspects of their personality that might seem contradictory. Coming up with a character who is not simply 'good' or 'bad' will be more interesting and believable. It will also help you to keep your improvisation going, allowing you to show different sides of the same character.

To be successful in your role-play you have to really think about the issues you are exploring in the drama. Focus on the themes and topics as well as the people involved.

Don't forget your voice and body language. Make sure they are right for the character, and right for the situation your character is dealing with.

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