speaking and listening

Woman listening with her hand up to her ear

Purpose: When it comes to developing strong communication skills, strengthening listening skills is critical. This activity helps learners practice listening to both questions and answers, as well as improve their auditory memories.

Preparation Time: None

Materials Needed: Several small talk questions

woman's hand with henna typing on a laptop

The College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) were created by the U.S. Department of Education to align adult basic education and ESL instruction across the states. They also provide learners attending ABE and ESL classes with the academic and critical thinking skills to be able to be successful in careers or higher education once they leave those programs.

standing woman holding a hand to her ear

Purpose:  To encourage learners to practice listening to each other and recalling specific information

Preparation Time:  None

Materials Needed:  None


  1. As a class, brainstorm a list of questions that learners can ask one another. Write the questions on the board. The questions should be personal questions on the topic that the class is currently studying.

Example: Weekly topic: Food and Shopping

two stick figures with overlapping speech bubbles

Purpose:  To practice using vocabulary words in a conversational setting

Preparation Time:  10 minutes

Materials Needed:  list of 5-10 vocabulary words, one copy per learner


clouds in the shape of question marks against a blue sky

Purpose:  To keep a conversation going, learners need to be able to ask follow-up questions in English. This activity provides some support and structure as they practice using follow-up questions.

Preparation Time:  none

Materials Needed:  whiteboard, markers


Silhouettes of business men and women standing and talking with multi-colored speech and thought bubbles over their heads

Purpose:  To review vocabulary in an engaging and interactive method, or to preview new vocabulary for a reading.

Preparation Time:  5 minutes

Materials Needed:  Index cards with vocabulary words written on them (enough for one per student; words may be repeated)


cartoon silhouettes of two people talking with speech bubbles between them

Tutor Tip


Purpose: Practice question formation and social encounters

Preparation time: 0 minutes

Materials needed: ¼ sheet of paper (to use as crib sheet)

Preparation: Distribute sheets of paper to learners.


clip art image of a man pointing at a powerpoint presentation with a pointer

Purpose: To learn complex subject matter through a PowerPoint information gap activity. This promotes teamwork within student groups as well as working together as a whole class to become familiar with complex material.

Transitions Integration Framework category/skill/sub-skill:

Effective Communication

Skill 1: Engage positively and actively with individuals in both one-on-one and team settings to accomplish goals

Image of red corded phone

Purpose:  To have students gain experience differentiating between closely related sounds that impact their English pronunciation through producing minimal pairs. A minimal pair is a pair of words that differ only by one sound that is in the same position of each word. For example, ship/sheep or bet/bed.

Preparation Time:  5 minutes

Materials Needed:  Five minimal pairs that contain sounds that the students struggle with producing. Examples:

Two stick figures speaking to each other

Purpose: To get learners up and moving, relaxed and practicing their vocabulary.

Preparation time: 5 minutes, if you have the flashcards from earlier in your unit.

Materials needed: A few sets of the picture cards you are already using for your unit.



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