Free Alternatives to Language Labs to Get Your Students Talking

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Language labs are an excellent way to simulate conversation for your students, as they’ll provide all the equipment the students need to hear and speak. However, setting up a language lab is extremely expensive, especially if you have to buy all the tools yourself. Luckily, there are plenty of less-costly alternatives that work just as well for speaking practice. If you’re looking for a new way to get your students talking, try these methods that won’t break the bank.

free alternatives to language labs

What’s in the Bag?

One activity you can try with your students involves hiding an object inside a bag. Then, give one student the chance to look inside the bag and see what it is. Once they get a good look, they’ll have to describe it to the rest of the class.

The other students will then try to guess what the object is by asking the person who saw it. Whoever guesses it right becomes the next person to describe a new hidden object.

Play YouTube Videos

Just because you don’t have a full language lab to work with, doesn’t mean you can’t use technology in the classroom. For example, playing YouTube videos on an in-room projector is a great way to get the whole class involved in speaking English.

If your classroom doesn’t have a projector, no worries – just gather everyone in a circle and use your phone to play the video. There are numerous channels available that have full English conversations for listening and replicating, including Daily English Conversation and Eko Languages. Play a conversation video and have students mimic the conversation after it’s done, or have them continue where the conversation left off. Assign students to work in pairs so they can focus on one-on-one interaction.

free alternatives to language labs 2

Conversation Questions

Just making your students ask each other questions in a circle can get a bit tedious, so this activity kicks things up a notch for more excitement. Print out a list of questions from this large repository and cut them into tiny strips. Then, place them all in a bag and let your students each pick out one.

Your students will then have to mingle through the classroom and ask everyone the question they’ve chosen. Have them write down or remember their favorite answer so they can share it after they’ve talked to everyone. It’s a good way to practice second-person questions (What is your favorite color?) and then third-person statements (Her favorite color is magenta).

Act out a Skit

Let your students channel their inner Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie by asking them to act out little skits in English. Give them a situation to focus on, such as ordering food at a restaurant or seeing an old friend on the street. Then, let them use their own creativity to prepare the dialogue and setting.

What might begin as a mundane scenario might quickly escalate into a hilarious course of events if your students come up with something fun. And when students are having fun, they’ll forget they’re in a classroom and become more natural with their speech.

Zombie Questions

Students (especially children) learn much better when they’re moving around, so try to plan as many mobile activities as possible. One such activity is zombie questions. In this game, one person will be the zombie, and the rest of the class will stand in a circle around them. The zombie will then pick one person to move towards and will ask them a question, and that person must shout out an answer in English to stay safe. If they are unable to speak a sentence by the time the zombie reaches them, then they become the zombie and must hunt down victims.

The question could be whatever area of English you’re covering, such as “What is your name?” or “What’s your favorite food?” Switch it up every couple of rounds to keep your students on their toes.

Two Truths, One Lie

This is a simple game, just like the one you’ve probably played yourself at some point. Have every student write down two truths and one lie, and then let the classroom decide what is true and what is false.

These are just a few of the free alternatives to a language lab. In the end, you have to see what works well with your particular students. Experiment a little with these activities, and you’ll likely begin to see a big improvement in your students’ skills.