One literacy speaking activity you can do with your class today

Help your students speak like subject experts.



One aspect of literacy that is often neglected by subject teachers in secondary schools is speaking.


We all know that students need to learn to write like a subject expert, but they also have to learn to speak like a subject expert too.


Research shows that oral language skills are related to reading and writing. In fact, speaking skills often pave the way for development of reading and writing skills.

This is true even in secondary schools, because reading, writing and speaking get more difficult and complex in each year of schooling.


So how can we improve a student's speaking skills and help them speak like a subject expert? Here's one activity you can try online or in the classroom:


Speak about a model or diagram


Give students an object, diagram, model, timeline, photograph, graph, table or concept map.


Engage students in meaningful subject-based talk.


Meaningful subject-based talk is the way that experts communicate.

Ask students to talk in pairs and:

· explain the parts and how they work together

· explain the process

· describe what the object is or means

· describe how the object relates to the topic or issue being studied.


Students should not use informal, everyday language. Instead they should use subject vocabulary and objective, formal language. They should use full sentences.

They might need to rehearse and say it several times. Then they can talk to the teacher, to the class, to another group of students.


  • They could talk about a model in Science:

  • They could talk about a diagram or concept map in Music

  • They could talk about an image in HPE.

  • They could talk about a graph in Geography.

  • They could talk about an artwork in Visual Arts.

The more that students practise literate talk, the more likely they are to be able to read and comprehend, as well as write about it.


To cite this post, please reference:


Weekes, T. (2021, October 11). One literacy speaking activity you can do with your class today [blog post]. Available from: www.literacyinsecondaryschools.com