Prepare both ideas and lexis before a speaking activity

Tip: Before a speaking task, prepare BOTH ideas AND lexis.


Before a coursebook speaking activity there will be a warmer. In my experience it is important to bear in mind that during this warmer students need preparation of both ideas and lexis. Of course the two are not totally separate: in an ideas-based warmer the students will use, misuse, lack and ask for lexis, and in a lexis-based warmer ideas will be triggered as you prepare the vocabulary. However I personally find the distinction is still very useful, and I try to make sure that both have been covered.

Let me give examples of how it is possible to miss either one or the other:

  • As a warmer the teacher runs a lively whole-class discussion of ideas, but forgets to write up on the board key topic lexis that students use while speaking. It’s important to have it there: it allows you to do some quick language focus with related words, collocations, opposites etc. before the main activity begins. Never mind if students don’t use the words on the board – they are still there to be noticed and perhaps used on another occasion.
  • As a warmer the teacher brainstorms to the board some topic lexis (perhaps using a mind map to show sub-topics). Great preparation for the main activity. But don’t forget that each time a student calls out a word or phrase for you to write up, there is an idea behind it in their mind. Take a moment to say: Yes, that’s good, can you tell us about that? Whatever they say is available as an idea to feed in to other students’ minds during the main activity.