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Lip Reading

A goldfish with its mouth open.Lip Reading is a fun activity which can be used with all ages and class levels.

On the one hand it teaches the “speaker” to carefully pronounce words and on the other it helps the “listener” in predicting what is going to be said.

Both these skills are useful when it comes to listening and speaking in English, of course, in everyday situations.

Introducing the Activity

First off, you’ll want to demonstrate the activity to your TEFL class.

Get the room settled down, clear the desks, and have all eyes on you. Slowly and carefully mouth a simple utterance which the class would have no problem understanding were you speaking out loud. The key here is to say the utterance with definite pauses in between each word and exaggerate your mouth movements.

Today is Thursday.

Or some such statement. Ask the class what you said – it’s as simple as that!

Of course to begin with there will be confusion and the students will probably have trouble in working out what you said and will perhaps need a few clues. If this is the case then say just the first word out loud and mouth silently the remainder of the utterance:

[loud] Today [silently] is Thursday.

The first time you play this you’ll probably have to give plenty of clues and repeat the utterance (silently of course) quite a few times. But after a while you should see that the class picks up the skill and starts to get better at understanding what you are not saying.

Of course you know how to speak English perfectly so you don’t need practice in speaking; now it’s time to get your students working!

Running the Activity

Once the class are familiar with what to do, divide them into pairs. Tell them to do as you have done: the first student mouths a simple phrase and the second tries to work out what it is (with clues and repetitions if required); then they swap roles.

(With less advanced classes you might like to prepare a set of short, simple, sentences on flashcards which the students can use – this means they concentrate all their energy on mouthing the words rather than having to spend time trying to think what to say.)

Variations on a TEFL Theme

  • Create several lines of students who have to pass the silent message from the front to the back with no speaking whatsoever; the final student has to write down what they “hear” and the closest to the original wins.

Useful Links

Speaking‏‎ Skills in TEFL – general article introducing speaking in TEFL

Listening‏‎ Skills in TEFL – general article introducing listening in TEFL

Everything Off in your TEFL Classroom – clearing desks before starting an activity

Image © Benson Kua

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