Choosing a Student to Speak in Class

Michael Gilmore, Sanyo University



  • Key Words: Classroom management, Speaking
  • Learner English Level: Intermediate
  • Learner Maturity Level: Junior College, University
  • Preparation Time: 10-20 minutes
  • Activity Time: 30-45 minutes


From the title of the article you're probably asking yourself, "What's so difficult about choosing a student to speak in class?" The answer is, "Nothing." That is, if all you do is point and say, "You" or "Next." On the other hand, why not make choosing a student a learning experience?

Many students will do anything to avoid being chosen to answer a question or to speak in class, so give them a chance to get off the hook. If they can answer a question, they won't be "it" and you move on to another student. Of course the trick here, unknown to the student, is that the selected student has listened to a question and answered it. Thus, the student spoke when perhaps trying to avoid speaking.

There are many benefits when choosing a student to speak and turning it into a learning experience. By using nursery rhymes, proverbs, and superstitions you can expose the student to the culture of your home country and native language, and, it's much more fun than simply saying "You."


When using this method ask the student one of the above, for example, "When angry count to ____?" if the student gives the correct answer (10), count off 10 students and then ask that student another question. If the question involves an answer that is not numerical, then count off the words or letters, for example, "What will you find at the end of a rainbow?" The answer is "Gold." So, count off four students (G-O-L-D), and ask that student a question. Naturally, you don't want this process to go on for the entire class period. If time is pressing ask a tough question like, "What is the sum of all parts?"

If time is not pressing, try to explain a little about the superstitions or proverbs. The students are generally interested in finding out about other cultures and will usually share similar ones from their own.

Below are some different ways to choose a student to speak. Some are in a question form, some are rhymes and proverbs. All of them impart some knowledge or give some listening practice to the student. Even the questions that are impossible to answer are important. Sometimes just saying "I don't know" is appropriate.


How many people are in your family?
How old are you?
How many legs does a dog have?
How much is a telephone call?
How many people in this class?
What's 2+2?
What's the square root of 16?
How many sides does a square have?
How many petals on a chrysanthemum?
How many TV's in your house?


How many leaves on a lucky clover?
What happens when you light three cigarettes from one match.
Lightning never strikes _______ in the same place.
How many years of bad luck will you have if you break a mirror?
What will you find at the end of a rainbow?
What shouldn't you open in the house?
Unlucky cats are what color?


A stitch in time saves____ .
It takes ____ to know ____ .
Kill ____ birds with ____ stone.
When angry, count to ___ .
____ of ____ , 1/2 dozen of another.
___ rotten apple spoils the whole barrel.
____ bitten twice shy.
____ wrongs don't make a right.


Eenie, meenie, minie, moe, etc.
One potato, two potato, etc.