A Pragmatic Activity

Rachel A. Manley, Kanda University of International Studies

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Pragmatics, requests, speech acts, media, movies, TV Shows 
  • Learner English Level: Intermediate
  • Learner Maturity: High school to adult
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes
  • Activity Time: 60 minutes
  • Materials: Copies of appendix worksheets.

Speech acts are an important concept for students to learn, because it is essential for them to understand and create language appropriate to different situations they might encounter. This paper deals with the speech act of requests. However, any speech act is teachable using the activities provided. Students might not know which requests are appropriate for certain situations in the target language. Finding authentic language in an EFL setting is difficult. One way students can learn speech acts in an EFL setting is through media such as movies and TV shows.


Print out appendices A, D, E, and F for each student and print one copy of appendices B and C for every two students. You can modify the documents to suit your needs. 


Step 1: Start the class with the warm-up question: “What is a request?” Students brainstorm what factors influence requests, why they occur, and why they are needed.

Step 2: Pass out the dialogue worksheet (Appendix A) and two pair work activities (Appendices B & C). Students practice making requests orally to better understand requests. During the activity they will have a conversation with each other in order to practice speaking. You can have the students share their dialogue created with Appendix C.

Step 3: Students get into groups of two or three and create a dialogue using one of the topics listed on their worksheet (see Appendix D). The scenarios are different from one another and feature request topics students might encounter. The topics are also vast and realistic, which helps with authenticity. Once students finish creating dialogues (usually ten lines per person) you can have them share their dialogue with the class.

Step 4: Pass out the data collection worksheet (Appendix E). After you explain the different parts of the worksheet to the students, they will complete it with a recent request event that has happened to them, whether they did the requesting or someone requested something from them. This activity can also be done as homework. Teachers can adjust the worksheets according to the criteria they would like students to focus on.

Step 5: Next class or if time permits: Students are given another data collection worksheet. Play a movie or TV show and have students find the pragmatics (i.e. requests) in the media. Using media provides examples of authentic conversations as well as violations of acceptable behavior, which is important especially if students are in an EFL setting. A short but effective sitcom would be The Big Bang Theory. It is good to show students when violations occur and the reaction others have toward them. Also, students can be asked how they would rectify their mistake if they were to make this violation. 


For Step 5, you can also use a modified data collection worksheet (Appendix F). This can be used for a movie where one or more speech acts are used (or more than one request is made) for students to practice more. 


Learning pragmatics is essential for students, especially when they study abroad or come in contact with people from other countries. In order to avoid miscommunication, misunderstandings, and other problems, knowing the correct form of pragmatics is necessary. Students learn what their topic is (pragmatics), practice it, apply it to real-life, and then observe a situation where it occurs (using media). 


The appendices are available below.