The Just A Minute Game is a fun “Toastmasters” kind of ESL speaking activity. I like it because it gets students working on speaking fluently, without worrying too much about accuracy.
Learn More about Just a Minute
To start, write up a bunch of topics on the board such as animals, family, jobs, hobbies, schedule, societal problems, TV, etc. The topics of course depend on the age and level of students.
Put students into groups of 4, and then here’s what each student can do.
Just a Minute: Student #1
The first student throws a scrunched up paper ball at the board. The topic closest to where the paper hits must talk for an entire minute about it.
The challenge is that students must keep talking continuously without stopping for the entire time in order to successfully complete the challenge. Don’t let students off too easily if they stop talking. Don’t jump in to ask a question right away, wait for 5-10 seconds. The student will usually start talking again.
There is no “winner” to this activity. The challenge is more against yourself.
Just a Minute: Student #2, 3, 4…
Erase that topic and continue with the next student. Keep this activity moving quickly to make it more fun and interesting. I find that 4-5 students is the maximum for doing it with the entire class.
If you want to turn this into more of a conversational activity, you can require each of these students to listen carefully and then ask a follow-up question to the person who just finished talking. Of course, emphasize that it should be a good question and not something totally unrelated to what the person was talking about.
Does this ESL Speaking Activity Work With Big Classes?
If you have a big class, you can put students into groups of 4 and get them to number themselves: 1,2,3,4.
Then, select one student to throw the paper ball and select a topic for all numbers ones. They talk for one minute, at the same time to their small groups. Repeat for the remaining three students with new topics each round.
(Optional) Require some Follow-Up Questions
Optionally, you can get each “listening” student in the group to ask 1-2 follow-up questions to help ensure active listening. I actually prefer this because it gives the other students in the group a reason to listen, instead of just sitting passively doing nothing.
More details about Just a Minute over on YouTube
Fluency vs Accuracy in ESL Conversation Classes
Many textbooks and teachers focus on accuracy in speaking. That is, using the correct grammar and vocabulary. It’s easier than getting students to speak faster, which is why there’s often the focus on this.
However, if you ask your students what they want to work on, they’ll often say that speaking more fluently is a big priority for them. This is why I like to incorporate activities like these ones into my lesson. They can go a long way towards increasing speaking fluency.
Do you like this Just a Minute English Speaking Activity?
- Jackie Bolen, Jennifer Booker Smith
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English Speaking Activities: Have your Say!
What’s your favourite activity for getting students to work on fluency in speaking? Have you tried Just a Minute? How did it go? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Also be sure to give this fun ESL speaking activity a share on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. It’ll help other busy teachers, like yourself who are looking for some interesting things to do in their classes.
Last update on 2019-09-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API