Speakup London runs ‘free’ speaking classes as part of a promotional package to entice non-native English speaks to sign up for their paid classes. These classes are outsourced to volunteers.

They either come from a different teaching method than modern TEFL certificates or do not have a clue. We were asked the impossible: a speaking class to mixed ability students that does not use any course books and does not require them to read, or the use of the photocopier for class material.

The library was not for our use either. So we were left to our own ingenuity and devices which at the end of the day Speakup London only had typical, quoted, criticisms that they did not seem to understand themselves. The only advice given for the lessons was, “Second conditional: ‘If I were an animal what kind of animal would I be'”, though this is not authentic genuine conversation – so why would I teach it?

We were also required to correct language at the end of the class even though in a mixed ability class, what language was fair to correct? 

In summary they wanted the class to be no more than what the students were able to do themselves in a coffee shop or bar, but the teacher was also supposed to teach – without teaching – and be invisible at the same time.


An idea for a speaking lesson on ‘could have’ for teachers.

A powerpoint presentation was used with pictures that the students could discuss together using the form ‘could have + past participle’. The students didn’t seem too enthused about the lesson but got involved anyway. They were to look at the pictures and videos and use ‘could have + past participle’ to describe to each other what they saw.

I deliberately had the chairs in two rows facing each other perpendicular to the whiteboard, which acted as the background for the powerpoint presentation which was beamed from a projector.

The difficulties the students had with the exercises were that they did not seem to understand or remember that with irregular verbs the past simple can be different from the past participle. So with the example: ‘swim’, the past simple is ‘swam’ but the past participle is ‘swum’. A note here is that the Japanese students struggled with this example when I gave it to them the next week to clarify because swæm sounds to them the same as swʌm.

There were some technical difficulties as the .gif videos I embedded into the powerpoint played at home on Windows 10 but not on the classroom computer. This site has a gallery of ‘close call’ downloadable and embeddable .gif files that are good for this lesson, the drawback is they are focused mainly on cars and so become a little repetitive after a so many.