5 Tasks for Practicing Reported Speech

Do your students struggle with reported (indirect) speech? One of our subscribers recently said that reported speech is one of the most difficult targets for language students to learn. We agree!

Our editor says that reported speech is tricky to learn (and teach) because of the verb tense changes that are sometimes required.

ESL Library’s Dialogue-Based Sections

ESL Library has many lessons that are based on dialogues. These are ideal for practicing reported speech because they come with ready-made audio that you can download or stream:

Practice Tasks

Below are five practice tasks to try with any of the lessons from the sections above. These tasks can also be used with authentic dialogues and transcripts.

1. Listen & Report

Have your students listen to the dialogue. Pause the audio after each line (or after a tricky line) and ask this question:

What did he/she say?

At first, you might want your students to have the transcript handy. As your students become more familiar with this target, use the audio on its own.

2. Ask Ss for Clarification

This task can be done with the audio or the transcript. Ask your students to paraphrase what was said about a certain subject in the dialogue.

What did Jim say about the employment papers?

Did Jim say to drop off the employment papers now?

Jim said to drop off the employment papers in the staff room, right?

3. Practice a Specific Tense or Form

Some tenses are trickier than others when it comes to reported speech. Which ones do your students need to work on? Spot examples of it in the dialogues and ask your students to report on what was said.

What did the detective say the teacher was doing?

Your students may also need to practice other types of indirect speech, such as questions and requests. When you see or hear an example in a dialogue, ask your students to practice.

What did he ask first? Then what request did he make?

4. Spot the Reported Speech

In some cases, reported speech will be used by the characters in the dialogue. Ask your students to spot instances of reported speech used by the speakers.

Where does one of the characters use reported speech?

5. Summarize the Conversation

When summarizing a conversation, it is natural to use reported speech. After listening to and reading a dialogue, ask students to practice summarizing it. This type of task can be done orally or in writing.

Summarize how Clarissa broke the ice with the detective.

Teaching Reported Speech

If your students are unfamiliar with reported (indirect) speech, you will need to teach them the rules and do some practice work before you can try the tasks above. Here are some useful materials to use:

1. Grammar Practice Worksheets: Direct & Reported Speech

In this lesson, students review the verb tense and punctuation rules used in direct and reported speech. They practice changing sentences from direct to reported speech and vice versa.

2. Grammar & Usage: Reported Speech

This handy chart and tips will help students remember common verb tense and modal changes in reported speech. We also encourage you to read our editor’s tips for teaching Reported Speech.

The Most Difficult Target to Learn/Teach

In your opinion, what is the most difficult language target for English learners? What is the most difficult thing to teach?


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