Students taking a test

How to boost student talk time using scripts





Date Published

25 July 2021

In our previous post (How to boost student talk time in Zoom), we discussed the importance of student talk time and how to boost it.

Effective instructors deploy a variety of techniques to get students talking: asking open-ended questions, eliciting examples, avoiding excessive explanations, setting up role plays, facilitating debates, and emphasizing paired and group work. Meanwhile, instructors should not be afraid to be quiet and allow students time to think and prepare before speaking.

In the virtual environment, it’s especially important to get students speaking each other’s names and using turn-taking rituals with learned phrases such as:

  • “I’ll go. I think...”
  • “That’s it. You’re next, [name].”
  • “I’m not sure. Can you come back to me?”
  • “I have a question about the first paragraph. Can anybody explain the meaning x?”
  • “I totally agree with you, [name]. In fact, I think…”
  • “That’s it. [Name], what do you think?”
  • “In other words, you said that…”

That way the instructor can get the ball rolling and let the students take charge.

Let’s look at example scripts which can be easily adapted and personalized for you and your students.

Script 1: Two truths and a lie

Here are example scripts--out of a millions potential variations--for playing Two Truths and a Lie as a Monday warm-up, some of which may review material from the previous week. If you aren’t familiar with the game, each person takes turns saying two truthful statements and one lie about their life. The others have to guess which statement is the lie.

Figure 1 - Script 1A
Figure 2: Script 1B

Script 2: Student as teacher

Are you familiar with the Learning Cone? The bottom of the cone reminds us that learners retain 90% of the material when actually teaching it proactively, as opposed to 10% when receiving it passively. Why not leverage this science by creating mini vocabulary presentations? Here’s an example script for a student to teach a vocabulary word to partners during a monthly review:

  • One of my favorite words so far this month is _______.
  • Let’s practice pronouncing it. Repeat after me: _____. One more time: ____. Good job!
  • The word is important in the article that we read because… Got it?
  • It’s relevant to the topic of medical breakthroughs because… Make sense?
  • It’s useful in everyday life because… OK?
  • So, what did I say?
  • That’s right. Thanks. So, [name], what’s your favorite word?

Script 3: Jamboard

Jamboard is part of the free Google suite. It is very easy to use. Students can post their own post-it notes and continue to view their Jamboard even when talking with their partner in a breakout room. Here is an example of a Jamboard:

Figure 3: Jamboard example

Script 4: One-minute presentation

Here is an example script designed to help students practice the phrase “In terms of + NOUN.” After practicing with a partner, students gave a 1-minute speech by using the follow-up slide.

Figure 4: Script 4A
Figure 5: Script 4B

For longer presentations, students may receive PowerPoint slides as templates with scripts. It’s a great addition for presenters to write questions for the audience to ask them at the end of the presentation, or for the audience to submit questions about the topic for the presenter to address.

Script 5: 4-square discussion

When discussing an article or controversial topic, we use a 4-square script to encourage students to use different categories of discussion phrases. In this model, the script is created in a shared Google Slide. Every time students use a phrase, they move one of their icons into the corresponding box to track their own language production. Another way to track students’ use of the phrases is to assign 5 points every time one is used with the instructor playing the role of score keeper, and the debate must continue until the class hits 100 points.

Figure 6: 4-square example

Script 6: Dice roll

Gamification like rolling dice can spice up grammar practice. The first script practices past continuous. The second script drills -ed/-ing adjectives with an added prefab rejoinder.

Figure 7: Dice roll example A
Figure 8: Dice roll example B

Script 7: Infinite choice

Would you rather?

Here is an example of a script created in Jamboard. Students wrote their own “would you rather” questions to ask each other.

Figure 9: Would you rather example

That just scrapes the surface of different scripts you can use to boost student talk time. Once you’ve equipped yourself with an arsenal of slides with scripts, you can revise and reuse them again and again. They’re gifts that keep on giving.

Scripts like the examples above can be displayed in a screen share, copied into a shared document, or emailed as a pdf--whatever works for the students to view comfortably. Scripts in the form of pieces of texts are easily shared in a doc or even the Zoom chat box. In that case, students can view your simple sentence starters, rejoinders, and turn taking phrases in the chat box while simultaneously viewing a more elaborate screen share.

We hope you find these tips fun and fruitful. A great way to master these techniques is to take in-person or online TESOL Certificate Course. Whether you’re a new or veteran ESOL instructor, a TESOL Certificate Course can be a game changer, giving you fresh “a-ha” insights into student-centered instruction. Be sure to pick a TESOL Certificate Course that includes opportunities for you to teach practice classes with real students.

That way you can practice putting your own stamp on these tools, creating and implementing your own scripts, rituals, and classroom management techniques in a student-centered environment.

Do you use scripts in class? We’d love for you to share your experiences and advice on our LinkedIn page.

About the authors

Janelle Rivers has been working in the IEP at the International Language Institute since taking the ILI TESOL program in 2008. You can reach her by email at

Chris Elliott has a BA from Bard College and MFA from Emerson College and has been working in the IEP at the International Language Institute since 2008. You can reach him by email at or find him on LinkedIn.