Unit 1: Speaking about Myself


At the JSS level, students are at a transitional stage of life as they mature from childhood to adulthood. At this stage of life, they are more interested in themselves than at any other time, and they are trying to learn to come to terms with their physical and emotional selves. Expressing their thoughts and feelings is important to them, but they may lack the ability to project themselves with confidence in front of other people, especially in a different language. In this unit, we will introduce some activities that you can use in the class to develop your students’ ability to talk about themselves in English. By sharing personal information through information-gap activities, students will learn to use English appropriately in both formal and informal situations.

Unit outcomes

Upon completion of this unit you will be able to:


  • help your students develop the confidence and skills to express themselves appropriately and fluently in English;

  • use interesting texts, conversations, stories and other materials as resources for promoting fluency and appropriateness in spoken English;

  • improve your students’ ability to perform language functions in English; and

  • help your students organise their thoughts better and express themselves clearly and logically in academic situations.



Information–gap activities:

Activities that are designed to be done in pairs or groups so that each partner has some information on a given topic that the other does not. They find the missing information through discussion. Activities like these create situations for genuine communication to take place.


The ability to use a language spontaneously in various situations. In language studies, the term competence is also used to refer to the underlying knowledge of the sounds, words and structures of a language.


Paper cut-outs containing a series of pictures that are flashed one at a time for students to describe, identify, pronounce or spell for language practice.

Teacher support information

When engaging students in activities that require them to share personal information or describe one another, we should be careful to discourage comments on physical appearance, race, gender or skin colour as this might be offensive or hurtful. Also, both the teacher and students should practise speaking clearly, audibly and in a relaxed pace to ensure mutual intelligibility.

Case study

Case study

Mallam Haruna was a new English teacher at Barewa Junior Secondary School in Kaduna. Many of his students could barely speak any English and were reluctant to even try. Most of the time, they were found speaking Hausa, their first language. Mrs Uchendu, his mentor, noticed that he was desperate for guidance and invited him to observe her class at least once a week. He noticed immediately that she had divided her class into three ability groups. She had also designed special instructional materials for the weakest students. She spent more time with them while the others were engaged in reading or writing activities. She had flashcards and sentence strips, pictures and simple storybooks to read to them and allowed them to ask her questions in Hausa, if they wanted to. In this way, she made them feel at home. Most began to speak in groups and later in class directly, albeit in halting English. Mallam Haruna asked Mrs Uchendu to watch him try this in his own class and to see how it worked out. The new strategy worked very well, and the students developed confidence as well as competence.

Points to ponder


  1. Do you have a mentor or colleague with whom you could collaborate to improve your students’ oral proficiency? Can you think of activities you could develop together for your students?

  2. Do your students also belong to different ability groups? Would grouping them according to this criterion work in your situation? Have you already tried using different sets of exercises for students who are falling behind?


Activity 1: Making introductions

Activity 1

One of the first things students have to do when they step out of the classroom into the real world is introduce themselves and others. School, which for many students is their only context for communicating in English, offers few opportunities for students to make introductions. This leads to hesitation and embarrassment when students are expected to use English in public. In this activity, you will be able to help your students develop their confidence in making introductions by engaging them in communicative exercises.

As a pre-speaking exercise, you might like to have a general discussion on the expressions we use in introductions. For this, you can distribute the worksheet in Resource 1a and have your students, working in pairs, say which expressions are appropriate for introductions. (The correct answers are 2, 3, 6, 7, 10, 11 and 12. The utterances in 1, 4, 5, 9 and 13 are greetings, and utterances 8 and 14 are examples of impolite introductions.) During the discussion, mention that introductions do not include only an exchange of names — we should add a little more information to make it easier to start a conversation.

For this activity, divide the students into groups of four and let each of them choose any one of the four information cards in Resource 1b. Using the information on the card, they have to introduce themselves to the others. Then, one person from each group should introduce a group member to the class. The activity should include not only making introductions, but also the appropriate responses. To give the students an idea of how it should be done, play the video in Resource 1c or read the transcript with two students whom you think are good at this. Have a quick discussion about the expressions used in the introductions. Remind the students that these are informal introductions. You can make a similar conversation to familiarise students with formal introductions.

During the activity, make sure every student gets to speak, and that each group gets to introduce at least one member to the rest of the class. This will give them practice in introducing themselves and others, and also responding appropriately.

Activity 2: Sharing personal information

Activity 2

As teenagers stepping into adulthood, your students are likely to welcome opportunities to share personal information such as talking about their families or hobbies, for example. Sharing information is also a skill they will need to develop in order to communicate with people in both formal and informal situations when they step out of school. This activity is meant to develop students’ confidence in speaking as well as their ability to articulate their feelings.

For this activity, have the students work in pairs to find out three things they have in common with their partner and three things they don’t. For example, both partners may enjoy watching soccer matches on TV (the common interest), and one of them may spend their free time listening to music while the other plays some sport (one thing they do not have in common). When each pair has finished noting down the information, they will have to exchange the information with another pair, identifying things that are common across all four group members, and interests that they do not share. In turns, representatives from each group should share the information with the rest of the class.

Since the focus of the activity is on practising the language of sharing information, remember to go around the class when the pairs and groups are sharing information. If you notice any inappropriate use of language, you can make a note of it and then draw attention to these mistakes later so that the whole class benefits. See Resource 2 for a sample conversation. You can play the videotape/audiotape or read it yourself.

It is important to have the students share information amongst themselves rather than with a teacher as this will make them less self-conscious and elicit more information. Also, in real life, we rarely share information in public; this is normally done in a one-to-one communication situation.

Activity 3: Describing feelings and opinions

Activity 3

Describing feelings, opinions and beliefs are common activities we do in our home languages. In communication situations outside the home or classroom, your students may need to perform this function in English. Students at this level will probably be excited about sharing their feelings and opinions with others, and this exercise will help them articulate their feelings and opinions in a polite and appropriate manner. Students can practise doing this by engaging in speaking activities in the classroom.

Introduce the activity by asking students their opinions on a popular topic, such as whether tea is a better drink than coffee. Encourage the students, especially the quieter ones, to say how they feel about each drink. Encourage them to give reasons for their choice. If they respond by saying that they do not drink either tea or coffee, you can ask them to describe their favourite health drink, and to say why they have chosen it. This preliminary discussion is meant to prepare the students to express their feelings or opinions logically and clearly.

For this activity, put your students in small groups of four or five, and involve them in a group discussion on a similar topic familiar to them. Resource 3a has a set of topics you might like to use with different groups. To help the students articulate their feelings in an appropriate manner, you can distribute Resource 3b, which contains common expressions (and a vocabulary guide) for expressing opinions.

Make one group member the scribe: he or she should note down what opinion each group member is expressing, or how they feel about the topic. When the discussion time is over, the group scribes should share the information with the rest of the class.

Unit summary


In this unit we looked at ways in which students can speak effectively in personal communication situations by introducing themselves and others, and sharing information, feelings and opinions. These activities are aimed at helping the students develop self-confidence while speaking, and also enabling them to use appropriate words and structures spontaneously. Speaking with their peers in class helps students express themselves without being self-conscious. Speaking activities such as these should become a regular part of classroom learning so that students can transfer their verbal skills to situations in the real world after they leave school.



  • What did you find most interesting and helpful in this unit?

  • Were there any problems in implementing the activities?

  • What other activities could you use to motivate students to speak?



  • How would you plan group activities to ensure that students of different abilities participate equally, and everyone has an opportunity to express themselves?

  • How important is it to make students talk about personal things? How is this expected to help develop their verbal skills in the classroom?


Resource 1a: Introductions

Resource 1a

Which of the following expressions do you think are good ways of making introductions? Discuss with your partner and tick (√ ) or cross (X) the utterances as appropriate:

  1. Hey — how’re you?

  2. Hi, Musa! Meet my friend Rahila — she’s visiting us for a week.

  3. May I introduce Mrs Abida Raheem? She’s our new English teacher.

  4. Let’s meet for lunch on Saturday!

  5. Hello, nice to meet you!

  6. Hello. I’m Catherine Smith. May I join you?

  7. Hi! Have we met before? I’m Catherine.

  8. My name is Catherine Smith. What is your name?

  9. How do you do?

  10. Rahila, I’d like you to meet Catherine Smith. Catherine, this is my good friend Rahila Yasmin.

  11. Friends, I’m honoured to introduce to you Professor Rod Macintosh from the university. Professor Macintosh will speak to us today about global warming.

  12. Hello, friends! I am Rod Macintosh from the University of South Africa, and I’m honoured to be here today.

  13. Hello! How’s life?

  14. Hey — are you Rod Macintosh? I’m Catherine Smith.

Resource 1b: Information cards

Resource 1b

William Sisulu

Doctor, Nairobi Central Hospital

(Cardiologist: Specialist in heart diseases)

Miriam Ngege

Assistant Headmistress

Paradise Public School

Nicholas Robinson

(Famous) Actor

National Film Award winner

Connie Defoe

Captain, women’s soccer team


Resource 1c: At a party: Introductions

Resource 1c


Walter: Hello, Liz! How have you been?

Elizabeth: Walter! Good to see you. Meet my husband, Tony. Tony, this is Walter Kimolo — the friend from Nairobi I was telling you about.

Tony: Oh, hello, Mr Kimolo. I’ve heard a lot about you from Liz.

Walter: Good to meet you at last, Mr Price. It’s kind of Liz to say good things about me!

Tony: Call me Tony!

Elizabeth: Are you here alone, Walter? Isn’t Mrs Kimolo here?

Walter: Sorry — so rude of me! Jane, dear, come and say hello to the Prices... Liz, Tony — my wife, Jane.

Jane: How do you do?

Elizabeth, Tony: How do you do?

Jane: I’d like to introduce my sister, Gillian. Gillian —Elizabeth and Tony Price.

Gillian: Glad to meet you, Elizabeth, Tony. Are you Walter’s colleagues?

Elizabeth: No, Gillian — Walter’s an old friend.



Resource file

See in the enclosed DVD a video recording of the activity:

  • Scripts\Module2\Unit1\Activity1\Resource1c\Video\At_a_Party.mp4


Resource 2: Sharing personal information

Resource 2


Student 1: What are your hobbies? I like to watch football on TV, play the guitar in my free time and just hang around with friends. Oh, I also like to sleep a lot, especially on Sundays. I hate waking up on Sunday mornings to go to church.

Student 2: Me too. Mother has to push me out of bed every Sunday morning! I love sleeping too! I wish I could play the guitar — I don’t know how. I like to spend my free time working in my uncle’s garage — I love cars, you know! That’s why I never get time to watch TV. I don’t miss it, actually — and I have many friends at the garage.

Student 1: Okay, let me write this down. Common things — we both love sleeping, we like talking to friends, we don’t like going to church. Okay — we have three things in common.

Student 2: Yeah. And you like watching TV, you like football and you play the guitar. I don’t like these. I love cars, I work in my uncle’s garage in my free time, and what’s the third point?

Student 1: Was it about friends? Oh, I remember: your friends are from the garage, mine are from school. Okay, we have our list ready!



Resource file

See in the enclosed DVD a video recording of the activity:

  • Scripts\Module2\Unit1\Activity2\Resource2\Video\Sharing_Personal_Information.mp4


Resource 3a: List of topics for expressing opinions

Resource 3a

  1. School children should not be allowed to watch TV as it will make them lazy and inattentive towards their studies.

  2. Girls are more serious students than boys.

  3. Parents should listen to their children’s views rather than just forcing children to listen to them.

  4. School should be over by noon so that children have time to take an afternoon nap and play until evening.

  5. Keeping the streets clean is not our business; there are officers to take care of that.

  6. Girls should help with housework as they need to learn how to be a good housekeeper after they get married.

  7. Examinations should be abolished. Everyone should be allowed to get into the next grade.

  8. Reading and writing in English are more important than listening and speaking in English.

Resource 3b: Guide to expressing opinions: Sharing, agreeing and disagreeing (worksheet)

Resource 3b

  1. I feel that _______________________________________________

  2. In my opinion ___________________________________________

  3. I think __________________________________________________

  4. I’d like to share my feelings on this __________________________

  5. What I think is ___________________________________________

  6. If you want my opinion, I’d say ______________________________

  7. I agree with what you said about _____________________________

  8. I’m afraid I have a different opinion about this __________________

  9. I’m glad we feel the same on this _____________________________

  10. I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with you here ______________________

Teacher questions and answers


Question: Student-centred group work takes longer than when I am in complete control. How can I save time without being too teacher-centred?

Answer: Once you see your students making significant contributions and learning from each other, you are likely to see that group work is worth the effort, though it certainly comes at a cost. Clearly, not all topics call for group work and you don’t have to insist that they finish all the group work within the class time.

Question: What do I do if my students are reluctant to share personal information, or are too shy to talk about themselves?

Answer: The first time you do an activity like this, encourage all your students to contribute, but do not force shy students to say much. Instruct their group mates to direct questions to the shy partners so that they are gradually encouraged to speak. Most shy students take longer to open up than less self-conscious ones, and we cannot expect a change through just one activity.