Nothing is more intimidating to a university student than speaking in front of the class, especially at a Chinese University.
Although Chinese students tend to be on the shy and quieter side, this doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot to say.
As a university teacher in China, it’s your responsibility to make the students feel comfortable enough to share their thoughts and opinions.
After some trial and error, I’ve compiled a list of seven fun speaking activities for the Chinese university classroom that I found were most successful.
1. Role play scenarios
Students love the opportunity to be creative and make something of their own.
When I assign my class scenarios, I try to do it in a way that allows them to have the freedom to make their own choices.
For example, I will split the class into small groups and assign each a different scenario:
- Classroom (teacher, teaching assistant, students)
- Doctor’s clinic (doctor, nurse, patient, patient’s family members)
- Veterinary clinic (vet, assistant, animal, parents)
- Pizza restaurant (waiter, customers, restaurant manager)
- Grocery store (store clerk, customers, store manager)
Chinese university students engaging in role play.
With scenarios such as these, the students have the ability to choose what role they want, as well as create their own dialogue.
When the time comes to present in front of the class, students are usually excited to show what they’ve come up with.
2. Funny TV commercials
Recently, I’ve tried a new activity with my university classes that students enjoyed and found entertaining.
Again, I split the class into small groups and gave each group a piece of paper with a funny product on it that they’ve never seen before.
A few of the products included picnic pants, a baby mop and a microphone sponge!
Students doing a mock TV commercial in front of the class.
The products themselves were ridiculous, yet within 20 minutes the students came up with commercials that had the whole class laughing.
3. Countries presentations
In case you didn’t know, Chinese students love to learn about Western cultures and different countries.
Chinese university students are naturally curious about things like new foods, music and tourist attractions. Since I wanted to open the world up to them even more, I gave a presentation to the class about my home country, America.
Then, in groups, I let the students choose a country that they would like to present to the class the following week.
A student presentation on Malaysia.
Through PowerPoint presentations, each group shared different topics such as music, history, art, food and so forth.
4. My China poster
A fun activity that allows students to be the teacher is the China poster activity.
There are several different ways this can be done. You can have students work individually or in groups.
Either way, they will create a poster about the different aspects of China through drawings and words, then share their posters with the class.
China poster activity.
A few items students can answer on their posters through drawings or words are:
- What are China’s national dishes?
- Who are China’s most influential people?
- What are typical sports or hobbies?
- What type of music do people listen to?
5. Music video sharing
This fun activity is an idea that my co-worker shared with me. It’s simple and requires the teacher to plan almost nothing.
For this speaking activity, students are to choose a music video that is in English and share it with the class.
Then, they should spend two minutes explaining the reasons why they like the video.
If the class is small, there should be enough time for each student to share in front of the class. If the class is larger, then students can share their videos in small groups.
Just remember that you’ll need a VPN if you want to access YouTube in China. Your students may need to rely on the Chinese version, which is called Youku.
6. Short movie scenes
Out of all the speaking activities I’ve done, this is probably one of my favorites for the Chinese university classroom.
First, I start off introducing the different movie genres to students including action, romance, horror, musicals and fantasy. I also give a few examples of different movies from each genre.
Students acting out a movie scene.
Then, I give students time to prepare a short scene based on one of the genres. Towards the end of class, students presents their scenes in their small groups.
A helpful tip for this activity, as well as the others, is to number the students off into groups.
When students work with their friends, I often find that the scenes lack creativity.
By assigning students into groups, it gives them a chance to interact with different classmates, as well as work with a range of personalities.
7. TV news reporters
The final activity that I’ve found successful in getting Chinese university students to speak is the TV news reporter scenario.
In pairs or small groups (depending on the size of the class), students can choose a news category and create a scenario based on that.
The categories include business, sports, weather, fashion, education, etc.
TV news reporters is another fun speaking activity for the Chinese university classroom.
After students have had an adequate amount of time to prepare their skits, I have them present to the class as if they are actual TV news reporters.
I even put a picture of a news studio in the background to make the scene more realistic.
Before assigning students these speaking tasks, it might be helpful to them if you model the activity first.
For example, for the music video sharing activity (no. 5), you can share your favorite music video first and spend a few minutes explaining why you like it. Then, have the students do this themselves.
To ensure that students understand the task at hand, always encourage students to ask questions.
Let the speaking begin!
Hopefully, as a university teacher in China you will find success in one or several of these activities.
My goal for my students is to get as much practice with speaking and being creative as much as possible. I never go into class expecting perfection.
Keep in mind that the focus for these activities is oral practice. If you’re looking to give students more practice with listening, reading or writing skills, then your activities may need to be facilitated a different way.
Do you know of any fun speaking activities for the Chinese university classroom? If so, share them below.