Teaching speaking #8: Teaching talk as performance

Jack Richards

In the latest part of Interchange author Jack C. Richards’s series on teaching speaking, Jack explores how we should teach talk as performance.

Teaching talk as performance requires a different teaching strategy. Jones (1996:17) comments that:

Initially, talk as performance needs to be prepared for and scaffolded in much the same way as written text, and many of the teaching strategies used to make understandings of written text accessible can be applied to the formal uses of spoken language.

This approach involves providing examples or models of speeches, oral presentations, stories, etc., through video or audio recordings or written examples. These are then analyzed, or “deconstructed,” to understand how such texts work and what their linguistic and other organizational features are. Questions such as the following guide this process:

  • What is the speaker’s purpose?
  • Who is the audience?
  • What kind of information does the audience expect?
  • How does the talk begin, develop, and end? What moves or stages are involved?
  • Is any special language used?


Students then work jointly on planning their own texts, which are then pre- sented to the class.

Feez and Joyce’s approach to text-based instruction provides a good model for teaching talk as performance (1998:v).

This approach involves:

  • Teaching explicitly about the structures and grammatical features of spoken and written texts
  • Linking spoken and written texts to the cultural context of their use
  • Designing units of work that focus on developing skills in relation to whole texts
  • Providing students with guided practice as they develop language skills for meaningful communication through whole texts


Feez and Joyce (1998: 28–31) give the following five-phase description of how a text-based lesson proceeds:

Phase 1: Building the context
Students are introduced to the social context of an authentic model of the text-type.

Phase 2: Modelling and deconstructing the text
Students investigate the model’s structure and language, comparing it to other examples.

Phase 3: Joint construction of the text
Students begin to contribute to the construction of new examples of the text-type, with decreasing teacher involvement.

Phase 4: Independent construction of the text
Students work independently with the text on tasks such as role plays, presentations, and writing tasks.

Phase 5: Linking to related texts
Students investigate how what they’ve learned can be related to other texts in similar contexts, and other cycles of teaching.

Make sure you read the final post in Jack’s series, where he draws some final conclusions about teaching speaking.

Share your ideas for a post below.
We're looking forward to hearing about it
and will be in touch once we've had a read.
0/5000 characters

Thank you for sharing your experiences.

We will take a read through your ideas and be in touch shortly.