Speaking fluency activities for middle school

middle school age girl playing detective with a giant magnifying glass

ESL teachers need fun speaking fluency activities to get their students talking in class and enjoying themselves. Freya Dougan-Whaite, who teaches middle school in South Korea, reports back and tells us how she used this fun speaking game and the success she and her students all had.

How Freya uses this speaking fluency activity

First, here’s Freya on the game:

“Thank you for your Detective Game from your ESL Classroom Activities for Teens & Adults.

My middle school students in South Korea absolutely love this game! Their English level is relatively low, but this game gets them speaking, and they all have a great time! Of course, I drill the target questions and answers beforehand, and they do a great job. It’s wonderful to see my students so engaged.”

Choosing the thief

To choose the thief, I have the students close their eyes. Then I walk around the room and lightly touch a student’s elbow. They find it so exciting, and all desperately want to be the thief!

While the ‘detective’ does the rounds, they all try to get involved by analyzing my footsteps, like real detectives! It’s enjoyable as a teacher to watch this! Then, to add a twist to the game, I let one student be ‘detective’s assistant.’ They are allowed to select the ‘thief’ while the other students’ eyes are closed. My students love to shuffle around and try to throw other students off track!

pink panther cartoon

Success at the school

I just wanted to share with you have much this game has added to my classroom. Today, our school opened its doors to parents and supervisors. I used this game for my lesson, and students were able to excel.

How to use the speaking fluency activity

Detective Game

  • Category Step 2 speaking drill
  • Group size Small group to a class of up to about 30
  • Level Beginner to intermediate
  • Materials None
  • Preparation None
How to play

One student is chosen to be the detective and one the thief. The detective has three chances to find the thief, which they do by asking one question to any three students. The question can take any form, such as ‘What is your name?’ or, ‘Where do you live?’ or, ‘What were you doing last night?’

The three students answer the questions accordingly, and if one of them is the thief, they must give himself up for arrest after answering the questions. If none of the students the detective chose for questioning are the thief, then it’s game over, and the thief got away. So now select a new thief and a new detective for the next round.

The above setup works well for a small group of students. However, if you have a larger group, then pick more thieves and detectives to ask and answer questions simultaneously to get more people are involved in speaking.

A way to spice the game up is to allow the detective to ask as many students as many questions as possible in a given time frame. If you have some kind of timer that ticks audibly, this adds an element of excitement. For example, allow the detective one minute to find the thief and then play another round with a different detective. If you divide the whole class into two teams, you can record which team finds the most thieves during the game.


Another way to use this same idea but within a different scenario is to reverse the procedure. Instead of the detective trying to find the thief, you could have a situation where the student asking the question does not want to find the culprit. For example, you could have a thief who robs your house if you speak to them. The questioner asks three students a question. If one of those three is the thief, the detective has their house robbed. That team, therefore, could lose a point.

Three great resource books for speaking fluency activities

Thanks for reading this post, and I hope you have fun with the game. Here are links my two excellent books, full of speaking fluency activities:

In the classroom: Instant Download, Paperback, or Kindle.

Online: ESL Online Games

I’m here to help if you need me; just comment on this blog, or use the contact page on this site. Looking forward to hearing from you soon,

All the best,

Shelley Ann Vernon

2 thoughts on “Speaking fluency activities for middle school”

  1. Hello there Nataly, Thanks for your comment. It’s like a lottery. The detective picks three students randomly, hoping that one of the three is the thief. The questions have nothing to do with it – they are just an excuse to practise questions. Alibi is a more elaborate detective game, for higher levels. But this game is for lower levels. Is that clearer now? If not, just ask!
    All the best, Shelley

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