Teaching Reported Speech – A Lesson Idea

GUEST POST BY DANIEL, MARC & MARIUS (my trainee-teacher students).

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First of all, here is the worksheet that you can print out and give to your learners: Indirect Speech – Material for Students

With the first two texts, ask the learners to highlight all of the verb forms they find. Next, the should highlight any other words or phrases that change between the two texts (hint: They should look at time references and locations).

Here are the answers:

A) Mandy is sitting in the café where James works. He tells her: “I work in this café almost every day. But yesterday I saw a famous TV presenter here for the first time. She ate an ice-cream at the table where you are sitting now.”
B) A week later, Mandy is speaking to a friend on the phone and reports what James said: “I saw James at the café last week. He told me that he worked in that café almost every day, but that the day before he had seen a famous TV presenter there for the first time. She had eaten an ice-cream at the table where I was sitting at that moment.”
Task: What is the difference between the verb forms in the first and the second text? Are there any other differences?

Students should be guided to notice the changes in the tenses of the verbs, adverbs and determiners. Then ask concept check questions: When are the two conversations happening? Why are the verb forms different in the second text? Why are the time phrases and location phrases different in the second text?

–> ANSWER: Because in the second text Mandy is reporting what was said, it is one week later, and she is not sitting in the café anymore!

Once learners understand the context, the new grammar forms can be presented.

!!! – introductory sentence has to be past tense (e.g. He said…)

If so, verb showing the actions being resported undergo a backshift of tenses:

Direct speech                                                       Indirect speech
Simple present                                                Simple past
   Present progressive                                   Past progressive
   Simple past                                                         Past perfect
   Present perfect                                                  Past perfect
   Past perfect                                                         Past perfect
   is/are going to                                                was/were going to
   will                                                                            would

– Shift of pronoun:
o He said: “I am going to school”
o He said he was going to school

– Shift of time and place adverbs/determiners:

Today  –> That day
Now  –> Then/at that moment
Yesterday  –> The day before
Tomorrow  –> The next day
Here  –> There
This  –> That
These  –> Those

Once learners have noted these rules and noticed how they affected the text above, they can do the controlled practice task.Here are the ANSWERS

Task: Convert the direct speech into indirect (reported) speech!
1) Two weeks ago, he said, “I visited this museum last week.”
→ Two weeks ago, he said that… he had visited that museum the week before.
2) She claimed, “I am the best person for this job.”
→ She claimed that… she was the best person for that job.
3) Last year, the minister said, “The crisis will be overcome next year.”
→ Last year, the minister said that… the crises would be over the year after. 
4) My riding teacher said, “Nobody has ever fallen off a horse here.”
→ My riding teacher said that… nobody had ever fallen of a horse there. 
5) Last month, the boss explained, “None of my co-workers has to work overtime now.”
→ Last month, the boss explained that… none of his/her co-workers had to work overtime at the moment.

The final part of the lesson, or the homework following the lesson should then be used for a productive task. Here are some suggestions:

1. Write a fictional interview with your role model / a famous person of your choice. Afterwards, transfer it into indirect speech using the backshift of tenses.
2. Interview one of your friends about his/her last holiday. Afterwards, transfer it into indirect speech using the backshift of tenses.
3. Listen to the news on TV/radio and summarize what the reporter said using the backshift of tenses.


Sources used for this lesson plan:
Lingolia, Indirect speech (reported speech), http://english.lingolia.com/en/grammar/sentences/indirect-speech, Date of access: 16/07/2014.

5 thoughts on “Teaching Reported Speech – A Lesson Idea

  1. I like the way students have to discover first the tense and then the time expression changes themselves by analysing the two texts. The production tasks are interesting. Like it a lot.


  2. The listening skills (using authentic materials) seem to have been neglected by eery group. Here one of the tasks in the production phase does, though, appeal to these. Well done!


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