How to Teach Direct and Indirect Speech

Written by andre zollars
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How to Teach Direct and Indirect Speech
Teaching direct and indirect speech is best done using examples. (Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Teaching direct and indirect speech is best done by reading and writing dialogue. By first reading dialogue and working through examples, teachers can illustrate the difference between direct and indirect speech. Direct speech occurs when the person speaking is quoted. Indirect speech occurs when another person paraphrases what the speaker said. By speaking and writing dialogue themselves, students reinforce the principles of direct and indirect speech through practical application.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Book
  • Chalkboard or whiteboard
  • Handout

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  1. 1

    After explaining the differences between direct and indirect speech, read dialogue from any source that demonstrates both direct and indirect speech. See whether the children can tell the difference between the two forms of speech. Afterward, have the students give several examples of direct and indirect speech. Write the following examples on the board. Direct speech: "We should go to class," Suzy said. Indirect speech: Bob said he really liked the movie too.

  2. 2

    Explain that direct speech occurs when a writer directly quotes a person's speech, and point out the punctuation used to indicate direct quotes. Show the difference between quotes and indirect speech, which is merely reported. Compare and contrast several examples on the board using the same sentence. For example, Direct speech: He said, "I can't believe you did that!" Indirect speech: He said he couldn't believe you did that.

  3. 3

    Point out that there are other differences between direct and indirect speech. In indirect speech, the tense generally changes because what the person said is usually in the past. Write several examples on the board; Direct speech: She said, "I'm hot!" Indirect speech: She said she was hot. This is not always the case, though, as in some instances what is being reported is still true or takes place in the future. For example, the direct speech would read as follows: She said, "I like Bob." Indirect speech: She said she likes Bob. Work through several examples of how the tense can change from direct to indirect speech.

  4. 4

    Tell students that not only can the tense change, but the modal verb form, or the auxiliary verb form, can also change. Again, either have students give examples or write several examples on the board and review. Here are a couple possibilities: Direct speech: He said, "I was running earlier." Indirect speech: He said he had been running earlier. Also explain that when you report someone else's speech, if there is a direct reference to time, you must change it to fit in with the reported time, as illustrated in the next two examples. Direct speech: "Today, I started my new job," he said. Indirect speech (reported 24 hours later): "He said he started his new job yesterday." In a similar way, writers must change references to pronouns and location. For example, Direct speech: "I have worked here for two years," he said. Indirect speech: He said he worked there for two years.

  5. 5

    Point out that there are some hard and fast rules about direct and indirect speech. For example, the words might, could, should, would, and ought to, do not change. Give an example: Direct speech: "We might go to class," she said. Indirect speech: She said they might go to class.

  6. 6

    Tell students to pair up, and have them practice direct and indirect speech. Give them each a sheet of paper with two columns on it, labelled "direct speech" on one side and "indirect speech" on the other. Tell them to take turns practicing both forms and give at least 10 examples of both forms of speech. Have one pair demonstrate by having the first person read aloud a direct quote and write it down. Then, ask the partner to report that quote using indirect speech and write it down. Follow up with a quiz to cement knowledge, if desired.

Tips and warnings

  • In indirect speech, "that" is often used to link two parts of the sentence together (e.g., Sue said that she might take her boyfriend to the party).

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