Sketch n’ talk: Pair interviews about recent topics

Simon Bibby, Kwansei Gakuin University


Quick guide

  • Key words: Authentic, repetition, fluency, news stories
  • Learner English level:Pre-intermediate and above
  • Learner maturity:Junior high school, senior high school, university, adult
  • Preparation time:Up to one hour, depending on editing
  • Activity time:30-45 minutes
  • Materials:Views from the Street example handout, compiled from <>; enough pre-prepared Views from the Street blank templates, A4 size, for all students


Teachers want to try to get students talking, but may struggle to find materials of suitable interest, level, and format. This activity is generic and can be used for any of the topics from the Japan Times Views from the Street, or indeed any topic of the teacher’s or students’ choosing. The objective of this interview-style activity is to have students offer their own views on different news topics, in six short sketch-and-talk interviews.


Step 1: Go to Japan Times’ Views from the Street online archive, found at

<>. Search for suitable topics.

Step 2:Copy the text and images onto a single A4 size handout.

Step 3:You may like to edit the text depending on student level. For a topic of the teacher's choice, you can simply use existing pictures and make up contrasting views yourself, or ask friends for input.

Step 4:Prepare a student interview sheet. My Elections Interviews Tom Cruise example (see Appendix) uses three questions, but you can just use one question. It is a good idea to provide an example to show that responses do not need to be complex or lengthy.


Step 1:Have students read the authentic examples from the handout. I had students read the examples for homework, then also gave a few minutes in class to quietly read.

Step 2:Read through the Views from the Street as a class. Pick students to read aloud. Elicit meanings of uncommon phrases or words. Check overall understanding of views (e.g., in favour / not in favour, like/dislike, optimistic/pessimistic, enjoyed/didn’t enjoy, depending on topic).

Step 3:Distribute interview sheets and explain the activity. This is a walk-and-talk activity. Students will sketch the interviewees and record their partners' views.

If you follow my example based on the elections in 2009, you can have one question on each of three topics. Students ask three different students for their views, sketch partner faces and record the views given. To vary question order, split the class into three groups: A, B, and C. Group A ask questions 1-2-3 in order, Group B 2-3-1, then Group C 3-1-2.

Step 4:Students sketch and interview each other. As the teacher, you may like to participate yourself, particularly to pick up any students who may be waiting for a change of partner, or in case of an odd number of students. Beware: remind students that this is an English lesson, not an art lesson. Some students can get carried away and spend too much time sketching and not enough time talking.

Alternative activities

Variations you may like to consider:

  1. Audio record friends/other teachers' Views from the Street. Perhaps take their photos to use, or sketch them yourself. Blank out key words, phrases, or grammatical items and use with students as a listening cloze activity.
  2. Increase the number of questions.
  3. Increase the number of respondents per question.
  4. Have students produce their own questions about a topic and ask each other. For example, think of two questions, and do three sketch-and-interviews per question. This could be a useful post-reading activity to see what students think about a particular issue.


The activity is quick and easy for teachers to prepare and to explain. It is generic and reusable. For students, sketching each other adds an element of fun, while the chance to talk about real, recent, meaningful issues will likely enthuse and motivate.


The appendix is available below.