- Keywords: Forming questions, listening for gist, note-taking, introducing others
- Learner English Level: Upper-beginner and above
- Learner maturity: High school and above
- Preparation time: Less than 5 minutes
- Activity time: 10 - 15 minutes
- Materials: Paper
A loud, energising activity that is level-flexible and encourages non-verbal communication skills. This activity is a good way to start a class or even a new semester. It demonstrates to learners that they are able to communicate in a foreign language even in difficult situations. It also fosters an understanding, cooperative atmosphere where speaking aloud or making mistakes is no longer embarrassing.
Step 1: Ask learners to take out, or give each student, a piece of blank paper. Ask them to draw lines to divide it into six boxes. Demonstrate this on the board.
Step 2: On the board, label each box with one of the following categories: family, food, animals, sports, hometown, dream. Explain learners will make a simple poster of a classmate.
Step 3: Choose one of the learners to be your partner for the demonstration, and ask them to stand across the classroom from you. The further away the better – they should be stood against the wall.
Step 4: Shout questions related to the themes of each box on your paper across the room to your partner. For example, for “family” you could ask how many siblings they have, for “animals”, if they like spiders. Record their answers in note form in the relevant box. Ask follow-up questions and elicit as much detail as possible.
Step 5: Once learners have seen your demonstration, split the class into two groups with each group stood either side of the room opposite the other. Do not let them arrange themselves with a friend.
Step 6: Set a time limit of 3 – 4 minutes. Learners now shout across the classroom and interview their partner. The class will become extremely loud, and they will need to use gestures and emphasis to make their questions/answers clear, as everyone is speaking at the same time.
Step 7: Once the time is up, ask pairs to come together. They now introduce their partner to other pairs – “This is Anna. She is from Sendai but lives in Ueno…” Again, demonstrate before starting the activity.
Step 8: Set either a time limit or the number of people they must introduce their partner to. Monitor carefully for any language needs that become evident as the activity progresses.
Step 9: Once the activity has finished, address any language needs noted.
This is easily extendable or modifiable by changing the labels of each box. Topics such as “perfect vacation” or “music” can lead into a discussion-based lesson around these topics. You could also exploit the posters produced by collecting them, mixing, and having learners try to find the subject of each poster, or the posters could be used as the basis for an impromptu mini-presentation.
This activity provides learners with the opportunity to use language at their level, drawing on both verbal and non-verbal resources in a high-energy, communicative environment that provides a boost to both motivation and willingness to speak out. It is also an excellent ice-breaker, and a good way to start a lesson, whilst being flexible enough to work with a variety of topics and lesson goals.