Show-and-Tell—Within Reach

Claire Ryan

Quick Guide:

  • Keywords: Warm-up activity, online lesson, show-and-tell
  • Learner English level: All levels
  • Learner maturity: Elementary and above
  • Preparation time: 0-2 minutes
  • Activity time: 5-10 minutes
  • Materials: Show-and-tell item

Recent times have brought unprecedented changes, and nowhere is that more apparent than in education. As lessons move from in-class to online and participants struggle to get a handle on new technology, it can feel difficult to create a connection through a screen. In my experience, modifying some common classroom warm-up activities to be suited for an online environment has been invaluable in getting students engaged and motivated to learn online.

This activity is a variation on the classic kids’ game where students choose an item to present. The goal of the activity is to get students speaking English freely in a fun and relaxed environment before getting down to the day’s lesson topic. It can work well for both children and adult learners, and it is easy to introduce and play along with for all ability levels.


No preparation required.


Step 1: Have students choose an item that is within reach of their computer. They should not leave their seat to do this.

Step 2: Set a timer for a duration of your choice. One minute is enough for younger students; older teens and adult learners could be challenged to speak for longer.

Step 3: Ask students to show their item on screen and describe it to the other participants. Whether it’s a mousepad, coffee cup, or the family’s pet cat who happened to wander into the frame, having students speak on the topic for a set time will provide a fun way to get warmed up and keep everyone’s attention.

Step 4: (Optional) For higher level students, they can be encouraged to provide additional details, such as why they like or dislike the item, where they bought it, or how long they have had it.

Step 5: At the end of the allotted time, choose other students in the group to share one fact about the item that was presented.


Option 1: The activity could be extended by playing a memory game. When the first student has finished describing their item, other students could be called on to tell as much as they can remember about it.

Option 2: Another fun option could be to create a guessing game. The student describes their item as before, but without showing it on camera or saying what it is. The other participants can guess what they think it is, with the winner earning a point.

Option 3: Twenty questions. The presenter chooses an item but doesn’t show it to the class. Participants ask closed questions about the item, for example, “Is it a household item?”, “Can you eat it?” and so on. When a total of 20 questions have been asked, the participants must make their guess about what the item is. The winner with the correct guess then takes a turn at presenting their item next.


A relaxed and engaging warm-up activity is always a great way to get the ball rolling in a lesson, especially for students who may be reluctant to speak up. The added element of the new online environment means that students need a push to speak more than ever, if we are to create a good connection. This activity makes it easy to create a fun learning environment, with the many variations offering the possibility of tailoring it to suit kids or adults, and beginner or advanced students. In my experience, the question-and-answer style of the 20 questions game really gets students engaged with each other, with participants vying to ask the best question that will help win the round.