- Keywords: Communication skills, follow-up questions, providing information
- Learner English Level: Intermediate and above
- Learner Maturity: High school and above
- Preparation time: 0
- Activity time: 10-20 minutes
- Materials: Digital or physical writing capability
Many students are satisfied to give short answers when asked about something such as their vacation, for example, but this interactive speaking activity is an opportunity to show how much richer and natural a conversation can be when extra information is shared in an answer. That extra information can be volunteered, or obtained through asking follow-up questions; another important conversation skill which this activity focuses on.
The purpose of this activity is twofold: to warm up students with simple and guided speaking roles, and to improve some basic but natural communication skills, namely, providing more information than a short answer, and asking follow-up questions. It provides a good opportunity to stress the importance of these two skills and encourage their use more frequently.
Step 1: In a notebook or tablet, have each student write a simple sentence, for example, something they did during the vacation or the weekend. A simple sentence works well for this activity. Example: I went shopping.
Step 2: If this is the first time doing this activity, demonstrate the following process with a couple of volunteers.
Step 3: Arrange students into two standing lines facing each other. In the case of an uneven number, a teacher can easily participate.
Step 4: Have one student in each facing pair (S1) read their sentence to the student opposite them (S2).
Step 5: Tell S2 to ask a follow-up question. Example: Did you buy something?
Step 6: After S1 has answered the question verbally, get them to write that information after their initial sentence. Example: I went shopping. I bought a phone case.
Step 7: Switch and repeat, with S2 reading their sentence, S1 asking a follow-up question, and S2 responding while adding that answer to their original sentence in their notes.
Step 8: Rotate the students so everyone has a new partner.
Step 9: Repeat from step 2, except this time, S1 will read not only their original sentence, but also the additional sentence. In this way, the opening statements presented by each student will increase over time, and follow-up questions will become more specific.
For example, questions asked by new partners might include, “Did you go shopping by yourself?” “Where did you go shopping?” “What kind of phone case did you buy?” “Was the phone case expensive?” By the end of the activity, S1 might have something like: I went shopping in Tokyo with my friend. I bought a clear phone case. It wasn’t expensive.
This activity can easily be done in a smaller group by taking turns to ask follow-up questions.
This is a simple activity which can fit in almost any communicative class. While it could be used simply as a filler for ten or fifteen minutes, there is a worthwhile opportunity for the instructor to stress the techniques used here for students’ daily use to level up their own communicative ability, to encourage students to share more than just one short sentence as an answer to questions, and to ask follow-up questions from information shared with them.