Conversation Builder: MASH

Kevin Tang, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Conversation, future
  • Learner English level: High beginner and above
  • Learner maturity: Junior high school (second year) through adult
  • Preparation time: 10 minutes
  • Activity time: 20 to 30 minutes
  • Materials: Worksheets (see appendix) and pencils, black/white board, chalk or markers

Mansion Apartment Shack House, aka MASH, is an activity used to ‘predict’ future events, such as who someone will marry, what car they are going to drive, where they will live, and in what kind of structure. Connecting a series of statements is important practice for any sort of real conversation to take place. Though students may be hesitant to add more to a conversation, if they are engaged in a context of a possible future scenario they might be more motivated to share their ‘future dreams.’ Not only does this exercise help students become familiar with certain target vocabulary, but it also allows them to be creative by practicing the use of future tense. It could be expanded to talk about more concrete plans or goals.


Step 1: Design a worksheet with the word MASH as its masthead. Beneath MASH, create five categories with rows for four answers each. Also, draw small boxes for ‘Age’ and ‘Number.’

Step 2: Include an example sentence on the lower half of the worksheet so that learners can follow the pattern and write their own sentences that summarize their ‘future.’ 

Step 3: Prepare a list of answers for lower-level students to choose from.

Step 4: Project or draw a rough example of the upper portion of the worksheet on the board in order to show learners how to do the counting. (See Procedure Step 4.)


Step 1: Explain to the students that they are going to foresee a possible future.

Step 2: Students pair up as directed by the instructor, then work together to elicit answers for each category (e.g., Who will you marry? Who do you like?) of the worksheet.

Step 3: The questionee chooses a random age and a number from three to 10, and then roles are switched.

Step 4: Once worksheets are completed, each student uses the chosen number (three to 10) as a counter to eliminate the other choices. It helps to show learners how the counting/elimination is done on the board. The counting starts (first and only once) with M in MASH and goes around through each item in the categories. For example, if four is the chosen number then every fourth item gets crossed out. Repeat counting until only one answer in each category is left. Skip over items already eliminated.

Step 5: Once completed there are several options: 

  • Students can read out the results to each other, exchange to read on their own, or ask each other in an interview.
  • For higher-level students, they can work on changing the sentences into the future real conditional.
  • For advanced students, they can practice expressing futurity with modals.


This activity assists learners in having conversations regarding possible future actions. Additionally, the asking and answering of information (WH) questions will strengthen the students’ listening and speaking skills by helping to build competency and fluency. The activity can be modified so that students can also practice asking about normal future activities such as plans for the weekend. The default for the amount of information in each category is currently four. However, the amount and number of categories can be adjusted to suit the situation.


The appendix for this article is available below: