Interactive introductions

Greg Rouault, Kwansei Gakuin University


Quick guide

  • Keywords: Introductions, cooperative learning, active listening, personalization, open and closed questions
  • Learner English level: Beginner to intermediate
  • Learner maturity: Junior high school to adult
  • Preparation time: 5 minutes
  • Activity time: 20to 50 minutes
  • Materials: Whiteboard, blackboard, or OHP


At the beginning of a new school term, many instructors will be looking for ways to capitalize on the curiosity of some of their students and make the introductions on the first day of classes more interactive. In addition, many EFL/ESL teachers will want to take the earliest opportunity to demonstrate the nature of communicative tasks in their classroomand set the expectations for learners to participate using the L2. These initial class experiences and first impressions are very important not only to set the tone but also to lower the affective filter for tense or shy learners faced with a new teacher and unfamiliar classmates. Learners experiencing a foreign language class for the first time or adult students returning to the classroom present additional challenges, especially where the teacher might not be able to (or want to) communicate in the first language of the learners. This activity is designed to set the learners up for success and allow the instructor to begin to assess the level and needs of the class participants.


Select 8-12 points of information about yourself that you are happy to reveal and share with your students. The information should be brief, limited to one or two words or numbers. Since the students will build their closed questions around these details, care should be taken to include topics that require a range of different words for forming  questions (see Appendix 1 for topic samples).


Step 1: Write out the answer stems from Appendix 2 on the right side of the whiteboard/blackboard or on an OHP transparency.

Step 2: Elicit the open ended Wh- questions that fit the stems and record them on the left. Elicit additional Wh- questions.

Step 3: In pairs, have the students ask and answer the question-answer sets.

Step 4: Promote active listening by then having the students introduce their partner to another pair. If remembering content proves difficult, repeat Step 3.

Step 5: Elicit words that begin yes/no closed questions and record them on the board or OHP.

Step 6: Present the 8-12 topics for your introduction on the board or OHP. Have students work in groups of 3-6 to write closed questions that they believe will receive a yes response based on your introduction.

Step 7: Have each group in sequence ask questions from their list to earn points in a team game. Points are awarded based on correct question forms that get a yes response from you. Depending on the level of the class, you might write out their questions next to the words from Step 5.

Step 8: Each student then prepares a list of 3-8 of their own personal introduction topics depending on the time available. Ideally, students would move around the room to meet their new classmates andintroduce themselves using questions and answers based on these topics.


  • Lower level classes may need to preview the grammar for the third person structures required in Step 4 and can also benefit from repeated trials according to the time available.
  • The initial steps can be tailored to higher class or individual levels with a focus on liaison and elision in natural speech, or can be supplemented with a range of production tasks including additional questions, such as What is your first name/nickname/major?
  • Common errors in grammatical form or natural English can be collected and reviewed afterwards to demonstrate how corrections in communicative activities can be dealt with during the course.
  • Points of culture or lifestyle can be explained in your answers or introduced for follow up discussions as appropriate for the level of the class.


Along with the scaffolding provided through collaboration with peers in group work while preparing the questions, this activity includes (a) the elicitation of current knowledge, (b) guided pair work exercises, and (c) an approach for managing corrections. The questions are also adaptable for interaction at different learner levels and provide for varying degrees of personalization. These interactive introductions also afford students the opportunity to pick up interesting details about their teacher and classmates, giving them something to build upon further in future communication tasks during the term.


The appendix for this article is available below: