- Key words: Information gap, pairwork, relay race, prepositions of location
- Learner English Level: Beginner to intermediate
- Learner Maturity Level: High school to university
- Preparation Time: 10 minutes
- Activity Time: 20 minutes
- Materials: Whiteboard/blackboard, plenty of whiteboard pens/chalk, 3-by-5 (inch) index cards
This fast-paced and fun relay race can be used as a follow-up activity to reinforce prepositions of location that the students previously practiced in an information gap activity using a drawing of a room in a house.
In case you're not familiar with the prepositions of location activity using a drawing of a room in a house: Two students, A and B, each have a drawing of a room with furniture. However, student A's drawing has additional objects (a book, radio, newspaper, cat, etc.) placed around the room, while B's doesn't. A's job is to describe the location of these objects to B, using the target prepositions of location, so that B can draw the objects in the correct location. For example, A says, "There's a cat under the table" or "There's a book to the right of the lamp," while student B listens and draws the objects in their correct location. After finishing one illustration, they trade places, with student B describing and A drawing.
Procedure for Follow-up Relay Race
Step 1: Put the students into teams of anywhere from three to six. (Note that if there are too many on a team, players have to wait too long for their turn.)
Step 2: Draw vertical lines to divide the whiteboard into as many sections as there are teams.
Step 3: Show the students a drawing of a room with furniture (the same drawing they used in the prepositions of location activity using a drawing of a room in a house).
Step 4: Have a few members of each team draw a large version of this room on the board (one drawing per team, one drawing on each section of the board).
Step 5: Give each team an equal number of blank index cards, so that each student has about three or four each.
Step 6: Write a few example sentences (e.g., There's a cat behind the sofa; There's a plant to the right of the TV) and target expressions (under, to the right of, behind, at the front, above, etc.) on any open space on the board (these can be erased later).
Step 7: Ask the students to write sentences (like the ones you just wrote on the board) describing locations of objects in the room (one sentence per index card). Tell them to use their imaginations and write sentences placing objects anywhere they like.
Step 8: After a few minutes, each group will have a stack of index cards, each with a sentence describing the location of something in the drawing. The sentences might appear like those in Appendix 1.
Step 9: Have each team hand its stack of index cards, facedown, to another team.
Step 10: The receiving team will place this stack facedown on a desk in front of their drawing on the whiteboard.
Step 11: Tell the students they are going to have a relay race and have each team stand in a line from the board.
Step 12: Ask the person at the front of the line to go to the whiteboard and be the first picture drawer.
Step 13: Ask the second person in line to stand by the stack of cards and be the first card reader.
Step 14: It's probably best for the instructor to give one example by reading a sentence off a sample card while the first picture drawers on each team listen and draw the item in its proper location.
Step 15: Explain or show the relay rotation order: for example, picture drawer runs to back of the line, card reader goes to the whiteboard, and next person in line becomes the card reader. Also, tell students to shout "Finished!" when their team has completed all their cards.
Step 16: Once you're certain everyone understands, shout "Ready, set, go!" and let the race begin!
Step 17: When everyone has finished, have each team return its cards.
Step 18: Have the students compare the sentences on the cards they just received with the corresponding drawing on the board. Tell them to circle the items on the board that are placed correctly and "X" out those they think are not.
Step 19: Ask teams with Xs on their drawing to reread their cards and, if they are in fact mistaken, draw the items in the correct location.
Depending on the class mood, you may want to record the completion times for each team and then subtract time for correct items. The team with the lowest overall time is the winner. That way, the students focus on accuracy as well as speed. Incidentally, if you don't have enough whiteboard pens or chalk in the classroom and don't mind doing a little preparation, instead of having the students draw on the board, you could prepare enlarged photocopies of the drawing to tape to the board or the wall.
This relay race can be used to follow up almost any activity that involves the exchange of information. All that is required for preparation is to have students write the relevant information on index cards and make sure that teams work with cards made by another team so that there is no prior knowledge of the answers. Whatever information is exchanged, the important thing is that the race helps students review and that it's fun.
For a race practicing prepositions of location, students may come up with sentences such as:
- There's a cat behind the sofa.
- There's a book to the right of the vase.
- There's a cushion in front of the sofa.
- There's a picture above the fireplace.
- There's a lamp on the small table.
- There's a radio on the top shelf in the middle.