A More Effective Way to Induce Conversation

Shaun Iwasawa, Kaichi Gakuen

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Speaking, question comprehension, follow-up questions    
  • Learner English level: Middle school to university level  
  • Learner maturity: Middle school to high school
  • Preparation time: 0-20 minutes 
  • Activity time: 10-25 minutes
  • Materials: Questions and follow-up question cards

A common problem associated with free speaking activities is keeping students on-task and using the target language. This activity keeps students focused through rotation, clearly outlined task goals and, of course, rock-paper-scissors. It can be adjusted to any level and geared toward specific grammar points or vocabulary. 


Step 1: Choose a topic, grammar point, or vocabulary words. 

Step 2: For higher level or energetic students, decide on a topic and have students yell out questions based on the topic. Write these on the board. For students for whom this would be difficult, prepare cards with questions and follow-up questions. Avoid yes-no questions.   


Step 1: Arrange the desks in a row or rows in the room and have students pair off before standing on either side of each desk. Having students stand keeps the activity flowing smoothly. If you have made cards, give each pair a card.

Step 3: Have students play rock-paper-scissors. The winner chooses a question from the board or reads the question card aloud. 

Step 4: The partner gives an answer using a complete sentence.

Step 5: Instruct students to rotate and repeat the activity with their new partner. 

Step 6: After the first round, introduce the follow-up questions. Depending on the level of the class and how long you want to run the activity, students can simply ask the winner the question or the winner can require the loser to provide further information. For instance, if a student asks, “What is your favorite food?” and the answer is, “Ramen,” a follow-up question might be, “What flavor ramen do you like?” The one asked the question should then reciprocate.


This activity keeps students focused through structure, physical movement, and high-paced pair rotation. A further advantage is that it can be adjusted to any level or be structured to review a specific grammar point or vocabulary. It is easy to prepare and can be used as a warm-up or 20-25 minute activity.