No speaking, please

Patrick Miller, Chubu University


Quick guide

  • Key words:Guided writing, questions/answers, first-day activity, introductions
  • Learner English level:Intermediate and above
  • Learner Maturity level:High school/university
  • Preparation time:15 minutes
  • Activity time:1.5 hrs
  • Materials:Activity instructions, model composition


Looking for an activity that guarantees 90 minutes of continuous language production? Here’s a novel activity that accomplishes this without requiring students to speak; in fact, it actually forbids students from speaking! I have used it principally as a first-day activity at any level, but it can be designed for a variety of purposes: for brainstorming, reviewing or assessing knowledge of class material, providing guided pattern practice, or writing under a time constraint. It gets students involved quickly in a memorable class activity, and provides a sheltered forum for students less inclined to “open up” in class.


Step 1:Prepare one copy of the instructions for each student. Optional: teachers may include a model composition (see Appendix A). The instructions below are designed for first-day introductions. You can fashion the topics to meet your particular needs, as in Appendix B.


Step 1:Distribute the activity instructions. Allow time for students to read and understand them. Make sure each student has lined paper for writing.


Student Instructions: No Speaking, Please

  1. 1. Do not talk during this activity. Take out a piece of paper and a pencil or pen.
  2. 2. Look around the room for a classmate you do not already know, and move so that you are sitting next to that person.
  3. You will have 30 minutes to find out as much as possible about each other by writing questions and answers to each other. For example, you ask your partner a question by writing it on your paper. Your partner does the same thing. Then exchange papers, and write answers to your questions. Use the topics below and your own ideas.









English study











Your Ideas








4. After 30 minutes, you should be ready to write a composition about your partner, using the information you have just learned.

5. When both partners finish writing, exchange compositions and read what your partner wrote about you. Change any information that is not correct. Be prepared to introduce your partner to the class.

Step 2:Model the Q-A activity (student instructions, step 3).Based on the topics, write a question on your paper, pass it to a student “partner,” and gesture for the student to write a response. The “partner” does the same on his sheet, writing his question and passing it to the teacher for response.

Step 3:Students begin the activity by sitting next to a classmate they do not already know for the Q-A exchanges. The teacher should circulate to ensure students are on task. Caution: some students may be tempted to create a list of questions and pass them to their partner; make sure students exchange papers after each question. If some students are tempted to talk during the activity, emphasize the “No Speaking” rule.

Step 4:At the end of the Q-A period, students can begin writing a paragraph or composition based on the responses from their partner (student instructions, step 4). I like to make a model composition available for lower level classes (see Appendix A).

Step 5:Students exchange paragraphs, read, and react (student instructions, step 5). Teachers could introduce a peer writing feedback form at this point.

Step 6:Time permitting, students are finally allowed to speak! Have students do oral introductions of their partner to the class. To prevent students from reading their paragraphs and to save time, have students present the name and two or three interesting facts about their partner.


In the next class meeting, students work in pairs or groups to correct a worksheet containing the most frequent or glaring errors gathered from the “No Speaking, Please” activity (see Appendix C).

If not addressed in Step 5 above, you could introduce editing symbols and a feedback form. Students can provide feedback on a classmate’s writing.


This fun activity is guaranteed to result in a steady stream of focused, uninterrupted language production, even from students of lesser competency. Who would have thought silence could be so productive!

Appendices: Available below..