(I thought it might be helpful to readers and myself if I described some of my favorite activities from time to time. Update: See all my ESL Activity Corner posts here.)
The purpose of a chain drill is for students to practice accuracy with a very targeted language point through speaking and listening. It is usually interactive in a very prescriptive way. It also usually involves sitting or standing in a circle, which means that it changes students’ locations a bit, which is always good.
The title “Chain Drill” sounds extremely serious and perhaps a little sinister, but it usually feels more like a game.
On Tuesday 10/26 we used a chain drill to practice asking and answering the question, “How old ___ _____ _____?” or for example, “How old are your parents?”
We sat in our chairs in a circle. I told them that we would be practicing asking “How old is “ someone in their family and answering, “(s)he is 40.”
I turned to the student to my right. I asked, “How old is your mother?” She answered, “She’s 70.” Great! Now the student who answered me asked the student to her right, “How old is your [father]?”. The questions and answers continued around the whole circle.
Then we changed the task a little. This time, we asked and answered using “How old are” questions about multiple people in the family. For example, “How old are your siblings?”
This is a great activity for practicing verb tenses and verb declinations, simple scripted questions and answers (Hi, how are you? Fine, and you?), and simple genuine questions and answers (What was your major in college? Biology.)
One modification is to also use a “random relevant word generator”, A.K.A. a hat that you’ve put some appropriate words into.
For example, when I wanted my summer Intermediate class to practice asking questions in Present Continuous, I used a hat full of verbs. On a student’s turn, he picked a verb from the hat and asked the student to his right a question using it in Present Continuous.