(I thought it might be helpful to readers and myself if I described some of my favorite activities from time to time. See all my ESL Activity Corner posts here.)
This activity works best with at least ten participants. It’s a great communicative activity, and makes use of a lot of speaking and listening.
Its logistics are inspired by speed dating, but it’s classroom-appropriate.
In this set-up, students are organized in such a way that with very efficient movement, students can switch conversation partners quickly. If you have enough space, students will form two concentric circles. If you have limited space, they’ll form two lines instead.
It really lends itself well to fluency practice, because it’s very high-energy, fast, and noisy – not conducive to careful concentration!
Since partners are switched so quickly, it also lends itself to repetitious practice.
- Decide what you want the students to practice. See below for ideas. This is a flexible exercise – make it work for you!
- Write prompts on cards if needed. For repetitious practice, just write the one prompt on the board.
- In class, describe what students will be practicing. “We are going to do an activity to practice ____.” Maybe even write the purpose on the board.
- Explain that in this activity, you will have many fast conversations with many people. When you hear the signal, you will get a new conversation partner.
- Model, especially less advanced classrooms. (see below)
- Help students get into formation! This will be two concentric circles or two lines. Either way, the students in one circle/line will face the students in the other circle/line.
- Remind them of the purpose. Remind them of the signal sound. Remind them which circle/line moves.
- Sound the signal and have everyone start!
- Stay nearby to watch, listen, and prompt.
- Keep signaling the partners to switch as appropriate.
Click for an example where we practiced a verb tense and adverbs of frequency. We had 23 students in Intermediate community English and we used prompt cards.
Below is an example of how to use this for repetitious practice, plus how to model the activity.
In a beginner class, I wanted students to practice introducing themselves again and again. We had already practiced dialogs and vocabulary from the textbook – we just needed to get more comfortable now.
For this class, I definitely had to model the activity. After I explained the purpose and what we’d be doing, I brought four volunteer students to the front of the room and had them stand along the board. I wrote “Hello! My name is ____” on the board and then introduced myself to the first student until my signal went off (I set my cell phone alarm for 15 seconds for this example). As soon as it went off, I stepped sideways to the next person and began again with the prompt. I repeated this with each of the four students up front.
Next, we needed the students to be in formation. I helped six form the inner circle. Then I asked the other six students one by one to stand in facing a specific student. I told them specifically, “Ahmed is your first partner,” “Amal is your first partner,” to try to make the abstract concrete.
Since this was a beginner class, I also had them practice changing partners. We were in a smallish space so I had only the inner circle move. I had my signal go off and the inner circle students all stepped to their left. I had the signal go again and the inner students stepped to the left again.
Then I reminded them that we were practicing introducing ourselves. The outer students would begin. “Hello, my name is ___. What’s your name? Nice to meet you!”
“One, two, three, talk!”
When they went all the way around, we switched to having the inner students initiate the conversation.
This was a lot of set-up time! It was also a lot of repeating the same thing, but the interesting format made it pretty fun and less like a drill.
- a grammar form
- general get-to-know-you conversation
- a specific piece of conversation (i.e. introduce yourself, ask where mens’ shoes are at the store, etc.)
- vocabulary words
- prompts can be pictures or objects (or words, of course)