Getting Students to Talk to Each Other (Rather than Just the Teacher)

This game/activity has a little back story to it. As most of you know (I hope), I teach English to Japanese children. We do focus on reading and writing, but our main point of interest is conversation. The belief is that students can attain reading/writing skills later on (through books, the internet, and forms of popular Americanized media), but if they don’t start with a solid conversational base in English, they might not get the opportunity to learn that later on (since they don’t really have a chance to speak English a lot in Japan). In my larger classes, I was at a loss as to how to get students to speak not just to me, but to each other. That’s when I came up with this simple and easy game/activity.

What you’ll need: a small piece of paper for every student, maybe color pencils, a timer, and students (more than 4-5)

Step 1: Teach the vocabulary and sentence patterns your students are learning. This can be through a quick game, a review of flashcards, say and repeat activities, a gesture + vocabulary activity, or anything that works. For the sake of this example, let’s pretend students are learning vegetables, as well as the sentence pattern “I like____.” and “What fruit/vegetable do you like?”

Step 2: Once students know the sentence pattern(s) well enough and have some vocabulary to work with, distribute a small piece of paper to each student. If they can read/write, have them draw a vegetable, then write their vegetable’s name underneath. If they can’t read/write, just have them draw.

Step 3: Demonstrate the activity. Take an example card that you made and call one of your stronger and more confident students up (with their card). Show your card and say: “I like (whatever is on your card). What do you like?” The student must then respond with: “I like (whatever is on their card).” Then, switch cards. Seek out another stronger student and say: “I like (whatever is on your new card). What do you like?” They must respond with: “I like (whatever is on their card).” Then, switch cards again.

Step 4: By this point, students should more or less understand what they are to do. Just in case, though, have them practice with whoever is sitting next to them. Observe how the activity is going by circulating through the room. Help those who need it and encourage those who are doing good.

Step 5: Set your timer for 5 minutes (or however many minutes you feel you need) and tell students they have to ask as many different people as possible. Allow them to walk around the room freely. It will be fun to see them go. Once the timer goes off, they must return to their seats. Of course, make sure you are supervising the activity while it’s happening and helping those who need it.

Step 6: Ask students what vegetable they like once they are back at their desks (as a review of what was just done). They will have fun sharing what’s on their new card!


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