Today I would like to share with you an activity I love to do in both 1:1 and group classes. I love it because it has three very special ingredients that few activities have all combined:

  1. it’s flexible, it can be adapted to almost any level and any class;
  2. it’s fun, so far all my students, teenagers and adults, have enjoyed it;
  3. it’s materials-light and conversation-driven, which make it perfect for many different purposes (warm-up, speaking practice, tenses revision… More on this later on).

The activity, which I called Something I…, was inspired by reading Luke Meddings and Scott Thornbury’s Teaching Unplugged, and in particular by their activity Something we did (page 36). Here it is.

How to run the activity

I usually start by drawing on the board a table with eight numbered cells, but the number can vary according to your class size or how long you want the activity to last. With eight cells, I can run the activity for almost a whole one-hour lesson with 1:1 students for example.

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I then ask the student/s to draw the exact same table in their notebook, while I fill each cell with the end of the phrase starting with “something I…”.

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I then give the student/s 2-3 minutes to complete the table (if this is a 1:1 lesson I’ll do it too), writing in every cell one activity that reflects what the cell says. For example, in cell number 4 something I enjoy doing with my friends I could write “go to the pub” or “chat”. It is important at this point to tell the students that the things they are going to write are not to be shared with their classmates, otherwise the rest of the activity becomes pointless.

After all the students have finished writing something on at least most of the cells, the speaking can start. If you have a big class, I suggest dividing it into smaller groups, otherwise it is fun to do it O/C. Each student tells the class / group one of the activities they have written on their table, for example “chat”. The rest of the class has to guess which cell the activity belongs to (if appropriate I ask them to articulate the question “Is it something you…?”). The person who guesses correctly has to ask at least two follow-up questions.

Variations and use

As you can see, the activity can be easily adapted to your class by changing what you write on the table. You can also choose who is going to ask the follow-up questions, give time to the students to write them down before they ask them (for elementary classes) or even divide the class into teams and keep score of who guesses correctly — I have never tried it this way though.

So far I used this activity:

  • in 1:1 classes as ice-breaker;
  • during conversation classes: talking about you, your experience and life is always motivating and never fails to get students talking;
  • as a revision activity for more advanced classes (as on the example above) to revise different tenses and sentence structures;
  • in a dogme lesson to manage conversation and create opportunities for language to emerge — language which we will later discuss and fine-tune together.

If you try it in class, or decide to use in a different context/stage of you lesson, please leave a comment below to let me know how it went and any changes or variations you made. I hope you’ll like it as I do!