Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Activity Ideas?

I've become sort of involved in this English club, and it's my turn to plan an activity. From what I've seen, the idea is to plan an activity that will give people a lot of chance to practice speaking English with each other about some more or less focused topic.

We've done some mixer type activities, including talking to a partner for a few minutes and then introducing them to the group, and some activities that involve doing a short reading and then discussing it first in small groups and then as a whole.

I could really use some ideas! Does anyone have a new mixer idea? Or a short reading for discussion type idea? Or just a really good "discuss this" idea.

(They don't seem to discuss politics, and I'm perfectly happy to stay away from politics myself, especially since I'm totally clueless about Japanese politics!)


  1. Anonymous4:36 AM

    How good is their english level? YOu could try a variant on Balderdash, perhaps- break them up into pairs or teams, and instead of the Balderdash game kit, use a big fat dictionary and a stack of flashcards.

    You, as the game leader, pick a strange english word- the teams then label their flashcard, and submit a 'meaning'. The aim being to give the most convincing answer, not the correct one. You, meanwhile, write the correct definition, in layman's rather than dictionary terms, on another flashcard, and read them all out.

    Points go to a team on the basis of how many people believe their definition; anyone to correctly identify the REAL definition gets a bonus point.


    You could try 'Two truths and a lie' as a mixer- each person to introduce themselves, say two true things and one lie, about themselves. Points awarded for guessing the lie correctly, and bonus points if no one can tell.

    Hum. Those are the sorts of activities I'd use with teenages or young adults... if these adults are serious-minded, they might not work so well.

  2. You could have them split into teams and debate a topic... then swich sides.

  3. how big is this group?

    when we were in japan, i had some conversation students, a couple; they came to my house and we spent an hour talking each week. one thing they really enjoyed was looking at pictures and talking about them -- something like that might be adaptable to a larger group.

  4. One way to get people to talk who might otherwise hang back is to divide up the group in twos by birthdays - "who's got a birthday in January? - you're together"; give them 3 to 5 minutes to learn as much as they can about each other. Then the group of two gets paired with another group, and the two introduce each other; then the four becomes eight, etc., until the entire group is together. Everyone continues to introduce his/her partner to the ever-increasing group sizes, so everyone has to talk. You could limit what they have to learn to various topics (favorite musical groups, favorite classes in high school, or something silly like favorite superheroes and why...)

    I like the ideas proposed by the nakedphilologist, too. Have fun with this!


  5. Some things I've used to get conversation going (admittedly, with native English speakers):

    1. Your favorite X. Give 3-4 categories (like color, food, place, music) and have the students share answers in pairs or small groups.

    2. Quotes. Have pairs/small groups pick a quote (or two) out of a bag and discuss what it means to them. I usually organize the quotes around some theme so we can come back and talk about that topic as a large group.

    3. Images. Same as quotes (yay to Kathy A. for suggesting that already).

    4. Complete the story. Give pairs/small groups a very short story with the ending removed. Have them write their own ending, then come back full group to share ideas, read the "real" one and discuss.

    Good luck!

  6. something else my students enjoyed was comparing and contrasting holidays and cultural traditions. so, i explained how my family celebrates christmas; they explained bon odori festivals to me; valentine's day is celebrated differently in japan, with women giving gifts to men; etc.

    i was startled to learn how important new year's is in japan. my students said that their daughter was born on 12/31, but they never celebrated that day because they were so busy thoroughly cleaning their house for the new year!

  7. Their English level is quite good, in general. And there are usually 20-30 people there.

    Are there specific pictures you'd have in mind? Comics, maybe?

    I don't want to edge into politics.

    Thanks for your suggestions, folks; I'm still trying to think!

  8. Looking at images in small groups, with each group telling a story about the image.

    One great theme, I think, is "food." If it's really a mixer, could you bring in some snacks or (if the weather/timing is good) take them to a local farmer's market? You also might bring in menus or cookbooks. I find discussions about food to be lively among people from different cultures, and there's always new vocabulary to be learned on the subject.