This is a very simple activity, but its an excellent way to get to know new students and is highly adaptable for use with new language, revision and more. I first saw this idea in a training session by Dave Cleary, my DOS at ILC IH Brno.
Before the lesson, write a set of six, level appropriate prompts. Here’s an example for an upper-intermediate class:
- A place you’ve never been, that you’d like to visit
- Something you’ve never done, that you’d like to try
- Your favourite place in your home town/city
- The best holiday you’ve ever had
- Something fun that you did in the last couple of years
- What you do to relax
In the lesson, give each student a plain A4 piece of paper and say that you’re going to ask them to draw six pictures on the page. Read each prompt and give students 30 seconds or so to draw a quick sketch for each. Encourage students to use the space and fill the page by the end. If students only finish five drawings, or can’t think of an answer for one or two of the prompts, that’s fine.
Put students in pairs or groups of three and tell them to ask each other questions about their drawings. In my example, with upper-intermediate students, I told students to ask follow up questions if they were only given short answers. I also demonstrated this with an example, showing that I was interested in the responses:
Me – “Sue, why did you draw someone walking on a hill?”
S – “I want to go hiking in Canada.”
M – “Do you go hiking a lot?”
S – “Yes. If the weather’s good I go hiking most weekends.”
M – “Could you recommend some places to go for walks nearby?”
S – “Absolutely, …”
After students have discussed all, or most, of their partner’s pictures, ask them to swap their pieces of paper and change partners. The next step is for students to explain their previous partner’s pictures.
Collect the drawings and get students to change partners one more time. Ask them to talk about what interesting new things they learned about their classmates and what they drew themselves.
At the end of the lesson, or at the start of the next one, put the drawings around the room and ask students to walk around in pairs, discussing what they remember. Encourage students to ask each other questions if there’s anything that they didn’t find out during the main activity.
Adaptations and additional steps
You can use this activity with a wide variety of ages and levels, provided you write appropriate prompts and scaffold the speaking task for lower levels. In the same week I used it with elementary younger learners and an advanced adult class.
Prompts for younger learners included: ‘Draw your favourite animal’, ‘draw your favourite subject at school’, ‘draw your favourite sport’.
With bigger classes, you can add an additional mingle stage before feedback. This gives students an opportunity to see more drawings and take advantage of the additional language that they’ve produced as a class.
When I first saw this activity, Dave Cleary presented it as a grammar revision tool, where each of the prompts used the target language. You can read about it on the ILC IH Brno blog. He mentions a few great adaptations that I won’t spoil here.
There’s definitely scope to expand this activity as a way to plan a piece of writing, lead-in to a particular topic and more.
Thanks for reading!