I’ve found it can be a good option for classes with shy students, or groups who have become bored with traditional pair-work activities. Requiring only minimum preparation and just a little moving around of furniture, this activity can be used with learners at all levels.
You will need a list of 8-10 questions which encourage your students to speak about themselves/give their own opinions, and which could be discussed for a few minutes each.
You should also think about how to arrange your classroom so that students are sitting in rows lined up to face another row, with enough room for them to get up and change places.
- I arrange the classroom so that chairs are lined up in a row with another row directly facing them. Space permitting, I put all the desks to one side, though this isn’t essential. Large classes can be set up with several sets of rows.
- I ask students to find a seat. For an odd number of students, I add an extra chair at the end of one row, making a ‘threesome’.
- I explain to students that they will have a chance to speak with different students and to develop their fluency. They will discuss the question on the board for several minutes until I say ‘change’. They will then get a new question and also change partners. To change, students in one row stay in the same place, whilst those in the opposite row move along one space every time.
- I write the first question on the board, reading it aloud if not all students can see it, and ask them to start speaking. Soon everybody is engrossed in conversation, finding ways to communicate with their partner, despite all the surrounding noise.
- After two/three minutes, I tap on the board and ask students to ‘change’. Students on one row each move down a seat, with the person in the last position moving back up to the top of that row.
- Students ‘greet’ their new partner as I board the next question, and then start speaking again.
- In my experience students are happy to keep talking, and it is up to the teacher how much speaking practice s/he feels the students need and how many questions to give. Twenty minutes is usually appropriate.
- Whilst they are speaking I listen to/observe individual learners from the back of the room. I don’t get involved in the conversations; however, if I see that students don’t have much to say for any particular question, I move onto the next one, though this rarely seems necessary.
- At the end, I do a short feedback session, for example asking students which question they most enjoyed discussing. Feedback could also focus on error correction, an opportunity to pick up on problems common to several learners.
- For teachers with access to an OHP, an alternative to boarding each question is to prepare the questions on a transparency to be projected, using a piece of card to ‘unveil’ one question at a time.