This is a speaking task that encourages students to empathise with other people and try to understand them better. The activity uses a number of visuals of migrants and the students have to imagine they are the person in the picture. The activity is based on themes from the British Council OPENCities project.

Download the worksheet with the images of the people and make enough copies so that each students can have one image.


  • Choose one of the images to model the procedure. Show the students the image of the person you have chosen. Tell them the person is a migrant. Ask if they know what a migrant is and explain if necessary.
  • Ask them to try to guess information about the person in the picture. Here are some question prompts to get them thinking.
    • How does the person feel?
    • What is s/he thinking about?
    • Where did s/he come from/
    • What does s/he do now?
    • How long has s/he been away from their country?
    • How do they feel about the country they left?
    • How does s/he feel about the country s/he lives in now?
    • What problems did s/he have in the new country?
    • Why did s/he leave their country?
    • etc.
  • Try to get your students to imagine as much information as they can, it doesn’t matter if it is correct or not, just let them use their imagination.
  • Now give each student a picture. Tell them that they are the person in the picture and that they should try to imagine what their life is like. Give them some time to think about this and make notes if necessary.
  • Now put them in groups so that each group has a person with a different one of the pictures.
  • Tell the students that they are all at a party and that they should find out about the other people at the party.
  • Give them time to talk in their groups. When they have finished ask them how it felt to be somebody else and ask if they were happy.
  • Ask them which person in each group they thought was the most interesting and why.
  • You could follow this up by a discussion of some of the problems of moving to a new country.


I just can't believe that I can handle my classroom activities with the facts shown in this webpage... I love it...

Asking student to empathise with an unknown person in a picture is a powerful tool. It allows students to relinquish their inhibitions, and releases them to express their views under the protection of a different persona. This technique stems originally, I believe from psychotherapy, and is what I know as 'doubling' of sorts. Those interested in this area would find the work of Mario Rinvolucri, and the team at Pilgrims, Canterbury, Kent. Their resource books have similar activities, which I have used successfully for years, and still do, in Trinidad West Indies. It is a good idea, however, to take into account the different learning style and backgrounds of students before using these materials. Week 1 may not be ideal! Give the group time to get to know each other, and trust each other first.
Go brave!

Dear Nik You were very helpful with your materials at the beginning of the new academic year.  It's a good idea of breaking the ice between the newcomers to the English courses and starting to build friendly and supportive atmosphere in the classroom, especially for those  who are not residents of the city and/or country they are studying in.  This is a good start to build mutual understanding.  Great thanks for the idea! All the best Irina

I think it's really an interesting activity for speaking practice. They can improve their speaking according to their English. In addition, giving students chances to be another person is great for them to experience themselves in their real lives.

Many thanks for all the positive feedback on this activity. I've always really enjoyed using images in the classroom and particularly images of people. The images from the OPENCites project are great for this. I've used quite a few of them for materials around this site, so if you enjoy these activities be sure to check out the other ones. You can find them all listed here: OPENCitiesThanks again.

That's wonderful activity. It makes students to be creative and use their imagination and of course have fun. I loved it.

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