While it is true that some language exercises are structured in a way that lends itself to a single-language use, today’s post will not be about them.
I would like to share an exercise I love for its versatility, flexibility and the ability to engage students. You can use it to practise speaking as well as writing. And, of course, it will work in any language.
Close to zero preparation
● Display sets of 2 sheets of paper around the classroom (on the board, walls, or windows). I use jumbo sticky notes, but you can go for ordinary A4 sheets and reusable adhesive.
● You need as many sets as there are pairs / groups of three. Students write a topic on top of the first sheet (e.g. being an only child, attending a single-sex school having a pet), etc. One card has a + on it, the other one –.
Brainstorming, or students in action …
● Two or three students stand next to each topic sheet and, when given a sign, start listing the pros and cons of a given topic. Only one person has a pen. Allow 2-3 minutes for this.
● Then, at your sign, students move right to the next topic. Give them time to read the arguments and to add their own. They will run out of the most obvious arguments after a while and will have to think deeper or look at the issue from a different perspective.
● Students continue until they return to their original set.
From writing to speaking, or discussion in action…
● You can mix the students up again or leave them in the same groups. At this point I give them a list of phrases used to express opinions, to agree and disagree, but it is optional.
● Students start a conversation in pairs / groups of three using
arguments from the sheets in front of them and expressions from the handout mentioned above. We remind them that they can add new arguments which come up during the conversation.
Allow about 2-3 minutes for each topic, and then ask them to move to another discussion point.
● There are two ways the debate can be done. The first one gives students
more freedom; they simply voice their opinions, trying to understand their friend’s point of view and respond to it. The other option allows the first student to talk about pros and the other one only about cons.
● Students can either be given the choice of the version they want to work on, or they can be asked to alternate between both formats. In the third option the teacher chooses the type of debating style to be followed at a given moment.
From speaking to writing, or here comes the essay…
● Collect the sheets with the arguments prepared by students and hide them in a safe place; they will come in handy when writing for and against essays.
● Depending on the needs, all students will either write an essay on the same topic or each student or a pair of students will be able to make their own choice.
● You can also keep those lists of ideas for future reference when their language skills are much better. Have them improve the arguments using vocabulary and structures they have learnt in the meantime. Perhaps they will be able to add some new arguments?
Author: Ewa Torebko