If you’re not familiar with it, the “just a minute” game requires learners to speak on a topic for one minute, without hesitation, deviation or repetition.  It’s based on the BBC Radio 4 panel game of the same name.  Their webpage (see link) features more information on the programme and (via the UK only BBC iPlayer) the chance to listen to the most recent episode.

Also out there is is tribute website just-a-minute.info, where some extremely dedicated people have collated all the possible information you could need on former contestants, topics and even transcripts for the radio show.  Of them all, the topics could be a useful list for use with classes.  Equally, the transcripts might provide some useful language if “mined” appropriately, as well as demonstrating ways of avoiding repetition?

My contribution to all this is the “just-a-minute relay race”.  Basically you have the learners in two teams, and one person from each team comes up and sits in their team’s Hot seat at the front.  Toss a coin to see who starts.  Give the topic. As soon as the speaker is “buzzed out” for hesitation, repetition, deviation, the speaker from the other team takes over for the remainder of the time, as with the panel game.  BUT, the speaker from the first team who got buzzed out is also replaced by the next person from the same team.

Points are awarded for a correct challenge, and to be speaking at the end of the minute (as with the BBC version).

Speaking for a limited amount of time on “unfamiliar” topics and keeping it relevant are all useful “skills” for exam class learners – especially those focusing on FCE / CAE / IELTS / CPE.  A variation, to keep things a bit closer to the FCE / CAE / CPE, might be to use picture prompts & part two questions, instead of the more random topics.  (Though FCE speaking topics are fairly random at the best of times!)