This is an activity I did with with an intermediate group of young learners – who absolutely loved it. It led to what was easily the longest conversations they’d had in English all year. It probably wouldn’t take much to adapt it to higher levels or older classes.
This came as a freer practice activity after we’d already dealt with the input – in this case we’d been working with:
- to + infinitive
- in order to + infinitive
- so (that) + subject & clause
I asked the class to write down five things they’d done today and five places they’d been to recently (but not today).
I then asked them to build these out into sentences with time references. e.g. “This morning I brushed my teeth.” / “Last weekend I went to the park.”
Once they had their sentences I picked one of the stronger students and asked him to tell me one of his sentences. Our conversation went like this:
- John, tell me one of your sentences.
- Uh. OK. Last week I went to the theatre.
- Why did you go to the theatre?
- It was a school trip. I had to.
- Why did you have to?
- Because the school made me,
- Why did they make you?
….. and so on.
You may have noticed this modelling didn’t lead to much production of the target language. But at this point the rest of the class knew what was expected of them. I drew their attention to the target language and told them to try and use it. I also told them they would get one point as soon as their partner gave up, said “I don’t know” or told them to shut up (or similar). I then put them into groups of three and off they went!
As I said, the class loved it. They really went for it and some die hards were still on their first sentence after about five minutes. I noticed some students were using the target language, some weren’t, but they were all speaking English and were really on task and engaged. I think in future I’d set a time limit per sentence of two or three minutes, after which the victim wins a point, to try and avoid one student over-dominating the group.
Clauses of reason and purpose and result come into a lot of exam books, so this could be a nice change of pace for some of those classes.
Enjoy, try it out and let me know what you think!