A flood of conversation


If you need your students to practise speaking about a specific topic, here’s a simple idea you may use in class.

Let’s say you want your learners to talk about natural disasters. What a great topic to start the new year! 🙂

First, think of some words related to the topic (e.g. landslide, hurricane, tornado, flood, etc.) and write them on separate cards. Alternatively, you can elicit the words from your class.

Put Ss into pairs. It’s ideal if you have as many pairs as you have words but if you teach a really small class, you can simply give each pair more cards. By the way, you don’t even have to prepare any cards – you can simply put the words on the board and say what word each pair should work on. By having the vocabulary items on display all the time, your student will remember them better (if that’s your aim).

Now, ask each pair to copy their word vertically on a separate piece of paper. I’ve chosen the word flood to illustrate the activity. For each letter of the word, Ss have to think of a new word. It’s similar to making a crossword except that each new word has to be connected with the original word. To what degree it will be connected is totally up to the students but the less obvious the connection, the better.


When they have finished (hopefully all at approximately the same time), Pair 1 sends their product to Pair 2, who sends theirs to Pair 3, etc. Now, each pair’s task is to guess how the new words are connected with the original word. For example, they may say this:

  1. When there is a flood, lots of things float on the surface.
  2. The land is soaked with water and it becomes muddy. 
  3. Floods happen when it rains heavily or when all the snow suddenly melts in the mountains. 
  4. The rain pours down and the rivers start rising.  
  5. An area can be flooded after a dam cracks open. 


Later on, Pair 2 sends the crossword to Pair 3, Pair 3 sends theirs to Pair 4, etc., and the activity can go on as long as you need. Eventually, some students may want to have a few things clarified, especially if they couldn’t find any connections with the original word. Let them ask the authors of the words they had trouble with. This will generate some more discussion.

As you can see, your students will learn a lot without actually being taught. With just a few prompts, they will produce heaps of meaningful language and interesting vocabulary and grammar items will pop up along the way. The best thing is that the quality of the output will always depend on their level proficiency so you needn’t worry that it might be too easy or too difficult for a particular class.



About Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages for almost 25 years and I still love my job. You can find out more about my passion here on my blog.
This entry was posted in Dogme teaching, Speaking, Teaching ideas, Trying out something new, Vocabulary. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to A flood of conversation

  1. Marc says:

    This is such a good idea. It could even be used as a pre-task before something like reporting extreme weather or talking about the effects of climate change. It would even be possible to throw in a news text or video clip to follow it up.


  2. This is such a simple, yet effective activity. Thank you very much for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Really meaningful and practical, thanks for ideas Hana. Well done!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Angie Conti says:

    This is a really ‘why didn’t I think of that moment’! Brilliant idea, versatile and easy to set up. Thanks so much!!

    Liked by 1 person

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