I’m happy to announce that my bank of no-prep classroom tips has just been extended by one more activity. Earlier today, I had a group of 12-year-olds who desperately needed some speaking practice (I thought). The trouble is that with young kids, the range of topics for free speaking practice is rather limited so I had to rack my brains a bit before I came up with a meaningful, engaging activity which would fit into my plan.
Luckily I remembered the classic, information-gap type of activity called Describe and Draw – Student A describes a picture to Student B and Student B draws what Student A is describing without looking at the picture. I normally ask students to choose images from the coursebook, but this time, unfortunately, there were no suitable visuals they wouldn’t already be familiar with.
So I searched the internet and found this page with lots of great stuff for younger children. I deliberately chose pictures crammed with people and objects of all sorts.
I adjusted the seating arrangement so that Student A could see the screen above the board but Students B couldn’t. I projected the first picture.
Student A then described all the scene using English only while Student B sketched as much as possible according to Student A’s instructions.
After they finished (this phase lasted for approximately 10 minutes), Student B was allowed to look at the screen. Needless to say, most of them stared in utter amazement at the original image – the artists were obviously shocked by what appeared in front of them in contrast with what they had just produced. Anyway, then I asked the students to swap seats and now Student B described a new picture to Student A.
I noticed immediately that the atmosphere changed a bit the second time – the artists, as well as the speakers, concentrated on the task a bit more and they started working more systematically. Both times, they used plenty of gestures and they also worked with dictionaries which I had provided earlier on. Also, I heard them ask for clarification from time to time. The situation was complicated by the fact that the partners sat opposite each other so the speakers actually saw a mirror image of what they were describing. However, based on my observations, this was not a big issue. To the contrary, it required even more clarification strategies and thus more speaking practice.
Quite naturally, the students used some useful language points, such as prepositions of place, the present continuous tense, vocabulary related to outdoor activities and leisure time, and, to my pleasure, comparatives (which we had focused on in the previous lessons).
To wind up the activity, I asked the students for some reflection. For example, I asked them which picture was more difficult/ easier to describe, nicer/more interesting/more colourful, etc. (comparatives again!).
I then put them into two groups (Student As and Student Bs). Their final task was to compare the drawings within the group and say which pictures were closest /furthest from reality, what was missing, what was really funny, what was in the wrong place, what was too big/small, etc. Overall, they enjoyed the activity and from my viewpoint, it was a really productive lesson.