Earlier today in class, I tried another no-prep activity I had learned from Simon Gill at the 20th P.A.R.K. conference in Brno. Simon had a presentation on drills and one of the tips he mentioned was an activity called I’m you and you are me. It immediately caught my attention since I thought the activity had a great potential.
I actually tried it three times today – twice as a short, warm-up activity after the weekend and once as a 45-minute lesson. In this post, I’d like to focus on the latter.
The class I used it with is my own class (I’m their homeroom teacher). So apart from having a clear language-related aim, I thought it would be a good idea to use it as a team-building activity, from which I could learn a bit more than what mistakes they tend to make.
I put the following structures on the board:
- I like
- I hate
- I always
- I sometimes
- I never
- I can
- I can’t
- I have got
- I haven’t got
- My …
I asked Sts to take out their pens and exercise books. I got them to write ten sentences starting with the structures above. However, they had to speak on behalf of the person sitting next to them.
When they finished, I asked them to swap their exercise books, read the sentences their partner had written and comment on them. Then they had to tell me how much they thought they know each other based on the correctness of the statements. They expressed this in a percentage.
Then I said: Well, this is how you know each other in pairs. Let’s have a look at how well you know each other as a class. Then everybody had to imagine they were one specific person in the class – Person A. Everybody, including Person A, had to write a sentence in the same vein as in the previous stage of the activity (they could choose any of the structures above or invent their own). Then we went on to pretend we were all person B. This continued until everybody had 14 different sentences (there were 14 people in the class as you can guess).
- Person A (they actually wrote the person’s name): Example: I am very clever and I have very good marks at school.
- Person B: Example: I like to walk in the forest alone and think about interesting things.
Then I said: Now I suspect that everybody is curious to see what other people have written about them. We passed the exercise books around the class so that everybody could read the sentence next to his/her name and comment on it; if it was true, they ticked it, if not, they made a cross next to it and explained what was wrong.
Then I inquired if any of the sentences were offensive or if anything the Sts read about themselves made them feel uncomfortable. Nobody reacted to this so I invited the class to share the sentences again by saying them out loud. All the Sts, one by one, shared all the sentences about Person A. I asked them to do it briskly with no interruptions, i.e.
- I’m clever.
- I have good marks at school.
- I’m a good student.
This stage was really powerful.
Well, they say that personalised activities are good because we people like to talk about ourselves. I’d say we also like to hear what other folks think and say about us (especially if it’s positive). Also, I’ve noticed that for teenage students it’s not always easy to speak about themselves; I’d say it’s much less challenging for them to express what they think about their peers and by expressing what they think about others they actually learn a lot about themselves.
You may have noticed that the structures I had put on the board were quite simple. However, from an L2 teacher’s point of view, the language the students then produced was quite interesting since I could take a mental note of what some of the problematic areas were. I particularly liked the fact that the students practised all the four skills – writing, speaking, reading and listening.
I’d finally like to add that I love the idea of the original activity because it’s much better to speak about somebody if you use *I *than if you use *he/she* or *you*. By having to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes, you don’t point to that person directly and you try to understand them. This, I believe, fosters compassion and builds mutual respect.