The one who …


I wonder whether you can guess what the expressions (above and below) refer to:

  • the experienced one
  • the one who leads the way
  • Mrs Smart
  • the peacemaker 
  • a teacher with nice style
  • very good teacher
  • the best English teacher ever
  • the sun
  • the nice one
  • the most enthusiastic person in this classroom
  • the one who always shows another perspective
  • helping hand
  • the shiny idealist
  • the practical philosopher

Yes, this is feedback I got from my students the other day.

I had learned about The One Who activity a while ago and I thought it would be nice to try it out before Christmas with one of the teenage groups I teach. And this is the result, which literally made me cry.

It’s super easy. Plus no preparation is needed. You can use it, like me, as a way of boosting a positive atmosphere in the classroom, or for language practice purposes, e.g. when practising relative clauses, superlatives, adjectives for personal features, etc. You just give each student as many blank cards as there are people in the class minus one, i.e. they are not going to write a note to themselves. However, they can and should write a note to their teacher too. The teacher will also write a note to every student. I did it with a group of fourteen 16-year old students (2 people were missing but we made cards for them too), but if you teach a group of 30+ students, it will probably not be manageable right on the spot. In such a case, they may work on it at home. I bet they will enjoy this unusual homework assignment. 🙂

Anyway, once you decide to introduce this activity, you should be 100% sure that it’s a ‘healthy classroom’ with a friendly atmosphere and that there is a positive student-teacher relationship. It’s not recommended for very young children, though, who might not be able to distinguish between what is positive and not so positive. Also, they might not be able to work with concepts of personal features yet. A friend of mine, an elementary teacher, has done the activity with very young kids but she monitored all the time and even read the cards secretly to prevent somebody from feeling offended. When she came across an inappropriate comment, she just discarded it and replaced with a note of hers. I believe that this way of ‘cheating’ is acceptable and necessary if you want to build a friendly atmosphere and avoid conflicts. Plus she learned a lot about the relationships without anybody feeling hurt. This would not be possible with teenagers though. Rather than having to cheat like this, ditch the activity completely.

So, there’s one rule you need to stress in advance – the comments should only be positive. In other words, each and every student should try to find something nice no matter what. It’s not acceptable to leave the card empty either – this may be as offensive as a negative comment.

The students will read the cards at home, in privacy, so they can fully enjoy the impact of all the positivity. Also, reading the cards in the class may result in some embarrassment (not everybody wants the others to see them cry). You can come back to it in the next lesson and discuss how they felt during the activity and when reading the comments. Avoid comparing and picking your favourite comments (even though you certainly will have some, like me). As far as error correction is concerned, be careful. Generalize if you need to work on some language points. Don’t point to specific mistakes and specific people. It may spoil the whole thing.

Good luck! 🙂

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.
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2 Responses to The one who …

  1. tamar silverman says:

    Hi Hana, I was a profesorka americanka, in prague, in 1991, at the Canadian Club, did you ever hear of it, probably you were young. I had lovely young students, and I taught them songs in english, we sang them on the charles Bridge. I also took over an abandoned highschool ESL class in a highschool in Prozec. It was quite a lot of fun for me. We wore slippers inside the school building. I like this activity that you share, I have tried something like it recently, in my class of Hebrew speakers, in Israel, and the most important thing is to have a friendly atmosphere, and hope that people will surely be positive. Good luck to you. Tamar

    Liked by 1 person

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