No-prep activity bank: Lost in translation?

picture-frame-3042585_1280In this post, I’d like to share an activity I’ve tried in class several times this week. It was inspired by Daryna Luhovska‘s idea I had learned about at the ILC IH Brno Conference. I’d tried a few variations of the activity (including the original one Daryna demonstrated in her workshop) until I finally found the ‘ideal’ version which I believe perfectly suits my students’ needs and my teaching context, i.e. the number of students I have in class and the seating arrangement we are used to.

Stage 1: Students (the green and yellow circles below) are sitting at their desks (the blue rectangles) facing each other. The Greens have pictures in front of them on their desks. The Yellows can’t see the pictures. The Greens have two minutes to describe the pictures in detail (hence the speech bubbles). The Yellows are listening, trying to remember as many details as possible.



Stage 2: The Greens turn the pictures face down. The Yellows (the inner circle) move one seat to the left as indicated by the arrows. The Greens stay put.



Stage 3: Now, the Yellows have one minute to talk about the pictures they have just heard about, i.e. the Yellow Student Number 9 is describing picture number 9 to the Green Student Number 1.



Stage 4: After the Yellows have moved one chair to the left again, the Greens are describing the pictures they have just heard about from their previous Yellow partners. I found it very handy to give the Yellows slips of paper with numbers on them. Each time they finish the description, they hand the number over to their partner (sitting opposite them). This makes the activity more transparent and everybody knows what they should be doing. In other words, if you are holding a number, you are talking about that particular picture.



There can be as many rounds as you feel is suitable and meaningful for your class. If it’s too long, though, it gets boring and frustrating since it inevitably gets more and more confusing with each round. Also, students have less and less to say. Nevertheless, try to stick to the one-minute limit.

Regardless of how many rounds you decide to go for, you must always stop the game after the Yellows (the inner circle) have listened to the Greens (the outer circle), not the other way around. It’s simply more practical (you’ll see why right below).

If you wanted to wind up at the stage depicted in the diagram above, for example, the student who has listened to the description of picture 1, stands up and finds the student who originally described picture 1. So, The Yellow Student 9 (who has just heard about Picture 1) goes and sits next to the Green Student 1. Now the Greens turn the pictures face up again and listen to the ‘original’ descriptions. The Yellows can’t look at the pictures at this stage yet. Be prepared that these will not really be the original stories but only leftovers; they will be way shorter (sometimes hardly a couple of sentences) and lots of details will have got lost (“in translation”) or changed completely. But this is partially the point. Students are forced to be creative along the way – they need to change the wording, correct mistakes, simplify, elaborate, etc.

Finally, I ask the new pairs to sit next to each other and write everything that was correct. Expect this to be just a short piece of writing – from 20 – 60 words. It will probably only take 5-10 minutes. At this stage, however, I strictly focus on accuracy. Phrases like there is/are, in the background/foreground, etc. are something I expect to be used correctly.

In the end, I always juxtapose this activity with the way gossip and fake news come to existence. People simply hear what they want to hear and/or they deliberately change stories to make them more exciting.

P.S.: You can use stories instead of pictures.

Also, I very proud of my diagrams. 🙂

…. and this is Daryna Luhovska’s blog on Facebook in case you want to join her there. 😉

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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1 Response to No-prep activity bank: Lost in translation?

  1. Meir says:

    This is great idea that I would love to try out in my future classroom. It keeps the students moving and talking with people in the class who they may usually never speak with. There’s also multiple aspects to the activity that can be included such as the writing at the end. The diagram is also very helpful!

    Liked by 1 person

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