QUESTION: My learners find it difficult to speak with each other in class. Doing pair speaking activities in the course book is a bit like pulling teeth. Any suggestions?

ANSWER: Getting learners to collaborate to make conversations among characters they have 'created' can provide them an opportunity to practice speaking spontaneously.  You may wish to try this group work activity, which starts with a revision of words and expressions which describe feelings and emotional states.  This activity may add some variety and provide a welcome change to the regular use of speaking activities for pairs.

TITLE: "Put on a happy face!"


SKILLS: vocabulary recall and building, using colloquial language, collaborative work and peer sharing of creations; fostering imagination and the creative use of set vocabulary words, developing empathy by creating characters 

TIME REQUIRED: over 2 class periods, 30-40 minutes.

MATERIALS:  Before class,  prepare 4 separate handouts with 4 facial expressions pictured on each one, i.e. a maximum total of about 20 distinct drawings of facial expressions or emojis    NOTE:  For a digital-based activity, as the learners' choices need to be limited to avoid confusion and delays in making decisions, ask learners to access emojis on their devices AND to copy the emojis of their choice onto a piece of paper.

1.  Vocabulary Recall Phase (5 minutes):  Learners work in groups of 3 or 4.  Each group is given a handout and an English - English dictionary.  Together,  the learners in each group write the following for each of the facial expressions:

adjectives or adjectival phrases to describe the feeling(s) expressed
nouns as well
an expression, comment or question the 'face' might utter.


Learner A

Adjectives:  confused, perplexed, mixed up, bewildered.

Nouns: confusion, bewilderment,   have a dilemma.

Expressions:  "I can't understand this."  "What should I do now?"  "I don't get it!"

Learner B

Adjectives:  humorous, light-hearted, funny, easy going.

Nouns: laughter, humor

Expressions:  "It's a joke!  Do you get it?"  "Take it easy."  "Lighten up."

Encourage the learners to check the words they recall and to search for synonymous words and expressions in their dictionary.

2.  Speaking Phase (10 minutes): 

Part 1: Each member of the group chooses one of the faces.  They take turns telling their partner about a time s/he felt this emotion or observed another person who appeared to be feeling this emotion.

Part 2: Ask that the learners give their 'face' a name and an identity.  Now, each learner has a character.  So the next step is to have the learners discuss how their characters are involved with each other. Here they improvise exchanges in which their character can speak, possibly using one of the expressions they noted down at the start.

Example of a Pair Work Exchange with Learner A  and Learner B above:

A:  I cannot do this math problem.  And if I don't finish my homework, I can't go out.

B:  Come out with me and we'll take a walk to Johnny's.  After we come back, I'll help you.

A: What?  I need to solve this first.  I don't get it!

B:  Let's take it to Johnny and he can help you.

A:  What?!  Johnny?  He understands less than I do.

B:  I'm just kidding. It was a joke.

A:  Go on without me.  I'll see you both later ...after I finish this homework!

3.  Sharing in pairs / Plenary Feedback (10 minutes):  

Depending on the numbers of learners and the time you wish to allot to feedback, ask pairs of learners to re-act their dialogues for each other.

Suzanne Antonaros and Lilika Couri

March 2018