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A warmer for FCE speaking exam

You can also use this activity as a “getting to know you” type activity for higher-level students.

I love this activity. It’s engaging, gets students physically moving, and is a lot of fun. I’ve only tried it with opinionated Italian teens and adults, so you might need to change the questions to suit your students.

It’s a speed-date!

HT to Simon Thomas who posted it on baalbek.org in 2009 (but for some reason is no longer there). If anyone can find it, please let me know and I can acknowledge it properly!

I’ve used it with groups of 10 or so students, up to a recent mammoth class of 50 (divided into 4 different groups).

The idea is simple. Devise a list of 20 – 30 questions and photocopy the list – one for each student. Students read through the list of questions and then choose which questions they want to ask. They have completely free rein here. Some students might choose five or so questions they like, others will have more. Because the choice is up to them, I’ve found that students really appreciate this autonomy.

The key is to come up with questions that the students will enjoy asking and answering. Some that I’ve found work well:

Who was your hero when you were a child?
What music did you use to listen to when you were a child? Do you still listen to it now?
If you could go back in time and apologise for something you did, would you?
You can have lunch with any person, living or dead. Who do you choose?
If you only had six months to live, what would you do?
You’ve won the lottery. How do you spend your millions?
What three adjectives would a friend use to describe you?

If you have a group of 10 students, put them in two circles, with the outer circle facing the inner circle. Inner circle students now have two minutes to ask their outer circle partner any of the questions they’ve chosen on their list.

Time the two minutes and at the end, the outer circle students move one chair to their left. Inner circle students now have another two minutes to ask the next outer circle student his or her questions. Repeat until the original student comes full circle.

Change around: now the outer circle students ask the inner circle students.

Apart from timing, you can also listen in and make a note of any examples of great vocab, faulty pronunciation or grammar mistakes.

Why it works so well

At FCE level, what I’ve found is this:

– there are surprisingly few language errors

– students start off unsure, and then very rapidly their fluency improves enormously. (Maybe the repetition of questions and answers makes it all flow??)

– the students have a ball. You get smiling and laughing. Beautiful friendships can be forged! (OK, maybe I’m exaggerating, but students get to know each other quite well by exchanging personal information in a relaxed and fun atmosphere.)

– it’s a great confidence booster. Tell the students that they’ve been talking for about 45 minutes and you couldn’t hear any mistakes, but a lot of English being spoken naturally.

– the speed of the activity means that although there is repetition, it’s fun because you’re always speaking to someone new.

– you get to learn some really interesting things about your students, which is great if you’re just about to spend a lot of time working with them.

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