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Fun speaking activities: “Mystery Guest Interview”

small_3107864756This activity works well with all levels of students – in fact, it’s the ideal “scale” activity. There’s also no preparation needed, no photocopying and no technology. It’s great for small or large groups of students and I find it ideal when I’m teaching huge classes in Italian state schools.

The concept is very simple. Ask the students to put themselves in pairs (or a group of 3 if you’ve got an odd number in your class). One student is the interviewer, the other is the mystery guest. The interviewer asks the guest a series of questions, the pair then act out the questions and answers in front of the class, and the class then guesses the identity of the guest.

Encourage students to choose a celebrity or personality that everyone is familiar with. Actors, singers, sports personalities can all work well.

Help students with their questions

Unless you’re teaching beginners and are doing a yes / no type activity, as in “Are you a woman?”, “Are you married?”, encourage interesting, wh-type questions.

“What sort of films do you prefer as an actor?”
“Why do you love Angelina Jolie?”

Be prepared to help students with question formation and intonation. You might need to review and extend question words:

What – What kind / What sort / What type…
How – How long / How often…

Or the simpler:

Tell us about…
Talk us through…

Or opinion type questions:

“Would you say that …..” (+ statement)
“How did you find working with …”
“What is X like?”

Review answer techniques

Encourage students to give extended answers. You can pre-teach chunks of language for this, such as:

“Well, that’s an interesting question!”
“Funny you ask that!”
“There’s an interesting story behind that.”
“Sorry, no comment.”

Allow for enough time

Students will probably want to write out their questions and answers first, but they should also have enough practice time to rehearse the interview so that they can confidently perform it without notes. This makes their “performance” much livelier and more engaging for the rest of the class. You’ll probably also find (especially if you’re teaching teens) that they then ham it up a bit or try to get into character.

Scaling up and scaling down

Depending on your students’ ability levels, you can get them to focus on different types of questions (using the verb “to be”, asking questions in different tenses, practising different functions, etc). You can limit the number of questions, or get them to use particular words or phrases you’ve been teaching.

Photo credit: katielips

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