Published 7th March 2016

The beginning of a new class or a new term is an exciting time. The problem is, sometimes you just don’t know whether your students know each other or not. Obviously they don’t know you, but they might have been in the same level before or they might be friends from outside the class, so doing the usual getting-to-know-you activities are risky: if they do know each other, the activities will be pointless.

Instead, try this as a way of getting your students talking about themselves to each other. It involves your students having conversations on questions which are personal but are not the usual suspects. Even better, you can personalise it as you see fit to suit your class.

AIM: To get your students speaking freely about themselves

MATERIALS: Questions on slips of paper

PROCEDURE: Make a list of interesting questions your students could ask each other. Think of questions which will reveal information of a personal nature (not too personal!) but are a bit different and can initiate conversation. Relate these questions to your students, so they are appropriate and relevant.

Examples of questions:

Do you prefer vanilla or chocolate ice cream?

Who are you closest to in your family?

What time did you go to bed last night?

When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?

What do you want to get for your next birthday?

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Divide the students into groups and hand out sets of questions to each member of the group. Give them the freedom to ask each other the questions and respond to each other however they want to. There is no need to give instructions, just tell them to have a conversation. You will find that they will naturally ask for more information on the questions they are interested in and they will move on quickly from those they have little to say about.

While they are talking, discreetly make notes about any errors they may be making. When they are finished their questions, board their errors and let them figure out how to correct them. It is best to do this anonymously so as not to embarrass the student who made the error. Try to get errors from a range of students. Your students will be impressed that you were listening to them each individually. Make sure you note the entire sentence to provide a context for the error.

By doing this activity, you will give your students a chance to chat to each other freely and get to know each other a bit better, without having to do the usual, boring activities. You may even find out some interesting information about them!