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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Killing Two Birds with One Stone

I just had a brainwave as I was getting ready for work! I was wondering how I was going to get my group of young teenagers to sit with people other than their friends. Although the boys are starting to have an interest in girls, they still aren't very happy about sitting next to and working with them, but if I want them to work well and not waste time I am going to have to mix them up. I don't want to create a formal seating plan, and in any case, I would rather they changed places every lesson and had the chance to work with everybody.

The idea I have just come up with probably isn't a new one, in fact I've tried similar things with children in the past, but it combines moving students around and vocabulary revision (i.e. killing two birds with one stone!).
This is how it works:

Before the lesson, choose a topic that the students have been studying recently and make a list of words from that lexical set, making sure there is one for each student in the class. You will need two copies of each word. Then, assign each word to a chair. You could write or print out the word in large letters and stick it onto the back of the chair, or you could find a picture illustrating the word and stick that on or above the chair. Then, fold up the second set of words (these should be on small pieces of paper) and put them in a hat or box.
As each student comes into the classroom, they must take a piece of paper from the hat and find their chair. This will be their place for the whole lesson. If they are to work in pairs or groups, they will be with the person or people next to them.

You can do this every day. It will help the learners get used to changing place and working with different people and it is useful revision of vocabulary. If you don't want to revise that many words every lesson, why not use pictures of famous people like Myley Cyrus (Hannah Montana) or Cristiano Ronaldo?

Try it!


  1. I think this is a great idea, Michelle. The random aspect of it means that students won't gripe so much at you and I'm sure they'll get used to the system quickly...just watch they don't swap cards before they sit down!

  2. Thanks Teresa, I tried it yesterday with pictures of jobs, places of work and materials (quite a useful set of flashcards I found!) and they didn't moan too much when I said they were going to be changing places and working with different people each lesson. However most of them ended up with friends - their attitude may change when they have to work with somebody they don't get on so well with. Thanks for the tip about them swapping cards!

  3. Hi Michelle
    Have you seen an activity in Drama, I think, Alan Maley's book from long ago? It's called Strings, where you hold pieces of string in the middle with the ends drooping over. Half the learners take one end, half take the other. Let go, and see who's got who!
    What came to my mind reading you post was collocating the words you give them. If you give e.g adjectives and nouns, then if two learners really wanted to work together, and they had a very unusual collocation, you could give them the chance to describe a scenario where it would occur. Looking out my window now, I can see a birdtable. If the adjective was "scary", well, they'd have to describe this. It might be another way to get your quiet teenagers talking.

  4. Hi David,
    Strings sounds like a great idea and it can be used with any age or level. I will definitely try out the collocation activity with my group of FCE teenagers.
    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


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