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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Using a picture prompt to ask questions to intertwined characters

Purpose: students practice asking questions in the past. The level of the questions and answers depends on the level of the students. At the end of the activity, as a follow-up to the speaking task, students could write a letter or email.

Level: students need to know how to ask questions in the past using question words and they need enough vocabulary to ask about age, family, relationships, job, likes, dislikes and past life.  Students may have to use modals and a variety of pasts in their answers.

The teacher may have to help the students with vocabulary or can give them a dictionary.

Materials: a photo of a person. At the end of this post I propose some photos the teacher can project on the white board with the  Projector . There are many more pictures/portraits available at google images.  I offer a variety of pictures that  may appeal to children, teenagers and adults. The one of the girl in the office could cater for the needs of students in administration related vocational training programs.

Procedure:  Students may work individually or in groups.

A) Show a picture of a character to the students and ask them to write down 15 questions for that character. Note that the first 6 questions will be very similar in all groups (how old are you? Are you married? etc.) The aim of asking the students to write down 15 questions is to force them to produce more creative questions as well as to practice question structures.  You may not have to wait until everybody has 15 questions if the production is adequate.

B) When the students are ready, tell one of them to come to the front of the class and impersonate the character in the picture. He/she has to answer his/her classmates’ questions.  As he/she answers, the other students will spontaneously change their questions according to the characters' answers. This allows students to practice question structures without previously having written them down.

Note that as the character-student answers, new characters will pop out: his/her mother, his/her husband, his/her boss...

C) When you spot an interesting character (the husband, for example), tell the student at the front of the classroom to go back to his/her seat. Ask another student to come to the front of the classroom. His/her role is to impersonate “the husband” by answering  his/her  classmates’ questions.

D) Proceed this way until 4 or 5 students-characters have answered their classmates’ questions.

F) Possible follow-up: divide the students in 4 or 5 teams, depending on how many characters you have had.

Each group of students represents a character (eg. the mother, the husband, the cleaner, the child, the boss, or the secretary of the person in the picture).  Ask students to write an email or a letter to the character.  




Thanks to Roger Hunt, our English methodology teacher at International House, summer 2010 for this idea. The course  I took was "Language Analysis for Teaching Purposes"

4 comments:

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Grover said...

Great activity. In the past I've assigned a similar activity, with a twist. Students are tasked to take candid pix of people on the street -- and shown some surreptitious techniques -- prior to this kind of activity. Interest is heightened as a result.