I hope my title did not conjure images of technology-enhanced learning with visions of smartphones, iPads, and laptops dancing up through the air. On the contrary,
this blog is about students stirring, moving in circles, and engaging in conversation. I’m talking about face to face interaction, where students are talking and listening to each other while the teacher is watching.
In the ESL classroom: LINC, ESL or EAP – we teachers need to have many ideas up our sleeves to make sure students are not yawning but interacting with one another and having fun while learning. Last year in September, I shared two of these strategies. You can read them here: http://blog.teslontario.org/an-active-start-to-the-academic-year/ In this blog, I share another one that I have found students also enjoy:
Inner Circle-Outer Circle
In this activity, students form two circles. The inner circle with students facing outward and the outer circle with students facing inward. The inner circle leads the conversation, while the outer circle responds and extends the topic. Note that having the same number of students in each circle is best as the idea is for students to work in pairs. If you don’t have an even number, do not despair; students can share leading the activity so that everyone gets a turn.
Choosing a Topic
The teacher gives a topic to the students in the inner circle (a different topic per student makes the activity even more fun, but it will depend on the level). The topic can be general, such as education, camping, weather; or it can be specific, such as questions using the past, present, or future tense.
Rotation and Timing
Students in the inner circle rotate clockwise, while those in the outer circle rotate counter-clockwise. The teacher times each move – which should be timed at different intervals, depending on how conversations are developing. Music can be used to signal each rotation (as in musical chairs) or by clapping or calling out ‘Change.’ It’s your choice. What is important at this stage is to observe how conversations are progressing and assess areas students might need more practice (e.g. pronunciation, grammar, and/or pragmatics awareness).
Carrying on the Conversation
The purpose of this activity is to challenge students to carry on a conversation which can lead to other topics. How complex it gets will depend upon the skill and background knowledge of the two interlocutors.
Giving Everyone a Chance to Lead
Any time during the activity, the teacher can ask students to switch circles so that everyone can practice either starting or continuing a conversation.
More Advanced Moves
For more advanced groups, students in the outer circle can be assigned the role of adversary and the ones in the inner group the role of persuader. This is a great strategy to teach negotiating skills or to introduce students to the art of debating.
Now it’s your turn…
Tell us about some interactive activities you’ve used lately. Or if you try this one out, let us know how it went.