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A super listening game: Mr and Mrs

Many activities we typically consider to be about speaking involve, more importantly, large amounts of listening - listening with a purpose. Just think about when you run a teacher-led question-answer sequence based on pictures or a text. Most of the time students are listening to carefully scaffolded TL input. (Indeed this has been a frequent criticism of teacher-led QA - students don't get to speak enough.)

The following purposeful game is an example of such an activity which may, on the surface, seem to be an oral game. It is, of course, but most of the time the students are actually listening.

It is a game for intermediate to advanced level which provides lots of listening input, some speaking practice and a little reading, all in the target language. It's similar in principle to the Alibi game I've written about before and based on a familiar TV format. It's also a good way, more specifically, of practising question forms.

Get two students to volunteer to be a "couple" and send them out of the room for 5-10 minutes to find out as much as possible about each other. It helps if the pair are already good friends. While they are outside preparing, revise question forms with the rest of the class and write up some model questions on the board which the class can refer to. These questions will be in the third person, e.g. What is her favourite colour? Where did she go on holiday last summer? What’s her favourite sport? Who is her favourite movie actor?

The number of questions you leave displayed may depend on the ability of your class.

The “married couple” come in one by one to be interrogated by the class. The winner is the one who gets the most correct answers. Note that, as with Alibi, although at any one moment only one student is speaking, the whole class is listening to what you and the other class members say. If the class begins to run out of questions or is reluctant to join in, don't worry: you can ask questions, providing input at the level you want.

Should you correct or recast any questions or answers with errors in? I would do some recasting myself, but not over-correct. This is above all, as we've seen, a listening and fluency activity. You could always keep a mental or written note of key errors, then go over these separately after the game is over. The evidence you pick up may also provide you with handy evidence for future lesson-planning.

This is (plug alert) an example of a game included in my forthcoming book Becoming an Outstanding Languages Teacher. Published by Routledge, it's available for pre-order from Amazon.


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