If you have any experience as an EFL teacher, you have probably used activities and know that they really can work. They can act as a spark that leads to a successful and satisfying lesson for the teacher and students.
This article describes a specific type of activity that I have had great success with over the years: mingle activities. As usual, I can't claim to have invented this style of activity but I do have some insight on how best to use it and the benefits it provides.
Mingle activities encourage interaction amongst students using prompts on cards. Students are given the cards and they then mingle with their classmates. They use information on their cards to form questions, and in turn they answer queries from other students.
As with all classroom activities, there is a contrived aspect to it. In the real world nobody walks around with a card with information printed on it as a way to help themselves form questions. But the activity does serve an important purpose. It gets students talking and forming sentences. It is repetitive and helps them recognize patterns.
Most important, they really enjoy the activity. Once they get going, you don't have to prod them at all. A party atmosphere takes over as students move around trying out their new found language skills.
This example uses the present perfect verb tense. The language function is : asking questions about experiences at any point in a person's life.
After following these instructions, you can then design and prepare cards for whichever grammar point you choose.
To prepare the mingle cards, you need a piece of paper, a pen, and a ruler. Or, simply prepare the cards using Microsoft Word tables.
Create a table with three columns and four rows. In each table cell (each cell will be a prompt card after you cut them out), type in a present simple verb followed by a noun or noun phrase. For example:
Card 1: eat octopus
Card 2: play tennis
Card 3: travel to Russia
Card 4: climb a mountain
Card 5: break your leg
Card 6: see a UFO
Card 7: meet a movie star
Card 8: catch a fish
Card 9: win the lottery
Card 10: see a ghost
Card 11: keep a secret
Card 12: fly a kite
If you have the time and really want to make the cards attractive, you could search online and find a relevant image for each card. Once you have added all the information in each table cell, cut them out into equal sized cards with scissors.
Make the appropriate number of cards up to 20. Any fewer than 10 students and this activity loses some of its effectiveness. However, large class sizes do not make this activity impossible to conduct. I have used it in classes with as many as 60 students. With large classes (more than 20) split students into groups of 10. Photocopy the original sheet before you cut them into cards and use one set for each group of students.
Before your students mingle, conduct the type of lesson plan you usually would in the lead-up to an activity. For this particular mingle activity, your students must:
- be able to form a "Have you ever...?" present perfect question
- be able to provide a short answer to the same kind of question (Yes, I have. No , I haven't.)
- be familiar with some fairly common past participles
- be able to conjugate a present simple verb to a past participle
- understand the concept of using the present perfect verb tense to talk about an experience you have had at any time in your life
Conducting the Activity
Tell your students that you are going to give each one of them a card. I find that explaining things first before giving them the card is the best way. If you give them the prompt card first, they will be distracted by it and won't listen to your instructions.
Explain that they will stand up in a few minutes with their card and use it to form a question to ask other students. It is very important to clarify the fact that they must take the info on the card and change it to reflect the present perfect question form you have already taught them.
Model a few questions and answers on the white board.
Example: Card 1: eat octopus
Question: Have you ever eaten octopus?
Answer: No, I haven't.
Finally, hand out the cards and tell the students to begin. There may be some hesitation at first. Provide some encouragement. Tell them to pretend they are at a party.
Within a few minutes, there will be an enthusiastic buzz in the room and the volume will increase as the students get involved in the activity. You can also walk around and listen to their questions and answers.
1. After they have had a chance to talk to each other, get the students to exchange cards and then repeat the activity.
2. Have students report their findings about their classmates after the activity. This can be done orally or in writing. For example, "Nueng has never eaten octopus."
3. Get students to create one of their own questions and then repeat the activity.
A simple type of activity that works and which can be used with any grammar point.