Get a cartoon story made up ideally of as many pictures as there are people in your class, or of at least six different pictures (use photocopies so more than one student can have the same piece of paper) and cut it up so that each of the pieces of paper just contains one picture. Give each student one piece of paper each for thirty seconds. They must look at the picture and try and memorise everything they see, without writing anything down. After thirty seconds take the pictures back. Give each of the students a letter for their picture. Now put the class together, and explain to them that they've got different parts of a story which they must put in the right order. Write the numbers (1-11) on the board; they must act together, describing their picture to the class and debating where it comes in the story.
The teacher's role is to do absolutely nothing, except help with vocabulary and keep a note of errors. If they come to a standstill, don't do anything; they will start trying again, I assure you! After a while, one of the class will assume the role of leader and go up to the board and try to organise things. Eventually, they will make some kind of order of the information they've given. They will then write down a letter next to each number in what they hope is the right order. Once they've finished, stick up any pictures that they've got correct next to the correct numbers, then sit down again. They then continue until they believe they've got the right order again. Then do the same.
This is a great activity for a number of reasons:
1. Class bonding. By making it a class activity, you are essentially pitting the students against you, which helps group identity.
2. Genuine communication. I think this is a more useful task than closely controlled drills that often bear little relation to what happens outside the class. Here the students have to use whatever communication skills they possess to put over their message, just as they would in the real world.
3. Multi-level. By careful choosing of the cartoon, you can make the activity easier or more difficult. You can also help with the amount of assistance you offer the students.
4. Class dynamics. You get to know what the key relationships of the class are, because you essentially disappear into the corner of the room and observe.
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Angus Savory 18/08/2011