This is relatively simple ice breaker activity which can be done at any point of the programme, but since I like to start my conversation classes focusing on questions I plan to do this in September. It also helps to build a sense of team spirit in the classroom, as it obliges students to speak to other members of the class, but at the same time gives them a clear objective to achieve from the interaction, making the interaction less threatening.
Before the lesson, you need to prepare name tags, or pieces of paper with the names of famous people on, one for each student in the group. It is important that your students should know who the famous people are. At the beginning of the activity, tape the name of one famous person onto the back of each student. The students then stand up, mingle and pair up. Each student looks at the name on the back of their partner, then the students take turns to ask one question (which requires a yes / no answer) to their partner about their famous person / character.
Once they have each asked their questions they thank the person they have worked with and look for another partner. It’s a good idea at this stage for the people looking for partners to do so wth their hand raised, to make it easier for the others to see them. This continues until the person has guessed their character. At this point they take the name taped on their back and tape it on their chest.
The students who finish first now become counsellors for the others. At any time a student who has not yet guessed can go to one of the students who have the name tag on their chest and ask for advice. The counsellor should first ask what the person already knows abut their character, then suggest a possible line of questioning. The counsellor does not give clues as to the identity of the character, just helps with the questions.
During the activity, the teacher should be mingling too, monitoring the activity and helping students who have difficulty with the language, although it is up to the counsellors to help with the content of the activity.
A nice follow up activity to this would be for each student to write a short biography of their character, basing themselves on the questions they asked which led them to guess their character. Or they could use the same material to give a short presentation on their character.
Obviously you are not limited to famous people for the name tags. If you are working with literature or extended reading with your group, a variation on this exercise could be to assign each student one of the characters from the book you are reading in class. In this way you get the students to think about the characteristics of their character in more depth. If you are working with science, the names could even be names of elements from the periodic table. You can adapt the activity to suit the content you want to practise or review. Because the students need meaningful clues, they are forced to think of the specific characteristics, and this will help them remember what they have learnt far better.