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This is a free lesson which has been donated to Teflpedia from Wikigogy. You are welcome to download and use all or part of it in class. If you feel that parts of the lesson could be improved please edit it, or raise your points on the discussion page.

  • warm-up
  • speak listen
  • 20min
  • middle_school high_school postgrad adult
  • game

Use this activity whenever you feel your students need some spark. They will have loads of fun listening to each other and running back and forth to the board.

Prep[edit source]

Learning goal[edit source]

Students will be able to

  • be more aware of their listening-writing skills
  • exercise a little
  • have fun

Material[edit source]

Materials (hand outs) for the students or for overhead projector

  • Cards (I use 5x8) with 10 vocabulary words. One card per column of students.
  • One board marker/chalk for each row of students and your classroom whiteboard/chalkboard.
  • Unit or topic vocabulary

Lesson[edit source]

Intro[edit source]

Depending on students' level, ask some questions about eavesdropping—secretly listening to other people's conversations:

How well do you think you listen?
Have you ever eavesdropped on somebody?
Are you able to hear everything or only part of what is said?
How do you make up for what you don't hear?

Make some comments about what hear it through the grapevine means and tell your students:

In a minute, you're going to find out how good you are.

Presentation[edit source]

None—this lesson is for practicing previously covered vocabulary.

Application/activity[edit source]

Instruct students to sit in columns starting from the front of the room to the back. Leave space between the first chair and the board for action.

Divide the board into the number of columns you have. I usually just draw vertical lines. Tell them they will play a little game to review some of the vocabulary words they have been practicing. They will need to listen well and be agile, too.

Identify the students that are at the back of each column. They are the lucky ones because their job is going to be easy. They are the column leaders. I always tell them this, it gets everyone's curiosity and attention going.

Go to the back of each column and give that student one of the vocabulary cards. I always like to give them the chance to select one. Fan out the cards in front of them like a poker hand. They must not see the words nor share them with anyone.

Once all leaders have a card, instruct everyone what they have to do. Be careful because the instruction can be tricky to explain.

Basic procedure[edit source]

  1. Leader reads one of the words from the card and whispers it, only one time, to the person in front, student-1.
  2. Student-1 leans forward and whispers, only one time, the same word to the next person in front, student-2.
  3. Continue like this, whispering the word towards the front, until it reaches the student at the front of the column.
  4. The front student runs to the corresponding section of the board and writes the word, or whatever variation he or she heard.
  5. At the same time and except for the column leaders, everyone moves forward one seat while the student at the board rushes to the back of his column and sits in front of the column leader.
  6. Repeat steps 1 through 6 until all words have been whispered and written on the board.

Brace yourself for some interesting variations to the original words. Not always, but it happens.

For added difficulty[edit source]

While everyone is whispering and running and moving, shout and make noise. I become everyone's cheerleader. I tell them to "HURRY UP!", "GO, GO, GO!", "TEAM-1 HAS 4 WORDS, COME ON EVERYONE, HURRY UP!", "COME ON, GO, WHISPER THOSE WORDS!", "WHISPER ONLY ONE TIME!", and anything else you want to shout to throw them off.

When everybody has whispered and all words are written on the board, check to see how many each team got right. Collect the cards from the leaders, and with them in your hand, compare with what ended up on the board. Put a tick next to the right ones, and correct the rest. This is a good time to do a quick pronunciation check.

FAQ[edit source]

Which words should I write?[edit source]

This pretty much depends on how easy or difficult you want to make the game. Consider your objectives, what do you want students to get out of it? I personally try to balance the list out. I write some words I know they will not have any problems with and also some which cause them problems. It´s important to even it out in all cards. At the end they become a little more aware of the importance of listening actively and pronouncing.

How many students should be in each row?[edit source]

It really depends on how many you have, the size of the room, and again the difficulty level. The longer the row the more difficult, the words will surely be misheard. Again, try to keep rows at an even number. I have worked with 10 students per rows, and it´s turned out great every time. If in case you have an odd number of students, give the shorter row a handicap of one or two words less.

Does it work with all ages?[edit source]

I can only vouch for teenagers and adults. Great results always! Any volunteers for children?