If you’re looking for a zero-preparation activity which will get teenagers talking, you may wish to use ‘Expert’. This is especially good for the first lesson of a new academic year.
‘Expert’ is an activity in which teenagers choose a topic they are passionate about. They are then asked questions about this topic and deliver a presentation.
Before the lesson, think of a topic that you (the teacher) know a lot about/are passionate about. I like to choose my favourite 80’s sitcom, The Golden Girls!
During the lesson, write your topic on the board. Encourage pupils to ask you a question about it. You may wish to ask individual students to write their questions on the board.
After you have about five questions, tell the class that you’re going to deliver a short presentation about your topic, and will include the answers to the questions they asked. Deliver this presentation and invite further questions at the end.
Now say that each pupil is going to choose one topic that they know a lot about, and that their group mates are going to write questions. After some preparation time, each learner will deliver a presentation- just like the teacher did.
Elicit some ideas of topics they could choose- one student always says ‘sleeping’! Remind pupils that they need to be able to answer questions about their topic, so it should be quite specific. Examples could include European football teams, Taylor Swift’s music and private life, art and artists from my country, or the name of a book series.
Put learners into groups of seven or eight. Ask each pupil to write their topic on a piece of paper (for some reason this is easier to manage than having them use their notebooks!). Then ask them to pass their paper to the person on their right and write one question about the topic on the paper.
When everyone is ready, ask them to pass the paper on again, and then again, and so on until everyone in the group has written one question. Monitor and ask pupils to read what others have written previously, so they don’t repeat a question.
Depending on the language level of the group, you may need to give some support by writing question stems on the board.
When the papers are returned to the original owner, give a time limit and ask pupils to prepare to deliver a presentation about their topic. You may wish to:
- Give some success criteria, such as Include the answers to all the questions in your presentation; Use three linking words, etc.
- Provide some useful presentation language (for introducing a topic, transitioning from one point to another, concluding a presentation, inviting questions, etc.)
- Allow learners to use dictionaries or online resources to help them structure their presentation or articulate exactly what they want to say
- Separate preparation time and rehearsal time into two distinct stages
After the preparation time, ask pupils to take turns to do their presentation. Monitor and try and remember some interesting things that you heard, so you can ask for more details from individual students as whole-class feedback.
- Teenagers feel confident talking about a subject that is meaningful to them.
- It’s a way for teenagers to get to know their classmates.
- It encourages learners to be curious about their classmates, and their interests.
- It helps us, as teachers, to get to know our learners.
- Learners have some ‘quiet time’ to write questions, as well has having time to prepare to answer their questions. This individual time helps less-confident teens participate more fully.
- It allows for small group presentations, in which the teacher can simply act as a facilitator and monitor.
- We can use this activity in the first lesson of the academic year, to help pupils feel confident in speaking English, and in taking part in group activities.
- This activity does not teach speaking skills, nor focus on accuracy- unless you make the choice to focus on useful presentation language or give success criteria that relates to presentation language/structure. So while we can make this activity more ‘meaty’ in this way, I like this activity because it simply gives teenagers the opportunity to communicate about something that’s important to them, in quite a low-pressure and enjoyable way.