Activity 21: Matchmaking Discussion

▶ Duration:  25–35 min
▶ Aim:  Oral fluency practice
▶ Summary:  Students discuss how best to pair up the profiles of eight single people.

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This is a jigsaw activity: each member of the group knows some of the information, and they have to combine that information in order to solve the problem. Specifically, each member in the group of four knows the profiles of two people. The aim of the activity is to match up these (4 x 2 =) eight people in the way that the group deems the most suitable.

To make the scenario more concrete, ask the students to pretend that the profiles are the two children of each group member. This also adds an element of roleplay.

There are several ways to run this activity. The simplest is just to divide the class into groups of four, give each person one of the four information sheets, and insist that students do not show the sheets to each other. I have not tried this, but it would probably be quite effective as long as the teacher makes sure that students do not peek at the other sheets.

Another option, which prolongs the activity and also makes "cheating" impossible, is to first get students to discuss their two "children" in pairs, considering what kind of person would make a good marriage partner for them. During this stage, the students are also expected to memorise the profiles. Then the information sheets are collected by the teacher, the pairs split up, and groups of four formed.

If there is enough space in the classroom, forming the new groups of four should be quite easy for the students to do by themselves. But if you doubt the logistics of doing this, for example the classroom space is too tight, then you need to assign students to groups. The method below describes a way of doing just this, using slips with group numbers written on the back, but it is not for the faint-hearted! I welcome suggestions for a better way of managing this aspect of the activity.

Make enough copies of the information sheets (each one is half a page) so that each pair of students can receive one of the four sheets. These are in this document: eight_singles.doc (html preview).

The above document also includes a sheet with the characters names. Make enough copies so that each student can receive one pair of names. The sheet should be cut up into slips, each containing one pair of names: Tony and Paul, Edward and Matthew, Jenny and Sue, Ingrid and Julie.

But before cutting up the sheet, mark the back of each slip with a number to indicate a group number. Each number should appear four times, on the back of four different kinds of slip: for example, there should be one "Tony and Paul" slip with a number 1, one "Edward and Matthew" slip with a number 1, and so on.

Put the information sheets in a certain order, ready to hand out to the pairs during class. For example, order them: Tony and Paul, Edward and Matthew, Jenny and Sue, Ingrid and Julie, Tony and Paul (repeating the sequence), Edward and Matthew, etc.

Put the name slips in the same order, but in this case each pair will receive two slips, so double them up: two "Tony and Paul" slips, two "Edward and Matthew" slips, two "Jenny and Sue" slips, and so on. Ideally, the group numbers on the backs of the slips should be in a random order.

Before the activity, it is a good idea to introduce some phrases that would be useful while matching people up. For example, "well-suited", "compatible", "...would make a good couple".

Introduce the situation: the students become parents, each with children who they want to marry off.

Explain that you will give each pair a sheet with 2 sons or 2 daughters. In their pairs, the students should discuss what kind of partner would be suitable for each child, considering personality, job, interests, etc. Distribute one information sheet to each pair.

If the number of students is not exactly divisible by four, then you should decide in advance whether you will have a few groups of three for the final discussion phase, or a few groups of five. In the former case, you should give the groups of three the missing information sheet to look at.

Now comes the most difficult part. While the students are discussing their children's marital future, spread out the name slips on your desk, choose one slip from each group (ie. each set of slips with the same number on the back) to be the group leader, and circle the number of the back of that slip. Try to choose group leaders so that they are distributed around the class, because the groups will assemble at the group leader's desk. To clarify: you need to circle one of each number, one number 1, one number 2, etc. The reason this is often difficult is that you have to deal with the problem of empty desks and so on, and you have to look at the slips laid out on your desk and see how they correspond to the seats in the classroom. When you have finished, stack the slips in a pile, ready to hand out to the students.

After the students have had some time to read the information sheet and discuss it, explain that they also need to remember this information because you are going to recollect the sheets. The students should not write down anything! Also, make it clear that they have to remember both profiles, because the students in each pair will be split up and assigned to different groups. Check:

While the students are working, distribute the name slips. Each student should receive one, and the names on the slip should match the names on the information sheet that they have been studying.

Collect the information sheets.

Ask everybody to look at the number on the back of the name slip. That is their group number. Now ask the people whose number is circled to stand up. These are the group leaders. The leaders will stay where they are, and the other group members have to move to that area of the classroom and sit down. Ask the group leaders to say their group numbers, while the others listen. Check:

Allow students to quickly move to their groups and sit down. Then tell them that their task is to match up the eight single people in the most appropriate way. They can use the name slips as discussion aids: tear the slip in half first, and then match the names up.

Once most groups have matched up their "children", stop the activity and discuss the results. For example, you can ask "Who did you match Jenny with?", write the most popular answer on the board, and then ask one of the groups to explain why this match is suitable. Note that there is no single correct answer.

Activity 22: Matchmaking Roleplay is based on the same topic as this activity, but run in a different way that requires one-to-one interviews instead of group discussion. In addition, it requires a lot of classroom space to run effectively.

This activity is inspired by the "Couples" activity in Penny Ur's Discussions That Work (Cambridge University Press, 1981).
Rating: 4.5 stars

Although this activity is usually a hit with the students, running it is a bit complicated.