Activity 3: Celebrity Backs

▶ Duration:  20–25 min
▶ Aim:  Oral fluency practice
▶ Requirements:  Adhesive labels; space to mingle
▶ Summary:  Ask yes/no questions to guess the celebrity name on each student's back.

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Most people (including Chinese students) are familiar with the game "celebrity heads". That game is a useful filler, but the disadvantage is that only the two or three contestants actually get any practice speaking English, the rest of the class only has to reply "yes" or "no". In this version of the game, every student has a name stuck to their back. They mingle, asking questions in pairs, and thus the opportunities for speaking are much greater.

Bring small blank adhesive labels, 3 per student. Most stationary stores sell these.

Remind the class about the rules of "celebrity heads" by playing one round first: choose two students (with relatively good English) to stand in front of the blackboard. Write a celebrity name above each one. Then conduct the game, being sure to follow these rules:

Hint: make sure that the celebrity names you use are ones that students in China will be familiar with! This is tricky because they might be familiar with the person, but not recognise their name written in English. Thus, for this first round it is advisable to choose Chinese celebrities and write their name in pinyin, or characters if you are able.

Distribute three stickers to each student, and ask them to write a name on each one. State that writing in chinese characters is acceptable. Collect the names.

Introduce the new version of the game with another demo: invite two students to the front and attach stickers to their backs. The two students look at each other's backs, and then ask questions. The rules are:

Explain that after they guess the correct answer, they can return to you to receive another name (either remove the old sticker first, or place the new sticker over the top of the old one so that the "wins" accumulate).

Begin the activity! All the students need to come to you to receive a sticker on their back. The game ends when you run out of stickers.

With a large class in a cramped classroom, this is extremely noisy. Activity 4: Team Guessing Games may be a more manageable alternative.

Theoretically, it is possible to forego the stickers and make do with sticky tape or safety pins, but in a large class this will quickly prove a bottleneck, leaving you absolutely no time to listen to the students.

This is based on the "Most Names" activity in Friederike Klippel's Keep Talking (Cambridge University Press 1984), but adapted for a large class.
Rating: 3 stars

This is fun for the students, but a little awkward in a classroom where the gaps between the desks are narrow. Reliance on the teacher for new stickers means that he/she can't concentrate on monitoring the activity, correcting errors, etc.

01.05.2004 , 16:11

22.05.2005 , 18:40

I will do this activity with a slight change. Have two students be guessers and have the class answer the guessers questions. When the two students have guessed correctly, change to two other students in the class. Therefore the game continues at least an hour and everyone can practive thier fluency.
24.07.2005 , 17:20

Hi! A friend of mine has lost a book "Keep Talking", which seems to be a problem 'cause she has to hand it back to the library of our university. Could you help us somehow? Many thanks!
Petra [] [homepage]
11.11.2005 , 17:38

hi tried this with a variation to invite them to use various different lexical groups ie objects from the home, animals etc so it can expand the vocab of begginer/lower intermediate groups
Louise []
14.03.2006 , 18:11