O ral English Activities
It's your turn to talk!

Reader Submissions

Below are a few activites submitted by other teachers.

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Suggestion for activity:

Activity name: "Person Auction"
Duration: ~15-25 min (depending on # of students)
Aim: Oral fluency / persuasive speaking
Subject: Two students auction off a classmate by describing all the positive characteristics of the third student in such a way as to "sell" him or her.

*Note: I used this activity on a small group, which allowed the students to speak at the front of the class with everyone paying attention. With larger groups this would probably not be possible due to time / attention span issue. If you have any thoughts on how to change the exercise to be better used in larger groups, I would be interested in hearing about them.

I tried this activity as a way of introducing students to the concept of phrasing their thoughts in order to "sell" something. I noticed that pre-University teaching had emphasized describing oneself and others, so I tried to use this pretty large existing vocabulary to teach this type of sentence structuring. The goal of the exercise is not only to get students used to speaking and forming complete sentences, but also to practice the distinctive form of speaking used when attempting to entice or persuade.

As a brief introduction to the activity (and to fit in with the class topic of advertising and selling), I described the concepts of an auction, particularly a "person auction" or "date auction." Quite simply, a person is auctioned off to a crowd (a man is auctioned to a crowd of women, vice versa or according to taste); the highest bidder gets a date or a nice dinner with the 'subject'. This is invariably a charity event--people both bid and volunteer to be bid on with the knowledge that the money raised will go to support a worthwhile cause.


Three students at a time stand in a row in front of the class. The student in the center is the one to be auctioned off; the two students to each side are "auctioneers" who attempt to describe in flowery (and well-formed) sentences all the good attributes of the subject. The two auctioneers should switch off after every one or two characteristics described, both to foster a sense of listening to what the other has to say as well as give them to opportunity to work off of / respond to what the other has already said.

The auctioneers should be encouraged to work off one another as mentioned, and also to use gestures and body language to further convey their meaning. The subject of the auction should be asked to phantomine some of the qualities being stated by the two auctioneers. For example, if he or she is described as having silky hair, the subject can run fingers through it, or if his/her humour comes up, the subject can phantomine giving a belly laugh. (This was actually one of the highlights of the exercise--everyone seemed to get into the spirit of the role-play, all the more so when the auction subject misunderstood what the auctioneer was saying and performed a different gesture!)

Since my students knew each other very well outside of class, I asked them to factually describe the auction subject. It would be just as easy to say that the auctioneers can make up whatever they want--as outlandish or strange as it may seem--so long as it could be seen as a positive description of the subject, and it is phrased in a way so as to make it seem an attractive (to a "bidder") quality.

After all students had taken a stint on the auction block, we had a class discussion about the entire activity. I started by asking the class, "who would you mostly likely bid on and why" -- leading to a discussion of how effective the speakers were in extolling the positive characteristics of each person, and which statements were effective and which were not.

Thoughts on Activity:

After my introduction to the concept of a person/date auction, I was able to quickly demonstrate the activity with two helpers. I found that giving the demonstration was helpful because I was able to show how I wanted the two "auctioneers" to have a back-and-forth role in describing the subject.

The activity seemed to work best with three students of the same gender (three girls going up together or three boys). Again, my students all knew each other very well, but this seems to be just as easily applied to strangers as an intial ice-breaker activity.

It was important to me to keep the students to speaking about positive characteristics--both for self-esteem reasons and because it fit with the topic of persuasive speach.

Please feel free to add anything you might have come across in your own experience teaching -- this was developed almost on the fly and turned out to be a rather successful activity. I wanted to thank you very much for putting and keeping up this site--the suggestions you offer are simply invaluable for use in the classroom!

Thanks again,
-- Adam Lopuch
Adam Lopuch []
22.10.2005 , 00:20

Activity - Balloon Debate

This is a very successful activity and it brings presentation, arguement and debate skills into play.

Prep - Make a list of around 10 different occupations/characters
that students can relate to ie: STUDENT, TEACHER, MOTHER, POP STAR, SPORTS STAR, POLITICIAN, DOCTOR, SCIENTIST, SOLDIER, ARTIST (you can make the list subject specific if needed)

Procedure : Draw a picture of an Air Balloon on the board with a big hole in the top and air coming out of it. There should be ten people in the basket. Explane first what an air balloon is and check
What keeps the balloon in the sky (Hot air - from gas flame....)
Does it have an engine (no)

Then explane that there are ten people travelling across the ocean and there is a hole in the balloon. (be as artistic as you wish I put sharks etc in the water) The ten people are far too heavy and the balloon can only carry ONE person.
At this point introduce the people and their occupations to the class by writing the list on the board.
Tell the class to split into ten groups and get them to choose one card per group that has an occupation on it.
Now explane to the class that each group must argue their reason for why their person should stay in the balloon.
Give them ten minutes to discuss and form their arguement and tell them to elect a spokesperson.
Each group takes it in turns to make the strongest arguement they can to the rest of the class. They must understand that this is for for their survival.
When all the groups have presented their arguements hold a vote for who the class think should stay in the balloon.

Note : Depending on the level of the students the depth and length of arguements will differ, but it has proved to be successful with varying levels and ages. It is really good fun if the class enter into the spirit of it - caused quite a stir on campus on an otherwise quiet afternoon.
Louise []
14.03.2006 , 18:43