Theory to Practice: Super Fantastic Student-to-Student Language Learning Activities

Theory to Practice: Super Fantastic Student-to-Student Language Learning Activities

By: The Usual Suspects

Share the Paper: For any document that students need to read and react to, such as a reading text with questions. Give one paper to every two students. They share, they work together, they learn from each other. You don’t even need to explain that they are to share. Simple and powerful. – Stephen M. Ryan, Sanyo Gakuen University

Unlearning for Learning: Tell your young learners one of two opposites like “Walk” or “Stop.” When you say “Stop” the students have to walk and when you say “Walk” the students have to stop. You can add more fun by adding hand or body movements, such as “Up” and “Down.” – Manisha Parchure, teacher trainer in Pune, India

Three Minutes for Positivity. Assign a topic that is likely to create positive emotion, build gratitude or help students experience mindfulness. Give each pair one minute of “think time” to consider what they want to say and how they will say it. Then, in pairs, each partner has one minute to talk. The other partner is encouraged to ask questions. My own list of 16 topics is HERE. I use this as a warm-up. – Marc Helgesen, Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University

Strange Sounds: This can be a warmer/cooler in a pronunciation class where students have different first languages and is a good way to show appreciation for each student’s language repertoire. A student teaches the rest of the class a sound that exists only in their L1, with examples in words, phrases, sentences, or tongue twisters. As an extension, students can teach their peers and the teacher some classroom phrases (e.g. It’s break time) with this sound, to be used later. – Yulia Kharchenko, Macquarie University

Thanks Circle: Teacher says “(Name), Thank you for (something like: always smiling during class). It makes me feel good.” Then that student thanks another student for something, and so on, until everyone has been thanked. Enjoy the smiles! – Curtis Kelly, Kansai University

Express Yourself: Prepare chits of paper with feelings on them, such as happy, angry, sad, shocked, embarrassed, grumpy, excited, lazy, scared, etc. Give the students an expression to say, such as “Cheese Burst Pizza” (my favourite) and have them draw a chit that tells them what feeling to say it with. – Manisha Parchure, teacher trainer in Pune, India


Partner’s Priorities: A fun one for almost any given topicfor example, “Nice Places to Live.” Students receive a list of 8-12 priorities (cost of living, safety, etc.) which they rank according to their preferences. Learners exchange lists, and using only L2 websites, find locations that suit their partners, and finally present their ideas! Other ideas“dinner plans,” “part-time jobs,” “first date,” etc. Always a hit. – Jason Walters, Nagoya University of Foreign Studies

Random Acts of Chocolate. Start by giving each student two pieces of individually wrapped chocolate. Have them eat one piece with mindfulness: very slowing, noticing the aroma, the texture and taste of each bite. Tell them that the other piece is for someone else not in this class. Other students. School staff. A bus driver. Maybe a total stranger. If they need something to say, “It’s snack time!” in the local language works. They should notice the person’s reaction and their own emotion. Next class, they talk about it. – Marc Helgesen, Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University

RallyRobin (for Pairs) and Circle of Speakers (for Small Groups). These are not activities, but structures for the purpose of joint, cooperative activities. Students in pairs or groups take turns speaking about something to their partners. It can simply be a quick review of new words students have previously learned, but it can also be a cognitively demanding task like generating ideas or brainstorming. Everyone is expected to participate in whatever activity they are working on. – Harumi Kimura, Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University


For the Foodies: For an authentic series of role-plays: students brainstorm their favourite restaurants and then list a few dishes (or create full menus). In small groups, they role play “in a restaurant,” ordering, taking orders, eating, and chatting. Then they read a few model restaurant reviews and create their own reviews, with their dining partners. A few days later new groups are formed and students share any “eating out” experiences with each other. – Phil Chappell, Macquarie University

Business Simulation with Differentiated Assignments: I have developed a semester-long college Business English course where student groups of four design and market a tour to a famous city. The catch is, they each have a different role in the groupManager, Graphic Designer, Sales Director, Researcher – and different assignments that the whole group depends on. Feel free to download my textbook here. – Curtis Kelly, Kansai University

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