You’re standing in front of the class, looking over your students and doing something what you imagine to be an effective tension building. It’s working as your students sit in an orderly silence, eyes locked on your lips, waiting for what comes next. Your mouth opens, Okay, who can tell me… immediately one of your students shoots their hand in the air. No, they aren’t the prodigy geniuses who can predict the future. They have no idea what the question is. They’re completely clueless as to what the next exercise will be. They completely and utterly don’t care about that. What they want is to participate, be active, have fun.
These students are the extroverts in your class. To find them all you need to do is to look for lesson participation for the sake of participation, for giving you a wrong answer only to immediately raise their hand and try again. These are the screamers and the runners, those who greet you at the door when you enter the classroom, assaulting you with a heart-melting hug.
Sadly, extroverts also tend to ne the most difficult students in the classroom to work with. They are loud, full of energy and out of control. This is because extroverts draw their energies from the external world (hence the name) and when there is a lot happening around them their enthusiasm rises exponentially.
Roughly 60% of people are extroverts, which means that any classroom you’ll walk into will likely have a lot of them. What I see many teachers do is punishing the aroused students by standing them in a corner or having them leave the room. Such methods are indeed effective for decreasing their energy levels, as an extrovert left alone will have little external stimulation, however, they aren’t effective in helping them learn.
Extroverts, unlike introverts, need increased external stimulation to do work, that’s when their brains are the most active and open to new information. Therefore, to help them flourish, a teacher must create an optimal environment, one in which they won’t go off the rails but which will allow them to learn effectively.
You want to aim at exercises that enable interaction between as many students as possible, extroverts also love competition and active exercises that take place outside of their desks.
Below is a list of 8 exercises that achieve just that.
Level: A2 and above
Once everyone’s clear on how this game works it delivers an endless amount of fun. I recommend using it as a warm-up or a filler during your lesson.
Setup: classroom size
Less than 11 students – play individually
12 – 15 – pairs or groups of 3
Over 15 – groups of 5-6
1. One student (or a group) leaves the classroom. No eavesdropping!!
2. The rest of the class comes up with a Rule. At first it might be hard for them so you’re expected to suggest the initial few rules..
Here are a few examples:
People with glasses say YES, people without say only NO.
Elbows on the desk say YES, elbows off the desk say only NO (which means you can alternate).
Boys say YES, girls say NO.
If you smile say YES, if you frown say NO.
3. When everyone is 100% clear on the Rule, invite the student back in. They will walk around the classroom asking closed questions (YES or NO). The rest must answer according to the Rule, no matter what the question is (even if it means lying).
4. If the Rule is discovered, the individual or a group gets one point and another one leaves the room.
Level: A2 and above
1. Distribute 1 printed picture to each student.
Note: after this lesson these pictures will be unusable so make sure to distribute copies you don’t mind losing.
2. Instruct your students to cut this drawing into 4 identical pieces (In half, vertically and horizontally).
3. Collect all the quarters (4 from each student) and shuffle them well.
4. Now, hand out 4 random quarters to each student.
5. Students will walk around the classroom asking their friends to exchange papers with them.
Note: Each exchange is only 1 paper from each person. Then, they must talk to EVERYONE else before they do an exchange with this person again.
6. The student to collect their complete picture first is the winner.
Variation: Students’ Drawings
Give 1 piece of A4 paper to each student.
Ask them to draw something on the page. It doesn’t matter what the drawing is, what’s important is that it fills as much of the page as possible. This should take max 3 minutes.
Level: A1 and above
1. Ask your students to come to the blackboard (all at once) and write as much vocabulary words as possible. The whole board filled with words is perfect.
2. Set up 2 chairs facing away from the board.
3. Pick one student to become the King. Sit them down on one of the chairs.
To make it more fun you can ceremoniously provide them with some sort of insignia like a broomstick or a hat.
4. Ask Who wants to challenge the King? Pick one person and position them on the other chair, next to the King.
5. Stand behind them and point to one word.
6. The rest of the class gives the two suggestions as to what this word is (much like in the game charades).
If the King is the first one to guess the Challenger leaves and someone else takes their place
If the Challenger guesses 2 words in a row they become the new King.
Level: A2 and above
Car Boot Sale is a wonderful British tradition (similar to the American Garage Sale) where on a Sunday morning your neighbours gather around a large car park (parking lot), open their car boots (trunks) and start selling stuff they no longer need. Car Boot Sales are a great opportunity to expand your DVD collection for just £5 or buy a cheap antique. My proudest find was a tennis racket for £1.
Car Boot Sales are also an excellent exercise for all your extroverts who thrive in social situations.
1. First of all, use a deck of cards as fake money. To do that you’ll have to take out all the Jacks, Queens, Kings and Aces (deciding that they are worth 10, 11 and so on will become too confusing).
2. Ask each student to prepare a list of up to 10 words. These should be rather unique words that their classmates may not know. For this part students can use dictionaries and/or the internet.
Note: it’s important that every student knows the meaning of each of their 10 words.
3. Once that’s completed, ask them to assign prices to their words. The short and easy ones should be cheaper than the long and difficult words.
1. Divide the class into two groups, one group are the vendors (sitting at their desk-car-boots) and the other group are the visitors (customers) to the Sale.
Note: every customer will have the same amount of card-money.
2. The visitors will go to different vendors and ask about the words and their definitions. If they like one they can buy it (the vendor crosses that word off their list).
3. After few minutes change the roles.
Another British tradition is to present your new finds to the rest of your family or friends while boasting how little they cost.
4. In a similar fashion, at the end of the Word Car Boot Sale ask your students to present their new words and what they mean.
Later you can use this opportunity to assign homework incorporating these words.
Level: A2 or higher
I present to you a superbly entertaining speaking exercise. The preparation will take you about 5 minutes before the lesson but the payoff is 20 minutes of insane fun for your students. Best done with teenagers and adults.
What you’ll need is to prepare a handful of sheets of paper with descriptions written on them (I suggest preparing twice as many as there are students in your class).
Note: if you make them durable you’ll be able yo reuse these descriptions multiple times
Descriptions might include:
I have a large spider on my shoulder, be afraid!
I am deaf, you need to speak very loudly.
I am a foreigner, speak to me very slowly.
My face is painted like a clown, laugh when you speak with me.
You’re trying to imagine what I would look like with a beard.
I am very attractive, fall in love with me!
I remind you of someone but you can’t remember who!
I look like I’m sick, don’t come close!
My name is Dragon.
You think I’m dangerous, be careful when you speak with me.
My T-Shirt is inside out.
Note: make sure each description is easy to read at a glance.
1. Distribute the descriptions among your students, but make sure that they don’t see what’s on them. Use the sticky tape to attach the descriptions to the front of your students’ t-shirts.
2. Let them talk to each other while taking cues from the cards.
Student A is walking around the classroom with description taped to her chest. Student B takes a cue from the description and interacts with the Student A accordingly. Student A’s task is to guess her own description from these interactions.
3. Whenever someone guessed their description, either let them to continue the game without one or give them another one.
4. Play until everyone guesses their cards.
Level: A2 and higher
1. Arrange the desks so that they form a circle around the classroom. It’s ok if the circle ends up slightly out of shape, what’s important is that half of the students will be able to sit behind the desks.
2. Divide the class into two groups. Position one group at the desks on the outer edge of the circle. The other half will all be standing inside the circle.
3. Make sure every student from the first half is facing an empty chair on the other side of their desk.
1. Each student inside the circle finds an empty chair to sit on. All students should now be facing each other, as if they were meeting for a coffee in a cafe with a crazy circular decor.
2. Tell your students that they are looking for 5 best friends. They need to conduct interviews with each other to see who fits the role.
3. Put 1.5 minute on the clock. In that time all pairs should talk in English, seeing if they are a good match for becoming best friends.
4. After the time has passed, rotate the inner circle by one to the left or right and put another 1.5 minute.
Note: Remember that the time of this exercise is roughly estimated as the time you’ve set on the timer multiplied by the number of students in the first group. So if you have 22 students in class, the first group will be 11 students. 11 x 1.5 minutes equals 16.5 minutes (plus the time to set up and rotate). However, if your class is 40 students than this number escalates to 30-35 minutes.
4. At the end students can write down the names of their 5 favourite candidates for Best Friends. This becomes super funny as many people will end up on the lists of people they haven’t chosen themselves, making it slightly awkward for them and endlessly funny for the rest.
Level: B1 and above
In my opinion this is the best extroverted exercise. For a set time your active students will be allowed to do what they love the most – shout out loud the first thing that comes to their mind, no matter how insane.
1. Divide your students into groups and give each group a piece of A4 paper.
2. Write a topic on the board. Make it related to the lesson subject if possible, however, if you’ve decided to do this as a standalone game any topic would do. The key aspect of the topic is that it MUST have a multitude of possible answers.
Ways in which world will end
Reasons for learning English
Plans for holidays
3. Put 2 minutes on the timer and start the first session. During this time each person in a group contributes every idea that comes to their head. It’s crucial to not discuss or judge the ideas but simply write them down as they come.
4. When the time is up, ask groups for suggestions and write 1-2 ideas from each group on the board.
5. Conduct the second and third brainstorming sessions, same as the above, each concluded with 1-2 suggestions on the board from each group. After the 3rd session the board should be filled with different suggestions.
6. Afterwards, discuss the ideas on the board with the whle class. Go through all the ideas, one by one, discussing its usefulness and validity, Your goal is to end up with 3-5 best suggestions.
7. Use the final ideas for your next exercise.
It’s important that each brainstorming session has a distinct theme:
First session: only serious ideas
Second session: only silly ideas
Third session: only ideas involving Tom Cruise, OR only ideas involving monkeys, OR only ideas relating to French people, etc. The trick is to make it specific.
Level: A1 and above
This one’s great for reviewing vocabulary in an incredibly fun way.
What you’ll need: a bunch of cheap white t-shirts, one for each student. White board makers.
1. Distribute white t-shirts to everyone and ask your students to put them on.
2. Provide your students with enough whiteboard markers for all and instruct them to write the vocabulary they’ve recently learned on their friends’ t-shirts.
Note: the key is to have fun and write as many words as possible in a creative way.
3. At the end do a ‘fashion catwalk’ presentation of their new Ts.