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Butcher Block Bios

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Ages: teens to adults
Proficiency Level: adaptable to all
Class size: large or small
Purposes: integrated skills with emphasis on oral/aural and affective (getting to know classmates)
Materials: one sheet of large butcher block paper and colored markers
Pedagogical considerations: For beginners, provide simple questions; for intermediate, provide a few questions and ask students to also invent 2-3 more interesting questions and for advanced, give them latitude to create 5-7 interesting questions.
Procedure: Ask students to work in pairs to interview each other and take notes. Designate time frame (15-20 minutes) to interview each other. Ask the students to ask some creative questions that show the unique personality of their partner. After the interview, students write their Partner's Bio on the butcher block paper. Students should write the question and answer in large letters so that the entire class can see, esp. important for beginners. Accompanying illustrations and the student's name written in their native language writing system are also encouraged. The teacher then asks students to introduce each other to the class.
Comments: Many students may be inhibited the first day. By holding up the large paper and focusing communication on their partner, they feel less self-conscious and get to know a classmate, which lowers the affective filter. You will be amazed at the variety of creative "products" this activity unveils! There are many variations on this theme, e.g., Carousel Bios in which students have 5 minutes to write about each classmate and proceed to then next until time is up. This may take the entire class period since most studnets will be introducing new information about each of the others.
J.E. Moy
ESL, Richmond, VA

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