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Describe it for me

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-- Teacher
-- Students who suffer from inaccurate descriptions or unfinished sentences
-- Something to draw on (white board, OHP, etc.)
-- Pens & paper

This was an on-the-spot creation of mine which popped into my head when my teaching materials failed to arrive for a class one day. It proved so popular that I've since used it many times and it can be altered to suit many levels of ability.

The aim is to get the students describing things in relation to each other. The vocab. is simple. The difficulty lies in their accuracy of description.

Show them some simple shapes -- a square, a circle, a triangle, a horizontal line, a vertical line, etc. Drill pronunciation if required.

Show them how to describe the relation of the shapes with each other. e.g "The square is between the triangle and the circle". But then point out that this doesn't tell us whether the shapes are distributed horizontally or vertically. So, "The square is to the right of the circle and to the left of the triangle" would be more accurate.

Then introduce vocabulary for parts of the shapes -- corner, edge, lower half, upper-right corner, center of ... etc.

Next have 2 shapes that touch each other and describe their relationship. e.g "The first square's lower-right corner is touching a second square's upper-left corner".

Move the shapes, or introduce a third shape and get them to describe it again.

Once they seem to get the hang of it, select one volunteer and have them listen to their classmates describe a group of shapes. Make sure that the volunteer can not see the illustration of the shapes that the others must describe.

Allow the describers to correct the drawer's attempts... "No, no. The UPPER-left corner", or "The OTHER right!" etc. as this helps them identify what can go wrong while delivering a description.

Next. Same thing as before, but this time DON'T allow the describers to see what the drawer is drawing. Then they can check their accuracy at the end of the description.

Finally, either in pairs or groups, students draw their own group of shapes, sit back to back, and describe their shapes to each other.

I found this useful in many types of classes, but especially for business people who need to clearly describe things over the phone. It draws their attention to the language they are producing and how that language is received by others.

For higher levels, describing photographs proved to be creative and fun.


Xiamen, China

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