Games and activities for a "meet the foreigner" class

Someone I know is going to be involved in something that I know happens a lot but I’ve seen very little written about- when someone, usually not a teacher, is asked to come into a class to give the students a chance to do some speaking. Another major motivation for this is to show them that English can be used for real communication (rather than just being something academic), and so it is most common with classes who never get to speak to foreigners.  

Sometimes there’s basically nothing to do, as after a short introduction the students will be happy to ask you questions for hours or the teacher will already have arranged something. Less commonly, the students completely freeze up and you’ll need games to get them warmed up, or possibly to fill up the whole time. As it’s difficult to predict which it will be, it’s best to have a few games up your sleeve. Again, the best thing is if they ask you lots of questions, so that is what most of the games below are for. It you have the technology and contacts, all of them could just as easily work through Skype.

So many questions

Draw a ? on the board and write next to it “= 1 point”. Every time someone asks you a question that hasn’t been asked before,  they get one point (and an answer to the question, of course). I wouldn’t usually actually keep score, but you could divide them into teams if you want to change it into a real competition. Otherwise just choose students who stick up their hands and try to give everyone a chance to ask at least one question. You can also give them prompts like writing a question word that they must use on the board (e.g. “What time…?”), giving them a topic (e.g. “Family”) or showing a picture that they ask about (e.g. one of your house). Those prompts work just as well for classes who have no ideas and ones which have too many.

The Yes Game

Write a ? on the board, and then next to it write “Yes = 1 point”, and then underneath in smaller letters “No = 0 points”. Students must ask you Yes/ No questions like “Are you American?”, but thinking carefully about what they think the answer will be so that they get a Yes answer and therefore a point. See So Many Questions above for ideas on scoring and prompts. As they won’t be using question words like What in this case, prompts could be “Can you…?” or “Have you ever…?”

Answers on the board

Write some information about yourself, but with the sentence shortened so that it isn’t obvious what it refers to, for example

1. London

2. 1948

3. Four

4. 41 years

etc

where the first one is where you were born, the second one is when you were born, the third one is how many children you have, and the fourth is how long you have had a beard. Students try to ask you questions that receive those true responses. If they ask you different questions, e.g. “How long have you lived in the same house?”, then just answer it, e.g. “For 27 years”.

When they have got all the answers from you, you could do a few more, or they could test you in the same way.

Presentations games

Students will probably enjoy a short presentation about your family, home town, local foods etc, especially if you have pictures or real things to show them while you are speaking. It is also well worth adding something for them to do while they are listening, in order to test their comprehension, give them a reason to pay attention, and add to the fun. One possibility is for you to tell them how many untrue things you will say during the presentation (between one and three is usually best, e.g. “This is my house. It has seventeen bedrooms”) and ask them to guess which things they were at the end. They could then make statements about their town that you can guess are true or false.

Another possibility is for them to test each other on what they just heard. The easiest way to organise is for one student to volunteer and the rest of the class to think up a question to test them with, e.g. “How many trees were there in the picture of his garden?”

Can’t think of any more at the moment. Anyone else?

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2 Responses to Games and activities for a "meet the foreigner" class

  1. Alex Case says:

    Thought of another one, although it might be more difficult to explain. You write something on a piece of paper so that they can see that you are writing but not what it is. They have to keep asking you questions until they get that answer. When they ask other questions, just answer them. When they ask the question that what you have written is an answer to, answer and then turn over the piece of paper to reveal it. Start with really easy ones like “My name is (your name)” and “I am (your age) years old” and then go onto trickier ones. If they get stuck, you can give clues such as how many words the question has, what the question word is, what the topic is, the first letters of each word of the question, etc.

  2. Walton says:

    Another activity that works well is having them guess about you based on what you look like, how you are dressed, or whatever. It takes a thick skin, because they can be very observant and bring up some touchy points, but I sometimes ask students, “Am I married?” “How old do you think I am?” “What hobbies do you think I have?” Then you can discuss why they made the guesses they did, and tell them the correct answer.

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