The small-talk game (or: Flies on the windscreen)
This slightly surreal activity really puts students on the spot, especially when they try to find connections between the topics they are presented with. The first time you do it, choose a couple of outgoing students so that you can be sure the conversation doesn't dry up. 90 seconds can seem a long time if it does!
Before the lesson, browse the contents page in any Spotlight
magazine for ten or so small talk topics. Examples from the 2/2009
issue might include London, pets, learning English, youth hostelling
and so on. Write these topic headings on slips of paper or card, one topic
Who it's for:
What it's for:
Energy raising, building awareness of the "rules" of small talk, developing students' fluency and spontaneity in speaking.
What you need:
A copy of Spotlight magazine; slips of paper or card and a pen
What you do:
Set up a table and two chairs to represent a car.
Ask two students to take a seat in the "car". Establish that one student (the driver) has picked up the other from the airport and is driving him or her home or to the hotel, office etc. They are now stuck in traffic and have to make small talk. They have not met before.
Ask three or four other students to stand around the table. Explain that they are flies on the windscreen, and are getting bored with the conversation in the car. Give each of these students two or three of the cards. Once the activity starts, they should lay the cards face up and one after the other on the table.
Tell the two students in the car that they have 90 seconds in which they should make small talk. They should talk about the topics as the cards are put on the table, changing topic when a new card is put down.
Start the activity, and encourage the "flies" to put down new topics every 15 seconds or so. Time the activity for around 90 seconds.
Thank the two students and ask the other students if they noticed anything about the conversation. Very often the activity turns into a one-sided question and answer session, usually with the driver posing all the questions. This is a good opportunity to discuss the balanced "ping-pong" nature of a natural, polite conversation and the importance of showing interest in others, etc.
If the other students have not seen the cards, you can ask them to guess what the topics were.
Ask your two volunteers to pick two other students for a second round. I find that three rounds is usually enough.