This is the first of a series of Richmond posts for 2018 and we aim to offer you some practical ideas that can easily be applied to your daily routine.
I am Nina Loback, Richmond Brazil’s Academic Coordinator for Language Schools, and I look forward to your comments, suggestions and requests.
Today’s activity and its name are based on an ice-breaker made available by ©playmeo.com. Originally, a quick problem-solving exercise, it is designed for groups of students of any level of English and nearly any age.
Activity type: ice-breaker.
Preparation: You might want to have a measuring tape (optional).
Time: Part A – 5 min/ Part B 10-20 min.
Part 1 – Original Activity
1. Form small teams of about 8 to 15 people [or at least 5 people]
2. Explain that each group is to build the tallest free-standing structure they can using only their shoes.
3. Everyone has exactly three minutes to achieve the task.
4. The tallest structure wins.
Note: you can replace students’ shoes with their bags.
Part 2 – Language Fun
Option 1 – Real beginners – Big groups
- Is it your shoe?
- What’s your name?
- I’m / My name is …
- Each student removes two different shoes from the pile.
- They ask and answer the questions in 1 to find the owners of the shoes and learn their names.
Option 2 – Elementary to advanced.
Each student picks one shoe from the pile.
Students, in turns, ask questions to the shoe – yes, the shoe!
[Kind of house/ city/ job/nationality/ family/ relationship status/ favourite food/ hobbies…] e.g.
- Did you go to the supermarket today?
- Does your owner live in …?
- Have you ever seen your owner do anything wrong? What?
The owner of the shoe answers the questions. E.g. “Yes, it did”.
The winner is the person in the group who manages to ask the most questions.
Note: students themselves, in each group, are responsible for counting the questions.
Follow up – Students write what they remember about each shoe. An elementary student could produce something like: “She lives in a big apartment in Tatuapé, São Paulo. She is a mechanic. She likes going to the cinema…”
Option 3 – Elementary to advanced.
- Ask students what it is like to be a shoe.
- Tell them they are going to write the story of the shoe’s life.
- Brainstorm topics to mention: place of origin, early life, adventures, brand, pricing, sales, past owners and interesting facts about them, present owner and unusual things about it, etc.
E.g. I was made in China by underpaid women. I travelled in a container by ship to Europe. I went to a warehouse where they gave a new label and put me in a box. After that, I came to Brazil and lived in a very expensive shop…. Nowadays…
- With more advanced students, add to the challenge by having them use more complex structures.
Option 4 – Real beginners – Small groups
(don’t do part 1)
- Teach the same dialogue as in option 1.
- Out of the blue, ask students to close their eyes.
- Ask them to remove their shoes while keeping their eyes shut.
- Put all the shoes in a non-transparent bag.
- Tell students to open their eyes.
- Ask each of them to pick two different shoes from the bag.
- They ask and answer the questions from option 1 to find the owners of the shoes and learn their names.
There are so many other ways of using this activity for language purposes, such as adapting options 3 and 4 to be used with the Padlet app or asking students to go online and research more info about the shoes and the brands people are wearing, for instance. All you have to do is use your recently-on-holiday imagination and give it a go! You might want to bring an air freshener spray to class, though…
Original activity on video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxvR2ClO04M
PDF of original activity (free): https://www.playmeo.com/activities/team-building-problem-solving-activities/leaning-tower-of-feetza/