A couple of months ago my son, who lives in Stockholm, Sweden, at the moment, sent me a card game upon request, Icebreaker. I had read about it, gotten curious and thought it might come in handy in the classroom at some point. The game is simple enough, each player takes a card and has to answer the question on that particular card. The questions are bilingual – Swedish and English – and the ultimate goal of the game is to get to know your co-players better.
Well, I couldn’t really use the cards themselves very well in the classroom. First of all, I had only one pack and I didn’t want to divide them up among the students either. But I could use the idea and the cards as inspiration. This is how it actually turned out IRL and the students loved every minute of it and spoke English as never before.
Every student gets a blank piece of paper and is asked to write down a number between 20 and 29. That would be the age of their new alter ego, but I didn’t tell them that. I choose to restrict the numbers because these ages are sufficiently removed from the students themselves (who are teenagers) and for the dating game to run smoothly, but of course one can modify that for one’s own purposes.
Next they had to choose a first name (a boy’s or a girl’s) – I could let them come up with one of their own, or I could give them a list of names to choose from. I made life easy for myself and used a list from the most popular boy and girl names in the UK.
The same goes for surnames.
For the students to get a complete picture of their new identity, I also wanted to provide them with a profession, but this time I didn’t let them choose one for themselves. Instead I had armed myself with profession flashcards, and each student had to draw one card for themselves. (This might also be elaborated into a mini-lesson of revising vocabulary on professions or this speed dating lesson could have been preceded by a vocabulary lesson on professions.)
Next the student may choose any place in the world.
All these data should now be recorded on the blank piece of paper they got at the beginning of the lesson.
The students will now learn the purpose for all of this; their new identities with age, names, profession, hometown etc included. Now they needed to imagine what their new identity/personality entailed. Also, at least my students need a reminder that are were now leaving their typically Finnish taciturn personality behind and assume that of an English speaker, who by nature is an excellent small talker and verbal at all times. No silent meditative pauses are allowed in this game.
Presenting the rules: Half of the class need to rise, while the other half remain sitting. Rearrange the furniture so that there is one empty chair in front of the desk of each sitting student. The students are then told the principles of speed dating, which involves intense social and verbal interaction between two strangers for five minutes max, until the bell sounds. The video projector will run a PowerPoint slide show with questions, changing every 30 seconds or so, and these should be covered during the sessions. At the bell sound the mobile dating part has to leave his partner immediate and move to the next sitting student and start a new conversation.
The game could further benefit from introducing individual “dating forms” for the students to fill in data on each dating partner at every switch. These might then be discussed in pairs or in the class as a whole.
Start playing the game. The teacher’s role is now to remain in the background, control the slide show and the bells for the partner switches, whereas the students take over for the remainder of the lesson.
This is a video made to illustrate the steps of the preparatory as well as the actual game phases, but the rate of the conversations questions has been fast-forwarded for obvious reasons and only one partner switch has been inserted.