This activity allows students to ask and answer questions with many different partners (ideally most if not all other students in the class). Students use a sheet with a list of characteristics (i.e. “someone who traveled this summer” or “someone who has no pets”). When they successfully identify a person with the characteristic they are seeking, they write that classmate’s name down on their checklist. Their goal is to meet and talk to as many people as possible within the time limit in order to put a unique name by each of the characteristics on the sheet.
The teacher prepares a survey checklist or a grid relating to the content of the current thematic unit (using vocabulary that students are already familiar with). This checklist or grid can be prepared with pictures, text, or a combination of both.
The teacher models first, demonstrating the process and explaining the goal of the activity. The teacher may choose to go over each grid with students before beginning the activity to ensure that everyone understands each criterion.
The students walk around the room and ask each other questions to identify someone who fulfills the criterion in each space. Students may use the initial question and the answer they hear from a classmate to continue the conversation beyond the first question.
Once students have found someone who matches the criterion, they write their classmate’s name in the square containing the criterion the classmate fulfills. Each student can only write each classmate’s name down once.
Students continue finding classmates and asking and answering questions and filling out their own sheets based on classmates’ responses to their questions.
Most of the vocabulary should be recycled from prior learning, since the focus of this activity is building fluency with structures and vocabulary with a communicative purpose (so the amount of new words should be very limited).
An additional authentic communicative function can be easily added to this activity by requiring that students ask how to spell (for alphabetic languages) or write (for non-alphabetic languages) their classmates’ names instead of having the classmate write her/his own name.
To push the performance target level up to intermediate, the teacher can add an additional blank next to some (or all) of the items to allow students to record additional information obtained by asking each other follow-up questions (i.e. why, how, etc.).
The teacher can select different types of content that require students to ask different kinds of questions (yes/no vs. open-ended) based on the proficiency level of the class.
For students that need additional support, the teacher may choose to provide sentence/question frames on the board (or on individual sheets for those specific students).
To add an additional challenge, the teacher could require that students leave their sheets on their own desks. This serves as a formative check for teachers, because when students either (1) forget the vocabulary/question they were going to ask or (2) forget their classmate’s response (yes/no), they will have to return to the sheet or the classmate to confirm before recording an answer. This modification also requires real interpersonal communication between students and does not let them “cheat” by pointing and nodding or exchanging papers, finding a characteristic and writing their own name without any negotiation of meaning/communication.
The teacher may choose to vary the difficulty of questions so that it will be easy to find a person for some characteristics but not so easy for others. Examples of easy questions include: "Find someone who likes to read" or "Find someone who has a dog". More challenging questions include things like "Find someone who is older than you" or "Find someone who has a birthday during summer vacation".
As a follow-up activity, the teacher may have students return to their seats and each introduce one classmate (possibily providing a new sentence frame like “I learned that s/he…” or “Today I found out that s/he…”). The class could also contribute additional information that other students found out about the same person, if desired. (to involve more people). (adapted from the University of Michigan, see Further Reading).
Ten to twenty descriptions, images, or a combination of both written out on a form or grid.