Just a Minute‏‎

Hand holding a stopwatchJust a Minute is a very popular British radio quiz game which is ideal for the ELT classroom. It's very simple to prepare and great fun to play. Best for small groups but it can be played with larger groups if you prepare it well. It works best, perhaps, with Intermediate and above level students.

Background

The principle of the game is very simple. A student has to speak for 60 seconds on a specific subject. However, they have to speak without hesitation, repetition or deviation. By repetition we mean that the student has used the same word more than once; this doesn't include prepositions‏‎ and suchlike but really only applies to content words or phrases. Deviation means that the student has strayed off topic; however it can also mean that the student is talking rubbish or making huge errors with their statements.

While the student is speaking they can be challenged by another student who thinks they have hesitated, repeated a word or phrase or deviated. If the challenge is successful (i.e. the teacher agrees) then the challenger is given a point and must continue speaking on the same subject for the remainder of the 60 seconds.

A typical game might go as follows:

  1. Teacher reads out the topic: My House.
  2. Student Maria starts talking.
  3. Student Juan interrupts after 10 seconds for hesitation.
  4. Teacher decides it was a valid interruption; Student Juan gets 1 point and has 50 seconds to talk on the subject.
  5. Student Tony interrupts after 20 seconds for repetition.
  6. Teacher decides it was not a valid interruption; Student Juan gets 1 point (for a bad interruption) and keeps the subject with 30 seconds remaining.
  7. Student Maria interrupts after 5 seconds for deviation.
  8. Teacher decides it was a valid interruption; Student Maria gets 1 point and has 27 seconds to talk on the subject.
  9. Student Maria completes 25 seconds with no interruption and gets 1 point for speaking when the 60 seconds is finished.
  • Maria: 3 points
  • Juan: 2 points
  • Tony: 0 points

Preparation

The topics can be very simple. It is not a matter of thinking about complex sentences and doing research before speaking, it's merely about learning to speak fluently.

Typical topics might include:

  • My first day at school.
  • If I ruled the world.
  • A perfect day out.
  • My hero.
  • How to make a pizza.

The topic can be written up on the board and you can then give the class a few moments to think about what to say before choosing a random student to begin speaking.

In the classroom a stopwatch is useful for timing.

Notes

  • A variation of the game can be played which includes a new category of interruptions: grammatical errors.
  • This can also be played as a team game with a larger class to simplify the scoring.

See Also

QVC‏‎ - a speaking activity in the style of the QVC channel.

Image © purplemattfish
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