Trading Places is a great ice breaker activity and a lot of fun. It’s also ideal for practicing questions. It’s simple to run this activity and no preparation is needed which means it’s great to know for those emergency situations in class!
With the class as a whole brainstorm some questions you can ask about each other. You should come up with a list something like this:
- Where do you live?
- How old are you?
- Where were you born?
- Do you have brothers or sisters?
For older students you can include questions such as:
- What job do you do?
- Are you married?
- Do you have children?
And so on.
The idea here is to get a good selection of everyday questions about people. With lower level classes you can leave the questions on the board; with more advanced classes you might want to erase them.
Running the Activity
Get the class into pairs. Then give them 5 minutes or so to ask and answer the questions; optionally you can allow them to make notes as they do this.
While this is going on, you circulate and help out where you can.
At the end of the five minutes tell them they have to trade places. That is, if Peter is paired with Costas then now Peter becomes Costas and Costas becomes Peter.
Get the class back in their places and choose a student at random and ask their name; they should, of course, reply with their new identity. Now ask a few questions to them and they need to answer in the guise of their new persona!
Once the class are familiar and understand the concept you can continue with new pairs and get the students to trade places several times. It gets confusing but it’s great fun!
Variations on a Theme
Rather than you ask questions of one student, have the class mix it up a little into a cocktail party situation where they mingle and ask each other (always as their new persona).
With more advanced classes the questions can be that much more advanced: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever done? Why do you want to learn English? If you had the choice, what would be your favorite job? and so on.