"SHOPPING LIST" OR "WHAT'S IN A NAME?"

In this activity students will describe an object without actually ever naming the object.  They will use a variety of teacher selected target language structures in a creative fun way.  It can be done as an improvisation, but I prefer to do it as a rehearsed activity, giving groups ample opportunity to practice the target language structures before presenting.  Indeed, it's in the informal practice time that much of the language growth takes place. This is where I do a lot of my work, circulating between groups, listening and answering questions and taking notes of miscues for future mini lessons.

The basics are this:

1. First students, ideally in pairs but groups of 3 or more can work, decide on the type of store that their scene will take place in:  A grocery, a school supply, a hardware store, an automobile parts store, a pet store, etc.

2. Then they create a shopping list of items that they want to buy there.  The amount is up to you, but I tried ten items in my class and it seemed to be the right size.

3.  Then the fun begins.  One student plays a customer another plays the shopkeeper.  It is possible to add to this by having more customers and more workers in the store, but the basic activity works nicely with two.

4.  Customer enters the store—with their list and introduces themselves and the “location” of the scene to the “shopkeeper” with a dialogue such as this:

Customer

Hello is this the Food mart?

Shopkeeper

Yes, it is the food mart.  What can I get you?

5.  Once the location is established the customer and shopkeeper engage in a dialogue that could look something like this:

Customer

I am looking for, oh dear; I cannot remember the name of what I want.

Shopkeeper

Well describe it to me and I’ll see what I can do.

Customer

Well, the outside is yellow and long and you can peel it, and you eat what’s underneath.  It’s quite tasty and healthy, too.

Shopkeeper

Ah, you mean a banana.  Yes, I’ll get that for you.

Additional notes: The role-playing can go on with other items.  We introduced the idea of a manager; another character the shopkeeper could call on if they could not guess the object.  Some of the teams, notably the students who were newest to English, were provided with templates or sentence starters to help them with the dialogue.  More advanced students were able to improvise extensively as shown via the videos.  I could easily imagine elaborate extensions that this role playing game can lead to.