Our lives without … speaking activity

This speaking activity encourages students to imagine their lives without something considered quite vital nowadays and describe the new reality. It is a fun activity for levels intermediate and higher, teenagers and adults alike. It offers the opportunity for students to collaborate, exchange ideas, and practice such grammar points as modal verbs or second conditional.

The Task

Step 1

Before the class, prepare a list of items your students will find important in their everyday lives: the Internet, mobile phones, football, Facebook, public transport, films, etc. Try to make these items as relevant to your students’ age and life experience as possible. Cut the list up and place the pieces of paper in a container.

What works better with teenagers is collecting ideas from them: at the end of the class ask your students to write down something they can’t imagine living without on a piece of paper and hand it back to you. Use their answers the following week with this activity.

Step 2

Introduce the activity by showing this picture. Ask your students what they can see: it’s a train or a bus, there are people in it, some of them are reading, some of them are looking out the window etc. Elicit a couple of sentences that describe the photo and tell your students that this picture, among other things, shows a metro car BEFORE smartphones became so widespread. In other words, this picture shows people on the metro in the days WITHOUT smartphones.

Ask your students how in their opinion the same metro car would look like today. Would it be different or similar? You have a chance to model some language here, second conditional, may, and might will be useful.

Step 3

Divide your students into pairs or small groups. Each group draws a piece of paper from the container you had prepared. Their task is to brainstorm how Our lives without … would look like and make a list of at least 5 ideas.

Step 4

Ask a volunteer from each group to present their ideas about Our lives without… Ask other students whether they agree/would add something to the list. After all groups present their lists, ask the class to decide which version of Our lives without … was

  • better than our lives today
  • worse than our lives today
  • the most optimistic
  • the most pessimistic
  • the scariest
  • the most boring

and to justify their opinions. Students might do it in pairs or groups again (you might change speaking partners for this stage) or you can hold a whole-class discussion.

Personal Experience

I was introduced to this activity by one of my friends who did it in the Spanish course she attended as a student. My intention was to first use it with my teenage students (13-15) who tend to be less eager to speak in class and love giving one-word/ vague answers. This activity forced them to be more creative than usual and pay attention to grammar.

Specifically for my teens, I prepared another variation of this activity: Speaking Stations. Pairs / groups wander around the classroom brainstorming ideas. I described this type of activity here.

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