This posting is discussed on my YouTube video ESL Writing Class Activity: Fun, Lively and Productive
This is a paragraph that a student secretly wrote to describe one of her classmates. All the students are circulating around the periphery of the room, reading description hanging on the wall with no names on and trying to determine who is being described in the paragraphs. Each student seems very focused on reading the descriptions, searching for the classmate who is the object of the description but also looking out of the corner of their eyes to see what kind of reaction others are having to the description that they secretly wrote just an hour earlier. There is energy in the room, a lot of interacting and a lot of laughing.
Describe your classmate activity
In brief, the steps for this activity are:
1) The students are secretly assigned by the teacher to a classmate to describe.
2) They write a description. It can be a list (for lower levels) or a paragraph (for higher ones).
3) They give their papers to the teacher, who quickly scans them to make sure that there is nothing inappropriate on them.
4) At random, the teacher returns the papers to the students, and each one tapes the one that they were given on the walls of the classroom. These have no names on them, only a number.
5) They move about the room, read the descriptions and write on a separate piece of paper the name of the classmate who is described.
6) When most students have finished #5, the teacher asks them to stop. Then as a whole class, they tell the teacher who they think was described on each paper, and the teacher confirms the correct answer.
Variation depending on the level of the students
For lower-level students, they can describe the physical appearance, e.g., clothes, hair, size etc.
For students who are a bit higher, they can describe the personality, habits, backgrounds, unique characteristic or experience, or even recommend a future job for them. For this one, I tell them that they shouldn’t include information that isn’t well known to the other students. For example, they shouldn’t write something like, last night she dreamed that she couldn’t find our classroom.
The only tricky part of this activity can be assigning the secret numbers. This form Describe your neighbor Form has been found to be helpful for that.
Here is one of my favorite last lines in a description that a student wrote about a classmate: “This student would be a good toy salesman.”