what’s the best way to…?

Ideal stuff for the first time you meet a group of students or if you have to cover someone else’s lesson. Write down these items on the board or display them on the screen.  Give the students three or four minutes to think of possible full questions for what they see. It is not essential that they write them down but they can, if they feel more comfortable doing so. Some possible full sentences might be:

– Tell me the best three things about…yourself/myself/our teacher/England/our town/the Internet

– Have you ever… been to an English-speaking country/found a sizeable amount of money in the street/cheated in an exam?

– Who was your worst… teacher/boss/enemy/mistake?

– What’s the best way to… learn English/cook chicken/travel to Madrid/find good deals on the Internet?

– What are your top three… skills/songs of all time/favorite movies/priorities in life?

Can you suggest any other interesting questions?

Then have the students mill around and strike up conversations. Involve yourself and stay tuned. Take good note of interesting words and possible mistakes so that, at a later stage, you can feed in some new language or highlight good use of it. Have a general discussion and elicit from the students the questions they could think of.

An interesting –and fun- variation is to have a look at how Google autocomplete prompts the last strings of words. Can the students guess what Google will come up with?


You may also decide to narrow down these items to a given topic (more adequate for higher language levels). On the topic of “health”…

– Tell me the best three things about doing sport.

– Have you ever been on a diet?

– Who was your worst doctor?

– What’s the best way to lose weight?

– When was the last time you saw a doctor?

– What’s the most amazing medical breakthrough?

– What are your top three pieces of advice for a healthy lifestyle?

Can you autocomplete questions for the topics of work, family or traveling, for instance? Would that work for your group of students?

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