I’m a big fan of readapting game show formats for teaching because the more raucous and entertaining the class, the more students feel compelled to attend and participate.
The basic truth behind this is that competition and game-playing are extremely conducive to language learning. Students must use language they have acquired in a personal context while undertaking a meaningful task. From an educational perspective, competition should be seen as a virtue; something which facilitates active learning and improves the quality of activities.
So, here’s lesson plan I put together based on what was once a hugely popular British game show. My apologies if this is a bit old hat for you, but it is a classic after all.
Blind Date was a Saturday night show that lasted throughout the 90s on UK television. In it contestants had to ask a panel of 3 contenders, who were hidden behind a screen, 3 questions and then decide who to take with them on a date. Example of the type of question and answers:
Q. I really like dining out. If you were a type of food, what food would you be?
A. I would be a curry because I’m hot and spicy! [audience goes “whooooo!!!”]
A. I would be a hamburger because I like a man with some meat. [audience goes “whooooo!!!”]
A. I would be ketchup because I’ll get saucy with you!!! [audience goes “whooooo!!!”]
And so it goes on like this for 2 more questions.
To warm up the class, pre-empt the concept by getting every student to ask the person next to them 3 simple open-ended questions, i.e. not implying yes or no answers.
Bring the talking to a halt after a couple of minutes and give everyone five minutes to write down 3 dating questions. Model some examples on the board. Ideas could include:
Q1. What do you look for in a boyfriend / girlfriend?
Q2. What is your most attractive quality?
Q3. What is the most romantic thing you have ever done for someone?
Then split the class into 2 groups; males and females, and ask the girls to leave the room.
Choose 3 volunteers from the men and have them get up and sit on stools already placed on stage.
Go to the girl’s room and pick one volunteer to be the main contestant. Bring her into the main room but make sure the whiteboard or a suitable screen is situated between her and the boys so she cannot see them.
Now bring all the girls back in, mix the audience up and begin the contest. Have the students give their Q&As in big loud voices and you should encourage a fun and even raucous atmosphere.
Once they have finished it’s time for the girl to pick a lucky winner but before she does this an announcer must do a recap for each of the contestants, finishing with the catchphrase “The choice is yours”.
You prompt the student to make her choice but before she sees him, she must see the two she turned down while the teacher exclaims “How could you turn down X?” The participants should be removed one at a time to drag out the action and get audience sympathy for the players.
Next it’s the boys’ turn to leave the room. Continue as before…
The key goal behind this game is to have students expressing a range of emotions in an entertaining and accessible context. The mismatch of numbers ensures constant competition which creates the action, the tension, and the humiliation when someone is rejected.
In this class students get to activate their open questioning techniques using the present simple tense and by using conditional questions for more advanced learners (such as “If I was to ask…”). Talking from behind a screen takes the non-verbal aspect of communication totally out of the equation, thus Blind Date is a wonderful exercise for improving students’ listening skills.
Another useful aspect of this class is that the announcer has to recap by summarising the answers and qualities of each contestant back to the audience using reported speech.
Vocab to be covered could include anything in relation to love, romance, dating, and relationships. As well as any target vocabulary you have recently been covering. The questions do not necessarily have to relate to romance and dating — you can use the format equally well to cover topics like food and dining, a job interview, planning a vacation, etc.
Good luck and have fun!