Facilitating Groups: Speed Chatting

 Lessons from TEFL classroom 01

I attended a lot of different events during the Brighton Digital Festival.  At one event, we were broken down into smaller groups – the idea being that it would increase networking, and get people sharing ideas with random people, rather than the people we were drawn to/ended up standing/sitting next to.

As a language teacher, I often meet groups of students who are accustomed to working together in L1.  They come into the EFL classroom and want to sit with their best friends from home.  I want the students to feel comfortable, yet I also want them to explore other people, preferably using English – they are here after all, to learn English, so let’s use it, s.v.p! :-)*

A great way to mix them up is to give them a language form to practice. A mix up of the conditionals for example.  They speak with each other for as long as it takes to practice that form, then switch partners.  The switch is counted off, with either all the odds or all the evens – you choose – standing up and moving one chair/person to the left (or right).  The activity is repeated for as long as you want it to last, or until everybody has chatted with everybody else, depending on the size of the group.

This technique for grouping can be applied to conference sessions where we want to mix up teams and disciplines.

A great way to get them to move around and mix with others is speed chatting. Give them a topic, or have them choose their own question that they will ask of everybody they speak with.  Keep the chatting brief.  2 or 3 minutes max.  Long enough to get the initial rub of ideas, and exchange of details, if wanted.

You can also use numbers according to size of groups wanted.  Say you want groups of 5 or 6.  Get everybody to count off 1-5 or 6, then get all the people of each of those numbers to group.  All the 1’s together, all the 2’s and so on.  Clearly for this to work you’d need groups of at least 18 (to make 3 groups of 6) or 20 (to make 4 groups of 5).  You see the pattern I’m sure.

When you create larger groups like this, the chats can be longer, so an idea is discussed for 7-10 minutes.  You can swap the groups off again by counting off new numbers, and remixing.

Anybody else got any ideas for mixing up groups of people in the training environment?  Share your ideas in the comment field, s.v.p.

*s.v.p. = French abbreviation for s’il vous plait = If you please = Please.

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