Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The extended name tag

It is time to get down to the nitty-gritty stuff and start thinking about teaching again. The students come back to school tomorrow, and the first classes are just around the corner. As an EFL teacher I strongly believe that one of the most important things we can do with the students, is to make them start speaking English as soon as possible. I know for sure that way too many students believe that their English is not good enough, and that speaking a foreign language in front of 29 other students is a nightmare. I was one of those students myself when I went to school. My English is still far from perfect, but I have realised that the only way in which I can improve it is by using the language as much as possible.

I would like to share an activity that I have used in my classes the last couple of years, an activity which usually makes all of the students say at least a few words during the first English class of upper secondary school. It is called (I think...) the "extended name tag" and is something I learned at a course in cooperative learning in Canada three years ago. It goes like this:

  • Give all the students a sheet of paper and tell them to write their names.

  • Give them instructions about what to draw in the four corners, like "your favorite city", "a place you would like to go if you could choose anywhere in the world", "your number one hobby", "a place you visited this summer", etc.

  • When I have done this activity in class before, I have usually put the students pairs of two and asked them to present their name tags to their partner. The partner then has to remember what he/she is told, so that he/she can retell it either to a small group of students or to the rest of the class.

My experience is that most students like this activity. They can talk about things that are familiar to them, and, abracadabra, they have spoken English and learned something about at least one of their classmates at the same time.


  1. Drawing has a way of loosing locked tongues! Great exercise for the first day!

  2. Love this activity, it works really well with teens and adult general English learners have fun with it as well.

    One alternative, for those teaching in rooms with labs, is to get them hunting through flickr for pictures that describe who they are.

    Take care,

  3. Thank you for commenting on this activity. I guess making a glogster can also be used as an introductory activity. That will, however, take more time away from other activities...