What I know about …

… I could write on the back of a stamp!

This is just a quick post to share one of my favourite getting-to-know-you activities which always seems to work well. I’ve found that it helps create a relaxed and interested atmosphere and it’s a great way for learners to start getting to know each other… and me them!

I first found it in a publication called Try it: it works! put out by SATEFL in 2000 and edited by Anne Lawrie. It’s a collection of activities contributed by the SATEFL members. This activity came from Kathleen McMillan.

Very briefly, and slightly adapted from the original, it goes like this…

You’ll need copies of postage stamps, or stamps cut from envelopes if you have any. [NB: You’ll have to use this activity while people still know what stamps are!]

Introduce the saying, “What I know about [cars/football/trainspotting] I could write on a stamp!” and check the meaning.

Discuss just how much could actually be recorded on a stamp and how many pieces of information they think they could record about their partner on a stamp.

Handout a stamp to each learner. (In my experience, this is when learners perk up, become interested, and smile!)

Agree a minimum target number of pieces of information (10, 15, 20) and then ask learners to find out about their partner and record everything (as much as they can) on the back of the stamp.

Let the discussion run as long as you think is appropriate. In the book, a time limit is suggested but I’m inclined to let it run as long as there’s good discussion going on. One of my main aims with this activity is for people to have the chance to get to know each other and to start to feel comfortable in each other’s company. It’s also a great opportunity for me to get a better feel for who the learners are, what they can do, what they seem interested in to use in planning future sessions.

Learners can then introduce their partner to the group or to another pair. Be sure to see who managed to get the most pieces of information onto their stamp!

The idea of writing on such a small area seems to create a bit of a buzz – a challenge. Also, learners continue thinking of things to ask their partner as long as they can fit more on the stamp and so they uncover interesting things about each other. Of course, it’s always a good idea to remind learners that they don’t have to answer any question that they don’t want to for any reason and discuss strategies for doing so.

I use this with new groups and also when new batches of learners join an existing group. Because the second scenario is more common where I am, I need to have a few favourite getting-to-know-you activities, but as I haven’t seen this one written about elsewhere I thought I’d pass it on!


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