Fishing for Clauses: A communicative activity

FISHING FOR CLAUSES: A communicative activity

(Originally published in my book Brainstorming. Moscow: Manager, 2001. This is an updated version.)

Language Focus: Adjective clauses

Level: Intermediate to advanced  

Objective: To use targeted words in adjective clauses. All statements must collectively tell a story.

STEP 1 – Write about a dozen common nouns on slips of paper (e.g., dog, bus, book, food). You’ll need at least one slip of paper per student. If you have a small class, you can create two slips per student. Place those slips of paper in a bag (a hat or box will also do).

STEP 2 – Each student takes a turn drawing a word from the bag. The student must use the targeted word in an adjective clause. Each statement must continue to form a narrative. Assistance/ correction can be offered by others. Model:

           Student A – (dog) – I don’t like dogs that jump up on me.

           Student B – (bus) – I saw such a dog on the bus that I took to school today.

           Student C – (book) – The dog jumped on me and I dropped my book,  

               which I had on my lap.


The teacher can record the narrative on the board. At the end, the narrative can be read as a class.


  • At the advanced level, you can require used of reduced clauses and more advanced structures such as a fact which or which is why.
  • With advanced students, you can also turn the activity into a competitive game. Instead of building a story, the goal can be to steal the word card from the previous student. If Student B can extend the statement of Student A with another adjective clause, Student B can claim the word card from Student A. In any case, Student B takes his/ her turn as normal, drawing a new word card and making a new statement.  The process continues, and Student C now has the chance to steal Student B’s word card. Whoever has the most cards at the end wins. Model:

               Student A – (dog) – I don’t like dogs that jump up on me.

               Student B (chance to steal) – I don’t like dogs that jump up on me, 

                    which is why I stay away from my neighbor’s dog.

               Student B (regular turn) – (bus) – The bus (that) I take to school is often late.


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