Middleman: A communicative activity for reported speech

Level: Intermediate to advanced

Number of students: 3+

Objective: To play the role of intermediary and report the words of two arguing parties

STEP 1 – Have the class brainstorm situations in which people argue. Ask them to name relationships and possible issues to fight over. Examples:

  • Neighbors argue over a noisy dog, a parking spot, frequent parties…
  • Roommates argue over cleaning, having guests over, using each other’s things…
  • Co-workers argue over office space, stolen documents, a promotion…
  • Spouses/ boyfriend-girlfriend argue over cheating, forgetting a birthday…

STEP 2 – Explain the term middleman. Discuss briefly what the middleman might do in an argument.

STEP 3 – Explain that students will role play an argument in which two people are so angry that they refuse to speak to each other. Select two students to be the arguing parties and a third student to play the role of middleman. The students arguing will take turns making statements (and asking questions if you’ve covered reporting questions). The middleman will report each statement making all necessary changes to verbs, word order, and reference words. Set a time limit of about 2 minutes. Allow others to assist the middleman if necessary. Model:

                Roommate A (Anna):     I’m tired of cleaning up Dora’s mess in the kitchen.

                Middleman:   Anna said she was tired of cleaning up your mess in the  


                Roommate B (Dora):    Tell Anna I’ll keep the kitchen clean, but I want her to

                    help with grocery shopping and cooking.

                Middleman:    Dora said that she would keep the kitchen clean, but she

                    asked you to help with the grocery shopping and cooking.

STEP 4 – You may continue to select three students at a time to start a new round of arguing and reporting. If the class is large, you could choose to do one of the following: (1) increase the number of people in each party and also have at least two middlemen; (2) have the students work in small groups of three, taking turns as the middleman.

STEP 5 – Optional homework assignment: Write about a time you argued with another person. Include reported speech in your text.

SUGGESTION: With advanced students, keep a list of reporting verbs on the board. Challenge the middleman to make use of verbs other than say, tell, and ask.


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