On the occasion of New Year’s Day, I’d like to offer a communicative activity called Firsts. Students will be prompted to share memories about first-time experiences. The twist is for the class to decide if a student is telling his/ her own story or another’s.
STEP 1 – Prepare slips of paper with topics. They must all relate to the theme of first-time experiences. Ideally, there should be enough topics for each student to have a unique one, but duplicates are possible for large classes. Suggestions:
- Your first teacher (or one of your first teachers).
- Your first job.
- Your first friend/ playmate in childhood.
- Your first time at a fancy restaurant.
- Your first time in a foreign country.
- Your first trip/ vacation without your family.
- Your first date.
- Your first home.
- Your first pet.
- Your first bicycle.
- Your first serious injury.
- Your first major success as an adult.
- Your first English lesson.
STEP 2 – Each student must draw a slip of paper. If a topic doesn’t apply to a student’s life experience (e.g. has never had a paying job because s/he’s still in school, so can’t speak on “first job” topic), then the student may return the slip to the pile and draw another.
STEP 3 – Place students in pairs. (If necessary, a threesome can work.) Students have one minute to tell their partners about their first-time experience. The listeners can ask the speaker for more details. Tell them to listen carefully because they may need to relate their partners’ stories to the class.
STEP 4 – Partners must decide if they wish to retell their own stories to the class or swap stories and retell another student’s experience as if it were their own. The trick is that everyone will have approximately 30 seconds to retell one of the stories shared during pair work in the first person. Explain the difference between a first-person narrative and a third-person narrative.
STEP 5 – Ask each pair to retell their stories. When each of the two students has retold a first-person narrative, the class must guess if they were telling their own stories or if they should have spoken in the third person because they secretly swapped tales. The game continues as each pair comes forward to share their set of first-time experiences.
SUGGESTION: This activity could nicely lead into a lesson on past tenses or the use of time or sequence markers.