A Roomful of Quotes: A Communicative Activity

I often find that changing what’s on the walls of my classroom changes the energy in the class. Recently, I decided to challenge my intermediate-level adult students to a new speaking activity by posting 24 quotes about taking risks around my classroom. I asked my students to walk around the room, looking at all the quotes. I then asked them to choose three quotes that resonated with them and to write them in their notebooks.

Here are some of the quotes that proved to be especially popular:

  • You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
  • A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.
  • The forests would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang the best.
  • You miss 100% of the shots you never take.

Once students had selected their risk-taking quotes, I asked them to find someone else in the class who had chosen one of the same quotes and to compare notes on why they had both chosen that quote. Next, I put students in pairs and asked them to explain to their partner why they had chosen each of their three quotes, and to give some examples from their own life or the lives of others that illustrated the point of the quote. I had the students change pairs three times, giving them plenty of opportunity to practice explaining their quotes and their reasons for choosing them.

Next, we moved on to the tricky business of paraphrasing, an important skill for students in my class who are heading to college in the United States and a vehicle for teaching all students the virtues of being succinct in their writing. We started by working together to paraphrase this quote: “There is no progress without a struggle.” Once students understood the concept of paraphrasing, I asked all the pairs to try their hand at a second quote: “Too many of us aren’t living our dreams because we are living our fears.”  Once students were finished, I asked them to dictate their paraphrase to a classmate at the board.

With the various paraphrases written on the board for us all to admire and critique, we collectively worked on improving the grammar and vocabulary of each one. To drive home the point that “less is more” when it comes to writing, we looked at the number of words in the paraphrases, compared to the word count of the original. Finally, we considered which of the paraphrases came closest to capturing the idea of the original without using any of the words of the original quote.

All in all, students were actively engaged in speaking, writing, and editing for more than 75 minutes.  They also left class armed with a personal motto designed to help them overcome their fears of speaking English outside of class!


About Alexandra Lowe

Alexandra Lowe
Alexandra is an ESL instructor at SUNY Westchester Community College, where she has taught Speaking & Listening in the Intensive English Program, English for Academic Purposes, Business English, Accent on Fluency and a wide range of ESL levels. She has also served as a consultant to the Community College Consortium on Immigrant Education, which is based at Westchester Community College. Her primary interests are bringing authentic materials into the ESL classroom, connecting ESL students to the supportive resources available at many community colleges, and promoting self-directed learning strategies that ESL students can use outside of the classroom to accelerate their learning and enhance their speaking skills.
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4 Responses to A Roomful of Quotes: A Communicative Activity

  1. Amy Tate says:

    I love this and will use it. I appreciate that there are opportunities for recycling language, for speaking and writing practice and for accuracy work at the end. This will be a great way for me to start my next session in January. Thanks!

  2. Alexandra Lowe Alexandra Lowe says:

    Hi, Annie: Thanks for writing in and for sharing an additional grammar resource with our readers. Warm regards, Alexandra

  3. Annie Romero says:

    I do some of these same things, this changes it up and keeps the learning growing. I would recommend a book called The English Tenses Practical Grammar Guide by Phil Williams. It helps with grammar, reading the whole lot. His site is http://www.englishlessonsbrighton.co.uk/, there is a lot of info there and his blog is fantastic.

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