Speaking class activity–‘Our favourite things’ survey

Following on from my interview for SimpleK12’s 2 Minute EdTech talk about using Wordle, I thought I’d use this post to describe a speaking lesson I did last week and this week, which made use of word clouds.

As part of one of my split speaking classes, I decided to have the students do a survey. We started off the lesson with a chat about some of their favourite things: sports, food, colours, school subjects, music etc. One thing I focused on straightaway was getting the kids to go beyond the basic “My favourite colour is red” sentence by asking them “Why?”. That stumped them a little at first as they have done ‘favourite’ as a lesson so many times before but never gone into any detail beyond the basic structures of the question and answer. I helped them out with some ideas so they could say things like “Blue is my favourite colour because it’s the colour of the sky” and “Formula 1 is my favourite sport because it’s exciting and fast”. I then got more information out of them with questions  like “What blue things do you own?” and “Do you watch every F1 race on TV?”. We ended up with lots of useful vocabulary and phrases on the board to turn the initial question from being just a question to being the start of a conversation.

I then asked the students to draw up a chart with 4 columns in their notebooks and enough rows to write the names of everybody in the class (in the first column). I told them to choose 3 different words to complete the question “What’s your favourite….?” (one at the top of each remaining column). They then had to go round the class asking about each other’s favourite things and recording the answers. Although the activity and the language was basic, they loved the energy of getting up and moving around (something they don’t get to do in class very often). It was loud but fun and I was able to hear phrases flying round like “It’s my favourite because…..” and “Of course I can ice-skate. I go to the rink every weekend.” The interesting thing is, in the past when doing the survey with just the regular review of the questions, the kids generally slip into Turkish to ask and answer. However, with a more detailed initial look at the language and how to go beyond just a simple answer, they used English more!

At the end of the lesson, I had just enough time to show the kids Wordle and how to make word clouds. I asked them if they could type the results of their surveys into the website at home and either email me the links or print them and bring them into the class the next week. This is what one kid sent me:

favourite food

Favourite sports

Favourite school subjects

Great stuff, even if English didn’t show up prominently in the favourite school subjects cloud! They loved the way the most popular answers were displayed largest and this week, we’ve been using the word clouds as the central features of a wall display. We just stuck the printed image in the centre of a piece of card and added extra information all around it, just as I had elicited and expanded on at the start of the survey lesson. The displays are on-going as the kids add to them whenever they want to, whether with more information, pictures, drawings or anything else! I just love the way it brings the lesson round full circle back to the beginning!


  1. This is a wonderful activity! Not only are you teaching them to extend their vocabulary, but you are teaching them the basics of analysis, which is a problem even for my college students; they often make the observation, but forget to ask "why" or "so what?" Plus, the wordie images are really cool =)

  2. Thanks for the comment Nicole.

    I'm making a concious effort this year to push my learners beyond just what's on the syllabus and what they already know and into the realms of the unknown based on what they need/want to say. "Tell me more!" is fats becoming my classroom motto!

  3. Hi David, great that they liked Wordle so much, it seems like you can use that again. You might like this, it shows how to use Wordle for chunks, not just words.



  4. This comment was posted by Sabridv but for some reason I couldn't publish it so I've copy/pasted from the email notification. She said:

    David I loved the activity. I think that using wordle to show the results of a survey is a fantastic idea. It is very visual and clear. Thanks for sharing!

    Thank you Sabrina!

    Check out Sabrina's blog at http://sabridv.wordpress.com/

  5. Hi David,

    Thanks for the link. I knew about using ~ to keep 2/3 word phrases together but I had never considered using it for longer chunks. That would make for a great pre-reading predictions activity! Thank you. :)

  6. Hi Dave, I am so happy I discoverd your page, you give so much practical ideas to use in class, and I was just wondering how to differently use Wordle that I was introduced on this years EVO. So, far I used it as a motivation, at the beginning of the English lesson, but like your idea very much!


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