The identikit game

The identikit game

From: Practical English Teaching, MGP, Mary Glasgow Publications, London, June 1984, pag. 17-20


Mario Papa, Marja Minnaard and Willy van Maris dscribe a series of activities to  practise  describing  people for  developrng oral  fluency.


During a British Council teacher training course at Bristol University, in 1982, I had the opportunity of developing some ideas on communicative techniques. With two Dutch

colleagues, I worked on a project centred on the development of our students' fluency. With the help of Malcolm Lewis* we developed a series of graded activities which would guide the students to use the language com­municatively. Here is a detailed description of the project.

Level: 12-15 year old students;

Aim: to practise oral skills and improve fluency;

Methodology: the communicative approach ;

Techniques: mostly pair work but also group work or activities with the f ull class, based on an information gap;

Function of activities : describing people. The four activities presented go from strictly guided activities to open­ ended ones.

Activity one

Aim: to practise vocabulary and structures in context.

Show the flash cards (see page 19) to the class and introduce any new vocabulary. Divide the class into groups of about seven students. Give each group a set of flash cards and put them on a table face-down. Each student takes two cards. One student at a time is asked questions by the other six students who want to find out which pictures he/she has got. Students can ask questions like: Are you (bald)Have you got (earrings/ a scar)? Are you frowning/smiling)?

Divide the class into pairs and give each pair a picture of famous persons. Student A thinks of someone among the famous people and student B has to find out who A has in mind, by asking questions like: Is it a man or a woman? Is he/she young or old? Has he/she got fair/brown hair? ls he/she smiling ?

Student A can also help student B by describing the person he/she has in mind. For example: The person I have in mind has got glasses. He/she is smiling. When student B has found the  right face, students in each pair may change roles.

Activity two

Aim: to develop understanding of vocabulary an d structures already practised orally.

Students have picture one in front of them. They listen to the descriptions recorded on tape and try to find out which person is meant.

Tapescript of descriptions* Description A

This person is looking straight at me and smiling. He/she has quite a large fore head and straight silvery coloured hair. The nose is quite broad. Underneath the eyes there are wrinkles. The person seems to be wearing a check-patterned shirt and a pullover. The person is holding a pair of glasses in one hand .

Description B

This person is looking at me and has dark eyes. The person is smiling bu t I cannot see his or her teeth. He/she has quite a full mouth. His or her hair is very dark and hangs over the shoulders in curls. And this person is wearing a white open-necked shirt or blouse.

Descri ption C

This person is not l ooking too happy. He or she is wearing a striped shirt and a dotted tie. The person has thick eyebrows. I can see a very round head, a very smooth head. In fact I think this person is completely bald.

Description D

This person has a very good set of teeth. The person is leaning to one side, resting his or her head on the left hand, and I think I  can see a ring on that hand . The person's hair is dark and wavy and swept down covering the top of the ear. I can't see the other ear at all. The person is laughing and seems to be very happy.

Description E

Now this person is not as happy as many of the others. He or she is not looking straight ahead at me. The person is wearing formal clothes. I'm sure it 's a striped suit that this person is wearing, with a dotted tie and a white shirt. The person is talking, and he or she has short curly hair. I can see wrinkles on the forehead, and he or she is wearing dark-rimmed glasses.

Activity three

Aim: to practise vocabulary and structures in context.

Divide the cl ass into pairs and give student A picture two and student B picture three. Student A picks one of the people in picture two and student B has to 'build ' the face that student A has in mind, by asking questions like: Has he got a beard? Has he got a small beard or a large beard? Has he got fair hair? Has he got curly hair? Has he got a scar?

Activity four

Aim: to practise vocabulary and structures in context.

This activity can be done in pairs or in groups. One student thinks of someone in the class and h is/her partner (or the other students, in the case of group or class work) has to find out who he/she has in mind. Of course, in this activity, students can revise questions already used in previous activities.

*   *   *   *   *

We have tried out the activities described above in our own classes and the results have been excellent. As far as we know, we can say that in order to be successful, the activi ties should be:

1. meaningful and relevant to the students;

2. based on an information gap so that students are really motivated to ask questions they do not know the answers to;

3. organised with material which is easy to prepare.

If you like, you can immediately prepare the material suggested above and try it with your classes. All you need to do is to cut pictures from a magazine and record the descriptions. (Ask a friendly native speaker to do it!)

 Mario Papa

Marja Minnaard and Willy van Maris teach English in secondary schools in Holland and are also involved in teacher training.

Mario Papa teaches English in an  Italian secondary school. He works as a teacher trainer and is also a textbook writer. His books include Communication Tasks (Zanichelli), Communicating Strategies (Longman/Zanichelli) and Developing Reading Strategies (La Nuova Italia).


*Malcolm Lewis of the University of Bristol originally recorded the tapescript .


PRACTICAL ENGLISH TEACHING     JUNE  1984                       17