I just read about this on someone’s blog and I would love to give credit, but I can’t find the link so please if you recently blogged about this or read it somewhere else, please let me know so I can give credit.

There’s an old party game called “Psychiatrist” that actually makes great practice for asking questions. To work well, you need a pretty big class of 6-20 students. It’s a game that works best with upper intermediate to advanced students because it is pretty difficult to guess so students should have a fair amount of fluency. However there are variations to make it more limited and therefore easier.


  • To practice asking questions
  • To practice making guesses
  • To have fun


  • None
    • First, pick one student or a small group of students to be psychiatrists. Tell them that the rest of the class suffers from a strange mental disorder and their job will be to ask them questions in order to determine the nature of the disease. Then send them out of the classroom while you explain to the “patients” what their disease is.

      When the psychiatrists have left the room, explain that every patient thinks that they are the person to their immediate left. So when the psychiatrists come in and ask questions, the students must answer as if they are the person next to them on the left. So if they ask, “What are you wearing?”, you must describe the person to your left. Have them practice it a bit, make sure they understand that they shouldn’t give it away by looking at the person to their left. Then bring in the psychiatrists, who should question the patients until they figure it out.

      This game can be varied in a lot of ways. Obviously, you can have the patients pretend to be the person to their right, or the person across from them, or pretend to be the psychiatrist questioning them. To make it a bit easier you can have every single patient pretend to be the same person. So they could all pretend to be you, the teacher, or just pick a student at random.

      To make it more difficult, you could give every patient a different rule. Student A pretends to be the person to their left. Student B pretends to be the person to the right, Student C pretends to be the teacher, and so on.

      Another variation is to have students react if the patient answers a question incorrectly. For example, Student A is pretending to be Student B. The psychiatrist asks Student A, “Do you have a brother?”. Student A answers ,”Yes” but in fact, Student B does not have a brother. Some variations on how to handle this situation:
      1. Student B gets up and moves to another seat (meaning that Student A will have someone else next to him/her and have to pretend to be that person)
      2. Student A and Student B switch places.
      2. The whole class gets up and moves around, so everyone has a new “partner”
      3. Student B has to say a magic word, “Duck!” or “No” or “Loofa” or whatever.

      In order to make the activity easier you can obviously limit it in certain ways. For example, limit the questions to clothing and appearance. Or limit it to yes/no questions. Link it to a grammar point by making them only ask Wh- questions or questions in the present tense or in the perfect tense.

      You can also limit the psychiatrist’s expectations by telling them that the mental disease is not an ordinary one, or that it has something to do with identity, or give them other hints.

      If you have a limited time period, you can say that if the psychiatrists guess the disease in the set time, they win. If not, the patients win.

      Any success using this? I haven’t done so yet, because I only thought about it as an ESL lesson thanks to the mysterious blogger that I stole it from. Any other variations?

You Can Have This Lesson Plan on Corruption for Ten Dollars

Corruption is a serious problem around the world so it’s something students can talk about. It’s also an important topic because often students from corrupt countries never examine their attitudes toward giving and taking bribes–either they think it’s very bad or they think it’s very normal. My Corruption Lesson Plan has students think about what corruption really is, how to stop it, and whether or not it is a serious problem by presenting real life situations, a realistic story and even a scientific and slightly offbeat study of corruption by country, looking at UN diplomats’ unpaid parking tickets! This is another lesson where students have so much to say that it often fills 2 or 3 classes.

Learn How to Complain

Beauty Inc is a fun role play for students involving a meeting between a large corporation and victims of its faulty products. Great for large or medium sized classrooms and a great way to get students talking, particularly more advanced students who get bored with drilling and answering exercises. Encourages students to be creative while introducing a real life situation. What do you do when a company sells bad products that don’t work? Or worse, turn you into a freak?

Role Plays

Ever since ESL Flow, I’ve been getting a lot of traffic to my lesson plans. One of the most popular lesson plans is called culture shock and gets students talking about different habits and manners in different cultures.

Since it’s getting so many hits, I’ve typed up a related lesson: Cultural Role Play, which is basically adapted for ESL lessons from a Peace Corps exercise.

It’s a fun exercise where you give students one of two different cultural roles to play with very different standards of behavior and ideas of what is normal. If you don’t like my variation, you can make up your own. The fun part, and where students will be forced to use their language, is when you make the student’s cultural rules conflict.

What's Up, Teach? Sorry I Bombed That Killer Test

Another fun vocab building lesson plan, the School Slang Lesson Plan teaches American school traditions and socialization while also introducing kids to teenage slang and terminology like freshman, sophomore, detention, midterm, prom and jock. A lot of your students have been exposed to American teenage movies, and they will love to discuss exactly what all the slang they’ve heard means.

Also this lesson uses pictures to teach idioms which is a great tool to help kids remember new vocab and phrases. Because idioms don’t translate literally, and sometimes metaphors don’t translate well, giving students funny pictures that link the idiom to the meaning can be very effective. Linking words to context helps students to retain information better and making students laugh creates a great emotional context!

If you’re teaching in another country, this lesson can lead into a comparative discussion of student life in the US versus your host country.

Have You Ever, Would You Ever?

This lesson plan is based on a bunch of different plans that I have seen here and there. Have You Ever, Would You Ever basically asks students a number of hypothetical questions to get them talking about extreme situations. I wrote this list as one appropriate to younger learners as well as to former Soviet learners based on their experiences. It can obviously be rewritten as you see fit. It’s a great plan because it can work as a first day lesson, or as a quick activity to kill some time before class ends, or as a warm-up to another activity.