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
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?