Back to the Future: Even More Low-Tech Activities
for a High-Tech Classroom

2013_Heyer_Sandra Sandra Heyer

In a previous newsletter, I described my state-of-the-art classroom and its hidden drawback: It was making my students and me a little lazy. I was glued to a high-tech console, and my students were glued to the seats of their sleek gliding desks. Concerned that our sedentary classroom style might have a detrimental effect on our health, I looked for a remedy. Fortunately, the problem caused by technology had a simple low-tech solution: interactive activities that got us out of our seats and moving around.

Up to now, we’ve taken a look at four activities: the Moving Line, Conversation Stations, Walking Dictation, and Find Your Match. In this article, let’s consider Opinion, Please and Line Up According To. Both of these activities require no prep time.

Activity 5: Opinion, Please
Levels: All

This activity works well before reading a text as a way to activate prior knowledge, and after reading as a way to begin a discussion. It gets the whole class moving to the front of the classroom.

  1. On opposite ends of the board, write in big letters contrasting responses, for example, YES and NO or AGREE and DISAGREE
  2. Present the class with a question or controversial statement. Give students time to think about their answer or, better yet, to jot down the reason for their response.
  3. Students walk to the front of the room and stand next to the answer that reflects their opinion. Ask volunteers to explain why they chose that answer.

 Examples of Yes-No Questions for Opinion, Please

Figure 1

 These discussion starters complement stories in the True Stories reading series.

“Something in Return”
Easy True Stories,
Unit 20
Is it a good idea to talk to a robber?
“Mr. Venezuela”
All New Easy True Stories,
Unit 3
Do you think beauty contests for men are a good idea?
“The Love Letters”
True Stories in the News,
Unit 4
Do you believe in love at first sight?
“Love or Baseball?”
True Stories in the News,
Unit 10 
Is it ever OK to lie to your boyfriend or girlfriend?
“Surprise! It’s Your Wedding!”
More True Stories,
Unit 16
Is it a good idea to trick someone into marrying you?
“Black Cats and Broken Mirrors”
Even More True Stories,
Unit 9
Are you superstitious?
“Two Yahoos”
Beyond True Stories,
Unit 3
If you had a really great idea, would you drop out of school and start your own company?

Variation: Four Corners. Post four responses in the corners of the classroom—for example, STRONGLY AGREE, AGREE, DISAGREE, STRONGLY DISAGREE. Or, for a multiple-choice quiz, post the letters A, B, C, D, one letter in each corner of the room. Ask a question, and give four possible answers. Students stand next to the letter they think is the answer.

Activity 6: Line Up According To
Levels: All

Because of its simplicity, this activity is most often done with beginners. However, it also works well in higher levels as a warm-up to a reading selection or discussion. It gets the whole class up and moving.

  1. Students form a line according to a specific criterion. For example, they might line up in order of their birthday months, January birthdays at one end of the line and December birthdays at the other. In order to form the line, they will have to question one another. For example, to form the birthday-month line, they would ask When is your birthday?
  2. When students have formed the line, they go down the line verbally checking that they are in the right place.

Figure 2

Examples: Line Up According to…

  • birthday month.
  • number of brothers and sisters.
  • number of cousins.
  • street addresses.
  • distance from home.
  • number of minutes they traveled to get to class.
  • number of hours they traveled from their home country.
  • what time they got up this morning.
  • what time they went to bed last night.
  • how many hours of TV they watched yesterday.
  • number of minutes they played computer games yesterday.
  • how many times they checked their phones for messages yesterday.
  • how many cups of coffee / tea / soda they drank yesterday.
  • current temperature in their native city.
  • number of states / provinces in their home country.
  • population of their native city.
  • number of times they traveled outside their home country.
  • in their opinion, best age to get married.
  • in their opinion, how long you should know someone before marrying him or her.
  • age of the oldest person they know.