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How to Encourage Communication and Rapport Among Students? Four Activities

Updated: Jul 21, 2022

How to encourage communication and relationship building among students? Four easy-to-organize activities

By Dr. Linh Phung

June 2022

My new semester has started again! It’s time to welcome new students, get to know them, and help old and new students to learn about one another and form friendships. How can teachers organize ice-breaking activities to encourage sharing and develop rapport among students? What kinds of questions or prompts may be interesting to students? How do we organize activities efficiently? I’d like to share four activities that I did to encourage communication and collaboration among students.

1. Speeding Friending/ Talking Lines

You may know the speed dating activity that is sometimes organized to help people to find someone to date. People sit at a row of tables facing each other and have a few minutes to talk to someone. After the time is up, they move to the next table. If they hit it off with someone, contact information may be exchanged for a date.

For the classroom situation, you may call it speed friending. Instead of having to arrange a row of tables, I often ask students to stand up in two lines facing each other, hence the name Talking Lines. The picture above shows how the lines are formed.

In a rendition of a somewhat similar activity, I call it Fluency Lines and have recorded a video about this. Here’s the link to the video:

This week, as I wanted the students to mostly get to know each other, I asked students to talk in five rounds. I gave them two minutes for each round.

Round 1: I told the students, “Talk about your favorite holiday. You have two minutes.”

Round 2: After two minutes, I moved one student from one line to the end of the line. Everyone in that line moved up. Now everyone has a different partner. I gave them these questions: What’s your favorite food and what food you wouldn’t want to try. They also had two minutes to talk.

Round 3: Students talked about one of their best childhood memories.

Round 4: The question was: What would you like to do most this summer?

Round 5: The question was: How do you see yourself in five years?

The result was, in those 10 minutes, each student talked to five others. There was no moment of idling as I could hear them talk the whole time. I’ve also found that asking students to stand in lines is the most efficient way of organizing the activity and increases the level of energy in the class also.

2. People/Object Bingo

This activity is excellent for an event where people will mingle. This week, I took my students to the Three Rivers Arts Festival in my city of Pittsburgh. I gave each student a Bingo sheet and asked them to visit the different booths at the festival and talk to people to find out information asked for in the sheet. This encouraged students and gave them a reason to talk to people. This can be done in any setting, but the questions should be developed to suit the situation.

See my questions for the Three Rivers Arts Festival event below.

3. Jigsaw Video Viewing

During the first week of our reading class, in which we use the book Reading Explorer 5 from National Geographic Learning, we read about ancient civilizations that rose and fell in the past. We first read about the Maya civilization and theories behind their collapse. Before starting the reading, we watched a 4-minute YouTube video from National Geographic ( I told half of the students to stay in the classroom to watch the first two minutes while the other half stayed outside and talked about what they would like to know. Then we switched roles with the second half of the class watching the last two minutes of the video. Once the viewing was done, the students were paired up to share the information they learned. This is a classic information gap task in which each student held difference pieces of information that they could share with one another.

Generally, tasks are a great way for students to communicate authentically in the classroom because, with a gap and a necessary outcome at the end, students have a reason to communicate. You can read more about my short post about tasks here. In addition, I’ve just released an app called Eduling Speak to connect English learners to talk in pairs based on tasks. You can download it on the App Store or Google Play and try the many different tasks here. You may also learn more about it here.

4. Human Book

I was a Human Book in a Human Library event before. (Learn more here: Each person submitted a title and a description for their “book” (i.e. some aspect of themselves that they would be willing to talk to others about). Then the participants would request and check out a “book” and talk to them for 10-15 minutes. As, I’m teaching a writing class, I gave my students some time in the classroom to write a title and description for their “book,” submit it, and read one another’s. I didn’t give students examples of book descriptions, so some wrote a long story about themselves while others wrote really nice titles and descriptions. Overall, it was still a fun way for students to write about themselves in a way that is more novel and interesting than a paragraph on a usual prompt to introduce themselves.

Bio: Dr. Linh Phung has over 15 years of experience teaching English. She's the director of the English Language Program at Chatham University and Founder and CEO of Eduling International. She has published in the areas of task-based language teaching and international education. She recently released the Eduling Speak app (available on the App Store and Google Play) to connect learners to talk in pairs during communicative tasks and games.

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