Creating Communicative Activities

One of the challenges of foreign language instruction can be creating effective activities to get students talking and participating in genuine communication in the target language. The aim of this Prezi, given as a workshop in the French and Italian Department of CU Boulder in Oct 2015 and Sept 2016, is to give helpful tips for creating activities that move beyond the book and away from fill-in-the-blank exercises.

Tip 1: Structure, structure, structure! Provide plenty of structure to the activity so students are set up to succeed.

Tip 2: Model the exercise so students know exactly what the end product should look like.

Tip 3: Put yourself in your students’ shoes and do the activity from their perspective. Remember, what seems simple for a fluent speaker¬†may have hidden challenges for FLLs (new vocabulary, advanced grammatical structures, etc)

Tip 4: Provide visual aids to help direct student communication and reduce anxiety.

See the Prezi for more ideas!  Creating Communicative Activities Prezi

Tip 5: Share successful activities with fellow teachers! Teaching is a collaborative profession, and we tend to get out best ideas from our colleagues and friends. Here is a list of just some of the successful communicative activities we’ve shared in our department. Feel free to share more in the comments section!

Communicative activities shared among my colleagues:


Family trees – Students have two different versions of the same family tree. In pairs, they must ask each other questions to fill in the blanks on their own copy of the tree. (The same can be used with crosswords, maps, or room drawings.)

Directions – Students give each other directions using a map and determine where they end up.

Trouvez quelqu’un qui… – Students have a list or bingo card of qualities, activities, or interests. They must walk around the room asking questions to fill in the names of students to whom the descriptions apply.

Who am I? – Teacher projects a list of people on the projector. Each student (great if the teacher plays too!) writes a name on a post-it and passes the card to the right without letting the recipient see. Each person puts the received post-it on their forehead and must walk around the class asking questions until each person has determined who they are. This can be done without the pre-determined list, but it takes significantly longer to complete.


Order of events – Students take cut-up sentences and discuss the order of events to reconstruct a story in the correct order.

Ranking – Students use comparative and superlative structures to organize items into a list.


Advice – In groups, students receive note cards with problems (the more outrageous, the more fun they have!), and they must describe solutions to the problems. Great for imperative or subjunctive. Students can also create the problems if you want.

Describing – Students bring pictures relevant to the current vocabulary (family, their home, a vacation, etc) to describe to their group. Listeners should ask questions in response.

Describing to draw – This is a great way to have students create their own class materials. One student describes a room, campus, family, city, etc while the other student draws it. These can then be used for other activities. It saves a lot of time so you don’t have to create materials.

How-to – This affords an opportunity for students to learn new vocabulary for an interest of theirs. They pick an activity they enjoy or a task they are good at, then explain how to perform the task to a student.


Pyramid debates – For more speaking time per student, turn debates into pyramid debates. Pairs of opposing sides debate together, then join another pair to share their first debate. Groups can keep increasing or the entire class can come back together.

4 thoughts on “Creating Communicative Activities

  1. I have found that using the ‘2 truths and a lie’ has been effective for practicing targeting questions and expression of opinions in small groups. Each student will need to choose 2 statements that are true and one that is false. It is up to the other student(s) to ask for specific details related to each statement to determine which one is false.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve always liked the dinner party game for conditional practice. Each student explains who they would invite to dinner & why, what they would serve to eat, what they would ask/talk about, what they would wear, etc.

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  3. I like a game called “bougez si vous portez. . ” which can be adapted to a lot of beginner vocab. All students are at their desks except there need to be one fewer desk than there are students, so one student is always desk-less. The person who is without a desk declares “bougez si vous portez. . .” and then a color or a kind of clothing. All students wearing that color or category have to get up and run to switch seats, until a new person is “it” and has to call out a new color or kind of clothing. Students get speaking practice and participation is spread around the class, with the bonus of getting them moving!

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  4. I’ve always had the best luck with games, especially if the students are competing against each other. Kahoots have been far been the most engaging thing…thanks to Jess for showing me how to use it so well!

    Liked by 1 person

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