Two types of information gap activities that work well for all levels to practice using descriptive language are ‘Spot the Difference’ and ‘Picture Description’. The use of descriptive language is a skill that is required for exam writing as well as speaking tests at all levels. These activities integrate all language skills with different grammatical features as focus.
The first part of this blog series will describe ‘Spot the Difference’. You will learn about the language skills used in this activity, potential language aims, and how to set up this communicative activity.
Part One – Spot the Difference – Information Gap Activity
Most students love puzzles and students often lose their inhibitions to speak and write when doing engaging tasks. This activity allows them to build fluency while engaged in a fun activity that can have different linguistic aims as well.
Language Skills Used – Information Gap Activity
In Spot the Difference, students in pairs are given two almost identical drawings, but with subtle differences that they must discover by describing to each other what they observe in their own drawing. This activity integrates all skills: speaking, listening, reading and writing. They could begin by writing a description, then trading their written pieces to read each other’s piece, and then discuss the differences. They can be encouraged to ask each other questions to clarify information, and the activity can be exploited to target different grammatical features to practice or review as follows.
Read: Vocabulary TESOL Game
Potential Linguistic Aims:
– verb ‘be’ and ‘have’ in simple present tense
– present continuous tense for actions happening now
– statements, interrogatives and negative sentence patterns with these tenses
– Yes/no and Wh questions and responses
– prepositions of place
– ‘There is/are….’
– descriptive and comparative language
– asking for clarification
– vocabulary development
Setting Up “Spot The Difference” – Information Gap Activity
Aids: sets of different pictures for each student.
There are free downloadable resources online for this type of activity. Published ESL resource books with a focus on activities and games usually contain examples of Spot the Difference. “Where’s Waldo/Wally” is an example of an authentic published series of materials for native speakers which could be adapted or exploited for use in ESL classes.
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