Rows & Columns

Level Aims Grammar Time Materials
junior high school to senior high school speaking any 10 mins none

Japanese students are thoughtfully arranged into a grid pattern in their seating. This provides us with a convenient vehicle for asking questions. The rows they sit in are the 'rows' of the pattern (the y-axis as it were), and the lines across the room (the x-axis) are the columns.

To begin, select a student at random (e.g., add the numbers in the day's date together), and have the row that student is sitting in stand up. Explain that the first student to raise their hand can try to answer your question, and if they are correct they may sit down. Proceed with your questions, occasionally throwing in an easy one like, "When is your birthday?" or "What's your name?" to assist the slower students. When one student is left, have the corresponding column stand, and continue the exercise.

At around about this time it will dawn on the class that if the student in their row or column is left standing, then they will have to stand also. This will inject a considerable amount of enthusiasm into participation in the activity, and students from each row or column will begin shouting advice to the unhappy soul standing. Some teachers prefer to prevent this, but others actively encourage it as it assists the listening skills of the standing students, and reinforces the memories of those doing the 'teaching'.

'Rows and Columns' sometimes goes by the name of 'Criss-Cross'; knowing one is to know the other. Although this is a 10-15 minute review/warm-up activity, it can be played in a continuous form from lesson to lesson. The column or row of the last student standing commences at the beginning of the next lesson, and so on. Some teachers employ this continuous technique throughout the year, merely changing the questions every week.

Hints and cautions:

* The last student standing is often a slower or very shy student. Despite best efforts of class- mates, these S/s will continue to be the last S/s standing unless you 'massage' the results with a bit of cheating. Ignore the flurry of hands and ask your question to this particular student. Give them the opportunity to compete by leaving this tactic to about halfway through the row/column. If they need help answering, give it; the other S/s won't mind.

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