The big mingle: 8 activities to pick and mix
“Mingles” are one of the most popular activities up a language teacher’s sleeve. Educators love them because they’re flexible, get students up on their feet, provide multiple opportunities for student talk time, while also reducing teacher talk time. Plus, they allow shyer and more introverted students to speak without feeling pressured. What’s not to love?
To make the most of these activities, remember to:
Clear as much floor space as possible—scoot chairs and tables to the sides, move to an open space, or work outside. Having room to move is far easier, trust us!
Be very clear about instructing students on how to organize themselves into lines, circles, switch groups, etc. Uncomfortable, stilted beginnings are often casued by unclear instructions.
Always ensure that there’s a clear purpose to each activity. (It’s not “talk about travel” with your partner, rather, “find a country you’ve both visited twice,” or “compare you favorite sightseeing activities.”)
Once you’re clear on how to communicate the activity, it’s time to choose which! Here are eight of our favorites.
An oldie and a goodie, sometimes called “speed dating”. Students form two lines, standing and facing each other. The teacher gives a topic or asks a question, which partners will discuss for a designated time period (say, two minutes). Once time’s up, the teacher calls “change!”, and line A moves one space across, therefore giving each student a new partner. Repeat with another conversational topic.
Bonus variation: Play “musical conversations”. Ask students to form two cocentric circles. When it’s time to change partners, students walk around their circle to the music (encourage silliness!) and freeze when it stops. Their new partner is the student they froze in front of.
Find your partner
Each student receives half of a short dialogue, or one part of a question-and-answer pair. The objective is to find their partner. Students receive their text, memorize it, and mingle with their classmates, listening until they find their match.
Organize yourselves from…
Ask students to organize themselves in different orders, for example:
From oldest to youngest
By commute time
Alphabetically (by first name, last name, pet’s name, mother/father’s name…)
In order of most to least pets
In order of most to least syllables in first + last names
By hair color
By height in inches/centimeters
By month of birth
By birth order (oldest, second-born, third-born, youngest)
By total roomates ever had
By amount of children (that students have or would like to have)
…and dozens of other ideas!
Students must ask and answer questions to do this—which you may choose to pre-teach, depending on their level.
Give small groups a set time to discuss a given topic. When the time is up, half the members of each group swap with a neighboring group. They share the findings from their first group’s discussion, then move on to a new topic.
Find someone who…
Another classic mingle (and an excellent ice-breaker). In this activity, students receive a list of characteristics that they must locate in their classmates. For example, “Find someone who”:
Has been to Sydney
Takes dance classes
Is allergic to dairy
Was born in August
Speaks more than two languages…
Tip: Ensure that students know how to form the questions they need to ask while mingling (“Have you ever been to Sydney? Do you take dance classes? Are you allergic to dairy?”) by pre-teaching these or using the mingle activity to revisit question forms they are currently studying.
Bonus variation: Organize the questions on a Bingo sheet to encourage friendly competition.
Bonus variation 2: Before starting the mingle, have students predict how many classmates they will find “who…” E.g., “I think five students have eaten kangaroo. I predict no one has been to Vietnam.”
Have you ever?
Focusing on “Have you ever…?” questions, the class sits as a circle with one fewer chair than students. The sudent in the middle asks a question: e.g., “Have you ever…gone bungee jumping?” All students who have must stand up and change chairs. This leaves one student without a chair, who must then ask the next question.
Give students time to decide on something they believe only then can do, have, have done, etc. (E.g., “I have lived in Asia.”) Students mingle, sharing this information with their classmates. If they find another student who also shares this fact, they must change to another fact about themselves.
Tip: To avoid blank stares, prepare your class by giving them time to think of 3-5 points.
Agree or disagree?
Give students a handout with a controversial or clear statement at the top, such as “sweet foods are better than savory” or “I believe exploration to Mars is a good use of money.” Students mingle, sharing whether they agree or disagree and asking follow up questions of their classmates. Later, students share their findings in small groups.