Students are often curious about the life of their teacher outside their professional role, and this activity is useful for opening up to a new class as a person, and not just as a teacher.

This activity also serves as a model for students who don't yet know each other well to communicate something about their real lives outside the classroom. If you aim to use a communicative methodology and to relate much of what students learn to their real lives, experiences and backgrounds, then this activity can help set the tone.

Step 1

  • Draw a circle on the board. 
  • Inside the circle write some numbers/place names/people's names etc that are relevant/important/significant in your personal life. Include only what you are prepared to reveal, but try to make it slightly mysterious and interesting. For example, I often include some or all of the following:

    Tom Amy Marianne 25 Burnley Rome Turkey Almodovar 1993 beetroot

    which correspond to my son's, daughter's and wife's names, the number of years I've been teaching (!), my favourite football team, my favourite city, country and film director, the year my life changed (!), and some food I can't stand. Five or six items should do, and ten is about the maximum.

Step 2

Students ask you questions to find out the meaning/relevance of each of the items in the 'Life Circle'. Of course, they can't ask, for example, 'Why did you write...(Amy)?' or 'Who is ....?(Amy)' but they can ask 'Are you married?' or 'Is your wife's name (Amy)?'. Tick off each item as the class discovers its meaning.

Step 3

In pairs/small groups, students discuss and summarize what they've learned about their teacher's life. 

Step 4

Students draw their own life circles (four or five items are enough) and ask each other questions to find out more about each other.

Step 5

Students tell other students what they've found about the people whose life circles they've been investigating. Some might like to ask further questions about the information revealed.

Variation for intermediate students upward

When students ask you a question, only accept it if it's (grammatically) correct. If it isn't, just say 'Try again: grammar (word order etc)!' and the whole class tries to rework the question until it's correct. Then you answer it - and if the answer is 'No' you'll probably get a laugh.