Teaching speed dating

In a never-ending quest to help my pupils learn their answers to the conversation exam, I have trialled speed dating, whereby half the pupils remain at their desk as questioners, and the other half rotate round the room, answering questions for the duration of a minute, before moving on to their next 'date'.

Halfway through the lesson, questioners become answerers, and vice versa.

I had one guy, usually a cheeky so-and-so who cracks jokes at my expense all lesson, nearly burst into tears when I tried to put him into a group with 3 young ladies for some homework. When the girls had to find someone to sit with during the speed dating, they all raced to sit with another female, barging each other out of the way, rather than sit with a lad.

A few weeks ago I finished my first academic year of teaching Oral English at a university in the Middle Kingdom.I always feel a bit uneasy talking about this kind of thing.I’m white, middle-class and male and I’ve never really had to deal with prejudice or negative stereotyping.They talk for 3 minutes or so, using the questions they’ve written, then the women get up, find someone different and repeat the process.This tends to go on until I’ve had a chance to listen to everyone talk, or at least until I realise they’re not bothering to use English anymore.

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