Impromptu speaking develops a student's ability to respond quickly to verbal requests for information and opinions, and improvisation nurtures imagination. Both will help the student to become a more effective contributor during group work.

The ideas below are favorites picked up from a number of different sources and include a few of my own.

Students crack open their fortune cookies, read aloud the fortunes contained within, and elaborate on their fortunes for a minute or two. If the students can't think of anything to say, they can talk about themselves. A variation is to use proverbs and to talk about what they mean.

Hats are passed out. Students tell why this is their favorite/most hated hat.

3. GOALS (keywords: will, want to, going to, would like to)
Students are given five minutes to think about and to write down their one-year, five-year, and ten-year goals. They then talk about and share their goals with the rest of the class.

4. EMOTIONS/COLORS (key ideas: How do you feel? How does he/she feel?)
Each student is given a card with a face expressing a specific emotion. It is explained, "This is the face of someone you saw today." What is the story behind this face?

Sample cards: fine (neither happy nor sad) represented by an ORANGE circle face, happy - YELLOW ("sunny disposition"), sad - BLUE ("feeling blue"), angry - RED, tired/bored/sick - GRAY, love - PINK, jealous/envious - GREEN ("green with envy"), etc.

Come up with a story for the person in the headshot. A variation is to describe the person pictured in first person, e.g., "I am a farmer. I grow the biggest, best-tasting strawberries in the state."

The student picks a card with a stimulus statement from a fairy tale, reads it aloud, and answers the question on the card.

a. Inside Aladdin's magic lamp, there lived a genie who gave him three wishes. You are the new master of the magic lamp. What are your three wishes?
b. When the Pied Piper of Hamlin played his pipe, big ugly rats followed him out of town, then the children. What follows you when you play your pipe?
c. There's a magic table that when commanded spreads itself with bread, cheese, and jugs of beer. What does your table do?
d. You just bought a magic carpet that will fly you wherever you want to go. Where will you go?
e. A glass slipper led Prince Charming to Cinderella. When you want someone to find you, what do you leave behind?
f. There was a princess who kissed a frog and turned him into a prince. What happened to your frog?
g. When the tooth fairy visited me, all I got was a lousy dime for my tooth. What did she give you?
h. When Jack climbed the beanstalk, he stole a hen that laid golden eggs. You were with him. What did you bring back?
i. Every Halloween, Linus waits in a pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin to appear. Do you believe in the Great Pumpkin?
j. A prince studied with three masters. He learned what the dogs bark, what the birds chirp, and what the frogs croak. What did the three masters teach you?
k. Hercules met two women. One was beautiful and dignified. The other was full-bosomed and seductive. Each promised something to Hercules if he followed the path she suggested. Which path would you have chosen?
l. Charles Dickens wrote, "Little Red Riding Hood was my first love. I felt that if I could have married Little Red Riding Hood, I should have known perfect bliss." Which fairy tale, mythological, or cartoon character would you like to marry?

Start a story and call on a student who will add to it. That student will call upon another student to continue it and so on.

Draw a gadget out of the bag and come up with an innovative use for it, different from what it is usually used for.

Variation (Bag-o-Drama):
a. Chaining vocabulary as objects are brought out of the bag.
1st person: "I went to the stationery store. I bought a pen."
2nd person: "I bought a pen and a birthday card."
3rd person: "I bought a pen, birthday card, and a ruler."

b. Bags containing various items are handed out to each group. Skits are created using the props in the bags.

As each student takes the scarf, it transforms into a different thing, e.g., gift wrap…to snake…to towel, etc.

10. MONTHS AND HOLIDAYS (keywords: months, cardinal and ordinal numbers, birthdays, seasons, calendar)
Discuss national and personal holiday traditions.

11. ADVERTISEMENTS (keywords: advertised items, adjectives, comparative and superlative forms, comparisons of equality "as…as")
Develop a sales pitch for the product pictured on the card picked. A variation is each group of students represents an advertising agency and must come up with a sales pitch for their product.

Say something nice about your partner.

A bouquet of flowers is one way.

What would you do…
…if you found yourself locked out of your house at 3:00 in the morning and no one else was home?
…if you lost the phone number of the friend who was going to pick you up at the airport? Your friend asked you to call when you arrived.
…if you suddenly forgot the rest of your speech while speaking before an important committee at work?

Sketch a window and describe the view without showing the picture. The student's partner must draw the picture from the description. Then the drawings are compared.

16. NOAH'S ARK 3010 A.D.
Earth is one big toxic waste dump and will no longer support life. I'm Noah, and I've collected two of every living thing. My family is already on board the last spaceship leaving Earth, and I have room for only one more family. Why should I take you?

Decide whether you want the students to answer truthfully or to make up a story.

Sample questions:
a. What was the happiest moment of your life?
b. What will you be famous for?
c. Who has had the greatest effect on your life? And why?
d. What was your worst/most favorite vacation?
e. What is the best job in the world?
f. What country do you want to visit?
g. Who is your best friend and why?
h. What does friendship mean to you?

Dramatize a news item.

A student pantomimes an occupation, while everyone tries to guess what it is.

1. Drama Techniques in Language Learning by Alan Maley and Alan Duff, © Cambridge University Press, 1978, 1982.

2. Let's Improvise: Becoming Creative, Expressive & Spontaneous Through Drama by Milton E. Polsky, © Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1980.