TEFL Speaking Activity: Auxiliary Police

Even in my higher level classes, the curriculum often includes a revision of auxiliary verbs – though students do tend to need at least some practice to use them naturally, the simplicity of their form means that it can be hard to find an appropriate way for higher levels to practice. Here’s an activity I adapted, I believe from a great Cambridge or Oxford book of activities.

Each student writes yes/no ten questions – the responses to which can of course involve short answers using auxiliary verbs. They’ll be asking the questions to people in the class, and the questions should be direct – about the person being asked or something they can answer easily (“Can you swim?” or “Is his name Fabio?” but not “Does my mother have brown hair?”). Of course you can put some prompys on the board to get them started; if I have a higher level group or want to make it more difficult, I add in “Do you have…” and “Have you got…”

It’s worth it to do spot checks or have students check with a neighbor to ensure these questions are correct and yes, they need to write them because it makes the activity better and more competitive.

Divide the class into two or more groups, and get one representative from each group to sit with the other group. The groups (“the police”) have one minute (or some set time) to “interrogate” the representative. First of all, the person has to respond using short answers with the correct auxiliary verb. But they also cannot say yes or no. If they make a mistake with the verb (“Have you got a sister?” “I do.”), or if they say yes or no, you should have a system for how this is reflected. Perhaps points for “correct” answers are best.

You should listen closely as well to make sure the groups do in fact catch any mistakes; with a controlled activity like this, accuracy is one of the aims.

After the minute is up, a new representative goes to the other team and they continue. It doesn’t matter the questions are the same; as long as there are a lot and they get asked in a different order, the “interogee” still has to think.

Certainly your students have to have some appreciation for friendly competition for this to work, but I’ve used it with several adult groups, and as it does involve quick thinking and grammar, most people seem to find it fun and useful.