Ashraf Hanafi Ashraf Hanafi

Copy of Socializing 101 Series (1/5) Lesson Plan
W+ level


For many people, the idea of walking into a room full of strangers and trying to socialize with them can be terrifying, especially if you have to use a foreign language. The barriers of "breaking the ice" in a situation like this are just as much psychological as linguistic, which is why this lesson aims to get students thinking about the situation as much as speaking and practicing the skill of conversations with strangers.


Main Aims

  • To discuss and deal with some of the psychological issues connected with starting conversations with strangers.

Subsidiary Aims

  • To teach some useful phrases for starting a conversation and leaving a conversation.
  • To provide practice and feedback of the situation of starting and leaving conversations with strangers.


Warmer (4-6 minutes) • To set lesson context and engage students

Elicit from the class whether anyone has experience of attending an event where almost all the other attendees were strangers, for example: A large conference; a business mixer; an external training course; a formal party. If they have limited experience of such events, elicit some events that they might attend in their future careers. Discuss with the class how easy/difficult it was/would be for them to start conversations with strangers. Discuss also how it might be easier or more difficult to do this in English.

Quiz (8-10 minutes) • To generate discussion rather than find the "correct" answers.

Divide the class into pairs or small groups, and distribute copies of the quiz. Elicit the meaning of the phrase "breaking the ice", both the literal meaning (i.e., breaking through a layer of ice on water to allow boats to sail across it) and the metaphorical meaning (i.e., breaking the initial barrier between strangers, in order to allow a natural conversation to start). Make sure students realize that the aim of the quiz is to generate discussion rather that find the "correct" answers. They should therefore discuss each other's answers as they work through the quiz. If they agree with none of the answers to a particular question, they should choose the answer that is closest to their own, but also explain their own answer to their partner(s). Allow around 5 minutes for students to work through the quiz, and then discuss their answers with the class, paying attention to any vocabulary problems.

Useful Language: Ice Breakers (10-12 minutes) • To highlight and clarify useful language for upcoming role play.

Print enough copies of the worksheet for each group of 3-4 students to have a separate copy. Students work in their groups to match the beginnings with the endings to make phrases for starting conversations. Give 10 minutes for the groups to complete the worksheet, then go through the answers with the class and discuss which of the phrases/strategies your students would choose to use in an international conference. The group with the most correctly completed phrases is the winner. As a follow-up, students can test each other in pairs by folding their worksheets along the vertical center line and reading the beginning of a phrase in order to elicit the ending of the phrase from their partner. Answers: 1-d, 2-k, 3-l, 4-t, 5-f, 6-r, 7-i, 8-o, 9-e, 10-n, 11-q, 12-m, 13-s, 14-c, 15-g, 16-j, 17-a, 18-b, 19-p, 20-h

Useful Language: Leaving a Conversation (10-12 minutes) • To highlight and clarify useful language for upcoming role play.

Elicit from the class some strategies for leaving a conversation (i.e., is it better to lie about your reason for leaving? Is it acceptable to simply walk away?). Distribute the worksheet so that each student has a copy. Students then work alone to complete the 3 short speeches using the words from the box at the side. They compare their answers in pairs before feeding back to the class. Discuss with the class which of the 3 speeches - or which combination of the sentences from the speeches - they would use. You could ask some volunteers to cover their worksheets and give a short leaving-a-conversation speech from memory. Answers: 1. spotted / urgently / nice / card / email / touch / proper / later 2. sorry / urgent / outside / Hopefully 3. excuse / need / couple / have / on / mine / free / pleasure / rest

Ice-Breaking Role Play (15-20 minutes) • To talk to 5 different people and to collect business cards from the people they have spoken to.

Cut up the slips of "business cards" and distribute them so that each student has 6 business cards. They should write their name, job title and company name on each slip. This could be real information or, if your students are very creative, they could make up the information about themselves. Go through the rule of the role play very carefully with the class: * There is a strict time limit of 10 minutes - but students should not look at the clock or their watches all the time. * During that time, students should pretend they are strangers at a conference. * They should start conversations with the other people in the class, exchange business cards at an appropriate time, and leave the conversation politely in order to continue meeting people. * The aim is to talk to 5 different people and to collect exactly 5 different business cards from the people they have spoken to. If they collect too many business cards, it means they are going too fast. If they don't collect enough, it means they are too slow. * They can use information on the business cards to help make conversation. * The maximum group size is 3 people. If a 4th person joins, 1 member of the group needs to make an excuse and leave. * They should try to make their conversations as natural as possible, and not simply treat it as a game. Monitor carefully both for accuracy of language and for the effectiveness of students' ice-breaking skills. At the end of the time limit, stop the role play and ask how many business cards each student has collected. Give an elicit feedback on their performance.

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