Diminishing Sushi Lines


Sushi lines. Speed Dating. Speaking Lines. It’s a classic, maybe THE classic controlled speaking practice. I use it a lot and recently came up with a neat variation that pushes students a bit harder cognitively and linguistically. I thought I needed to do this because after the 2nd repetition of Qs and As, students usually (and understandably) lose motivation, and start just going through the motions, progressively more with each new partner they speak to. This tweak now keeps them on their toes and demands more.

You set it up just as you would normally: two lines of students facing each other, some questions on the board to ask each other (for this tweak to work you need to project the Qs using Google Slides or Powerpoint):

Hi, how are you?

What’s your name?

What class do you study in?

What do you do?

What do you like doing in your free time?

Do you have any plans for the Tet holiday?

After the first round, a student from the end of one line goes to the opposite end. The students in the other line shuffle down one space so everyone has a new partner. Then you move to the next slide:


Hi, / are you?

/ your name?

/ class / you study in?

/ / you do?

/ / you like doing in your free time?

/ / have any plans for the Tet holiday?

Repeat the process again, moving onto the next slide for the next repetition:

Hi, / / /?

/ / name?

/ class / / study /?

/ / / do?

/ / / like doing in / free time?

/ / / any plans for / Tet holiday?

And again for the next repetition:

/, / / /?

/ / /?

/ / / / study /?

/ / / do?

/ / / / doing / / free time?

/ / / / plans for / Tet /?

Etcetera until you cumlinate with this:

/, / / /?

/ / /?

/ / / / / /?

/ / / /?

/ / / / / / / / /?

/ / / / / / / / /?

The ever-decreasing input will result in wild screams of outrage from some students. These are kinds of reactions you want. It means it’s working and that learners are having to work harder, figure grammar out as they use it, concentrate, self and peer c0rrect and perform on the spot under a small degree of pressure – not completely dissimilar to how they would encounter English language use outside the classroom.

Why should they listen to each other?

It’s good to give learners a reason to listen during controlled speaking activities, otherwise some will only be concerned about their own language production. In the real world, they will be considered rude if they are “bad listeners”.

So, at the start of the sushi lines, tell everyone they should remember as much information as they can because they will need it afterwards.

Run the activity. While students are talking, stick one piece of paper for every student around the room. Write a student name on each paper. After the final speaking repetition, tell the class to get a pen and write information about different people on the relevant papers. They cannot write about themselves.

This students output can they be used used as input for expansion, development and error correction if you have time and want to do a Dogme lesson.

Here are two examples of diminishing sushi lines materials:

Getting to know you questions:


Warmer discussion the lesson after a class restaurant outing:



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