Posted 31/8/15
‘Would you rather’ questions create a context for talking about hypothetical situations. In this video, James and Jess – two friends of mine – decide which would be better: to spend a month in prison or two years alone on a desert island. In the activity, students discuss similar questions.
  • Activity: Speaking
  • Topic: ‘Would you rather’ questions
  • Age group: Upper secondary; Adults
  • Time: 60 minutes (+ follow up)
  • Language level: B1 +
  • Language: Hypothetical would; Second conditional
Would you rather pdf [downloaded 8743 times]

Notes about the target language

This speaking activity involves a number of mini-discussions. Each one involves a ‘would you rather’ question. You can choose your own or you can use the following suggestions:

  • Would you rather be able to speak English like a native English speaker, or speak 12 other languages at elementary level?
  • Would you rather spend a month in prison or a year alone on a desert island?
  • Would you rather walk to work naked or eat a sheep’s eye ball?
  • Would you rather be the world’s best singer or the world’s best dancer?
  • Would you rather be able to fly or make yourself invisible?

Questions like these create a context for talking about hypothetical situations. You can clearly see this in the video as Jess and James use language such as:

  • I would … / I’d …
  • I wouldn’t …
  • Would you … ?
  • You would have to …
  • You would be able to … / You could …
  • Second conditional structures (e.g. If I had enough books, I would choose a desert island.)

Dad image

Notes about the activity

You can download the full activity above on PDF. It contains teacher notes, video transcripts, a handout for students and an idea for a follow up.

In the main activity, students discuss each ‘would you rather’ question one at a time. During each discussion, it is the teacher’s job to evaluate how well they use the target language. You can make a note of things that you hear – strong and weak examples.

After each discussion, offer language feedback. Draw attention to good examples of language that you heard. For weaker examples, elicit corrections and reformulations when possible. You should then remind students to use the target language as and when possible in the next discussion.

Of course, you are free to adapt the activity as you like.

Notes about the follow up

The PDF also suggests an idea for a follow up in which students examine features of natural spoken language. To give you one example, watch and listen to the video carefully. You will notice that Jess and James quite often move out of the hypothetical and into the non-hypothetical. Their ideas and decisions suddenly become real. They become part of the present.

James:    Plus, you have to think suncream … you know … you get books in prison.
Jess:        Then I’ll sit in the shade. I don’t know. Hmm …

Inconsistencies like these are very common in everyday conversation. A similar example would be moving in and out of the past and present narrative when telling a story, joke, anecdote, etc.

Credits and thanks

A big thank you to Jess and James for letting me film them. Also, thank you to my dad for the image. Please note that the adapted transcript used in this activity is referred to in my book: Bringing online video in the classroom (Oxford University Press, 2014).

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Posted 31/8/15

6 Responses to Would you rather?

  1. ENZA CATANIA says:

    I think this is a great way to make students speak as they’re really shy at first and never seem to know what to say. Listening before speaking and there you are, ideas start popping up and that’s it…!

  2. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Enza
    Yes – a video of a speaking task can give learners something to react to. In other words, they can agree or disagree with the people in the video and give reasons for their answers.
    Thank you for your comment
    Jamie :)

  3. Stephen Jones says:

    I’m going to be trying this out with a mixed ability class tomorrow. I like the structure of the lesson, and especially the focus on the differences between the adapted and authentic scripts. We could do with more of this in published teaching materials, especially at lower levels.

    Interestingly, I have done similar things in the past with lexis at the end of lessons. I usually ask learners to divide up their page into language they really want to remember to use, language that may por may not be useful in the future, and language they feel they are confident with already. Much better than the usual lists of new words!

    As usual Jamie, great lesson plans and inspiration.

  4. Jamie Keddie says:

    Hello Stephen
    Yes – I have become quite a fan of giving students two versions of a text in this way. Glad you like the approach and interesting to hear about you own way of doing it.
    Good luck with the activity.
    Jamie :)

  5. Dan Levy says:

    Used this for a one-off lesson with a YL class and they loved it. Supplemented it with the website which has countless ‘would you rather’ questions on it and can be used as a fun way for the students to practise the form outside of the classroom. Thanks Jamie

  6. Jamie Keddie says:

    Nice one Dan. Thanks for the feedback. Glad it went well!
    Jamie :)