Thinking on Your Feet: Lesson Idea to Stimulate Imaginative Discussions

For students, it can be a daunting task to not only speak in their second (or third) language, but to also spontaneously compare arguments, and creatively weave a narrative with their core thoughts. What students can do is practice these skills using images and prompts to help them think around a subject. Being able to “think on their feet” is a learned skill that takes time and repetition to hone and improve.

As they develop these skills, it will become vital in their future careers while attending meetings, giving presentations, or challenging their colleagues on their line of thinking. Being able to articulate thoughts on your feet (because the responses or answers were anticipated) is a way to gradually build confidence to formulate astute and coherent replies.

Lesson plan / Materials

Example lesson plan

  1. Ask students to work in small groups and ask them to think about times they had to; make a speech, give a presentation, take part in a debate, or needed to reply to difficult questions without preparation (like an interview)? [5 minutes discussion and then allow each group to share with the whole class]
  2. Use the image prompts below and ask students to work in larger groups to study the images and give them impressions of what is happening. They can try to craft a story from what they can see, or even practice what happened just before the image, and what will happen after. This is good for grammar structures like conditionals, future perfect, and simple past. [You might need to preteach grammar unless the class is able to manage without]
  3. Allow for more time to answer the questions on the page, give time so that all group members share their thoughts, emphasise that there is no right or wrong answer – no one knows.
  4. Once they have completed this, have groups share their images with other groups and present their thoughts with others.
  5. Have other class members ask questions and encourage students to attempt to answer them.

Sentence bank to compare and contrast

  1. Both images appear to show that…
  2. It’s as if the second and third image are showing…
  3. What they have in common is that…
  4. While the first image shows _______ the second reflects on _________
  5. This image displays how _________
  6. I feel that some of the images are ___________ with only the third image representing _________
  7. In contrast to my friend/classmate/colleague I feel that _________________

Images for download and discussion

Use the images below to discuss in class to stimulate conversation.

Five tips on how to think on your feet

1. Relax, take your time, and pause when we need to

It’s natural to be apprehensive when you’re under the pressure of being the center of attention. However, if you get it together, your brain will be unable to think, and you may stammer when speaking.

As a result, you should try your hardest to overcome nervousness, relax, and maintain your composure. For practice, consider the following suggestions:

Take Deep Breaths: In stressful situations, deep breathing is incredibly beneficial. According to the American Institute of Stress, this type of relaxation enhances oxygen supply to our brains and promotes the parasympathetic nervous system, which causes us to feel calm. Deep breathing helps to relax muscles, calm the mind, and slow down racing heartbeats. So, before you react to an impromptu question, be sure to do this to clear your thoughts and think clearly.
Use a Message That Is Both Positive And Affirming: Give yourself positive affirmations like “I can do this” or “I’ve got this.”

2. Actively listen to what others are saying

When the questioner asks you a question, make sure you’re paying close attention to what they’re saying. Remove any distractions, such as turning off your phone and closing your laptop, for greater outcomes.

It’s also a good idea to observe your interrogator’s body language. Pay attention to their hand motions, eyes, and facial expressions while they ask the question. They are interested in what you have to say if they are smiling and making eye contact with you.

3. Ask follow-up questions to get more detail

If you’re still not sure how to answer, then you can ask several short questions of your own for clarification. You can go about it like this:

  • Prospect Type Question: “Do you think _____________?”
  • Clarification Type Question 1: “That’s a good question. Could you tell me a little more why you feel that ________?”
  • Clarification Type Question 2: “I am happy to share my thoughts, but I think you might have an answer, will be able to share?”

It also gives you the opportunity to think about whether your answer and to see if you can use their second, more detailed response, to include in your own answer.

4. Speculate – using “what if?”

By acknowledging you may get asked questions out of nowhere, you can use all that time to predict some of the likely questions that could be thrown in your way.

For example, you could be asked to present the stages of the story immediately before and after the given image.

There is a good chance that you’ll cover some of the most common questions that they may have, but it might just be good food for thought if you use the extra time to consider and prepare some of the other possible questions that could be asked.

Some other possible questions include:

  • What’s different about this image compared to the previous one?
  • Are there any other explainations why they are ________________?

You need to spend extra time rehearsing and researching before you can answer these questions and also provide additional information to support detailed questions.

5. Use a simple stucture

It’s also a good idea to observe your audience’s body language. Pay attention to their hand motions, eyes, and facial expressions while they ask the question. They are interested in what you have to say if they are smiling and making eye contact with you. take your time to answer and make sure you are maintaining eye contact.

As a result, it’s recommended to limit yourself to one or two points at most. You can then add one or two quick remarks under each of those topics. An example of how you should respond to a prospect is as follows:

“Yes, I feel that the image is a story that focuses on the adventures of the dragon but I am confident that it does not represent anything from the real world today. It does not hold any symbolism with the present. What I do want to say that is I think immediately after this image we can agree that the dragon will __________________.”