Bring Communication to Your 1st Graders (JHS)

How would you feel if your sibling asked you to wash these dishes?

How would you feel if your brother or sister asked you to wash these dishes?

Interesting conversation involves two things: emotion and a little negotiation. And what topic is more emotionally charged for teenagers than dividing up the house chores when their parents are gone on vacation? That’s what we found out, using this quick communication activity in which students work in pairs to negotiate about which chores they will do while their parents are away for the week. Please read below to find out more about this activity and to download a free copy of the worksheet that goes along with this idea.

Activity Quick Stats:

Click here to: Download the free worksheet

Level: First Grade Junior High School

Time: 15-20 minutes (depending on how many pairs students make)

Grammar Point: Making requests using “Can you ______?” (e.g. “Can you do the laundry?”)

Set-up: Explain to students that their parents are going on vacation for the week and they need to decide who will do the house chores such as washing the dishes, shoveling the snow and so on. Using the grammar “Can you _____?” students will negotiate about who will do which chore. Obviously some chores on the list are more undesirable than others (e.g. “Can you clean the toilet), so students have a greater incentive to participate actively in negotiations and connect some emotion to the language they are using. After all, “Okay, I can clean the toilet…” has a different ring to it than “Okay, I will make breakfast…”

How to play: After practicing how to say each chore, students will play rock paper scissors  to decide who makes the first request. Following the model dialogue at the end of the worksheet, the winner will request that their “sibling” do one of the chores.  Students can say “No, I can’t” to any item on the list, however, to be fair, they have to say, “Yes, I can.” to at least one chore per turn. The student making a request each time someone has agreed to do a chore. The negotiations finish when all the chores have been agreed to. With 5 chores to divide up, one student will finish with 3 chores to do and another with 2 chores to do. Students should make a memo about which chores they agree on.

An example  dialogue will look like this:

Student 1: Can you clean the toilet?

Student 2: No, I can’t.

Student 1: Okay, can you wash the dishes?

Student 2: Okay, I can wash the dishes.

(Students make a memo and SWITCH)

Student 2: Can you make breakfast?

Student 1: Okay, I can make breakfast.

(Students make a memo and SWITCH)

…and so on…

Click here to: Download the free worksheet

This activity worked really great with all our 1st graders because there was a consequence to the decisions they made (albeit imaginary). We increased the level of engagement from the students by switching partners 3 times, checking who agreed to do each chore after each round, and giving students a chance to think of their own “chore” for the last round.

Let me know if you have any questions. eliotc[at]gmail[dot]com