Activities To Practise Making Requests

By Alex Case
Practice activities for making requests in English, including being polite, responding and giving reasons.

1. Try Your Best To Say No

One student must try to answer all requests negatively, giving a different reason each time. The person or people making the requests should try to make them say yes, e.g. by asking for things that are so small that it is difficult to refuse them or by asking for something that can only easily be refused with an excuse they have already used (and so cannot use again).

2. Predict The Answer

Before making a request, the student whose turn it is writes down the response they expect as Yes or No in their notebooks. After getting a response, they reveal what they had written down, therefore showing their power of prediction and ability to choose a request that gets a particular answer, e.g. “Can you lend me your house?” for “No” and “Can you move your chair one centimetre to the left?” for “Yes”.

3. Requests Answer Me

This is a variation on the game above. Students are dealt out five to seven cards with Yes or No written on them. Their job is to obtain those responses and so be able to discard the cards, with the first person with no cards left (or the person with fewest cards when the teacher stops the game) being the winner. The first student takes one of the cards and puts the rest face down on the table, then makes a request which they think they will get an answer that is on that card. If that is in fact the answer they get, they can discard it.

This can also be played with cards that have the actual wording of the responses on them, e.g. phrases like “Maybe later” and “Okay, but just this once”. The people replying must choose the thing that they would be most likely to really say in that situation from the list of such responses and the person who made the request can discard the card if it is one of the ones they have in their hand.

4. Requests Brainstorming Competition

Students are given a word or situation that they should brainstorm requests for, e.g. requests containing the word “pencil” or requests inside a taxi. When they run out of ideas the last person to come up with something gets a point, then they move onto something else in the list.

You can also do the same thing with brainstorming reasons for refusing a request, or trying to think of situations in which a particular excuse or phrase could be used.

5. Requests Guessing Games

Students should guess which of the situations on the worksheet or board (e.g. “Talking to your boss” and “In a dentist’s”) the teacher or another student is thinking of from the requests that they say could come up there (e.g. “Can I go home early?” or “Could you just polish them a little?” for those two examples).

They could also guess which of the requests written on the worksheet the person speaking is thinking of from the possible responses they say, or guess which of the responses on the worksheet they are thinking of from the list of requests they say could get that answer.

A more complex one is to give each student a card with a reason for refusing lots of requests, e.g. “You can’t read and write”. They should refuse all requests that would be impossible for them (e.g. “Write a report” and “Help with my homework” for this example) until their partners guess what your problem is.

Another variation is to give them a list of big requests like “Help me move house” and “Help me set up my own business”. The person whose turn it is makes small requests that would form part of that big demand, e.g. “Could you help me put down the back seats of my car?” and “Would you mind coming to the tax office with me?” for those two examples. After replying to those small requests, their partners should try to guess what the big request is.

6. Requests For Points

Students are given Student A and Student B sheets which have different things they should request on them, with each thing having a number of points depending on how big an ask it is, e.g. one point for “borrow a dictionary” and ten points for “use your car for a week”. They should say yes to exactly half of the requests they receive and can reject the other half. They shouldn’t say how many points things have on their worksheet or show their worksheet to their partner, but rather find some way of tricking their partner into accept at least one bigger request. The person who says yes to things with fewer points in total is the winner.

7. Politeness Competition

Students compete to make an impolite request that they are given as polite as possible, e.g. going from “Sit down” to “Please sit down” then “Please take a seat”, “Please sit anywhere you like” and finally “Please sit anywhere you like whenever you are ready”.

Written by Alex Case for Teflnet November 2011
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic and the Teaching...: Interactive Classroom Activities series of business and exam skills e-books for teachers
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