A Family Nightmare

I’ve often looked, fruitlessly, for alternative fluency lessons than the regular conversation style class. Problem solving activities generate a genuine need to communicate and can rope in students who otherwise stay quiet.

This activity uses the topic of difficult relationships between people and family members, but without demanding anyone gives any personal information about theirs. For B1 or higher.


  1. Print one copy of the handout Who should sit where? per two or three students.
  2. Cut up the people cards as it means students can move them around as they solve the problem. You could skip this and just give them the sheet and they write the names into the seating plan.
  3. You might want to pre-teach some of the vocab.


  1. Optional lead in: Elicit things that can cause tension between relatives.
  2. Tell students they are holding a dinner party and have invited the members of a dysfunctional family.
  3. Give out the seating plan and the cards to students in pairs or threes. They must come up with a seating plan that would cause the least fights and tensions in the dysfunctional family. This means they should discuss the various members and their relationships and not just move pieces around the seating plan.
  4. Compare groups’ solutions if there’s time.

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