Classroom Corner: No No, No Yes—Open Answer Activity


By Edward Pye

[This article was first printed in the Spring 2016 issue of TEAL News.]

One of the biggest challenges for students when they are having casual conversations is how to keep the conversation going and optimize their ability to practice the language they have learned. For a variety of reasons, students often close conversations off by simply answering either “yes” or “no.” This activity is a fun way of stopping students from doing that.


  • To practice avoiding “closed” responses in conversation
  • To use full answers when responding
  • Engage and reenergize students with short conversations


  • Get some form of tokens (I use Poker chips) with enough for around six for each student.


  1. Preface this activity by asking students what the most important aspects of “speaking” English are. You will get answers like pronunciation and intonation, but students may not talk about the problem of answering with closed answers. For example, “Do you like Canada?” If the student just answers “yes” then the conversation finishes, but if the student answers “I love Canada because of all the natural beauty” then the opportunity for follow up questions and more speaking practice arises.
  2. Explain this idea to the students and then have them brainstorm derivatives and synonyms for “yes” and “no” (yeah, nah, yup, nope, yah, of course, and so on).
  3. Write the words on the board and tell the students that all of these words are off-limits, so during the activity, they are not allowed to say any of them.
  4. Distribute at least six tokens to each student.
  5. Have students stand up and find a partner. They will get one to two minutes to talk with their partner and ask them questions on any topic. If, while answering questions, a student says any of the off-limit words, they must give one token to their partner. This should encourage the students to answer with longer more complex answers.
  6. When the one to two minutes are up, have students find a new partner and begin again. Rotate through partners for as long as you want the activity to go for. It could be finished in 15 minutes, but I find it usually lasts longer because students love it and want to keep going.
  7. When the time is up, the student with the most tokens could be declared the winner.

Biographical Information

From the Spring 2016 issue of the BC TEAL newsletter:  Edward Pye is a New Zealander with an English literature degree from Otago University. Before moving to British Columbia, he taught in South Korea for eight years. Since then, he has worked as an Educational Programmer on UBC’s Okanagan campus and as an EAL instructor at Okanagan College.


This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

Pye, E. (2016, Spring). Classroom corner:  No no, no yes—Open answer activity. TEAL News. Retrieved from




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