“Now we’re going to split into groups!”– words that aren’t always greeted with enthusiastic cheers. Not everyone relishes the chance to work with just one or two other participants. And in an international group there can be all sorts of reservations. Perhaps someone comes from a culture where you, the trainer, are seen as the expert and the value of working with other members of the group isn’t fully appreciated. Perhaps the difficulties lie in the foreign language and participants are thinking “Will I be able to express my ideas precisely enough?” “Will I understand the others?” or “I hope I’m not in the same group as xy, he’s so difficult to understand.” Whatever the nature of the reservations, it’s essential to motivate the group for the task and make sure that everyone understands exactly what they should be doing.

Introducing the task

A motivating introduction can help to overcome any initial apprehension or resistance. Use the following phrases to lead into the activity and link it to what you’ve already covered in the seminar and/or to the participants’ daily work.  

  • The following activity is a favourite of mine because …
  • The great advantage of the next activity is …
  • What I really like about the activity you’re going to do next is …
  • This morning we looked at …, in the next activity we’re going to build on that to …
  • Before the break we looked at the theory of …, now we’re going to put the theory into practice.
  • Are you ready to put what you’ve learned so far into practice? The next activity allows you to do just that.
  • In the introduction round many of you mentioned that you are often faced with … In the following activity you’ll be working with a partner to develop ways of dealing with this issue.
  • In your daily work you often have to … Now you have the chance to brainstorm ideas for doing this more simply and effectively in future.


Explaining what to do

I have to admit that at times I’ve been amazed by the different ways people have interpreted what I was convinced were perfectly clear instructions. Working in a foreign language really does increase the risk of misunderstandings and confusion. And if a group isn’t absolutely clear as to its task, valuable time is wasted. Here are a selection of phrases you can use to make sure your participants know exactly what they should be doing.  

Who will you be working with?

  • You’ll be doing this activity in pairs and I’d like you to choose a partner you haven’t worked with yet.
  • I’m going to put you into groups of four for this task.
  • I’d like you to split up into groups of three.
  • Working with the person sitting next to you, I’d like you to …

Where can you work?

  • Find a space where you can work without distraction. You’re welcome to use the room next door and the foyer.
  • If you want to make the most of this wonderful weather, feel free to work at the tables outside.
  • We haven’t got much space, I’m afraid, but I’ve set up flipcharts for you to work at in the corners of the room.

How much time have you got?

  • You’ve got 30 minutes for this activity. I’ll let you know five minutes before the end.
  • You have just 15 minutes to come up with …
  • This is a central part of the workshop, so I’ve planned a full hour for it.
  • Take just five minutes to …

What exactly should you do?

  • First I’d like you to …
  • Then use this … to …
  • After that, please …
  • Make sure that you …
  • Don’t forget to …

What resources can you use?

  • There are plenty of flipchart sheets and pens on the table at the back of the room.
  • Help yourself to any materials you need.
  • Feel free to use any of the materials provided.

What should you have at the end?

  • At the end of the 30 minutes I’d like you to be ready to …
  • The goal is for each pair to come up with …
  • Each group is aiming to produce a …

Starting the task

Depending on the group and situation, participants may be happy to ask any questions they have in front of the whole group. But for those who feel uncomfortable doing so (perhaps because their language skills are weaker), it’s a good idea to explicitly point out that you’ll be available to answer questions on a one-to-one basis, too.  

  • Are there any questions? Is there anything at all that isn’t clear?
  • I’ve written the individual steps on the flipchart, but feel free to ask me if you’re not sure what to do at any time.
  • If you’re unsure about anything while you’re doing the task, just call me.
  • I’ll be coming round to each group to clear up any uncertainties.
  • Let me know if you have any questions about terms used on the worksheet.

You’ve put a lot of thought into choosing the best activity for your training purpose. You can make sure you get the most out of it by investing a little time beforehand to decide on the best way to introduce and explain the task in English.


This is Part 3 of a series of articles written for the magazine Training Aktuell. As trainers are increasingly required to provide workshops and seminars in English for  international groups, this series aims to provide useful phrases and  helpful pointers. 

Part 1 looked at introductions, Part 2 at phrases for presenting the agenda and agreeing ground rules. 


Porträt Nicola Bartlett
Nicola Bartlett
I’ve been an English trainer for over 25 years, helping adults to get their message across in English – clearly and appropriately. Successful communication in English requires more than just a good knowledge of the language. An understanding of different mentalities and a feeling for the best approach are vital, too. » more