Just a Minute


[Read time: 2 minutes]

“One time at band camp, we weren’t supposed to have pillow fights, so we played ‘Just a Minute’ instead, and it was SO MUCH FUN!”

When my pals and I played “Just a Minute” at Camp Penn in the early 1980s, our counselors called it “Verbal Diarrhea” which was, of course, an uproariously provocative name and highly appealing to the boys.

Turns out that “Just a Minute,” in which a contestant must speak extemporaneously to a panel of judges on a given topic “without hesitation, repetition, or deviation” for 60 seconds, originated in 1967 as a BBC Radio 4 comedy show, not in the woods of southern Pennsylvania.

Not only are the contestants on the original show given their topic immediately before they speak, they are also subject to some fairly firm rules.

Listen for yourself!

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right! “Just a Minute” can be easily adapted to any content area and is perfect for vocabulary review.

Ready to try it with your students?

Before class:

  1. Decide which words students will use in the game.
  2. Post these hints.

In class:

  1. Play the first segment of the BBC broadcast in which contestants are asked to speak about pirates to give students an idea of how the game is played.
  2. Using examples, discuss the meanings of the words “hesitation,” “repetition,” and “deviation.”
  3. Show the students a vocabulary word from a current (or past) unit and give them 30 seconds to jot down notes about the word. Refer them to the hints as they brainstorm:
    %22Just a Minute%22 hints
  1. Using your favorite random student selection system, name one student to be “it” or assign students to work with a partner or in small groups.
  2. Set a timer for 60 seconds and remind the speakers they must talk about the word for one full minute without pausing, repeating important words, or deviating from talking about the word. (You might consider starting with 30 seconds or even 20 the first time and working up to a full minute.)

Variations for extra moxie:

  • Offer the student who’s “it” the opportunity to choose a backup; if one can’t continue, the other one steps in but may not repeat what the first student has already said.
  • Name a panel of 2-4 students to call out challenges; if the speaker hesitates, repeats a word (other than articles, “and,” and the vocabulary word); or deviates from a direct association to the word, a student on the panel can call a challenge, and another speaker is up.
  • Ban empty words such as “like,” “cool,” “nice,” “random,” “I don’t know,” etc. and add them to the challenge criteria.
  • Challenge students to maintain eye contact with their partner(s) for the duration of the game.
  • Offer points or other rewards to any student who successfully completes the 60 seconds or meets other criteria you set.

For the heart and soul of this blog, I need to know that this is a game that students (other than my own!) will actually engage with, learn from, and want to do again. Did you try this in your classroom? Please share in the comments below.

Comment Policy: Thank you for adding your moxie to the conversation! Please use your personal name or initials and do not put your URL in the comment text, as the latter can seem like spam.

I welcome and encourage your relevant, helpful, and constructive comments and will remove any that are off-topic, hurtful, or inappropriate. Let’s be kind, hold hands, and walk together on the sunny side of the street, shall we?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.