I Don't Know!

drawing of woman in a red shirt shrugging her shoulders and looking confused

Purpose:  It can be embarrassing and difficult for learners to admit that they don’t know the answer to a question in class. This activity helps learners to become more comfortable with expressing uncertainty.

Preparation Time:  None

Materials Needed:  None


  1. Ask the group a question that you know that they won’t be able to answer (e.g. “When is my birthday?” “What is my favorite color?” etc.).
  2. Once learners aren’t able to answer the question, write “I don’t know” on the whiteboard.
  3. Elicit other ways that they can respond to a question they don’t know how to answer and write those on the whiteboard (e.g. I’m not sure, I have no idea, I’ve never thought about it, etc.). Explain that there is nothing wrong or embarrassing about not knowing the answer to a question.
  4. Go around the group and have the learners practice answering the original question using one of the phrases.
  5. Have all of the learners write down a question that other learners won’t be able to answer.
  6. Once the learners have written the questions, have them stand up and mingle, asking each other their question and using one of the phrases from the board to respond.
  7. Bring everyone back together and remind them that it’s alright if they don’t know an answer; they can still respectfully respond.

Expansion: After the mingle, ask the learners what they would say if they don’t know the answer, but know where to find the information. For example, if you ask them the birthday of another learner in class. Write phrases that learners can use to follow up expressing uncertainty to indicate that they will find the answer (e.g. I’m not sure, but I’ll go check. I don’t know, but I can find out. I have no idea, but if you hold on, I can go find the answer). Have the learners take turns asking one another questions about another learner in the room, and finding out the answer.

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