Ideas for Conversation Classes

Surfing the net one day, I came across the Internet TESL Journal’s site with its suggestions for conversation classes. It’s a great resource - it gives great long lists of questions you can ask on a wide variety of topics. Some of the questions are really interesting, and should spark off some good discussions. And the list certainly saves hours on lesson planning. However, I think there are a few things you need to keep in mind :

Just ploughing through the questions in T-class mode would be potentially boring and would considerably limit the talking time of each student. The teacher’s involvement would also mean that there was no time for monitoring. Errors would have to be either ignored or corrected and explained on the spot – which would break up the flow of the conversation and lead to an even lower pace for the lesson.
When they're ready they then stand up and circulate - each person only asks the three questions s/he's chosen, but of course they'll be hearing and answering different questions, the ones the others have chosen. When they finish each person reports back to the full class on something like : What was the most interesting (or strangest, or funniest, or most unexpected - whatever) thing you found out? Again, as they’ll all be talking about a different question and answer, the discussion will be more varied.

This frees the teacher to listen to the conversations and reports and to take notes. At the end of the activity you can then provide feedback on their use of the language, focusing on the most important mistakes and errors and also on any useful expressions which you heard students use.

Notes

(1) I think I first heard of this idea, or something similar to it, in a publication by Mario Rinvolucri, but I’m afraid I can’t remember which. I know that it was an activity which involved giving students a list and asking them to cross out the things they didn’t like and work on the rest.

Photo provided under Creative Commons licence by Eastenhuh via
flickr.