Monthly Archives: February 2017

Conversation magic: Two most important conversation techniques (Part 1)

Sandy: I read some interesting research about using a laptop to take notes in class.

Tim (rejoinder): Oh, yeah?

Sandy: Of course, typing is faster than handwriting notes.

Tim (rejoinder): Right.

Sandy: But when we type, we tend to type verbatim notes, every word we hear.

Tim (rejoinder): I see.

Sandy: But when we hand-write, we tend to be more selective, which is more useful.

Tim (rejoinder):  Wow!  That’s interesting!

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.) Rejoinders from CS

YouTube This posting is discussed on my YouTube video The Two Most Important Conversation Techniques to Teach ESL Students (Part 1)

Making conversation magic happen

After a colleague used these techniques, she told me with wonder in her eyes, “I saw magic happen in my class today.  My students suddenly became very animated, their voiced rose, and they were laughing!” 

Then she wondered if it was some kind of set up.  In other words, by using these techniques, students have no choice but to feel like someone is interested in what they are saying.

In a sense, she is right.  But isn’t that what we hope our students will experience? These are the two techniques:

1) Use rejoinders to show that they understand what the other has said by giving understanding responses.

2) Ask follow-up questions to maintain the conversation and to show interest in each other..

When someone uses these in a conversation, their interlocutor can’t help but feel like someone thinks they are interesting to talk to.

Use rejoinders and make your interlocutor feel good.

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Conversation magic: Two most important techniques. (Part 2)

Kara: I heard you had a problem with your cat, Charlie.

Mickey: Yeah.  He climbed high up in a tree and couldn’t get down for three days. 

Kara (Rejoinder): Really?  (Follow-up) What happened?

Mickey: We called a tree trimmer, who climbed up, but just as he reached him, Charlie made a huge leap to another three and climbed down.

Kara (Rejoinder): That’s amazing!  (Follow-up)How is Charlie now?

Mickey: He just climbed another tree.  I’m not going to worry about him.

(Based on a true story)

This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.) Follow up questions

YouTube This posting is discussed on my YouTube video The Two Most Important Conversation Techniques to Teach ESL Students (Part 2)

The conversation magic: Making others feel like they are interesting people by asking follow-up questions.

Combined with rejoinders (explained in Part 1), this technique is almost guaranteed to engage students in animated and enjoyable conversations.

The second activity involves maintaining and extending the conversation by questions about what their partner has said.  It’s called “Using Follow-Up Questions.”  See Part 1 about Rejoinders  Conversation magic: Two most important conversation techniques (Part 1)

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How to lead ESL Students to Discover their Grammar Mistakes on Writing Assignments


One-on-one conferencing

Example of telling, not leading a students: “I see that you have a mistake in this sentence in your essay.  Instead of writing, ‘He was gave a reward,’ you should write, ‘He was given a reward.'”

All over the world and on almost every campus, there is a need for well-qualified teachers/tutors who understand grammar terms and who can “lead” ESL students to discover and correct their own mistakes, and by so doing, become better at self-editing.  Unfortunately, many teachers/tutors merely tell students what their mistakes are and how to correct them.  This approach has been proven to be ineffective at making students aware of their mistakes and at helping them become independent. The purpose of this posting is to give a brief introduction to an innovative and at the same time straight-forward techniques which teachers/tutors can use when conferencing individually with students about their writing assignments.

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Conversation class: Necessary ingredients for successful pair work (from research)

Engaging pairs

Engaging pairs

An important ingredient for making pair work activities successful learning experiences would seem to be active involvement on the part of both members; and it seems obvious that certain tasks would produce more involvement than others.  In fact, research has been conducted on the type of communication present when pairs are involved in one-way and two-way tasks.

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