This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.) *
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)
After the teacher has introduced the purpose of follow-up questions to the students, (1) the students can participate in the following exercises.
Exercise 1. To demonstrate how follow-up questions are used, they first read a dialog and fill in some blanks. The fill-ins are important to get students to really focus on the meaning; without the blanks, students tend to mindlessly read the dialog.
This Exercise 1 above serves two purposes. It helps students see that follow-up questions are connected to the previous answer that their partner had given. And it serves as a model for how they will carry out Exercise 2.
Exercise 2. In pairs, students practice a conversational format similar to the example in Exercise 1. This involves three steps going from controlled to more free form. (Please note: Student A’s and Student B’s papers would be on different pages so that they could not see each other’s.)
In Steps 2 below students have the opportunity to ask customized questions about topics that are most relevant to them. Often these are not topics that even their instructor would have thought of. E.g., Did you know that Sammy (classmate) moved out of his apartment? But because coming up with good questions on one’s own, in Step 3, students write the questions with a partner.
When students do Step 3 (below), it’s very common for the voices in the room to become louder with enthusiasm and to hear a lot of laughing as they work with new partners talking about topics that are most personal to them.
(1) For a brief introduction to follow-up questions that the teacher can tell the students, see p. 129 in Pro Lingua Learning Conversation Strategies
Here is the link to the complete activity: Follow up questions from CS
Research has shown that people who ask questions (especially follow-ups) are actually more likeable. If you’d like to read more about this see Want Your Students to Seem More Likeable? Research Says: Teach Them Follow-up Questions
For more about activities that students customize, see Customizing conversation topics
For practicing follow-ups
- with lower-level students, see Basic Conversation Strategies
- with intermediate-level students, see Conversation Strategies
- wth advanced-level students, see Discussion Strategies
Also, see • Introduction to Teaching ESL Conversation: Effective Pair/Group Activities
And see • The Teacher’s Role During Student-Centered Conversation Activities (on YouTube)
*About the free-download materials. During my 40 years of teaching ESL, I have had many colleagues who were very generous with their time, advice and materials. These downloads are my way of paying it forward.