(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 1)
Making conversation magic happen
After a colleague used these exercises with her students, 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.
The first activity involves active listening in which students show that they are actually listening to their partner and understand what their partner has said. It’s called “Using Rejoinders.”
Rejoinders can be categorized as showing that you are:
Here is the link to the complete activity. Rejoinders from CS
Here is a summary of the set of step-by-step exercises in the activity that lead them to be able to used rejoinders naturally in any conversation.
The instructor introduces the concept of rejoinders and explains how helpful they are in a conversation.
To see how rejoinders are used in conversations, students interact with some models. I.e., they don’t just mindlessly read some examples.
In pairs, students work on a two-way task (1) in which they have different information and complete the task by not looking at each other’s page.
Steps 1 & 2 are designed in a way that gets students to use a variety of rejoinders.
Step 3 is more free form in which students apply what they learned in Steps 1 & 2. They start by customizing some of the statements to their own personal lives. When they read these statements, they seem to enjoy hear the type of reaction they get. Also, if their partner responds with a “wrong” rejoinder, they know that there probably was a communication breakdown.
Once students have completed this set of exercises, instructors are amazed at how much students apply this in future conversation activities and in conversational activities outside the class.
READ MORE about Technique 2: Follow-up Questions Conversation magic: Two most important techniques. (Part 2)
A fun activity that includes using rejoinders, see • Whole Class Conversation Mixer Activity: Good for Students’ Skills, Brains and More
For lower-level students, each type of rejoinder is practice individually in Basic Conversation Strategies
For intermediate-level students, rejoinders are review together in Conversation Strategies
For advanced-level students, rejoinders are review together with follow-up questions in Discussion Strategies
(1) For more information about the benefits of two-way tasks, see Conversation class: Necessary ingredients for successful pair work (from research)
*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.