(This posting includes a POWERPOINT presentation and HANDOUTS which you are welcome to use with your students.)
“I wish I had more chances to practice my English outside of class.”
“How can I meet some native-English speakers?”
“I went to a party last weekend. There were about 20 people there, but nobody seemed to want to talk to me. I just kind of stood in the corner looking at my cell phone. Why didn’t anyone talk to me?”
“I sat next to someone, and I wanted to talk to him, but I was afraid that I would be bothering him, or he wouldn’t say anything. What do you think?”
I’ve been asked these types of questions frequently by my students. Naturally, some of them were low-level students with little confidence in their skills, but surprisingly, often more fluent ones also asked me for advice.
For students from some cultures, starting a conversation with someone they don’t know might be a new concept to them. (See Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Part 2 of 4: Reading aspect) )
Exercises for starting-a-conversation skills
Step 1: Teacher’s introduction to starting a conversation
I want to instill confidence in my students that they won’t be embarrassed if they try to initiate a conversation with someone. Here is a brief PowerPoint and “script” that I use to introduce the technique.
Script for PowerPoint
Here is the download for the script in case you’d like to use it with your students: Script Intro Start a Conversation
Step 2: Practicing starting a conversation (Downloadable activities below)
The handout consists of a set of introductory exercises that leads students to interact with six techniques they can use to start a conversation. Following this, students apply the techniques in a Student A / Student B type whole class mixer activity.
Here is a link to the unit, which you can try out with your student. Starting Conv Low-Intermeditate
(To see the complete unit, include several more interactive activities for developing this skill of starting and ending a conversation, see Unit 10 in Basic Conversation Strategies.)
Higher-Level students (Intermediate)
For students who are at a bit higher level (Intermediate), to introduce and practice techniques for starting and ending a conversation in a Student A / Student B type whole class mixer activity, see Start Stop a Conv. Intermediate
For more Intermediate-Level conversation-skill development activities like this, see Conversation Strategies
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.