Category Archives: FUN activities

Conversation Technique: Don’t Kill the Conversation. What to Say When You Don’t Know What to Say.

kill the conversation

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

There a fewer better ways to kill a conversation than to do one of these after being asked a question:

  • Say nothing for a long time while trying to think about what to say.
  • Say, “Ummmmmm. Ahhhhh” for a long time while trying to think.
  • Just say, “I don’t know.”

It’s quite common for ESL students to be in situations like this.  They are asked a fairly common question like, “What will you do this weekend?”  Then their brains have to imagine what their plans are and how to explain those plans often using their limited vocabulary and grammar knowledge.  That process can take time.  In the meantime, knowing that the questioner is waiting for an answer to a question that would be easy to answer in his/her own language, the student is feeling pressure to answer quickly, feeling embarrassed that it is taking so long and feeling stress from appearing foolish.

In the meantime, the person who asked the question can often feel impatient or frustrated while waiting for a response.  The questioner will wonder if the students didn’t understand the question or if they don’t know what to say or if they just aren’t interested.

Too often in situations like this, the conversation dies and the questioner moves on to talk to someone else, and the students is left feeling foolish and abandoned.

This activity will lead students to learn a technique that completely prevents that from happening. It’s called, “Don’t kill the conversation.”

Here is how it works and here is a link to the activity handout.

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Conversation Activity: Getting Students to Say More Than the Minimum

shy

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

 We might think that the students who say little in a conversation are lazy or just quiet by nature.  That’s not necessarily the case.  Some students have told us that they are trying to be polite and let others talk.  Others just don’t know what to say, so they say the minimum.  And some just aren’t aware that they should speak more.

This activity is designed to help these types of students. It “gives permission” to the polite students to talk more.  It “requires” the lazy or quiet ones to contribute to the conversation.  And it “pushes” everyone to think of something, anything, to say.

The activity is call Responding with Details. In groups of three, students ask each other the supplied questions (in a Student A, B, C format).  Every time the members respond, they have to answer with “and, but, so, because or with two sentences.

Example

  1. Marit: Where was the best place you ever lived?
  2. Lucien: I like warm weather, so I really loved living in California. (Answered with “so”.)
  3. Marit: When did you live there?
  4. Lucien: When I was in high school.  We moved there when I was 16 and stayed for three years. (Answered with two sentences and “and.”)

Steps in the activity (and the handout)

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Another Conversation Activity: Listen to Partner and Ask Questions to Complete Information-Gap Chart 

image schedule chart

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

At first, this pair-work activity looks like it’s about getting students to talk a lot by filling information in a chart.  But that’s not the most important value of it.

Yes, students will talk a lot during this.  But by including a short pre-exercise, they will see how they should ask clarification questions when they need more information or if they didn’t understand.  Asking clarification questions is the strategy that they can use in future conversation situations in and outside the classroom.

In this activity, the students will be filling in information about a class schedule.  They’ll need to listen to their partners tell them the name of courses, days, times and room numbers.  They’ll have many chances to ask questions, especially if they don’t understand.

There are three steps in this activity:

  • Step 1: Brief work with a model showing how to do Step 2.
  • Step 2: Pair activity (Student A/ Student B)
  • Step 3:  Exercise to do if they finish before other pairs have finished.

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Conversation Activity: Stimulating Students to Listen and Respond to Each Other

 

conversation listen respond

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

Students are going to make the most progress in their conversation skills if they get into the habit of doing two things:
(1) Listen carefully to what the other person is saying and
(2) Respond to what was said.

This information-gap activity is great practice for a couple of reasons.  First, students will immediately know if they hadn’t understood clearly what their partner had said.  And second, it provides an example of  how to respond to what the partner had said.

There are three exercises in this activity.

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Taking TPR to Another Level of Engagement: Two Fun Lower-Level Activities (Part 2: Movie Directors)

Excerpt from directors’ script:

Movie Director script

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

This activity is not only great for skill building, but also offers an opportunity for students to be creative.  It’s also very entertaining and a complete change from other activities that students usually do in class.

After students have done the TPR (Total Physical Response) activity which I had describe in Part 1 , Taking TPR to Another Level of Involvement: Two Fun Lower-Level Activities (Part 1: Triads) they’ll be prepared for this one, “Movie Directors.”

In brief, these are the steps and the handout.

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Taking TPR to Another Level of Involvement: Two Fun Lower-Level Activities (Part 1: Triads)

Excerpt from Student A’s paper:

Image St A soup

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

This activity will show how TPR (Total Physical Response) can be more student-centered than the traditional teacher-directed approach.  Also, it is a pre-step to the TPR activity “Movie Directors,” which I’ll share in the next posting .

In this activity, students are put in groups of three (Students A, B, C).  Each member is given a paper with different “commands.”  They read their commands to their partners, who listen and do the actions.

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Customized Speaking/Listening “Game” (Actually, more than just a game.)

Three classmates are playing the game.

Vy: Here are the names of four classmates.  Which one is special? Julie,  Mai,  Saura, Thi.
Katya: Could you repeat that again?
Vy: Sure. Julie,  Mai,  Saura, Thi.

Alessa: I know.  Julie is special.
Vy: OK.  Why?
Alessa: Because she is not Asian, but the other three are.
Vy:  That’s right!  But there is another one.
Katya:  Let me see.  Oh, I got it.  Thi is special.  She is the only one who knows how to drive.
(Everyone laughs.)
Vy: You got it.
Danica: I know another one.  Saura is special.

Katya: Really?  How come?
Danica: She is the only one who finished her homework for today.

(Eruption of laughter.)
Vy: Now it’s your turn, Alessa.

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.  See below.)  

While the students were in engaged in this activity in triads, I was standing on the perimeter.  I could overhear the list that Vy read, but couldn’t think of anything special about the four names except the obvious one that Julie was the only non-Asian.  A minute later, I heard the sudden explosion of laughter and talking from them.  I realized that they had shared an inside joke.

The basis of this game (Odd Man Out) might sound familiar to many of you.  But by exploiting it more, it turns into a great interactive activity that is not only fun but also a chance to internalize many useful expressions and produce a lot of conversation.  And students are intent on listening to each other.

In its simplest format, student read a list of four words to their partners.  The partners have to choose which word is strange or odd or special and explain why.  For example:
cat, lion, dog, fish

Most of us would probably identify “fish” as being odd because it is the only one that lives in water.  However, another choice could be “lion,” since the others are common pets.

Making this a good learning tool and customizing it

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