View Full Version : Adult Conversation Classes - Advice, please!

smile and nod
June 25th, 2015, 15:45
Hi all! Newb here.

I'm part of a local initiative to teach the community adults English. I was hired by an ALT/eikaiwa company. This is not a business related course and is strictly limited to conversation skills. Our youngest students are three high schoolers, and our oldest are in their 80s. I have students with varying degrees of skill but only two levels of courses, Beginner and Basic. Next semester we're stretching it out into Beginner, Basic, and Advanced. I'm brand new to teaching English, and have minimal teaching background (TA in grad school and a job where I worked one-on-one with students learning computer software.)

I've been having trouble with focus and lesson planning but feel that by writing learning objectives and more detailed lesson plans this should soon be fixed. However, I am especially having trouble with students becoming bored. The materials my company has given me are mostly flash cards, pre-written dialogues, and accompanying questions. Their method is mostly drill-based. With what can I supplement these materials to make class more interesting? By the by, I am not supposed to use Japanese in my classes, even for the Beginner levels where some students only know あいさつ.

Thanks in advance!

June 26th, 2015, 08:09
For-warning - I don't actually teach eikaiwa. My only experience with 'eikaiwa' style conversation/teaching was during exchange in Japan. We were paired with English learners as we studied Japanese.

I had the most luck keeping a conversation going when I could find things that they liked to talk about. See what interests they have and build into English from there. With some of my current ES/JHS students (outside of class) I like talking about things they like, (even things that aren't interesting to me - a la Taylor Swift.) For some, music, TV, video games etc, and for others its cooking or travel etc.

June 26th, 2015, 08:40
Yeah conversation classes are not actual English lessons, they should be going to cram schools and the like for that. You can't make lessons unless you have lesson and course goals, so unless they all come to you and say that they've decided they want to learn xyz then it isn't your responsibility to make something for them. Either that or your employer gives you some kind of syllabus. Don't do anything other than what the class is described as until someone instructs you otherwise, imo. I actually quit a conversation class because they wouldn't make conversation, they would all just sit there and listen to me*. Most of them are adults, there by their own choice, if they don't know what they want it isn't your job to try and figure it out.

Anyway, try something like choosing a topic to discuss and putting them in pairs, including yourself. Rotate every 5 minutes or so depending on how well it's going. At the end you can try getting them to recap what their partner talked about or whatever. Other people have told me they just choose topics and discuss it in groups, but like I said that didn't work for my people. How many do you have in a typical class?

*I actually found out after the fact that they didn't want to talk to each other because they thought practicing Japanese with anyone apart from a native speaker was a waste of time. Go pay for 1 on 1 lessons then, ye daft old besoms!

smile and nod
June 26th, 2015, 13:27
Webstaa, thank you! I took notes on their interests during the level checks, so I hope to break those out soon.

Jiggit, thank you as well! I think maybe, based on your advice, I might write some conversation time into the lesson. There are 8-13 people in each class, so it's a bit difficult to listen in on each conversation and help, but perhaps speaking with each other will help get the words flowing. So far I've been doing introduction exercises, so they do get to have conversations there - but it'll be important to keep such opportunities open as the class progresses, I think.

July 7th, 2015, 15:59
I had mine write a little speech on what they did over the week. This slowly transformed into any topic they liked. I filled the rest of the time with dialogues, speaking exercises and other activities. Conversation class can be anything from fun foreigner time to serious learning if have students who push it that way.

I had the same problem with small group conversations. Complaints about them coming to speak with me, even though i was rotating between groups and we also always did a major group discussion.

July 27th, 2015, 11:20
In my local community I run a conversation group. For the first class I just had them introduce themselves: hobbies, jobs, favourites etc. Then by the end of it I had a rough idea of what I could have for a second topic. Usually food or something. Basically, just facilitate a conversation. I find the best way is to let them talk and then just inject when you notice a gap in the conversation. That's all I do. They love it, I've had to start two one hour sessions, up from one, per week because the classes got full quite quickly.

August 3rd, 2015, 04:07
For my class we just shoot the shit.

August 3rd, 2015, 07:58
For my class we just shoot the shit.

THIS! In every eikaiwa class I've ever had, the students said they prefer to just practice talking. Just have a normal conversation. Make sure ALL the students are engaged. If one student doesn't say anything for a while, ask them a question or their opinion to engage them. You can teach them new vocab or correct their grammar as you talk. If you're having trouble making conversation, bring a board or card game.

August 3rd, 2015, 09:31
Mine refused to just chat and I found out later they thought it was a waste of time to talk with other Japanese people. This in a class of 10-15 people...

August 3rd, 2015, 18:42
Mine refused to just chat and I found out later they thought it was a waste of time to talk with other Japanese people. This in a class of 10-15 people...

That's the result of the school system telling them they need a foreigner to interact with. It's a real shame, because it's much more productive to have people use it with each other, and then correct general flaws as the class goes for everyone's benefit.

August 3rd, 2015, 18:52
The average age of this class was about 45.

August 3rd, 2015, 19:23
The average age of this class was about 45.

That doesn't change the message though, regardless of age the school system says, you must learn english with a foreigner. The english conversation schools say, you must learn english with a foreigner. the jukus say you must learn english with a foreigner atleast for communication.

August 3rd, 2015, 20:01
Doesn't feel like anyone's told my students or teachers that.