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Thread: Go-to conversation exercises.

  1. #1
    Australian Sciby's Avatar
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    Default Go-to conversation exercises.

    I teach in a senior high, doing nothing but language lab classes, so it's meant to be as much conversational practice as possible. However, in practice, this falls short.

    I try to engage the kids in conversation as much as possible and occasionally I can convince the JTE in question to do a wide discussion, but I'm finding it difficult to find exercises that give good convo practice on a regular basis.

    One exercise we do from time to time is getting them into two lines and getting them to talk about their weekend, etc... although this isn't helped by the JTE's getting them to script a small speech first and using that to kickstart the conversation. I hate this exercise because I think it also reinforces negative habits if the teacher and I aren't sitting over their shoulder, correcting them.

    When I aired my dislike for it, I got a very defensive and grumpy attitude back about it.

    So... help a guy out, who's down on his luck - tell me what you like to use to engage the kids in some good conversational practice.
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  2. #2
    Negi-sensei Oneiro's Avatar
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    Default Re: Go-to conversation exercises.

    Maybe not the best example, but for a private lesson I teach I've started using a book called Impact Issues. It just has simple conversations about stuff like green hair at a job interview or shoplifting. While I'm not sure what level your students are at you might be able to use that to start a little debate.
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  3. #3

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    Finding good conversation exercises that don't rely on reading of text has been my biggest challenge as well. I'm glad you started this discussion and hope to get some good ideas from it.

    I've found "hot potato" to be a big hit with the students and at least gets them thinking on their feet, without scripts. Form two circles, give each a "potato" to pass around while music is playing. When the music stops, the 2 people holding them stand up and have a conversation. Depending on the class level, you can either give them a topic to talk about for a certain period of time, or have one side ask a question and the other answer it.

    Many of my students cannot hold a conversation because they only know how to answer questions. I've recently started to require a response question to their answers in the "crossfire" or "row and column game." When they answer my question, they then need to ask me a follow up question in order to sit down.

    I've also found the reliance on written conversations to be a crutch for students, so I no longer give out stamps for demonstration readings of text, as was the practice before. Instead I only give out stamps for improvised conversation, assuring them grammar is not the main goal of OC class.

  4. #4
    Senior Member loljapan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Go-to conversation exercises.

    This is a "game" I always use in my elective English courses in high school.

    Make a set of cards with different words or phrases on them. Usually my cards are just scrap pieces of paper I cut up from my desk lol. I put words like "ice cream," "baseball," "mother," "summer vacation," etc. I also make sure there's about 10 cards in each deck.

    Put the students in groups of about 4. In my really small classes I'll do groups of 3, in larger classes 5. Have the students janken to decide their order.

    The first student stands up and randomly chooses one of the cards. That is the topic they will talk about.

    When you first start doing this activity with them, set an easy time goal based on how talkative your students are to begin with. I usually start them off with 30 seconds. Give the students a few seconds to think about their topic, then start the countdown timer. The students will talk to their group about whatever their topic is. "I like ice cream. My favorite ice cream is matcha ice cream. I like to eat ice cream at 31." When the 30 seconds are up, they sit down and student #2 will repeat the procedure.

    When we do this, we do it as the warm-up activity for class. So for the first two weeks or so, they do it for 30 seconds. Then we bump it up to 45 seconds. Then 1 minute. We usually get up to 2 or 3 minutes by the end of the school year depending on how the students progress. As the times go up, I tend to write down topic that are easier to talk about for longer. I'm not even sure I could talk about ice cream for 3 minutes lol.

    We also tell the students that even if they run out of things to say about their topic, they should KEEP TALKING. Students who stand there saying nothing get a penalty, like having to take an extra turn or something. So if Keisuke pulls baseball, and he runs out of things to say about baseball before time is up, he can then say, "I like basketball too. Basketball is very interesting." etc etc.

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