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Conversation work in pairs 
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Joined: Thu Jan 24, 2008 5:38 am
Posts: 128
Location: Italy
Post Conversation work in pairs
Course books quite often contain an instruction for students to discuss a topic or issue in pairs. In this situation, some students take their cue from the teacher and make an effort to direct their partners into having full and focused discussions. But many others dispatch the subject as quickly as possible, or may even agree not to discuss it ("What do you think about this?" / "I don't really have an opinion" / "Nor do I"). Then they're likely to fall silent, or chat about something else in their mother tongue.

Does anybody have any ideas for making free-speaking pair work successful?


Sun Aug 17, 2008 7:41 am
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
Posts: 2130
Location: Nagano, Japan
That's a big challenge. I have 45 students at a time in a couple college classes. Most of the time you just have to hope they're doing it.

What I have done that's been successful with various groups was give them a sheet of paper that has some useful phrases on it. So, for whatever the topic might be I braintorm a few converstational phrases they might use.

I did one recently for making group decisions, I teach at a company and the students got into groups to plan the next company trip. I gave them a paper with item such as:

Making a suggestion:
_ _ _ _ What do you think about ...
_ _ _ _ How does ... sound to you?
_ _ _ _ How about ...?

_ _ _ _ That sounds good.
_ _ _ _ I like that idea.
_ _ _ _ Let's go with that,

_ _ _ _ That's a good idea, but ...
_ _ _ _ I see what you mean, but let's keep thinking.
_ _ _ _ I see a couple problems with that.

_ _ _ _ I don't care.
_ _ _ _ Whatever is fine.
_ _ _ _ It doesn't matter to me.

Anyway, they got a paper like that with 3-4 boxes by each one. Part of the goal of the role play was to use as many of those phrases as possible throughout the conversation. Whenever they used a phrase, they put a check in the box.

It works pretty good. It keeps them actively trying to speak instead of having them try to reach the end as quick as possible.

Build up! Be positive! Teach hard!

Thu Aug 21, 2008 5:05 pm
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Joined: Tue Aug 26, 2008 10:03 pm
Posts: 24
i like that idea ....

also having a short list of things they should discuss in the topic - it may become too structured however getting them used to covering multiple sub ideas when discussing is useful.

Fri Sep 05, 2008 3:40 pm

Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2008 2:43 am
Posts: 11
I've found some pretty good role-play material on It's pretty much on the same lines as Mark suggests but has a wide range of subjects. The doctor one goes down well. :)

Sat Sep 13, 2008 5:48 am

Joined: Tue Sep 09, 2008 5:27 pm
Posts: 27
Location: Shanghai
If your students have trouble extrapolating an idea into a conversation,
Sometimes an interview style assignment can force the students into giving information.

If you have certain questions that must be answered, and then written down, even point form, they will speak just in order to finnish the assignment.

Use an closed question, like, "Do you think the classroom is the most effective place to learn?" Which requires a Yes No answer,

Follow it with an open question - "Why/Why not".

Then add a Plus One - where the student must write a new question based on the response.

Once they get the hang of this, start adding a Plus 4, or Plus 5 - This makes them more involved in the conversation, as they must listen to be able to make a new question, if even just to finish the assignment.

After this exchange, the other student can start with a new topic, or initial closed question.

I find this works really well with my more advanced High school students and up.

When the exercise is finished, and all the groups have asked their two questions, I do a random check.
As it should be written down, even in point form, they should be able to recreate their discussion for the whole class.

Sat Sep 13, 2008 4:42 pm
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