Six ways to get your conversation class conversing

The guest lists just don’t stop! This time I’m joined by Karenne Sylvester of Kalingo English, also known as “Queen of the ELT Blogosphere” (well, to me at least). Karenne gave me some very good early advice on setting up a blog and has been very helpful since. She also makes her own materials with an eye on conversation in the classroom, so it seems only right here that I ask her to share six ways on how exactly to do that.
Right off the bat, I’ll just go on ahead and tell you that the title of this post is just to grab your attention while sticking to Lindsay’s rule of six.

There aren’t six ways to get your students actively speaking, there are an infinite number or, maybe, just one way.

Talk to people about themselves and they will listen for hours.”  Benjamin Disraeli
Everyone is deeply, in fact biologically, designed to be completely self-interested and our students aren’t any different.

They have had lives as rich (or as poor) as your own. They have loved and lost, been angry and felt frustrated, laughed out loud, wept for days, hoped things would change, tried, failed and succeeded.

They eat food, enjoy or don’t enjoy their drink, think other people are better or greater than themselves. They have pontificated, theorized and hold strong opinions.

They all wish they spoke better English.

What to talk about in the ESL/EFL classroom boils down to six things, their:

  1. personal relationships– friends, family & enemies
  2. professional lives -work, colleagues, projects and responsibilities
  3. leisure time – their hobbies and interests
  4. casual experience of the world they live in – what they see or hear or read
  5. private stuff – their political, religious or personal belief systems
  6. dreams – their ambitions, hopes and expectations

Ask them about themselves and you will not be able to shut them up.

Karenne Sylvester

Karenne Sylvester is the author of SimplyConversationsTM, a speaking skills system designed to activate language learners’ fluency levels and she writes two blogs, one aimed at language teachers, Kalinago English, the other is aimed at English language students, How to Learn English.

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Published in: on May 19, 2009 at 10:07 am  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. All good stuff, Karenne! I prefer my class to talk about me, actually, and often supply them with suitable prompts, such as ‘Find six reasons why your teacher is mad’. Usually works … well, sometimes!

    • I think that’s a great question!

  2. Great technique! It allows for infinite questioning involving past, present, future, maybe, definitely, if, phatic bits and unbeatable for “And you? Tell us what happened to you?”

  3. … and gives rise to interesting blog posts and comments like these http://bit.ly/aWVvcT 🙂


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