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Using ESL Conversation Activities As A Regular Part Of ESL Classes

April 13, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 342

ESL teachers, at some point in their career, inevitably encounter an awkward situation that goes something like this:

Parent: Could you tutor my child in extra classes? Teacher: Sure! What would you like to focus on in the classes? Parent: Conversation!

Many parents simply fail to understand the difficulty hidden within that single word, "conversation". A conversation is a two-person activity, involving both parties freely volunteering information. Young children, however, will be very reluctant to engage in spontaneous conversation in a language with which they are not fully comfortable.

The result is conversation classes that are stilted and forced, with the teacher asking a series of questions attempting to engage the student, and the student either shrugging or answering with one-word answers.

This does not amount to a true conversation, however. The problem is, it is almost impossible to simply teach "conversation", as opposed to teaching "writing" or "grammar". Therefore, instead of simply attempting to engage in conversation with the students, it is important to have certain conversation activities that can be used to facilitate extemporaneous speaking. This is true of small, one-on-one classes as well as larger classes with many students.

Conversation is the essence of language, and ESL conversation activities are the essence of any ESL or EFL class. Although writing and reading are important, conversation is perhaps the most crucial language skill to learn, both because it is the most common form of language use and because it involves the skills of speaking and listening. English conversation involves a lot of tone inflection and subtlety, things that students cannot fully learn from books alone. Therefore, it is worthwhile for teachers to start every class by having a conversation with the students.

In these conversations, the teacher can be playful, bring in news stories, talk about issues that relate to your lives, and, ideally, allow the children to control the pace and the direction of the conversation. If the conversation begins to really take off, there may be no need to actually revert to the normal curriculum, as the conversation will be instructive in and of itself!

When engaged in conversation with students, it is good to try to use colloquialisms such as idioms and phrasal verbs as much as possible. While it is good to have a conversation using a somewhat simplified form of English to ensure that the kids will understand, incorporating phrasal verbs, for example, will give them a leg up when taking tests or learning in the future, as these language forms are very conversational and thus difficult to learn in any other context.

While the conversation is ongoing, it is a good idea for the teacher to write any difficult vocabulary words on the board, in addition to providing synonyms and phrasal verbs, so that the students will have a broader range of reference when engaging in conversations in the future.

In addition, the teacher may want to prepare dialogues that the students can first read, then perhaps memorize, and finally use as templates for their own structured conversations.

Whatever method used, it is important to devote a certain amount of time in each class to simply conversing and interacting with the students. This will result in students who are not only more comfortable speaking in English, but also students who have a better rapport with the teacher, which will further encourage them to speak in the future!

ESL conversation activities such as dialogues or warm-up speaking games can help turn your silent students into strident speakers!

Teachers can also prepare some vocabulary or phrasal verb worksheets to give students tools and ideas that they can use when having conversations. Click here for some free, printable worksheets for ESL teachers >> ESL Phrasal Verbs

Source: EzineArticles
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