Have you ever watched in despair as students have a ‘conversation’ which is actually just two monologues? Or tried in vain to interact with a student who only gives one-word answers, however encouraging you are?
I know when I’m B1 or below, it’s difficult for me to pull my weight in a conversation and I need a lot of support from whoever I’m talking to. In the classroom we can provide this support in a variety of ways. We can supply sentence stems that students can complete, we can show them the first two or three turns of a conversation, or we can provide them with a whole range of questions or other functional language which might be useful in the conversation they are having.
These are all interventions we can make before or during students speak in class. But what about after the conversation? How can you help students to reflect on the success of that conversation? Here’s one idea I haven’t tried yet but it would like to: show students the conversation shapes below and ask them these questions:
- Which shape is like a conversation you might have in your own language?
- How would you feel in each of these conversations if you were a person A or person B? How actively would you participate in the conversation in each example?
- Which shape is like the conversation you just had? Do you think you were person A or person B?
- How successful do you think it was as a conversation?
- What could you change in the conversation you just had to make it more like shape 3? What help do you need from the teacher to do this?
You can download a PowerPoint of all of the images at Conversation shapes if you want to adapt them for your own lessons, though please retain the credit.
I think this activity is an example of metacognition, which is the act of monitoring and making changes to learning strategies you use. The reflection helps learners to become aware of the processes they use when they are having a conversation, and what they can do to have more successful conversations in the future. Here’s a beginner’s guide to metacognition from Cambridge.
What other strategies do you use to help learners have more successful conversations?