Sometimes conversation classes can be the hardest to plan as after you’ve run through the usual controversial topics while trying to stay sensitive to your class, you might find your ideas drying up. So here, as the title says, are 8 ideas that can get your class talking!
News stories – Give your students a few minutes (or ask them to prepare before the lesson) to flick through a newspaper (ideally in English but this is not essential) and find an article that they think is interesting. In class you can then get them to share this with their partner or multiple partners as a speed-date and can be used as a basis for group work and language stimulus. By asking the class to choose the content of their lesson you can be sure that they will have plenty of things to say. It’s also a great opportunity for monolingual classes to look at translation and to notice patterns which may emerge when translating from or into L1.
A picture prompts a thousand words . ask students to bring in or find on their phones a picture that shows a particular emotion or holds a special memory. In pairs students discuss and share. As an extension activity, students can then swap pairs and try to describe the picture to their new partner in as much detail as possible while their partner listens and draws it. They could then present the drawing to the original speaker and together compare the pictures to prompt further discussion by comparing the two.
Music lyrics – Any true music fan will know ALL the words to their favourite song, whatever the language. Ask your students to write them down if it’s an English song or to translate them from their L1. Discuss the imagery in the lyrics and use this as a springboard to talk about related topics or ways of expressing certain emotions. Follow this great conversation class up with a fantastic karaoke opportunity!
The Balloon Debate -This is a classic but can provoke some lively debate. If you’ve never heard of it the basic premise is that your class, or groups within your class, are in a hot air balloon that is too heavy. In order to survive the groups have to choose one person to throw overboard. Each member must, therefore, plead their case of why they deserve to stay in the balloon before the group votes on the outcome. Be warned this could get heated!
Money Challenge– this is a variation of the balloon debate but works just as well. Tell your group(s) that you are going to give them £100,000 if they can unanimously decide which member of their team deserves it. Again this requires a plea from each student. Remind them that unless they can agree the money will be lost.
How to be happy– there is a beautiful poem by Max Erman called the Desiderata of Happiness. It presents a mantra of how to live your life in order to be happy. Ask students to read it and discuss which points they agree on and then within their pairs to produce their own guide of how to be happy.
Speeddate – The language of love. Pre-teach some chat up lines and get students to speed date each other. To make things more interesting you could give each member of the class a secret characteristic, for example, one student must disagree with everything their partner says, another could be scared of the word ‘no’ etc At the end of the session the students could rate who they found most compelling and then try and decide what each person’s secret characteristic was.
Show and Tell – Give your students the opportunity to make a presentation to the rest of the group by hosting a show and tell lesson. Students must bring one item to the following conversation class and make a presentation about it. Fellow students can follow up with questions about the presentation.
Have you tried any of these activities? How did they go? Or do you have any other favourite conversation classes? If so, I’d love to hear about them so leave me a comment below.