Page in-progress. I’ll post as I discover resources.
I am by no means a professional teacher, and most of these resources are fairly basic. But for my fellow and future Fulbright ETAs who are starting from square one (like me), I hope this helps!Thus far my primary role as an ETA has been leading multitudes of conversation clubs/classes (for university staff, English teachers, honors college students, general university students). The resources here have been great help for ideas, topics, questions, and classroom activities. If you have a source that you think I should know about, please send it my way! *Note: What has worked for me might not work for you; success is largely dependent on how attuned you are to the country’s or school’s culture in which you are teaching.* *Second Note: Please give credit where credit is due. If you take questions or methodologies from any resource, cite your findings in your lesson plans, notes, outlines, presentations, etc., especially if you exchange ideas with peers and colleagues. It doesn’t take long to copy and paste a website URL.*
Conversation Questions for the ESL/EFL Classroom
Run out of topics to talk about for your conversation clubs? Can only come up with a handful of lame questions for this week’s class? (That’s a big problem of mine!) Well take a look here:
This site is operated through the U.S. Department of State and is especially helpful if you lead actual classes (rather than extracurricular English activities like me). However, I regularly come here for ideas and the articles on teaching methodologies.
Unless you rely heavily on them, ESL videos found on YouTube are excellent – do not be ashamed of using them! If your students are intermediate/advanced, these can be great reviews that launch you into discussion. They also give you opportunity to compare some differences between English accents and regional quirks. “You might have noticed that she said ‘____.’ In American English, we usually say ‘_____’.” “He pronounced ‘_____’ with a long ‘i’ sound, you might also hear it like this, ‘_____.'” Below are my personal favorites.
Looking for topics relevant to your students’ lives? Want to help expand their worldview? This New York Times-operated site is a great starting point.
Just discovered this site so I’m still learning about it. But it does deal with current events and provides several exercise ideas.
TedTalks…need I say more? International in scope, multi-disciplinary, inspirational…I always feel smarter after watching one or two TedTalks.
Podcasts are rising in popularity (my personal favorite is “This American Life”), and they’re great because they provide natural English speakers for your students to listen to. It’s even better if you can download the podcast (for those who don’t have internet access in their classes, like me!).
iTunes also has endless podcasts (actually their whole iTunesU section is expansive and awesome), and worth spending some time sifting through them!
This is a great warm-up activity to start class, especially if it’s normal for some students to trickle in 5 – 10 minutes after class starts. My main point is for them to not rush while they speak (I think there’s pressure for students to speak what they know as fast as possible), and tongue twisters force them to slow down.
Keep It Moving
After much trial and error, I have concluded that my students remain interested and invested in a topic when they move around and talk to multiple partners. Albeit a little long, this is a great article about how to utilize movement in the classroom, especially if you work with large groups:
Limits Can Be Good
Timing conversations has also worked for me. It’s a simple trick I learned when the embassy invited a Regional English Language Officer to Baku to lead several workshops. When I work with a group for the first time, I do a purely “diagnostic” introductory class. I do 2 or 3 activities (in an hour-long class) that rotate partners and I time each round.
Ideas for Partner Rotation
Line Conversations: Assemble your students into two lines facing each other. Ask a question that can be answered by both people in a short amount of time (25 – 45 seconds), such as “Are you good at dancing?” or “Do you prefer tea or coffee?” Have one line shift down after each round. After the first one or two rounds, ask for their opinions, and discuss their concerns. If someone says, “Thirty seconds is too long,” discuss some ideas for how to carry a conversation. I’ve also heard, “I can’t hear my partner, there is too much noise,” suggest that they might have to stand closer together, and remind them that many conversations happen in crowded, noisy places like the metro or mall. That segues perfectly into a review of what to say when you can’t hear or understand someone.
Small Group Rotations: Same idea, but collect students into groups of 3 or 4 people. Spread out the groups (if you can) and have them stand. Ask a question that can be answered by 3 or 4 people in 45 seconds, for example, “When was the last time you wrote a letter?” Ask for 1 volunteer to move after each round. Using this question format also provides a great review for phrases like “three weeks ago,” “a few hours ago,” “so long ago that I can’t remember.”
“If You Could” Rotations: Still in groups of 3 or 4, sit the students down to face each other. I pass out a card with a “If you could” for the group to discuss. “If you could listen to only one song for the rest of your life, what would it be?” or “If you could meet anyone in the world right now, who would it be?” I tell them I’ll give them 2 or 3 minutes to discuss, but if conversation seems to be flowing, I give them longer.