Get the administrative stuff and teacher introduction out of the way, leaving the rest of the time for the student to talk – it’s what they are there for!
Administrative handout - Find out what the students like and dislike and what they want to achieve.
Task 1 - Introduction
A quick introduction about yourself and your background, followed by a short description of the course, and any other administrative information required by the language school is the best beginning.
But keep it as short as possible!
If there are forms to fill out, do it as ‘homework’. Don’t distract by writing at this point.
For the rest of the class, as a teacher, I don’t want to speak much – it’s all about the students speaking!
Task 1 - Vocabulary - introductions
Task 2 – Pair conversations (or groups of 3)
The biggest fear for me is going into a conversation class and not having any topics to talk about.
Topic lists are really useful to be the spark of a conversation that can easily last for the rest of a 1.5 hour class. Each student gets a topic list of about 10-15 very broad topics, which they can ask their partner about and discuss.
Of course, they can change topics and add their own as they want.
An A4 page of topics is too intimidating, so the list is best printed at A5 size, with space for notes/writing questions. Leave one or two blank sections for topics of their own choice.
More advance students can jump right in without any written preparation, but beginners like the extra time for thinking and some space to write.
Using 3-4 different lists is perfect – no-one in a pair or group of three have the same topics. And if one group finishes well before others, they can be given another list of topics to talk about.
If you know who is likely to be in the group, you can pick topics that are fun, appropriate, or even controversial.
- Household: cats, dogs, pets, parents, family
- Extended family: siblings, friends, childhood, grandparents, grandchildren
- School/work: homework, careers, working from home, childcare, workplace
- Media/art: computers, books, movies, music, art
- Countries/places: America, Asia, Europe, Africa, holiday destinations
- Games/sports: games, sports, hobbies, fitness, active lifestyle
- Adjectives: relaxing, stressful, exciting, dangerous, caring
- Cooking/home: eating out, cooking, around the home, best cafes, parties
- Travel/local: travel, local events, places to see, shopping, tiny adventures
- Food: chocolate, coffee, tea, cake, wine
- Seasons: summer, autumn, winter, spring
- Destinations: space, oceans, mountains, cities, forests
- Senses: scents, colors, sounds, textures, tastes
- Gardens: flowers, trees, pests, soil, self-sufficiency
- Vehicles: cars, bicycles, airplanes, cruise ships, motorbikes
- World: mythology, history, wild animals, culture, pets
- Technology: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon
- Social issues: spying, welfare, equality, unemployment
- Health: insomnia, common colds, headaches, burn-out
- Current news: a recent story, someone famous, newspapers, TV news
- Future: wishes, dreams, technology, earth, biology
- Likes/dislikes: love, hate
- Jobs: doctors, politicians, bankers, teachers, trades people
- Mind: meditation, yoga, martial arts, learn, forget
- Eco: handmade, eco, organic, sustainable, home grown
Task 2 handouts for students - Introductory conversation topics
Tips for during the class
If all the groups finish well before the end of the class (unlikely), ask each student to tell the class a bit about their partner or group member, and allow the other students to ask follow-up questions.
As a teacher, I simply circulate between the groups, listening in, answering the occasional question. It’s also a great way to find out what topics are popular, and discover each student’s level and confidence.
A second successful class
While I wait for the students to give me a list of topics they want to talk about, I have an always-successful class prepared for the second lesson in the course.
Travel is the most requested topic in all of my years teaching adults English, so I use a selection of travel conversation prompts for the next class, and prepare an interview grid or a list of questions based on their level and grammar needs (travel convesations lesson plan).
For homework, I use puzzles to help students become familiar with the vocabulary they will be talking about in the next class, along with a few conversation prompts that they can use to prepare.