If you’ve ever been an English teacher you’ve probably had some amount of experience with conversation lessons. They are part of the gig, and in Europe lots of people request them because it gives them an opportunity to talk and practice their language skills without having to do homework or any kind of preparation. Teachers, especially new to the industry, love these because they also require little preparation. However, there are some essentials that teachers should remember when preparing a speaking/ conversation lesson, especially for a group of students, whether it be a business or general English class.
Try to start your speaking lessons with a quote, saying, expression or idiom that reflects the topic you will be covering. There are two reasons for this. The first one being that there should always be a warmer to a lesson, and the second, that you introduce some new vocabulary right from the word go. Keep in mind that students are there to practice their language skills but you should be leading the way by encouraging them to use the appropriate vocabulary related to the topic. An idiom is always useful because native speakers use them frequently and they can cause problems to ESL learners.
You can also highlight vital communication tips that students should remember whenever they engage in a conversation in class or outside of it. I also have made a video discussing these tips in detail here. Active listening is something that students need to be frequently reminded to do and how do we show the speaker that we are listening and interested? We ask questions.
Once you are under way, monitor the discussions that are taking place.
Try to list vocabulary items that come up during the lesson onto the board, even better, have a list of vocabulary you know is useful for the topic. Encourage your students to use the language you write on the board and be firm with this. They have a nasty habit of using language that they feel comfortable with but try to challenge your students to use the new language, it’s what they are there for.
Make sure you get some feedback from students by asking one in a pair to report what was said. It is very useful to have additional follow-up questions ready for the feedback session to continue the discussion. Additionally, you should offer your opinion on the subject discussed, or sound diplomatic by saying that ” some say…. or I’ve heard some people say that….” and then throw the opinion out there for them to discuss. These are strategies you can use that show you are engaged in the lesson and are paying attention to the students. Enjoy and good luck.
If you need actual speaking topic ideas check out the debate lesson which has controversial statements used for debating. However you can choose one of these for your lesson to jump start a discussion.
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