Looking for advice with a conversation class...

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Looking for advice with a conversation class...

Unread post by lorw » Sun Oct 25, 2009 3:44 pm

I recently had a meeting with my director because the mother of a student in one of my conversation classes complained that she was not speaking enough in class. She's a shy student, so it's always been difficult to get her to talk, but I was told by my head teacher that she's one who will talk with you one-on-one, but does not like to talk in larger groups.

My question is if anybody had any advice as to how to get this girl to talk when there are five people in the room when she prefers to speak one-on-one? I was offered zero guidance on the issue by the head teacher or director and I'm completely stumped.

Any advice would be wonderful, thanks!

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Re: Looking for advice with a conversation class...

Unread post by LucyP » Sun Oct 25, 2009 4:45 pm

I suggest you do some pairwork activities and pair yourself up with the shy student. Do this once or twice and then have her work with another student in the class. You can move students discretely so that she is far away from other pairs. Just don't make it obvious you're doing that for her.

You also need to speak to the student herself. Listen to her opinion too.


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Re: Looking for advice with a conversation class...

Unread post by Shelley » Mon Nov 23, 2009 11:18 am

That is a very good idea from Lucy.

Also you can use speaking activities in class where all students participate, and it is not optional. For example with a discussion or a debate it is very easy for a few students to take over and for others to remain on the side lines.

So speaking tasks where joining in is part of the structure of the activity are better in many ways. A couple of obvious examples are presentations or role-plays. Here's a simple fun variant on the idea of giving a presentation in class.

Students have the challenge of talking for one minute on a topic. This can be done as a serious activity where the student is allowed to prepare in advance. Or it may be done as a light and fun task. One does not always need to discuss earth-shattering events or big social problems. Sometimes it is nice to lighten up and discuss something like "my dog", "my sister" or "pencils".

Discussing pencils for a minute is by no means necessarily easy and can require a vast vocabulary. One can talk about the size, shapes and colour of pencils, what we use them for and the marvellous fact that we can erase what we have written. Alternatively a student might talk about how one morning her pencil refused to come to class with her. She tried to bribe it into coming by promising a biscuit at break time but the pencil refused to budge, saying it needed more sleep and was sick of working the whole time anyway. And so on with any old rubbish for a minute.

The purpose of the task is to get the students talking and enjoying themselves. To start out with this could be done in pairs to spread the talking time between the two. Students could have a minute to prepare and then stand up and deliver, either solo or in pairs with one student asking questions and the other replying.

At the end of the minute the speaker gets to ask the class a question about the content. This gives the students who are listening a reason to listen, instead of just sitting there passively. Alternatively while the talking is going on the teacher can prepare questions and give the whole class a quizz from the talking sessions at the end. It's always important to give speakers a reason to talk and listeners a reason to listen.

There are lots of ideas for speaking, either for accuracy or fluency in my book and you are welcome to try out the free samples that come out by email.


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Re: Looking for advice with a conversation class...

Unread post by eric_p_m » Tue Jul 20, 2010 7:33 pm

Dear Lorw,

When all else fails, use emotion. Put her in an environment where she has to depend on her classmates to survive then take yourself out of the picture.

For example, let's say that she doesn't swim well. Throw her in the water with your other students present then just walk away. She dies or she decides to call on her classmates for help. They help her and immediately win her gratitude and more importantly, her respect. Problem solved.

I remember when I was teaching in China and a young boy refused to participate in class so I took the class out to focus on vocabulary words utilizing a small ball. I made the student remain in the circle and do just nothing until he asked permission to participate in class. When he saw how much fun the other students were having, he forgot about his stubborness and eventually, turned out to be the best student in his class, becoming almost like a son to me.

Turn the tables on them. ;)


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Re: Looking for advice with a conversation class...

Unread post by SaudiWolf » Mon Aug 09, 2010 6:02 am


I am not a teacher and english is not my language, but I had the same problem when I discovered that my young son was having the same thing one month ago. he was not shy, but he did want to speak to me in english becuase he was not sure about his english. I told him: listen son, my english is not that good, but I believe in my self and we people should be strong inside otherwise we will not be able to face life. he looked at me and asked: father how could I learn english and speak like the others..!! I told him: whenever your teacher asks you to answer questions or stansup to talk say yes Sir and please Sir correct me if I am in error. I swear he smiled and he passed the english test with an A.

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