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Bindu Grover's
Conversation skills
lesson plan
- 1

Preliminary Information

Time: 1 hour

Timetable Fit:
The lesson comes at the end of the term when two of my learners are going back to their countries for good after ten months of studying together. From last one week, we've been revising some basic grammar from what the students did throughout the year, in order to increase the students' basic vocabulary, especially for talking about yourself and things closely related to immediate life, but mainly working on the students skills work, particularly listening and speaking. This has come from the wide range of levels in the group and the difficulties we have had working together on communicative tasks resulting from this.
During this lesson, I'll also be looking at the features of conversation or specific speaking skills. We have already worked on expressions, narrative tenses, and functional exponents for agreeing, disagreeing, stating your own opinion and asking for clarification. The class has spent quite a lot of time getting used to what is expected of them in pair and group work.

In this lesson we are focusing on phrases for expressing feelings as a way to improve the students' conversational skills, having looked at other aspects of conversation (as mentioned above) in previous lessons and we will continue with the same in future lessons too. The reason for focusing so much on conversation skills in general is that as the group has a wide range of levels in it, the weaker students have shown signs of monosyllabic responses at times and getting frustrated at not being able to say what they want.
The main focus of the lesson is expressing self and showing interest in what another speaker says. I have noticed the discourse skills to be distinctly lacking in some of my students' repertoire and this is mainly because of the cultural difference.
I'd also encourage them to use of 'fillers' to practice giving themselves time to think and a few phrases for getting back on the subject or framing what they want to say, e.g. 'well, hmm' etc. to gain thinking time during the conversation.
The reason for looking at these features is essentially the same as the reason for looking at the phrases for showing interest. I've often noticed my students lacking these features, and often hear 'I don't know what to say' from them.
Another thing that I'm going to focus on is giving the students' time to prepare before telling their own experiences, repeating the task and encouraging them to notice some relevant features from the listening.
The 1st personalised task is listening to the teacher after 1st making predictions about the story. It is aimed at introducing the topic of the lesson, providing the students with an example and hopefully some inspiration as well as some useful listening practice.
This is followed by the students preparing and then sharing an experience with a partner. The preparation should improve the quality of the students' language and the interest in each other.
The next activities focus on a interpreting the message from the visual text, firstly using it for practising skills of predicting content and checking predictions before using it in the task to notice the above-mentioned features of conversation.
Controlled practice exercise will give student a chance to use the desired expressions in the follow-up exercise.
Again with a small amount of preparation time the students retell their experiences to a different partner, to maintain motivation, while an observer pays attention to the phrases used by both the speaker and listener. This should give the students some more freer speaking practice and hopefully get feedback from the observer that they have done the task well.
The lesson finishes with some self-evaluation for the students' on-going progress and some feedback for the teacher as to their opinion of the lesson's usefulness.

Class profile:
This is a pre-intermediate class of young learners 3 Thai, 1 Spanish, 1 Danish and 1 Korean student. For three of them it is their second year to English language learning, however for all the three Thai students it's their first year and are currently operating at a slightly lower level as compared to others in the class.
At times they transfer their anxiety to others too which leads to disruption in the lessons. Two of them try to talk with each other in L1 and avoid forming groups with others during pair/group work.
The advantage is that as except the Thai national others don't have a common language, so they have to use English to communicate with each other in classroom setting as well as outside the classroom with other students in the school.
I'm sure that they will require a lot of encouragement and prompting to participate and engage in the lesson throughout.
Irene (Spanish) is one of the weakest when listening and this is mainly because of her attitude. I have to repeatedly explain her instructions and expectations even during the activity, though she is improving. However, once on the task, she communicates with great fluency and conviction.
Yaiprae (Thai) could hardly say anything in English but now she tries to express herself, though very inaccurately. Her self-expression suffers because of her pronunciation and syllable timed Thai accent.
Rasmus (Danish) is very friendly now and is making good progress. He makes good use of his acquired vocabulary and discourse features during the speaking activities.He is moving back to Denmark after this Term.
Soojin (Korean) is extremely hard working and succeeds when she knows what to do with simple structures and activities. She is moving back to Korea after the term.
Folk and Ford (Thai twins) find most activities challenging but are improving in their listening and speaking. Their grammar and vocabulary are quite limited though.
Another problem with Folk is that he doesn't understand the importance of coming for language classes and insists on doing what he thinks is right and what he thinks he should be doing and it is sometimes difficult for me and the other students to persuade him otherwise.

Main Aims:
To raise awareness of and practice features of conversation for expressing feelings and showing interest in what another speaker is saying.
To practice narrative skills in from your memory and help students tell it better by giving them preparation time, an example to compare with and follow, and a 2nd chance to share the memory.

Subsidiary Aims:
To practice listening skills of: making and checking predictions; understanding the inferential message conveyed through the visual text.
To raise awareness of students' own performance through self-evaluation and peer evaluation.

The majority of the students have a good enough knowledge of past tenses to be able to talk about their experiences and I will be able to focus on who require help.
The activity of speaking about their memories and experiences should provide students with the motivation to do so with a relative degree of success.
The fact that the school is about to close and some of them will be joining in a new school in another country should provide the motivation to speak and listen.
After self and peer evaluation of the 1st speaking task the students should be aware of the need for the components of conversation presented later.
The students should be able to cope with the controlled practice to express feelings as shown in various parts of the film and then use the revised vocabulary in their conversation.
The last speaking stage should improve the students' performance whilst maintaining their motivation as it is for whole class and they will know that someone is monitoring their performance and will give them feedback.

Anticipated Problems and Solutions:
The main problem I am expecting is a lack of expressions and feelings when recalling a past memory. Some of them will be comparatively more willing to talk about themselves than others; especially Irene's mood on a particular day can also affect her ability to talk.

To help students, firstly I will share a few memories about myself, when I was as a child. Secondly I will be prepared to suggest many different contexts as to where their anecdote could come from: school; their first day at school or when they changed school; a time they were in trouble; a success; a sport; meeting someone important etc. Thirdly I will tell students that it doesn't have to be something out of the box and they can rely on their experiences in the school this year. Finally, I will monitor and help individual students as much as possible. By asking students to reflect on my memories, I will present them with the opportunity of responding to a speaker.
Students could and probably will have problems being able to tell their story due to lack of language knowledge and vocabulary.
I will give them enough preparation time, monitor, help individually, and provide bilingual dictionaries (if required).
Interpreting the message from the visual text might be difficult for some of them, but by providing lots of key words, pictures and prior discussion will help them predict the message and then check predictions. By providing a chance for students to compare with their partners and then full class feedback, the main message should be clear to all.
The 2nd controlled practice stage may prove difficult for the students but the prior discussion will help them with the required vocabulary.

Aids and Materials:
• Projector
• Speakers
• The teacher – sharing memories
• The students' own memories
• Task sheets (prepared by teacher): Zone of relevance
• Video: The Piano - Amazing Short - Animation by Aidan Gibbons, Music by Yann Tiersen

To part 2 of the lesson plan - the procedure

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