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Adult English Lessons / Discussion Classes

How to Teach Situation Based Conversation Class

There are many different types of discussion classes. There are "free talk" classes, subject based discussion classes and situation based classes. Learn how to freshen up your stale old discussion class by using situation based topics.


In this article we are going to take a look at a situation based conversation class. In many ways these classes are very similar to the previously discussed subject based conversation classes. But there are certainly differences. Our primary goal is still to have the students talk as much as possible. We also want to continue teaching vocabulary words related to the topic. But, we’re going to focus more on expressing your own point of view and listening to other people’s points of view in this class than in the subject based class. We’re also going to talk about strategies on how to agree or disagree with someone else’s opinion, about how to express your opinion and how to reinforce your opinion with various reasons.


Situation based conversation class

Topic related warm-up questions

Conversation/short reading


Comprehension questions

Conversation activity (specific goal)

Conversation activity (specific goal 2)

Free conversation about the topic

Let’s look at each step.


Topic related warm-up questions

Here we are going to ask some basic warm up questions that are generally related to the situation we will talk about in that class. Keep the question simple and easy. Keep the warm-up short. 3 to 5 minutes is fine. If the lesson’s situation is “should I get plastic surgery?” Then I might start the class by asking questions like this:

Is it important to be beautiful?

Are there any benefits to being good-looking?

What do men most often want to change about their appearance? What do women?


Conversation/short reading

Next we are going to read a short reading passage that is about our class’s topic. This will introduce the situation to the students and also give the students different viewpoints about that situation. If we continue with our “plastic surgery” example then the short reading passage will probably be a short conversation between a young daughter and her mother. Perhaps the young daughter wants to get plastic surgery for some reason and the mother is against it. In the short reading passage they may argue and present different reasons as to why they think they are right. As with any short reading passage there are a number of different ways that you can go over the reading passage with your students. You can go around the class and have each student read a different role. If the short reading passage is not a conversation but more of an article you can have each student read a different paragraph. If it is a conversation then you can split the class into teams of two and have each student take a different role and read. This short reading passage is the foundation of our class. Within the short reading passage there will be the vocabulary words that were going to teach the students later. There also will be some different sentence structures that we will introduce to our students and have them use later on in their own conversations.


Comprehension questions

After the students have read and go through the short reading passage were going to ask some simple comprehension questions. If we can, we want to elicit a short conversation by using these questions. So one question could be:

What does Jenny want to change about her appearance?

I would ask a student this and then I would ask that student their opinion. Then I could look to another student and ask them if they agree or disagree.



Hopefully the short reading passages that you choose for your class will contain some new vocabulary words that the students haven’t learned yet. Here were going to explain the meanings and how to use those words. If for whatever reason you feel that there are not enough vocabulary words in the short reading passage or the vocabulary words are too easy then you can add a few related vocabulary words or phrases here. There are many different activities and exercises that you can use to reinforce these vocabulary words and for a more in-depth look at those activities click here (add link to child page).


Conversation activity (specific goal)

Here we’re going to choose an activity that will help improve a specific skill of our students. All of the skills are going to be conversation-based skills. For example, we might show them three different people’s opinions about the situation in the short reading passage. Then we will show them six different supporting statements. They will have to read the opinions and match the supporting statements to those opinions. Then they’ll have to look at each person’s opinion and supporting statements and say if they agree or disagree with that person’s opinion. They have to give their own opinion and their own supporting statements to back up their opinion.

There are many different activities and goals that you can practice here. Here is a small list:


Cued conversations

Separate the students into pairs then give each student in index card. Tell the students to make a short summary of the lines of his or her character from the reading passage. Give them 5 to 10 minutes to do this. When they finish till students closer books and use the cards as cues to make a similar conversation using their own words.



Give out index cards that explain the role and what the person is trying to accomplish in the conversation. For example if we use our plastic surgery example above we can tell one student that they need to convince the girl who wants plastic surgery to not do it. The other student has to listen but try and convince the mother (other student) that she needs plastic surgery.


Speech or debate

Have the students prepare a short speech about the topic and then have them read the speech out loud and from the class. On the other hand you could also have a debate where you separate the class into teams and tell them that they have to argue for one or the other position from the topic.


Point of view

Read three different opinions from three different people about the topic. Then write six supporting statements on the board. Have the students connect the supporting statements to the opinion. Then separate the class into groups and have them discuss which person’s opinion they agree with and why.


Opinion creation

Right a question related to the topic on the board. Have the students write out their opinion and 1 to 2 supporting statements for that opinion. Separate the class into groups and have them discuss their own opinions with each other.


Interaction phrases

Right a number of phrases that can be used to agree or disagree or state your opinion within a conversation. For example:

What do you think?

I agree

Really? I think that

In my opinion

I’m afraid I disagree

Do you agree? What do you think?

Explain how and when to use these phrases and tell the students to have a conversation about the topic and they have to use each phrase at least once during their conversation.


Making questions

On the board write answers to 5 to 6 comprehension questions that can be answered by listening to the story for the short reading passage. The students that they have to listen to the CD (CD of the short reading passage) and then in pairs write the questions for the answers you wrote on the board.

Divide the class into two different groups. Give each group a CD player and tell them to listen to the first half of the short reading passage two or three times. The second group also gets a CD player but they listen to the second half of the reading passage. Then each group has to prepare for five comprehension questions on their half of the reading text. Then the groups exchange the questions and each group will listen to the other half of the short reading passage and answer the questions.

For more ideas for your discussion class activities click here (insert link)


Free conversation about the topic

Lastly were going to break the students off into groups of two or three and have them discuss the topic. Because these are situation base conversations you often do not have to provide starting questions for the students. The conversation can often start as simply as “what do you think?”. Here we want our students to use everything they learned in that days class in the conversation. If we practiced agreeing or disagreeing with different people’s opinions in the previous activity then of course we want our students to use that in their own conversations here. When the students are having these free conversations the teacher will walk around and give encouragement and answer any questions the students might have.



The situation based discussion classes are very similar to the subject-based discussion classes but there are some small differences. Once you have more experience teaching each different type of conversation class will become more comfortable teaching them and understanding the small differences between them. Some teachers decide to integrate both subject based and situation base discussion classes together into one discussion class. This isn’t a problem and it is up to the teacher. But regardless of how you organize your discussion classes understanding and learning different ways to approach your classes can always help you, your students and your classes.




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Randy League owns an English School in Japan and has been teaching English for 20 years. In his free time he trains MMA , plays video games and studies Japanese.

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