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Adult English Lessons / Discussion Classes

How to Teach Free Discussion Conversation Class (free talk)

In this article you will learn some "dos" and "don'ts" when it comes to "free" discussion classes.


Today we will look at “free” conversation classes. In these classes there really is no “primary” objective. The “primary” objective is to have the students freely talk about any subject that you choose or that they want to talk about. You want the students to basically use everything that they’ve learned in any other classes here. This provides students with an opportunity to have a conversation that is very similar to any conversation they might have outside of the classroom. Of course this doesn’t mean that you should sit down in front of your students and tell them to “talk”. There is a method to conducting this type of class. But there really is not “primary objective” to teach. Your job in this class is more akin to a moderator in a debate or a coach watching their fighter spar. If the conversation stalls than you can attempt to extend the conversation or switch to a subtopic. As a coach, you want to encourage the students, give a few complements here there, and correct students mistakes remind them of previously learned lessons.



Free conversation class

There are a number of ways to start a “free” conversation class. Often the easiest and simplest is to ask a few of the students “what’s new?” Generally this will elicit a response from one student and from there you can attempt to get the rest of the class to talk about that subject. Perhaps the student recently saw a new movie. You can ask another student if they have seen the movie or if they want to see the movie. From there students can have a conversation about movies or entertainment. Another way to start the conversation is to talk about a recent news item that most of students might be familiar with.

Often it can be a good idea to separate your class into groups of two. When trying to have a discussion with three or more people many students will often take a backseat and stay quiet. You can fix this by severing the class into groups or teams of two. Then tell them to start a conversation about a certain subject or topic. Also give them a time limit of 5 to 10 minutes. This can help get normally quiet and shy students talking much more.

It’s important for the students to initiate and continue the conversation as much as possible without the teachers help. This can be very difficult with beginner and even intermediate students. This is why I like to tell the students before we start the conversation that they need to ask each other questions, they need to move the conversation along without my help. Once the conversation starts I often like to retreat back into the corner of the classroom and just watch. If I’m sitting at the table with the students often they will look to me if there’s a lull in the conversation. We want the students to learn how to control and continue conversations. You can also give the students a time. Tell them that they must continue their conversations without stopping for at least 10 minutes. After that 10 minutes you can come back to the table and try to start another conversation.

Teachers need to be very careful when deciding to do a “free” discussion class. It is too easy for teachers to be lazy and not create a lesson plan for their class and decide to do a “free” discussion class because it is simply the easiest thing for them to do. It’s also very easy for the teachers to talk the majority of the class. This is a waste of time. The students do not need a 60 minute listening lesson. They need to practice their conversation skills. This is why I would only recommend this class once every couple of months. There really is little benefit to having this type of class more than that.



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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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