Conversation classes are popular. It is the class that all new teachers want to teach. They can be fun, and they are if you know how to teach this type of class. This lesson explains what a speaking class is, how to teach one, and how to overcome the problems that may occur.
So what is a conversation class?
It is a class where the students speak and you, the teacher, correct the student's pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary mistakes.
There are many ways to teach a speaking class. You can choose a topic, for example, what are some differences between life in your country and life in the United States? What is your favorite type of music? Favorite movie? Favorite TV show? The goal is to have the students talk. The topic does not have to be difficult.
Engage students in conversation
There are many ways to engage students in conversation. Situation-based conversation is a fun method. Situation-based conversation is simply having your students work on a project together. They engage in conversation based on the situation, for example, having the students make a presentation, plan an event, etc. I read about a teacher that taught conversation through cooking. Each class, a student showed the others how to cook a particular dish. The students engaged in conversation as they were cooking.
Here is an example. Tell your students the following,
“Everyone has stress in their lives. You may become stressed before an important exam, your first day at a new school, a family event, and so on. Describe a stressful event in your life and what you did to overcome the stress.”
After the students finish, divide the class into groups. Let them discuss what they think are the best ways to overcome stress. Give them a time limit, for example, ten minutes. Walk around the classroom and listen to each group. Correct any grammar or pronunciation mistakes that you hear. At the end of their discussion, have the group select one student to summarize their group’s ideas.
Your job is to correct students' mistakes. When a student mispronounces a word, stop him or her and make the correction. When a student makes a grammar or vocabulary mistake, stop him or her and make the correction. It may seem rude to interrupt the student, but this is the best way to make corrections.
If your students are beginners, tell them how to pronounce the word, what the correct grammar is, or what the correct vocabulary is. If they are intermediate or advanced students, try to elicit the correction from the student. For example, for pronunciation, repeat the student's pronunciation. When the student hears the mispronunciation, he or she might realize the mistake and correct him or herself. If the student makes a grammar mistake, you might say that you used the plural form of the noun. Did you mean more than one? Do the same with vocabulary mistakes.
What if the students aren't talking?
Silence! Your students aren't saying a word. There are 59 minutes left in your one hour class. What do you do? You can change the topic. Remember, the goal is for your students to speak. If that doesn't work, start asking your students questions. Ask general interest, for example a question about music, a movie, food, etc.
Different cultures react differently to speaking in class. Americans feel comfortable expressing their opinions as do South Americans and Europeans. Asian culture is different. Japanese, Chinese, and South Korean students are used to speaking when responding to the teacher. You may have to initially engage these students in conversation, however, after a while, they become comfortable to the open format.
Conversation classes are fun Your goal is to engage students in conversation and to correct your mistakes. Ask questions, create situations where your students need to talk, and be prepared for those times when your students just don’t feel like talking.