Top 10 Ways to Make your Conversation Class Even More Awesome

by Jackie Bolen

Speaking and conversation classes are what many of us find ourselves teaching in Korea, a lot of the time. I'm sure you want to make them as interesting, engaging and awesome as possible, right?

Here are my top 10 tips to make your conversation classes even better. 

1. What’s your Goal? Be clear about the aims of your lesson. “Practicing speaking” isn’t enough and just free-talking with your students is kind of a waste of time. Something more specific like, “Introduce and practice 5 feeling words,” or “Practice using the simple past in conversation” is much better. 

2. Teach Students How to Ask Questions- Take some off the pressure off yourself to always be carrying the conversation. Real conversation is more than just one person asking all the questions and the other person answering them. Check out this video: Teaching Students to Ask Questions.

3. Use the Textbook- You don’t always need to reinvent the wheel when you're teaching. There’s likely lots of good stuff in the book that you can use in class, such as surveys or board games that are interactive, engaging and will get your students talking. Burnt-out teachers don't make the best teachers!

4. Use Graded Language- Remember to adapt your language in terms of how fast you speak, the vocabulary you use as well as how difficult your grammar is so that the students will be able to understand you. Of course, don't talk to students like they're little children, just talk in your normal voice but in a simpler way.

5. Incorporate some Public Speaking- I love to teach presentations and public speaking because it’s a useful life skill that they can take with them beyond just your class and use in job interviews, business situations, other classes, etc. Check out my post: How to Teach Public Speaking and Presentations.

6. CCQs and ICQs- Use them! CCQs are concept checking questions and ICQs are instruction checking questions. Use these frequently to make sure that your students are "getting it."

7. Correct Errors- But don't correct all of them. Only focus on the ones that are related to the target language. You can also correct as a class instead of individually by saying something like, "I heard someone say XYX, but it actually should have been ABC."

8. Use Interesting Discussion Starters. Here are my top 10 lists: Discussion Starters for Children + Discussion Starters for Adults.

9. Remind Students of Who/What/When/Why/Where/How- And do it often! I do it before almost every single pair or group conversation activity.

10. Small Groups are Best- Try to avoid the whole class conversations if you have more than 3 or 4 students. It's simply not enough student talking time. Instead, it's way better to put students into pairs or groups of 3, set up an activity and let them get talking. Monitor for errors and offer some gentle guidance and feedback, if necessary but try not to interfere.

About Jackie Bolen

Jackie has been in Korea for almost a decade and has taught every age group and level of student. She's currently working at a major university in Busan. She blogs at My Life! Teaching in a Korean University.