Harvard research shows that our brains are more active when we talk about ourselves.
Hence it is probably the most engaging way to have students practice conversation. We obviously do it naturally when we are teaching one-on-one, but it can be boring to listen to others talk about themselves, and students often lose interest when one-on-one conversation is employed in a group conversation class. So how can we make “talking about me” into “talking about you” to scratch that brain itch while involving everyone? Here are five strategies.
Discover Awesome Ways of Engaging Your Students in Conversation
Use Articles about General Human Nature
Find brief research articles online about human nature. Examples include a study scientists performed about how we sleep more in winter, or how women prefer talking in groups and men on-one-one.
Hand out five questions about themselves and how they relate to the article designed on a slide or handout beforehand. Read the article. Have them write their answers to the questions first, and then go around in a circle and discuss. For a big class, divide them into groups of two or three.
Make it a Game with Stakes
Design a memory game where they have to remember what each person says in response to a question. For beginners, use basic questions like favorite color or ice cream flavor. For more advanced students, you can ask about an experience in their youth or something more complex.
Students write down their answer and one by one tell the class.
Go around in a circle and see who can remember the most correct answers. He/she gets a prize.
Set up an Interview Session
Bring a list of questions for students about each other, i.e. personal questions about family, work, what they like to do on the weekend, whatever you are studying or want to practice! Hand it out to each student.
Students use the sheets to interview each other in small groups or pairs.
The groups share the results with the class; everyone will have to speak.
Give a “Fix a Problem” Scenario
Create a scenario where you ask students to solve a problem that relates to their lives or their town/country (something you know is important to them). For example, ask them, “If you could add two new stores to your town, what would they be and why?”
Have them write down the answers in a few minutes.
Separate them into groups of two and make them discuss their answers and pick one from each list. They will have to reason out their answers together and come to consensus.
Have the pairs share with the larger group discussing why they chose their two stores from four options.
Design a list of opinion polling questions about a topic, like opinions about climate change, or opinions about movies. For example, if you use climate change, ask 1) Do you notice warming in your country? 2) Are polar bears really necessary to biodiversity?, etc.
Record how many say yes and how many say no to each question.
Discuss the group consensus/average opinion and encourage debate! If the same two students are opinion heavy, switch to another question or call on quieter students.
These are just five tools to encourage students to think and talk about themselves while applying that thinking in the context of a larger group to keep your conversation flowing and to ensure that everyone stays involved.
After all, talking about “me” is only interesting if there is a “you” to listen. Sometimes we need to structure responses to make that reality clear!