Published 9th March 2016

Conversation classes can seem like a dream; you can just let your students talk for an hour, right? Wrong. There is a time and a place for frivolous chat with your students and the classroom is not it. Now of course we don’t mean that there shouldn’t be any talking in your lessons. On the contrary, in fact, as this is the only thing your students should be doing, but just remember that a conversation EFL lesson is not the same as having a fat chat with your students. Your students can have a chat anywhere anytime and it will not necessarily lead to learning.

So how can you make an English conversation class actually contribute to learning English?

First you need to clarify the purpose of the lesson. “Speaking” cannot be considered a satisfactory aim because it is too broad. There are many different elements involved in speaking, such as asking for or giving an opinion, interrupting, turn-taking or telling an anecdote. Identifying what the aim of the lesson is will direct the activities of the lesson. It is only when you have a clear aim that you can actually evaluate whether or not it has been accomplished.

Then, decide what input is necessary. Conversation classes needn’t only be about skills. They can be a great opportunity to introduce a vocabulary set or consolidate a language point. In other words, the language input can be as specific as adjectives to describe places or as vague as how to make small talk. Making a decision as to what should be included in the lesson will help further define your lesson, just be sure not to be too ambitious.

Bear in mind also that your students need to have a model in order to understand the skill or language point in question. It is much easier to follow and copy a model than to try and imagine the correct way of doing something. So whatever your aims and your target language, provide an example for your students. This can either be yourself, a video or a listening text.  

Finally, make sure you have some time at the end of the lesson to provide feedback on the students’ productions. This is very important not only for the students to feel like they have accomplished something in the lesson, but also to ensure that your students leave the lesson being able to use the target language effectively and appropriately.