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Conversation

Strategies
Alex Tilbury
Teacher Training Plan

A real-life conversation
1 Speaker 1 What does Tina make of England? Cos I mean she must be so
2 used to wide open spaces
3 Speaker 2 Yeah.
4 Speaker 1 and very few people around.
5 Speaker 3 Well, she doesnt, she doesnt say much. She hasnt said much all
6 week.
7 Speaker 2 Just says
8 Speaker 3 Mm.
9 Speaker 2 its good. Its all right.
10 Speaker 1 Right.
11 Speaker 3 You know.
12 Speaker 4 And she got, she looks, you know shes obviously really tired.
13 Speaker 3 Mm.
14 Speaker 4 Cos I thought what Id do is erm ...
15 Speaker 2 She was very interested in all those places where her mum, her
16 mum had lived and all that.
[Transcript from Michael McCarthy, Corpora, speaking and listening at
http://www.cambridgeenglishteacher.org/resource-details/1846 ]

A real-life conversation

How many speakers are there in the


conversation?

Whats the topic of the conversation?

What can you deduce (or guess) about Tina?

How well do the speakers know Tina? Do


they all know her equally well?

A real-life conversation

How many speakers are there in the conversation?

There are four speakers.


Whats the topic of the conversation?

They're talking about a girl / woman called Tina who has come from abroad
to visit England.
What can you deduce (or guess) about Tina?

Possible answers: shes been in England for a week. She comes from
somewhere where theres a lot of space and not many people around (a
rural area of Australia / New Zealand / Canada?). She hasnt said much
about England. Shes tired (possibly as a result of her journey, or her work /
studies?). Her mother spent some time in England (or was born there?).
How well do the speakers know Tina? Do they all know her equally well?
Speaker 1 knows who Tina is but speakers 2, 3 and 4 seem to have spent
more time with her (as her flatmates / a host family?).

A real-life conversation
Comparison with coursebook transcripts:
How does the behaviour of the speakers differ?
What about the kinds of language they use?

A real-life conversation
Features of real-life conversation include:
use of expressions to clarify a point
use of expressions for thinking time
repetition
false starts
vague expressions
use of expressions to show interest and
attention

Conversation strategies
clarification
buying thinking time
repetition
showing interest
All examples of strategies which are used by
competent speakers (of any language)
in conversation.

Conversation strategies in the


classroom
1. Have you ever focused on any conversation
strategies in your lessons? Why? How did it go?
2. In your opinion, which strategies can be taught?
Would your current learners benefit from work on
any particular strategies? Why do you think so?
Are there any which you think would be
difficult/impossible to teach explicitly?
3. Pick a strategy which youd like to work on in
class. How could you do this? Think about:
awareness-raising (of the strategy and useful
expressions); practice.

Conversation strategies in the classroom

Possibilities for awareness-raising include:


listening to and comparing conversations with
good and bad examples of strategies (e.g.
with/without back-channelling expressions)
finding examples of expressions in a suitable
transcript (e.g. vague language). This could
be something published or home made
listen and fill in the gaps (e.g. self-correction
expressions)

Conversation strategies in the classroom

Possibilities for practice include:


performing scripted conversations
writing conversations to include particular
strategic expressions
improvising from partial scripts / frames /
topics