conversation cards

This time I would like to share with you what I call a “vocabulary activation routine”. For starters, it activates vocabulary, as it is meant to revise vocabulary already seen in class in a spaced manner. Also, this isn’t simply “an activity”. It is a routine which is established to provide language practice and activation and to consolidate it.

Keep a note of interesting words and expressions that crop up in class. Then get some index cards (or make out cards with pieces of paper) and write a different word or expression on each card and also think of a conversation question to go with it. For instance, at an Intermediate level, I chose “into” and wrote “Are you into modern art”?

Do this for about two or three weeks. Then, once you have about the same number of cards as students, bring those cards to class and start off the lesson by giving each student a card. They have to pair off with another student for about two or three minutes, trade cards and take turns to answer the question that is written on the new card (in about a minute or minute and a half). Then they pair off with someone else and go through the same procedure again.

Walk around and provide help if there are students who can’t understand the key words or questions on the cards. Set a time limit of about 15 minutes for the students to have several conversation exchanges.

Settle into this routine for the whole school year. My recommendation would be a couple of times a month. Add new cards to your collection and recycle them so there is always a certain number of “old” and new cards.

Once students are very familiar with certain cards because they have been exposed to them for a given number of times, ask them to think of an alternative question to ask using the key word on it. If they can’t think of anything, they can still use that question or call you for help and you may suggest a different question.

It only really takes about five minutes to create two or three cards at a time. However, the pay-offs are fantastic.

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