Skip to main content

What are some effective ways to expand learners' conversations?

Hello colleagues, One of my goals is always to support English learners to build on one another's ideas. However, it often happens that learner-to-learner conversations are quite short. This situation is more often true, naturally, for learners at lower levels.

What are some ways you support learners to expand their conversations?

Check out this article featuring 14 pair work activities. Are there suggestions on this list that you think are effective? Are there activities here you'd like to try?

Thanks for your thoughts!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP


Andrea Echelberger's picture

Thanks for posting this question, and the link to the article, Susan! This is something that we've been thinking a lot about in MN recently. More and more community programs (libraries, community centers, etc.) are looking to develop spaces for English language learners to practice their speaking and listening skills in a fun, conversational setting. Every time I do a training on teaching conversation, it fills up immediately! 

I always really enjoy doing a walking dictation. That is where learners are put into partners, with one partner walking, reading, and talking, and the other partner listening and writing. The partner who reads walks up to a text that is posted in the hallway or wall of the classroom, then returns to their partner to dictate what they read. Depending on the length of the text (it can be a list of words, sentences, questions, a picture, or a short story) the learners spend quite a lot of time interacting. We always practice negotiation phrases that the writer can use, such as "can you say that again," "please spell that," and "does this look correct?" It's a lot of fun, and it gets people up and moving as well as talking and working together. 

A new resource people might be interested in is the Listening and Speaking Instructional Support Kit. It has 23 activity ideas for including conversational skills. The activities can be used as a whole class, in a small group, or in one-to-one tutoring. The kit can be downloaded from