A great speaking activity which requires no resources and will help your learners build the skills they need to maintain a conversation.

Ask Answer Add - A Speaking Activity to Help Learners Maintain a Natural Conversation

Ask Answer Add is one of my favorite speaking activities and requires no resources in class. It is a very straightforward exercise and I’m sure it will really help your learners build their speaking skills and learn the invaluable skill of maintaining a conversation. The premise is quite simple, and it is suitable for any level of learner. In fact, I have been using this with a group of lower level non-English majors and with different class of higher level English majors and I have had equal success in both classes.

Ask
The idea behind the activity is very simple. The first step is to place the learners so that they are sitting or standing in pairs and facing each other. For lower level learners, I present them with a question to ask their partner. If you were teaching about food in that particular class for example, then these might be good to choose from:

What’s your favorite food?
What did you eat for breakfast/lunch/dinner?
How often do you eat out?
What did you eat the last time you ate at a restaurant?
What is a typical meal from your country?
Have you ever eaten sushi?

Answer
Start with just one question and let the learners know that they are going to ask this to their partner. The partner should answer to their best ability. An example might be:

A. “What’s your favorite food?”
B. “I like pasta.”

Add
The student answering the question should then add some extra information. Then the conversation above would now go something like this:

A. “What’s your favorite food?”
B. “I like pasta. I eat pasta every Saturday.”

Ask
This extra information now gives student A something to comment on or to probe for more information. Student A should listen carefully to this added information and try to formulate a response or a follow-up question. Therefore, the conversation above would now start to look something like this:

A. “What’s your favorite food?”
B. “I like pasta. I eat pasta every Saturday.”
A: Do you cook it or go to a restaurant?

Answer
Now student B has another question to answer and another opportunity to keep the conversation going. They should repeat the process of answering the question and then add some more information. The conversation at this stage would be something along the lines of:

A. “What’s your favorite food?”
B. “I like pasta. I eat pasta every Saturday.”
A: Do you cook it or go to a restaurant?
B: I go to an Italian restaurant called Pietro. Have you ever been there?

Once again, the student has not only answered the question, but has added his or her own information. In this example they have added a question to maintain the conversation. At the start of the semester, I usually tell the beginner learners that it should be their aim to keep the conversation going for one minute. For more advanced students, the conversation can be longer. Furthermore, it might not even be necessary to provide them with a question. You may just be able to give them a topic to talk about and let them form their own initial questions.

I have to admit, when I have tried this with a new class, it has been awkward at first. However, as the students get used to the routine of asking, answering, and adding extra information, it can be really productive. I usually rotate the learners to a new partner and start the process again after the minute is up. This repetition seems to give them more confident and lower their anxiety. In addition, after a few weeks when they have gotten used to the activity, and become more comfortable, I start to increase the length of time they need to talk for. With enough practice, I have found that even lower level learners can maintain a pretty decent conversation for around five minutes. I prefer this to giving students a list of questions to talk about because it teaches them the skill of how to converse and to make small talk.

What do you think? Would this work with your learners? I would love to hear your comments and feedback. A big thanks to Todd Beuckens for introducing this activity to me. Please check out his free Online English Listening Lesson Library - http://www.elllo.org.

Also, if you liked this, then please check out my other posts here, http://dreamreader.net/category/uncategorized/

Comments

Hello Neil.
Most of the students enjoyed the lesson. During the lesson, the students participated well in learning.
This method is very useful for speaking skill.

That's great to hear! Keep trying it. It might take a few lessons but once the students get used to it, it'll become natural for them.

On Monday, I taught how to write dialogue. During teaching and learning children participated well by asking questions each other.

I will do this activity today with my 5th grade students. I think it would be fine with them. Thanks a lot for sharing the information...

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