Here are some ways to encourage learners to make their own dialogues and to experiment with the language they know.

Clare Lavery

Many learners need controlled speaking practice, and using scripted dialogues helps them gain confidence.

If you use coursebook dialogues or similar conversations as a starting point this can give students:

  • confidence - they do not have to strain to understand new items or words
  • reinforcement - a chance to review and reuse the functional language presented by their teacher

It also gives you a useful source of material in an emergency!

Ordering activities

  • Mix up two short conversations and ask students to unscramble them. Students then choose one to perform.
  • Put pieces of a short dialogue on five or so slips of paper. Each student in the group reads their slip of paper without showing it to anyone. Students have to decide what the correct order is. Ask students to decide if they might have a reply to a question, for example.
  • Put pieces of a longer dialogue, or several shorter dialogues, on different slips of paper. Ask students to mingle, reading out their slip. If they meet a person who seems to have a part of their sequence they can form a couple. Set a time limit and walk around listening. Decide when to stop the activity and then put students in pairs or small groups. Ask them to reconstruct what they think the dialogue is about. This can lead to different interpretations and lots of creative thinking to fill in gaps. Remind them that there is no right answer!

Gapfill activities

  • Create artificial raindrops, coffee spills or smudges on dialogues so that some words are unreadable or half missing. It works best if you use a bigger font size than usual. Ask students to try to guess from the context what the missing words are. 
  • Blank out key grammatical items in the dialogue which students need extra practice on, such as prepositions, auxiliaries, etc. Ask students to fill in the missing words. If you are typing or writing out the dialogue, increase the level of difficulty by not leaving spaces where the missing words are, so they have to identify when something is missing as well as what it is.

Dictation activities

  • Put the class into two groups. Ask one half to focus on making notes of any key words and expressions they hear, and the other half to focus on making notes that summarise what the dialogue is about. After you have played or read out the dialogue, put students into pairs or small groups (one or two students from each half of the class) and ask them to try to reconstruct the dialogue and act it out.
  • Dictate only one side of the dialogue. Then give students time to write ideas for what the other person in the dialogue might say. Emphasise that it is up to their imagination and there is no correct answer. Then put students in pairs to work out a dialogue using their pooled notes.

Correction activities

  • Take out key words from a dialogue, then mix them up and put them back in the wrong places. Ask students to try to work out which words have been moved around.
  • Misspell some of the key words in a dialogue and ask students to try to spot the mistakes. Focus on key items you want to revise.

Creating dialogues activities

  • If you have been reading any stories with your class, ask students to imagine a key conversation between characters in a specific part of the story. This gives them a framework.
  • If you have listened to any songs in English with your class where the singer is addressing the song to someone, ask students to imagine the conversation the singer and that person have after that person has heard the song.
  • Find a TV advert that has a dialogue. Play it with the sound off, and ask students to brainstorm a dialogue and write the script in small groups. Then watch the original to compare.
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