With the holiday season approaching, it’s good to add some fun into teaching to keep your students engaged and motivated. We’ve created 12 simple classroom activities and tips that you can carry out with your primary class to encourage them to be good.
How English conversation works
English language teachers everywhere spend time and energy helping students practice their conversation skills. Some may ask whether conversation in English can actually be taught. And – if it can – what the rules might be.
To explore these questions, we spoke to world-renowned linguist David Crystal. He is an Honorary Professor of Linguistics at the University of Bangor and has written more than 120 books on the subject.
What makes a good conversation?
“It’s very important that we put this everyday use of language under the microscope,” he says. He highlights three critical facets of conservation that we should bring into focus:
But all in all, he says that people should walk away from a conversation feeling like they’ve had a good chat.
“For the most part, people want that kind of mutual respect, mutual opportunity, and have some sort of shared topic about which they feel comfortable – and these are the basics I think.”
The rules of conversation
There are plenty of ways you can teach learners to engage in a successful conversation – including how to speak informally, use intonation, and provide feedback. So let’s take a look at some of the key areas to focus on:
Fluency and intelligibility are commonly covered in English language classes. But appropriateness can be more complicated to teach. When preparing to teach conversational appropriateness, we can look at it through two different lenses: subject matter and style:
2) Subject matter
“What subject matter is appropriate to use to get a conversation off the ground? There are cultural differences here,” he says. The weather is often a good icebreaker, since everyone is affected by it. The key is to find a common topic that all participants can understand and engage with.
Teachers can also teach students about conversational style, focusing on how to make conversations more relaxed in English.
There are “several areas of vocabulary and grammar – and pronunciation too, intonation for example – as well as body language, in which the informality of a conversation is expressed through quite traditional means,” says David. One example he offers is teaching students how to use contracted verb forms.
4) Simultaneous feedback
This is what makes a conversation tick. When we talk with someone, we let them know we’re listening by giving them feedback. We say things like “really” or “huh” and use body language like facial expressions and gestures.
Of course, these feedback noises and expressions can be taught. But they won’t necessarily be new to students. English learners do the same when speaking their own language, anyway.
Keep in mind though, that when it comes to speaking online on video conferencing platforms, it’s not easy to give this type of simultaneous feedback. People’s microphones might be on mute or there might be a delay, which makes reacting in conversations awkward. So, says David, this means online conversations become much more like monologues.
5) Uptalk and accents
Uptalk is when a person declares something in a sentence, but raises their intonation at the end. For English learners, it might sound like someone is asking a question.
Here’s an example:
- “I live in Holyhead” said in a flat tone – this is a statement.
- “I live in Holyhead” said using uptalk – you are stating you live here, but recognize that someone else might not know where it is.
Now, should teachers teach uptalk? David says yes. For one, it’s fashionable to speak this way – and it can be confusing for English learners if they don’t understand why it’s being used in a conversation.
“The other thing is that we are dealing here with a genuine change in the language. One of the biggest problems for all language teachers is to keep up to date with language changes. And language change can be very fast and is at the moment,” he says.
When it comes to accents, David is a fan. “It’s like being in a garden of flowers. Enjoy all the linguistic flowers,” he says, “That’s the beauty of language, its diversity”.
More blogs from Pearson
Sometimes, it’s nice to share cultural insights with our students so they can get a deeper understanding of the context of the language they are learning. However, without lots of time and money, it can be tough to travel to an English-speaking country yourself and experience what life is like first-hand.
But what if you could learn about British history, customs and culture from the comfort of your sofa?
That’s right - in an instant you could be transported back to the dark cobbled streets of 19th century London, to an industrial town in northern England or a rural village in Surrey.
Today, we want to share six English stories set in Britain that provide cultural, historical and social aspects of British life, both past and present.
So sit back, relax and let us take you on an adventure.
Written by Jane Austen (1775-1817)
This story about the intelligent and beautiful Emma was first published at the end of 1815. The book, which takes place in a fictional village called Highbury (located in the charming county of Surrey), covers themes such as romance, social class and female empowerment.
Emma is a social person who enjoys seeing people happy and contented. She spends her time arranging marriages between her friends but sometimes makes mistakes. Will the problems she causes upset people? And can she find love herself?
2. The Picture of Dorian Gray
Written by Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
This philosophical yet supernatural thriller, first published in 1890, is full of lies, secrets and mystery. The tale revolves around the main character, Dorian Gray, who after inheriting a property from his grandfather, travels to London and soon makes new friends. One of his new acquaintances paints a portrait of Dorian, who makes a dangerous wish that he would give anything - even his soul - to stay as young and good-looking as he appears in the painting.
Soon, things start to go wrong and his life gets out of control. But he doesn’t seem to get older. Why? The terrible secret he’s hiding in his attic is the answer. What could it be? Allow yourself to travel back to Victorian times and see London through the eyes of this handsome and hedonistic young man.
Written by Mary Anne Evans (1819-1880)
Written under Mary’s pen name,George Elliott, this work of realism was first published in eight installments during 1871 and 1872. The story, set in the fictitious Midlands town of Middlemarch from 1829-1832, tells a tale of science and discovery. It follows Dorothea, a young woman determined to change the world and Dr. Lydgate, an ambitious man who wants to be a leader in science. Dorothea and Dr. Lydgate are both married, but soon their marriages go wrong.
Can they ever be happy? Will they achieve their dreams? Although the central theme of the book revolves around the marriage of the two main characters, with many historical references such as the 1832 Reform Act, the beginnings of the railways and the death of King George IV, Middlemarch is great for those who are interested in history as well as provincial life.
4. Four Weddings and a Funeral
Written by Richard Curtis (born 1956)
Those looking for a more modern look at British life can learn plenty about customs and cultures in this contemporary book, which has been adapted from one of Britain’s funniest and most popular films. Released in 1994, Four Weddings and a Funeral is about Charles (played by Hugh Grant in the film), a charming man who is very unlucky in love.
One day, during his friend’s wedding, he meets a beautiful girl called Carrie. Unfortunately, she does not plan to stay in England, and travels back to the United States. But they keep meeting each other, so maybe things can work out for the couple. Laugh while discovering the ins and outs of the British social scene in this romantic comedy.
5. North and South
Written by Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865)
North and South, published in 1855, is about a young woman named Margaret Hale who moves with her parents from rural southern England to an industrial town called Milton in the north. There, she meets a wealthy mill owner named Mr. Thornton, and though she dislikes him, he immediately falls in love with her.
During her time in Milton, she witnesses what it’s like to work in the mills where employers and workers constantly clash. As his workers go on strike, will Mr. Thornton be able to charm Margaret? This complex and provoking story follows the working class struggle during the Industrial Revolution.
6. Oliver Twist
Written by Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
Published in 1832, Oliver Twist was Dickens’ second novel. The story tells the tale of a young orphan we can all feel for. Oliver is brought up in a workhouse where he is beaten, starved and poorly treated. With no parents to look after him, he decides to run away to London, where he joins a gang of thieves.
His new friends look out for him, but can they protect him from a life of danger and crime? An interesting look at the darker side of Britain’s capital, Oliver Twist is still popular today with film, musical and TV adaptations.
Want some more reading inspiration for your English lessons?
Discover graded Readers featuring some of the world’s best-loved authors.
Pearson has Readers adapted from classic English novels with audio files and a comprehensive teacher resources section, meaning you can use them in class with your students too.
In the fast-paced world of business, there is one undeniable fact that holds true: employees are the key to success. Their commitment and expertise propel organizations towards their objectives, which is why investing in a learning culture is essential. The advantages are numerous and include improved staff retention, increased productivity and the goal of higher employee engagement.