(Inspired by the activity “Social Talk” published in my book Brainstorming. Moscow: Manager, 2001.)
The following activity is meant to provide additional meaningful practice for vocabulary words already studied in class.
Step 1: Explain to the students that they will be holding short conversations in pairs. These will be open conversations with no advance preparation. Each conversation will activate two key vocabulary words. The goal is to use the two key vocabulary words as much as possible within a one-minute limit (the time limit can be shortened or lengthened depending on the students’ level). To assist them, you will tell them who they are (roles), where they are (place), and what is happening (situation).
Step 2: Illustrate the format. For example, let’s use words from Chapter 2 in Vocabulary Power 1. On the board you write:
TARGET WORDS: cure, disease
ROLES: two doctors
SITUATION: discussing a patient’s health problems
Have a volunteer suggest an opening line. Have another volunteer to respond. Guide the volunteers to use the target words.
Doctor 1: What do you think is wrong with Mr. Jones?
Doctor 2: He has a disease.
Doctor 1: Yes, but what kind of disease?
Doctor 2: I think it’s a heart disease. It’s a very serious disease.
Doctor 1: We don’t even know the name of the disease. How can we cure it?
Doctor 2: We can talk to others and learn about this disease. Then we can cure it.
Doctor 1: Well, we can try to cure it.
Tell the students that you will not stop them or offer any comments until their time limit is up. (You may find it helpful to take notes during each conversation.) Once the conversation is over, you will tell them how many times they correctly used their target words. Ask the other students in the class to offer corrections for any words misused.
Step 3: Begin the activity. Beforehand, you will need to prepare conversation cards. Target words can be repeated, but in different combinations.* Select pairs to come to the front of the class and draw a conversation card from your pile. They should read the information to the class. The pair then has one minute to hold their conversation.
VARIATION: You can pass out conversation cards to pairs and give them two minutes to write down a conversation. After two minutes, ask all students to put their pens down. Then each pair will present their conversation to the class. This format is better for students who are uncomfortable with public speaking. They must still perform for the class, but the preparation should reduce anxiety.
* Suggested conversation cards for Chapter 2, Vocabulary Power 1:
TARGET WORDS: cure, disease/ ROLES: two doctors/ PLACE: hospital/ SITUATION: discussing a patient’s health problems
TARGET WORDS: shore, damage/ ROLES: two reporters/ PLACE: one at TV station & one at beach/ SITUATION: discussing yesterday’s big storm
TARGET WORDS: risk, allow/ ROLES: two parents/ PLACE: home/ SITUATION: discussing their teenager’s bad driving
TARGET WORDS: attempt, record/ ROLES: athlete and coach/ PLACE: stadium/ SITUATION: discussing today’s big game
TARGET WORDS: raise, cause/ ROLES: two neighbors/ PLACE: backyard/ SITUATION: discussing a tree that fell down across both backyards