Saturday, 22 August 2009

Ideas for practising dialogues (for Teachers)

You have a dialogue script; perhaps you’d prepared it yourself, perhaps you’d obtained it from another source, maybe from this very blog, or perhaps your students themselves had prepared it – so, what do you do after that? You tell your students to form pairs and practise, and you go around the class from pair to pair, monitoring their output, right? Well, here are some variations you could use to spice that up.
  • Change partners: They perform the dialogue with a different partner or partners.
  • Vary the environment: Instead of being seated, they stand or they walk around the class. Bring them out into the patio, or play music as if they are in a party. Ask them to do an activity while speaking, e.g. passing an object, such as a ball, to and fro. Be flexible, be creative. Students will love you for breaking their daily school monotony.
  • Pump up the volume: They have to speak louder (as if the other person is hard of hearing or they are speaking over a bad telephone line), or alternatively, they lower their voice down to a whisper, as if they were communicating secretively.
  • Modify the contents: Alter a few words or expressions; sometimes by changing a few key words, you can transform a dialogue from, say, an invitation to a cinema to one to a restaurant.
  • Add contents: Add lines before and/or after the dialogue, or ask the students themselves to imagine possible situations before and after, or script could be added for a third person.
  • Challenge them: Ask them to practise without looking at their notes, or wipe the dialogue from the board. If necessary, you could increase the challenge gradually by removing words or lines, a few at a time. You could also prepare picture or word cues to help them remember the dialogue.
In addition to varying the dialogue activity, you can also change the way the pairs are formed.
  • Traditional pairs: Here you ask them to pick their partner, or you allocate one. They usually remain seated on their chairs.
  • Act it out: The traditional pair work above is sometimes followed by getting them to perform the dialogue pair by pair, usually in front of the classroom.
  • Back-to-back: They stand or sit back-to-back instead of face-to-face. This is especially useful for telephone conversations, or when you want to encourage the students to communicate through their voice alone, without the aid of body language.
  • Line formation: They stand (or sit) in two rows, facing each other. They practise their dialogue. You then ask the student at the end of one row to move to the other end of the same row. The rest move down one seat, so that each now has a different partner. They then practise the same dialogue again, or a different one, if you wish.
If you have few students, you can have them in one row, talking to their neighbour. Then you just move the student from one end to the other, and they’ll all now have different partners.
  • Concentric circles: They stand in two circles, one inside the other. The inner circle faces the outer, unless they’re working on a back-to-back formation. When they finish their dialogue, one of the circle moves round one place, so that everyone now faces a different person. They practise the dialogue again.
You can also vary this by moving more than one place, or you can play a form of musical chairs, whereby the circle moves until you stop the music. Try asking getting them to close their eyes while moving! This method can also be employed in the party activity (see vary the environment above) where you can have them moving around the room, from partner to partner, miming a dialogue, until the music stops. Then, they start to practise the dialogue with their newly found partner.
  • Gap formation: This is very appropriate for pumping up the volume (see above). They start close to each other in the centre of the room. They begin speaking. While they are speaking, they move backwards until eventually they are at opposite ends of the room.
Naturally, you can do the reverse where they start at opposite ends of the room and gradually move closer.

This is also a great activity for the outdoors!

Another variation of this is you can assign a pair as the ‘loud’ pair, and station them at quite a distance from each other. While they are speaking to (or more like shouting at) each other, the other students also engage in the dialogue albeit at a lower level, and they move freely around these ‘loud’ pair.

Remember most dialogues are quite short, so they would have to start when you give them the signal. If you have any further ideas to add to these, please share them here.


  1. Hi Chiew

    Thanks for the great ideas. I like the fact there is a bank of suggestions all in one place.  I have done musical circles with my students in the past and it's always great fun.  Students usually love moving around and it certainly wakes them up if you use the activity as a warmer first thing in the morning!


  2. Thanks, Janet for your comment. Great to see you here. 8-)

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