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Conversation Creation Cards
This is the first set of a series of flash/activity cards I like to call "Conversation Creation". They are best suited to intermediate level students who need to start applying their vocabulary in longer, more structured sentences in a communicative fashion. They can also start experimenting with new vocabulary, particularly verbs and idiomatic expressions that sound more "natural" in oral speech. On the front of each card is an "everyday destination", where a variety of activities typically take place and various nouns can be found. On the back is a grid with tips on grammar and sentence building, a list of suggested verbs to use and some images of a variety of nouns. You could sort of consider it a combination of tips on vocabulary and grammatical usage with something akin to "suggestopedia". The key objective is to provide students with more opportunities to experiment with their language, and to improve both fluency and confidence. Look in the left-hand column for downloads and some suggested applications for these cards.
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Question/Answer Prompt Cards
Conversation Creation Cards Set 1
Click here to get the downloads
Overview of Set 1
Set 1 comprises the following places: a bookstore | a fast-food restaurant | the corner store | the sports store | the computer store | the photo shop | the post office | a travel agent |
the bakery | the barber's/hairdresser's shop | the cinema | a shoe store.
The information on the back of each card provides grammar tips on using go, like, want and need in the present, past and future tense, as well as present 3rd person endings and the continuous tense. There are 5-8 verbs/verb phrases listed that can be used with these words, and a "picture grid" showing appropriate nouns for that location that can be used as indirect objects for any sentences the students choose to build.
Creating the cards is simple - just download them into MS word and print them. Then cut out each card along the horizontal lines so that the front and back are adjoined. Then fold the card in half and apply some glue. Your double-sided cards are now ready for laminating. Of course, it is up to you how and what you use - you might like to use them as individual single-sided cards only. You are only limited by your own creativity here!
There is also a larger set of "prompt" cards, with corresponding colors for the functions "go", "like", "want" and "need". These can be placed on the whiteboard to give students additional hints, or to build up some warm-up language and recycling of question/answer models before applying the more elaborate response cards.
Activity: Where and Why?
This is a fairly simple game to apply that the students are still likely to find a real challenge. Distribute one card to each student and instruct them to look at it for a minute or so. Then have them place it "main side up" (the destination picture) on the table in front of them.
Begin by asking each student where they are, where they went, are going, will go, etc. This is fairly simple, as the picture is right there in front of them. Once they have told you what the destination is, you ask a follow up question along the lines of "Well (student's name), why are you going to the (destination)?" (or why did you go, why will you go, etc). The student needs to use the information on the back of the card to phrase an appropriate answer, but they are not permitted to turn the card over to look - they must try and remember from their eariler examination of the card. Award a point if they phrase a correct response, and then move on to the next student. [Hint: it may be a good idea to ask the least talented/proficient students earlier than other students, so that there is a smaller time frame for them and less risk of them forgetting what it is they want to say in response].
Once you have completed a round of all the students, do a points tally and then announce "Round 1 Bonus time!". In this round, students will repeat what they said, to which the teacher asks something along the lines of "OK, are there any other reasons you went to the (destination)?" Students can earn a lot of bonus points here, they are only limited by how many response they can come up with, so long as each "reason" is different. It is probably a good idea to limit the bonus round to three points maximum per student, so as to move the turn on to another student.
Having finished the bonus round, move on to Round 2 by having the students circulate their cards to the student sitting to the right of them, and repeating the process. This round should result in quicker responses, more confidence and more points, as the students have had an opportunity to hear a range of answers from the student that passed the card on to them. If you go into a round 3 or even 4 and 5, you should notice that the students are getting better and faster at talking about why they are going places. In subsequent rounds you will certainly see the students paying a lot more attention to the information side of the cards in the "examination prelude" to that round, and probably begging you for more time to try and remember what is written on the cards. Either way, the students will probably be exhibiting a lot of interest in the game and in the English involved, and it is a great way to encourage them to listen to each other more and pay attention to vocabulary and detail.
Activity: Listen and Guess
This is a simple and useful activity for building listening comprehension and new vocabulary skills in the students. It can be used as a warmer or as a prelude to more demanding activities that follow.
Simply distribute each card to a student. Let them all look at the information on their cards for a minute or so, and then ask them to pass their card to the student sitting to the right of them. Repeat the process until the card they started with originally returns to them. Then collect all the cards and shuffle them.
Now begins the guessing game. The teacher takes a card from the deck, ensuring students cannot see either side of it, and says something along the lines of "I am going here because..." then read a hint from the information part of the card, for example "...because I want to munch on some pizza". The first student to say "You are going to the fast-food restaurant" (using correct grammar according to person and tense from the teacher's initial clue) gets the card, which comprises a point. If no-one can guess, give them another clue from the card. If you have read all possible clues out, announce what destination you were talking about and place it to the side as a "null card" for no points. You have the option to have a bonus round at the end where you re-apply these cards, which is a great follow-up technique for vocabulary the students are obviously not familiar with or just couldn't remember on spot.
At higher levels, you can play this sort of game in reverse fashion, simply saying where you are going. Students must then come up with a full sentence from the information section, eg. Teacher: "She went to the fast-food restaurant..." - Student: "Teacher! She went to the fast-food restaurant because she likes to eat hamburgers!"
How fussy you are about exact grammar and pronunciation is of course up to you, depending on the purpose of the activity and the students' level. You could use it to facilitate listening and communication in general, or to reinforce correct grammatical application.
Activity: Talk About Your Week
This is a good follow up activity to "Where and Why?" above, when the students are starting to show a lot of familiarity with the vocabulary but need to start concentrating more on correct form in terms of verb tense application.
Give each student a blank piece of paper with five days of the week listed vertically down one side in sequence (ensure that at least one of the days is a "yesterday" in relation to the actual day on which you apply the activity, and that at least one other will be a "tomorrow"), and then distribute one card to each student. The student should write the name of the destination on that card next to the first day listed on their paper, but no other details. They look at the information side of the card for a minute or so, make a decision as to "why" they were there, and then pass the card to the left. They write the destination on the next card beside the next day on the list and repeat the process until they have looked at five cards and listed destinations for each day of the week listed.
Having completed this process, ask the students what day it actually is "today". When they have told you what day it is, proceed to ask each student where they are "going" today. Then ask them why, evaluating responses as per "When and Why?" listed above, and awarding points for correctly structured answers employing present tense.
In the next round, ask each student where they "went" yesterday. Now students must reply using correct past tense and giving appropriate reasons for why they went where they did. [Note: when applying "like" they do not need to use a past tense form, as it is a "general truth" verb that usually applies irrespective of time]. Repeat each round by using a different day of the week and require answers using correct tense according to what day it is in relation to "today". By the fourth or fifth round, students are probably starting to apply the required grammar correctly, but will be starting to struggle to remember what reason they decided on!
You can apply this game in combinations that focus on just two or three days to give practive in one tense form only, or two in combination. Alternatively, at higher levels, you can ask them to complete a full seven days! Again, the students will have models to follow in the other students, many of whom will have similar destinations, but for different days of the week. As long as they are starting to apply the required structure correctly, students can actually come to each others' rescue in this case, if they have forgotten what reason they decided on for a destination but then hear someone else come up with one.
Activity: Talk About Someone Else
There are two quite different versions of this game that vary considerably in terms of difficulty.
The Simple Version:
Distribute the cards to the students and give them some time to check the information section on it. Have them place the card "face up" on the table and ask them where they are going (or went, or will go), and why. Award points as in "Where and Why?" above.
Students then pass their card to the right, and take some time to examine their new card. They then turn it over in the same way as before. In this round, they must not only say where and why for the card they are holding, they must then point to the person to their right , apply the 3rd person and state where that "he" or "she" is going (went, etc). This is a great memory game that really helps the students to remember the language, combining recent information with information they have just applied, and using correct pronouns and verb forms to do so. The student to their left (preceding them) will also give them a reminder of a reason for the card they are currently holding, and in the case where they had already decided on a different reason, there is a natural increase in the amount of language input they are experiencing.
For the third round, progress as before, except now students must explain their present card, the card the person next to them has, and the card the person next to that person has (ie, three cards). You can continue this process for as many rounds as there are students in the classroom. If you REALLY want to test them out, have them name a destination and a reason for the student that precedes them as well as the student that follows them. That way they have to remember what the person two places before them said, and this time they do not necessarily have the benefit of having seen the card.
The Difficult Version:
This is basically identical to "Talk About Your Week" described above, except that in this version, there is also a different pronoun listed next to each of the days on the sheet. For example, the sheet may read "Monday - I, Tuesday - we, Wednesday - he, Thursday - she, Friday - they". Play the game as described above, but this time they must apply correct subject-verb agreement in addition to correct tense. A real challenge!
Activity: Guess About Someone Else
This game is fairly similar to the ones listed above, except that it has less to do with memory and much more to do with guesswork and experimentation. This would be a good productive activity to follow up on the more "practice-orientated" activities listed above
Distribute a piece of paper to each student, and then give them each a card. Have them look at the card for a minute and then pass it to the right. Repeat the process until all students have seen all the cards. Then collect the cards, and instruct the students to select a destination and an accompanying reason to go there. They can choose whatever they like, as long as it makes sense. They then write this information on their piece of paper and conceal it from the other students.
Now begins the guesswork and the elimination! Students take turns trying to guess where another student in the room is or went, using appropriate yes/no questions. If they guess correctly, they must follow up with a guess as to the reason the other student is or went to the destination they selected. When a student correctly determines both the destination and the reason another student listed on their paper, the latter student must surrender their paper to the teacher. That student has lost the opportunity to win the game, but they can still make guesses themselves to eliminate other students (and it will usually be the student who eliminated them!). The game continues in turns until there is just one student left with a piece of paper. That person is proclaimed the winner, but the first student to correctly determine the place and reason for the winner is awarded second place.
This can be a tense and yet exciting game. It really encourages students to remember and apply more complex language when they are selecting reasons for themselves (as a measure of protection, so to speak), and also encourages them to experiment a lot through guesswork. They must also pay attention to the guesses of other students in order to "narrow down" the range of possible answers they are trying to find.
Activity: Dialog Roleplay
This activity illustrates some possible ways the conversation cards can facilitate roleplays.
Cards are distributed to all the students, and they are then placed in groups of two or three. Using the information on their cards, they must create and memorize an interactive dialog, which later they will perform in front of the other class members. The creative element involved is that students can pick and choose what they want to say. To make the dialogs lengthier and more interesting, the teacher can ask the students to include a set range of tenses and/or combinations of go/like/want/need. When students master the basics of it, they can also be asked to add preludes and continuations of the core dialog.
Activity: Speaking in a Crowded Room
Simply place all the cards on a table or desk, and hand out the Speaking in a Crowded Room question/answer sheets. Students then use any of the cards they like to formulate both questions and answers on their sheets. The good thing here is that there is likely to be a considerable range of both questions and answers when the students proceed to the stage when they must ask other students and list answers.
Activity: Describe and Flip
The conversation cards can be used to play a simple "flip-game". First spread the cards out on some table space, with the information section of the cards face-up. Let students look at them (and/or) talk about them for as long as they feel they need. Then turn all the cards over so that the destination image is face up.
Students then take turns choosing a card by saying "I will/want to go to (destination)." The teacher then asks the student a random question orientated around like, want or need. For example, if Sally chooses "fast-food restaurant", the teacher can ask her "Why Sally? What do you like to do there?" or "Why? What do you need ?" If the student can come up with an answer that is represented on the back of the card, using the correct vocabulary and grammar as dictated in the teacher's question, that card is theirs and represents a point. The game progresses until all the cards have been taken, the student with the most being the overall winner.
This is an effective game because it allows the teacher to direct more difficult questions to more proficient learners, and to constantly change the flow of information being asked for.