Disappearing dialogue

Writer(s): 
Michael Ernest, Nagoya Communication Arts Vocational College

 

Quick guide

  • Key words: Memorization, review
  • Learner English level: High beginner to intermediate
  • Learner maturity: Junior high school and above
  • Preparation time: About 10 minutes to write out the dialogue and explain the activity
  • Activity time: About 15 minutes
  • Materials: Whiteboard/blackboard 

 

Memorization activities can provide students with a fun, relatively easy challenge that can help build vocabulary and grammar bases that can be accessed years later when needed. The following activity involves students practicing a piece of dialogue, written on the classroom board, that is gradually erased by the teacher as students practice with their classmates. It can easily be adjusted for individual class levels and incorporated into more communicative approaches.

 

Preparation

Step 1: Create a dialogue between two participants that reflects the language from a unit of study but also includes extra phrases or vocabulary that may be of interest to students. It is best to make the dialogue as close to a real communication event as possible.

Step 2: Adjust the dialogue to the level of the class. In higher level classes, I have used prompts in square brackets, such as [Greeting], [Response], and [Clarification] rather than including explicit phrases. This provides an extra challenge and gives the dialogue a more natural feel. That is, students in higher level classes can choose their own greetings and responses rather than simply reading from the text on the board.

 

Procedure

Step 1: Explain to students that they are going to practice a conversation with their classmates. Write the dialogue on the classroom board as follows:

(Example dialogue)

  • A:   Excuse me. Hi! Could you help me please?
  • B:   Sure. What’s the matter?
  • A:  Uhhh. I think I’m lost. Could you tell me the way to the Hilton Hotel?
  • B:   Yeah, it’s pretty close. Just go straight down this road and turn left at the intersection.
  • A:   OK.
  • B:   Then go straight for a hundred metres or so and it’s on your right.
  • A:   Great. Thanks so much for your help.
  • B:   No worries.

Step 2: Model the conversation and have students repeat with conversation-style intonation.

Step 3: Ask students to stand up, find a partner, practice the dialogue once, change roles, and then find another partner with whom to practice. Demonstrate in front of the class with one student to give students an idea of what you expect. Tell students they have to practice for 10 minutes or, alternatively, give them a set number of partners to practice with instead of a time limit. After a couple of minutes, remove two or three words from the board (e.g., straight, down, for), replacing them with underlined spaces. Continue to remove more words every couple of minutes until almost all of the dialogue is erased.

Step 4: After 10 minutes, have students sit back down and ask them for feedback. Was it difficult? Could they do it? Students are often surprised at their ability to successfully memorize and model a complete dialogue in English, which can have a very positive, motivating effect. As an extension, you can choose two students to stand up and complete the dialogue in front of their classmates. If they have trouble, other classmates can assist them by giving them hints.

 

Conclusion

Despite being a fairly dry concept for a classroom activity, memorizing a dialogue in English presented students with a challenge they seemed to enjoy. As the conversation was carefully scaffolded and adjusted to the level of the class, almost all of the students were able to successfully memorize it with little to no assistance. The challenging aspect of the exercise kept them engaged and acted as a motivational tool. Students obtained a notable sense of achievement at being able to complete the challenge successfully. They also enjoyed using very casual phrases not covered in their textbooks, such as “No worries”. If this kind of rote-memorization is overused, it can become boring and counterproductive for students, but as an occasional review or introductory activity, it provides a fun challenge.

 
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