Saturday, March 6, 2010

Using Scripted Conversations to Teach English

Hello fellow aspiring ESL Teachers and Tutors,

Thank you for visiting ESL Teacher today! We are going to focus on a technique for teaching students English sentences, memorizing and play acting scripted conversations.

In the video below, I use the example conversations that are in the Oxford Picture Dictionary Teacher's Book. However, you can make up your own conversations, or get them from other sources as well. It is always good to supplement vocabulary lessons by using new words in useful and common sentences and conversation structures:

The Method

1) Find an appropriate conversation - If your students are beginners, you would use only 2 or 3 sentence conversations. If they are more advanced, then you add more sentences. Be sure the conversation incorporates the vocabulary and the grammar that you are teaching in your class that day.

Here's an example:
A: Excuse me, but do you have the time?
B: Yes, it's half past 2. (3:30 / quarter to / noon)
A: Thanks!

2) Write the conversation on the board with the A's and B's, or with some other tag showing that this is a conversation. You could use names instead of A and B, Jane and John, etc. Also write any variations (in the above example, that would be using different times).

3) Perform the conversation for your class at least 2 times. Then have the class say the conversation with you, again at least 2 times.

4) Pair up the students and have them practice the conversation. Have them switch roles and memorize both parts.

5) Erase the board, and have the students come up and perform the conversation from memory. Be sure that the whole class claps when they finish.

6) If they didn't do well, have them practice again and call them up again. If only one pair didn't do well, have that pair come up and try again.

Have fun with your class and be happy that they are practicing practical and real English conversations. Thank you for reading this post, and feel free to leave any comments or other techniques that you would like to share.

Your fellow ESL Teacher,



  1. Thanks for the teaching ideas. I am using the Longman Word by Word Picture dictionary to teach conversations to my junior high students in Taichung, Taiwan.

  2. Or you could use real, student-centred conversations to ramp up the relevance. Catalyst: A Conversation Taskbook for English Language Learners has an automatic topic generating routine built-in and the topics always resonate with students because it's student-centred: all about them. The main point about Catalyst is not that topic creation and topic substance are automatic or appealing however. Rather generated conversation is used as a means to the acquisition of a whole variety of essential communication tactics. Catalyst has review built around principles of "space repetition" and has instructor-, peer- and self- assessment protocols integrated as well. With all that going on there's not a lot of prep to do. Teachers can focus on facilitating the lesson, not the lesson plan.

    Catalyst is the first ever interactive, "multi-touch" ESL textbook and has just been published for iPad. You can find out more by visiting or you can just download the free sample on iTunes here: This is clearly what Apple had in mind when they released iBooks Authour in January 2012.

    Catalyst is also available in traditional paper.