My students are naturally social and naturally shy at the same time. The social part of their nature helps me because students like to talk. The shy part helps because if they didn’t have my conversational cues they would be tongue-tied every time they were paired with a new partner who isn’t a good friend. In their opinion, asking my questions and having my conversations is better than standing there feeling weird.
What do they talk about?
I have created or adapted a bunch of Chat cards. Chat cards start as a single piece of paper with 7 or 8 boxes on them. In each of the boxes I have written a Target Language (TL) question with a couple of different possible responses. I also include an open-ended response. I try to make the response a little interesting, responses that would appeal to a middle school student. For example:
Why do you love your pet?
My pet is nice.
My pet is…..
My pet is my friend
I don’t have a pet. They are gross.
My pet is better than my brother.
These are not incredible answers. But they work for my target audience and gets students speaking. Here is how the Chats work:
- The students and I read through the questions and answers together. Students either circle their favorite answer or I help them develop their own answer. Most students use one of my answers. We do this as a class.
- Students spend two or three days reading from the Chat papers asking and answering the questions. This is a five minute warm up activity. Each person in the partner pair has a copy of the Chat paper in front of them
- After a couple of days working with the Chat paper, I have students cut up the paper into individual cards (each question box) Now they take the cut up cards, shuffle them and ask each other the questions. This puts the Chat questions out of order. *If a student doesn’t answer the Chat question correctly, either because it doesn’t make sense to the question, or they don’t use first person verbs in their response- their partner is trained to say in the TL”I am sorry, it’s…. and the student gives an example of what should be said.)
After a couple of days, I add the cut up cards to an even bigger pile of conversation cards. The big card pile are all the Chat cards that we have made from the beginning of the year. The new chat cards are shuffled into the mix, and now I have a great pile of review questions ready to go.