Any ideas or tips on how to teach esl students to have conversations?

Question:i'm going to be teaching esl soon and i feel unprepaired and scared. how can i test levels and any advice or tips on how to teach and get them to learn how to speak english well?




Answers:
Do lots of cooperative learning activities--pair students with some knowledge of English with those who know little. Pair students with English speakers from another class for "Book Buddies". "Writing Buddies", etc.

Use lots and lots and lots of visuals in your teaching.

At first, most students will only want to listen, not speak. They feel awkward using a different language. Give them opportunities to talk in class and practice language learning.

Talk with colleagues and get more advice and help! These kids are going to need all the help they can get.

By the way, what level is this? If it is Elementary, there are many more approaches to try that can be helpful...
If they are high-school kids you're teaching ESL, see if you can hook up with one of the foreign language teachers and do a cross-study thing where the kids learning Spanish get their conversational practice from your students and vice versa.
I do not believe you "teach" students to have conversations. You provide the skills necessary to hold conversations. Ask the right questions to stimulate discussions. Have students discuss with other students (one-on-one) or in very small groups. Once students develop this skill, you can hold class room discussions. What did you want to do last night? What did you do last night? Two rather easy questions (I hope) that illustrate vocabulary. Don't look for complete sentences in discussions. Allow them to list: went to the park, played soccer, stopped for a soda, watched TV, studied.
Check out Daves ESL cafe, (www.daveseslcafe.com) and Bogglesworld (www.bogglesworldesl.com) for some starting ideas. Do a search on Google or Yahoo for "esl conversation" and you'll get lots of material. Don't worry, it's easier than you think. They won't want to converse at first, you need to gain trust first. After a few lessons they'll warm up and you'll see how much you've helped them.

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