1 1 look who s talking making the most of dialogues
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1 1 Look Who’s Talking Making the Most of Dialogues. Bernice Ege-Zavala School of Teaching ESL [email protected] WAESOL 2009. Overview. Find out about your use of dialogues Tips for enhancing and extending dialogue use Review of how dialogues fit in language

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1 1 Look Who’s Talking Making the Most of Dialogues

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11Look Who’s Talking Making the Most of Dialogues

Bernice Ege-Zavala

School of Teaching ESL

[email protected]



  • Find out about your use of dialogues

  • Tips for enhancing and extending dialogue use

  • Review of how dialogues fit in language

    teaching methodology – past and present

What about you?

Turn to a colleague and discuss your responses.

Regularly - Sometimes- Rarely

  • I use dialogues in my classes.

  • I write my own dialogues.

  • I use the dialogues in the textbook.

  • I look for new dialogues online.

  • I listen to real-life language and try to add that language to classroom dialogues.

What about you?

Turn to a colleague and discuss your response.

Agree – Agree somewhat- Disagree

  • My students enjoy using dialogues.

  • I like using dialogues (because....)

  • Dialogues are good for pronunciation practice.

  • Dialogues are good for reading practice.

  • I feel I use dialogues effectively in class.

  • I am uncomfortable using dialogues (because....).

  • Dialogues are only useful in listening/speaking classes.

What about you?

When I use a dialogue, I............

.... plan to spend about..... total class time on the material.

....10 minutes or less

....10-20 minutes

.....30 minutes

....read (or play) the dialogue aloud.....



....three times or more

....use choral practice....


Background: The use of dialogues in the language classroom

Audio-lingual method origins

Mimicry and memorization

Language as learned behavior

Language labs and tape recorders

Advantages: emphasize spoken language and real world communication

Disadvantages: lack creativity and authenticity, difficult to write natural-sounding dialogues

The rise of communicative language teaching and the decline of ALM

  • Learning theory: Language is not learned behavior...evidence: novel utterances

    Chomsky: "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.“

  • De-emphasis of grammar instruction

  • De-emphasis of controlled, repetition practice

  • Focus on more student-generated language production

    Nevertheless: Dialogues remain a staple of language classrooms.

Beginner Dialogue, example

Talk with a partner. Take turns and make conversations.

A:I don’t feel well.

B: Do you have a cold?

A: No, I don’t. I have a sore throat.

B:That’s too bad. I hope you feel better.

{Teachers: How would you present this?}

From: Ventures 1, Cambridge, 2007, p. 49

Standard Dialogue Presentation and Practice Format

  • Students listen while T reads aloud

  • Students listen and read while T reads aloud

  • Choral practice

    • T reads first; students repeat

    • T takes Role A; students take Role B

    • ½ class = A; ½ class =B

    • Pair work, A/B

  • Variations: Back-chaining and Read + Look Up

  • This is too easy...or is it? Ss don’t need so much repetition...or do they?

    Mit einem Partner sprechen. Jeder muss Unterhaltung machen.

    A: Ich bin nichtgesund.

    B: Bist du erkaeltet?

    A: Nein, das bin ichnicht. IchhabeHalsschmerzen.

    B: Tut mirleid. Ichhoffedasses dir bessergeht.

    Change the setting to vary the volume or tone

    Scenario 1:

    You are late to class. You quietly take your seat and talk to your classmate. (whisper)

    Scenario 2: Your father doesn’t hear well. (speak loudly)

    A:I don’t feel well.

    B:Do you have a cold?

    A:No, I don’t. I have a sore throat.

    B:That’s too bad. I hope you feel better.

    Add authenticity and natural languageHave students add more language

    President Obama flew to New York to be on the David Letterman show.

    Before the show, he calls his wife on his Blackberry.

    President: Uh, I don’t feel well.

    First Lady: Uh-oh. Do you have a cold?

    President: No, no, I don’t.... I have a sore throat.

    First Lady: Hmm...That’s too bad. Gee, I hope you feel better.


    #1 Add 2 lines to this dialogue:

    1 line to repeat and 1 line to clarify.

    #2 Add 2 lines with more information –

    1 for each person.

    Add writing

    Controlled practice: cloze

    A: I _____ feel well.

    B: _____ you have a cold?

    A: No, I don’t. I have a _____ throat.

    B:That’s too bad. I hope you feel ______.

    Freer Practice:

    A: I don’t _______ ______ _______.

    B:Do you ______ ____ _______?

    A: No, ______ ________. I ____________________.

    B:That’s _____________. I ____________________.

    Add pronunciation

    A: I don’t feel well.

    B: Do you have a cold?

    A:No, I don’t. I have a sore throat.

    B: That’s too bad. I hope you feel better.

    That’s too easy....? Try it yourself and see.

    A. Ich bin _______ gesund.

    B. Bist ___ erkaeltet?

    A. Nein, das bin ichnicht. ____ habeHalsschmerzen.

    B. Tut mirleid. Ichhoffedasses dir _______ geht.

    besser * nicht * du * ich

    Summary of Ideas to vary presentation and practice


    • T-reads dialogue, Ss have book closed and listen

    • T-reads dialogue again, Ss read along

    • T-reads dialogue, Ss repeat (back-chain long phrases)

    • Ss read in pairs, using read and look up


    • T/Ss (T-S, ½-½,pair) read with/without text, whole group-small group-pairs

    • Change scenario – loud volume, soft volume – where? Ss in class, bad cell phone connection

    • Engage Ss – have them write a set up line or add two lines to the dialogue


    • Encourage Ss to listen to natural dialogue and bring back samples of language that confirm or expand on what you are practicing

      What other techniques work for you?

    Extending the dialogue

    • Make it authentic, personalize it

      Change names to use familiar names and settings.

    • Add context

      Make it interesting – who are these people? Why are they talking to each other? Provide a “set-up” line or develop one with Ss.

    • Provide repetition - with variety - by using backchaining, choral, group, pair, double circles, etc.

    • Teach students to use fillers, ask for clarification and repetition

    • Incorporate reading, writing, and pronunciation as appropriate

    • Be a good listener in the real world and bring examples into class

    What does recent research say about using controlled practice (such as some ALM techniques)?

    Corpora Research supports that....

    .......Repetition is beneficial

    Ss need to “meet” new vocabulary 7 times to acquire it.

    ........Practice gives Ss confidence in a safe setting.

    The classroom is “safe because it is the place where you can rehearse and make mistakes without serious consequences, so that you will perform better, and feel more confident later in the real-world situation.”

    ......Much of language is fixed or semi-fixed (not novel).

    Helps Ss acquire natural chunks.

    ........Encourages automaticity – rapid processing of language

    The benefits of fixed/semi-fixed language

    “Formulaic chunks have been called ‘islands of reliability’....Chunks which learners are sure are accurate and convey the central meaning of what they wish to say are immensely reassuring, especially when contrasted with the intimidating prospect of constructing everything you want to say word-by-word, on every occasion.

    from Teaching Collocation, p. 175

    How many words?

    ....“Initially, then, the prospect of the lexicon being much larger than we thought is intimidating for learners and teachers alike. However, if teachers can reassure learners, and encourage them to see the value of larger chunks, these islands of reliability provide important psychological support both in helping learners express themselves within their present linguistic resources, and, equally importantly, as starting points in expanding their mental lexicons.”

    Brain processing automaticity

    ....“Knowledge of fixed items also means additional brain space is available, so the learners are more able to process other language, which enables them to communicate more complex messages, or simple messages with greater fluency or accuracy.”


    • Bitterlin, Johnson, Price, Ramirez, and Savage, Ventures 1, Cambridge, 2007

    • Lewis, Michael, Teaching Collocation, Thomson Heinle Language Teaching Publications ELT 2000

    • Lewis, Michael, Implementing the Lexical Approach, Language Teaching Publications, 1997

      Thank you for coming today.

      For a handout, see www.schooloftesl.com, click on “news” “faculty”


      email: [email protected]

    Try it Out

    Elizabeth: How did you like the play?

    Mario:Great. I’ve seen some great performances before, but Phantom of the Opera has to be the greatest.

    Elizabeth:What about the music? Not bad, eh?

    Mario:I’ll say. I’ve heard some good music before, but that music has to be the best.

    What would you do?

    From, Conversation Lessons, p. 40, intermediate level.

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