Activating Conversational Competence

2014_joan_allenJoan Saslow and Allen Ascher

The most important building blocks of conversational competence are carefully constructed conversation models combined with a step-by-step pedagogy for intensive practice.

 The Value of Conversation Models

Although more and more English language course books today no longer even contain them, texts written in the form of “dialogues” or “conversations” have appeared in course book lessons for decades. The earliest dialogues were written to show students examples of “grammar in context,” but because such conversations simply “hammered” the grammar, they had an inauthentic feel that didn’t represent anything real people would ever say. Following is an extreme case, though not an unusual one:

Roy:     What are we going to do for our class field trip?
Jim:      When is it going to be?
Roy:     It’s going to be on Saturday.
Jim:      Where are we going to go?
Roy:     The students want to go to the nature park.
Jim:      OK. And we’re going to have a picnic. What are we going to need?
Roy:     My students are going to bring the sandwiches and drinks. And what about your students?
Jim:     They’re going to bring salads and snacks. Continue reading