Overview of Conversation Strategies in Teaching

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1088 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: Jun 17, 2020

Words: 1088|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: Jun 17, 2020

Table of contents

  1. What Is Conversation?
  2. Strategy #1: Formulaic language
    Strategy #2: Prosodic features
    Strategy #3: Turn-taking
    Strategy #4: Requesting and giving clarification
    Strategy #5: Asking follow-up questions and making comments
    Strategy #6: Watching without sound
    Strategy #7: Changing the subject

My teaching experience with young learners has confirmed that speaking plays a momentous role in the language classroom. Although most of the activities aim to cater for good opportunities to talk, in fact, a little explicit teaching of speaking occurs. An interview conducted recently with some international students from eight different countries (China, Morocco, Spain, India, Haïti, Jordan, Iraq and France) has shown that their primary objective to take English classes is to speak fluently, correctly, and confidently; they also added that they face a lot of difficulties with this skill when they want to make and respond to introductions/conversations as they lack strategies or don’t know how to speak as they worded. Unfortunately, these learners fail awfully when they have to speak to native speakers. Fundamental to this fact, I have witnessed that my students are unable for example to take turns, to ask for clarification and repetition and alsoto communicate well in formal situations maintaining good use of prosodic features, body language and repair. Therefore, a choice of this skill has been perceived based on this data to help them enhance their speaking strategies and teach them speaking better.

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What Is Conversation?

In order to better understanding of speaking strategies, we need to understand what the word “conversation” means. In a conversation, we usually have two or more members who are part of a collective activity in which they communicate interactively using nonverbal signals and linguistic patterns.

Strategy #1: Formulaic language

According to Wray (2002), formulaic language is a linguistic term related to verbal standard form of expressions that lack authenticity in meaning incorporating implications that are attitudinal and connected to a context that is pragmatically communicative. Formulaic language favors a big percentage of authentic native-speaker discourse. This encompasses pause fillers e. g. , “Like”, “Er” or “Uhm” and some formulas of conversational speech e. g. , “You’ve got to be joking, ” “Excuse me?” or “Hold on a minute”.

Strategy #2: Prosodic features

Prosodic features, also knowns as suprasegmental phonology are features that come up when sounds in connected speech are put together. One significant component of prosodic features in English is intonation. This is a concerted term as it is used to depict change in pitch, tempo, loudness, and rhythm. These features are also part of intonation, stress, and rhythm. Weak and strong syllables in English relate highly to loudness which is also mentioned in the nuclear syllables extra prominence. In some conversations, loudness is linked to other effects like anger, which can be also noticed in extended speech.

Strategy #3: Turn-taking

The success of the conversation is measured by knowing how speakers take, hold on and also abandon turns in a conversation. The first feature to clarify is taking control. In a formal conversation e. g. speech or a debate, the norm doesn’t accept one-sided conversations. However, in an informal conversation, with one conversant speaking at a time, there is an absolute absence of officially consideration to control the conversation flow. Thus, all speakers are supposed to take part in the conversation.

A speaker can take turn in a conversation through adhering to the following strategies: To alert for a request of a turn by using rising intonation and interjections e. g. “Mm-hmm, ” “Yeah, ”To use facial expressions or other gestures that show you wish to take a turnTo respond to a question through accepting a turn attempted by another speaker.

The second feature is holding a turn. This strategy can be applied when the speaker wants to show they aren’t finished speaking and wants to hold their turn. One way to do it is to “fill in the silence at a special moment” e. g. “well, erm, er (in any order) with pauses. These fillers are very practical as they help the speaker to have time to think and plan ahead what they want to say.

The third and last one is abandoning a turn. The speaker’s turn here is “bowed out” and the ball is is passed on to someone else. A general useful “exit technique” is tag questions e. g. “you know?” or “don’t you agree?”. Yet, Richards (1990) proposes a using adjacency pairs strategy which invites the other person to bring a sequence such as the challenge-denial technique:

A: You look sad.

B: I feel fine.

Strategy #4: Requesting and giving clarification

One reason for making communication difficult is probably sensitive emotions dealt with or the complexity of information we listen to. Extending reflection includes clarifying to reassure that there is real communication between the speaker and the listener who is trying to understand the messages being expressed. Clarifying can take the form of questions, summarize what the speaker has contributed, asking for repetition and maybe providing some examples e. g. “Can you repeat, please?”, “can you give me an example?”.


A: Hey, can you give those lemons, please?

B: Sorry? I didn’t get that.

A: No problem. I was just asking you to give me those lemons.

B: Oh melons.

A: No, I didn’t say melons. Lemons please.

B: Oh sorry. You meant lemons.

Strategy #5: Asking follow-up questions and making comments

Making comments along with asking questions is a very practical way to check the degrees of involvement in one’s conversation. Again, making the speaker feel that there is an interest in what they say can always come through asking for more details and adding one’s own ideas. Therefore, this is a sure sign that listener wants the speaker to continue talking.

Strategy #6: Watching without sound

This strategy helps learners know certain words and language the speaker might use based on the visual support. Again, the listener uses their schematic knowledge to predict the desirable information to hear. Thus, predicting the topic of the conversation will brainstorm automatically some vocabulary which will be stored in the brain and stay activated as echoed by Loveday (1982) to better understanding of what we hear.

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Strategy #7: Changing the subject

Lack of interest in a topic and comfort for the person being talked with is a valid reason to make the conversation take a different direction. One strategy to change the conversation subject is reintroducing a preceding topic e. g. “that was really interesting what we talked about earlier – could you please tell me more?”. Also, using “yes, but” technique is a good way to set-up a bridge then use “but” to shift to another topic e. g. if you don’t like romantic movies, say “I love romantic movies! But I’m definitely into action movies.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Overview Of Conversation Strategies In Teaching. (2020, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 21, 2024, from
“Overview Of Conversation Strategies In Teaching.” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2020,
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