Teaching methods – Conversation classes complete newbies

How to teach conversation to complete newbies?

If you are put in a classroom with students who’ve never spoken a word in English before, and you don’t speak their language. How do you teach conversation to newbies? I can only imagine your frustration even if you’re the most experienced ESL teacher ever. The most important thing you need to realize is no matter what you say they just won’t get it. Here is the method.




Present – Project – Practice (PPP method)
1.You have a few tools that can get your message across. They are visuals and sounds. Use flash cards and bilingual visual tools to build a few words. Usually enough to make a question and simple answers.
2. Then present a conversation. A presentation is extremely important as it sets the language into a context. Repeat the presentation 3 times at least.
3. Project the language. Ask a student the question you have presented and elicit an answer. Do this with 3 or more students.
4. Have two students ask and answer the presented conversation. Repeat this process multiple times.
5. Introduce new words that can fit into the presented conversation. For a 50 minute lesson you should be able to introduce up to 8 variable words. Let me illustrate this with an example.

Target language:
What is it?
It is a car

Step 1 :

Use flash cards to elicit “what” you can use “What is it?” written in a language that they understand. Use flash cards for all the words in the question as well as the answer.Then variables like – Car – Cup – Candle.
1. Show them a flash card that has “What is it?” in English and their language.
2. Show them a flash card that has “it is …” in English and their language.
3. Show them flash cards for car, cup and candle.



Elicit their response when you show them cards a second time.Repeat the process a few times before presenting the two lines together.

Step 2 :

Now present the question and the answer. You can do this by standing on side like you were facing a person and asking a question and then go to the other side as if answering the question.
Present the target language 3 times or more. In this example: “what is it?” “It is a car”.

Step 3 :

Ask the question to a student ” What is it?” while showing “a car” flash card.
Elicit an answer “it is a car”. Ask as many students as you can based on available time.

Step 4 :

Ask a student to stand up using your hands and then ask another student to stand up as well.
Now make the first student ask the question. stand next to him facing the other student and ask the question, the student should be able to understand and follow your lead.
get as many students practice the conversation as possible.
Introduce different variable words like “cup” and “candle” as in this example and repeat the process of students asking and answering questions.

Is this how I do a conversation lesson?

No it isn’t a complete lesson. It should have more components depending on, if the students are familiar with you or not. So if it was your first class with a new set of students. You mustn’t jump straight into teaching. Yes, you must have an ice breaker to get the students comfortable and accept your presence in their space. An ice breaker has to be easy and fun. It need not have any language learning element in it. Usually the icebreaker could last a few minutes.