Small talk (回転寿司 style!)

This activity is great for conversation practice and can help students to develop their speaking skills. It doesn't require any materials and is suitable for all year groups in SHS.

The idea of this lesson is for students to practice making conversation in English and to improve their confidence in reciprocating conversation.
The plan below is how I usually do it. The time guidelines are a rough idea and can be changed as needed. Once students have completed this lesson the speaking element can be used as a warm up activity.

Warm up - 5 minutes
Write the word 'small talk' on the blackboard. Ask students to discuss it with their partner. What does it mean? Take feedback, asking students to explain their ideas in English. They usually think 'small talk' means telling a short story, whispering or spreading rumours.

Introduction - Explain what small talk is and why it is important. I usually explain that it can be used to help you to get to know people better and that it is about light, easy topics like the weather and common interests, not heavier topics like politics or economics!

Small talk topics and questions - 15 minutes
Ask students to think of small talk topics with their partner. I usually give two examples 'weekend plans' and 'hobbies', and add students' ideas to the mind map. I then choose two topics (usually hobbies and weekend plans) and ask students to think of a question for both topics. E.g: "What are your plans this weekend?" "What are you going to do this weekend?" "What did you do last weekend?" "What are you hobbies?" etc.

The problem with not reciprocating - 5 minutes
Model a bad example of small talk! Before the lesson, I ask the JTE to help me give a bad example by not returning my questions. We do an example where the conversation breaks down because of one person not asking any questions in return. I then ask students what the problems was with the conversation.
Model a good example and stress the importance of returning the question. This is also a good time to give examples of how they can expand their responses.

Instructions - 5 minutes
Choose the conversation topic. I usually go with weekend plans. Explain that the students are going to make conversation with lots of people. To do this, they need to be like conveyor belt sushi. Direct them to stand up and make equal rows. Choose one row from each pair of rows where the student at the front desk will move to the back after the conversation and the rest of the row will move forwards (meaning that they change partners). I sometimes draw a diagram on the blackboard to explain this or physically show them.
If they are a quiet class, I ask them to do Janken so that they know who is going to ask the first question. Depending on their level, you can set a timer from anywhere between 1-2 minutes, then ask them to change partners.

Conversation practice - around 10 minutes

Conclusion/reflection - Once they have returned to their seats, I give praise and any tips for improvement. If there is time, I ask what they enjoyed or didn't enjoy about the activity.

*Credit to the ALT in my area who gave me the idea for this style of conversation practice!

Submitted by mabushii_hikari June 15, 2023 Estimated time: 45-50 minutes
  1. autumnhardesty September 20, 2023

    Such a simple but effective idea! Going to try this today with my small group class.

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