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Excerpts fron the Conversation Handbook

Excerpts from the Conversation Handbook,
by the Fall 2003 Class

Things to Remember

Conversation Starters

Keeping It Going

When Things Fall Apart

There are the times when the time does need filling, when the structure one thought one had appears useless, and the students gaze silently at their notes, exchanging nervous smiles with the conversation partner.

Relax, you’re only having a conversation, like any of the hundreds of conversations you’ve had during the past year. There is nothing inherently different about this one. So you might think: what do I usually talk about with acquaintances? If I were at work or school and bumped into someone I knew slightly, what might I ask them about their life? You might simply think of what has happened to you in the last week, and start with that. These are also times when having props can be of great assistance. Pictures, books, items collected on travels can all serve as seeds from which a conversation can grow.

When you feel that you do not agree with the students, do not overreact or argue with them. Students may sound very blunt or rude: usually that is because they have limited vocabulary or are still in the process of learning expressions.

Try to avoid the use of languages other than English. Begin the discussion group with a disclaimer that only English should be spoken.

Do not panic when you find yourself in the middle of drama. Both tutors and tutees are all human beings and it is possible to have a strong emotional breakdown during the session. Remember that it is absolutely human. If you feel that things are out of hand, seek help from the ESOL instructor.