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Compelling Conversations for English Teachers, Tutors, and Advanced English Language Learners

  1. Conversation Tip #10: Know when to wrap-up

    November 22, 2014 by Eric
    Eric

    Jessica Lu, a first-year student at the University of Chicago, interned for Chimayo Press and the Compelling Conversations blog through the summer of 2014. Over the months, she has perused ESL textbooks, analyzed newspaper articles and tested out mobile apps, seeking out ways to inspire discussion. Each week the Compelling Conversations blog will publish one of her top 10 tips to create compelling conversations outside of the English classroom.

    Ending conversations and looking forward to new ones!

    conversation tip

    Photo Source: Pixabay

    “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

    -Walt Disney (1901-1966) American business magnate, animator, producer

    Every conversation, no matter how enjoyable, must come to an end for practical reasons. Life moves on and certain discussion topics are exhausted. Yet sometimes, it’s difficult to know when and how to wrap-up a conversation.

    Students must understand the importance of contextual clues. When conversation partners constantly check the time, tap impatiently or display preoccupation, it’s a good time to ask what’s on their mind or if they need somewhere to be. Sometimes people will continue on conversations, out of politeness, when they’re already late to their next appointment!

    It’s also worth noting that sometimes, there is simply nothing left to say. When the same sentences are repeated or people aren’t comfortable going into more detail, it is time to move onto a new subject. For instance, the question “What did you do this weekend?” can only generate so many stories and comments. After a while, it may be best to move onto something more interesting.

    Ending conversations should be viewed positively! It opens up the opportunity for future engagements and keeps the subjects fresh.

    Do your students know when to wrap-up conversations?

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  2. Conversation Tip #9: Ask questions

    November 15, 2014 by Eric
    Eric

    Jessica Lu, a first-year student at the University of Chicago, interned for Chimayo Press and the Compelling Conversations blog through the summer of 2014. Over the months, she has perused ESL textbooks, analyzed newspaper articles and tested out mobile apps, seeking out ways to inspire discussion. Each week the Compelling Conversations blog will publish one of her top 10 tips to create compelling conversations outside of the English classroom.

    Questions keep the conversation flowing

    conversation tip

    Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

    “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”

    -Voltaire (1694-1778) French Enlightenment Writer

    Asking questions always generates more conversation; after all, an answer always follows. As mentioned before, asking questions provides a quick way to find common interests with people. Questions like “What is your favorite restaurant?” or “Do you like action movies?” could lead to hours of discussion.

    Additionally, most people enjoy answering questions about themselves, so long as they are appropriate. For instance, in certain countries like the United States, asking a casual acquaintance about their job is suitable, but asking about their weight is not. Knowing the boundaries of what questions to ask is an essential conversation skill–and it can take some practice for language learners.

    For instance, consider these five taboo subjects to avoid asking about in too much detail:
    1. Personal health or medical details
    2. Financial specifics, including salary
    3. Racial or ethnic identity
    4. Age or weight
    5. Religious or political affiliation

    Questions, however, can be helpful with clarification of previously mentioned items. If a student forgets a certain detail or wants advice, they can ask for the answer!

    Students should be mindful not to ask too many questions. The conversation should not be an interview. Questions guide the conversation, but they are just one out of many types of statements that can be made.

    What do you ask your students? What do they learn from asking questions?

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    Photo By Ananian (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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  3. Conversation Tip #8: Engage in the surrounding world!

    November 8, 2014 by Eric
    Eric

    Jessica Lu, a first-year student at the University of Chicago, interned for Chimayo Press and the Compelling Conversations blog through the summer of 2014. Over the months, she has perused ESL textbooks, analyzed newspaper articles and tested out mobile apps, seeking out ways to inspire discussion. Each week the Compelling Conversations blog will publish one of her top 10 tips to create compelling conversations outside of the English classroom.

    Immersion in literature, current events, arts stimulates conversation

    conversation tips

    Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

    “When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.”

    -Walt Disney (1901-1966) American business magnate, animator

    Are your students sometimes unsure of what to talk about? Perhaps they could bring up this morning’s headlines, last week’s bestseller or Friday’s new film release. Students engaged with the surrounding world equip themselves with conversation topics automatically. After all, conversations are learning experiences–why not encourage students to enhance what they can teach others?

    Keeping aware improves the possibility of connecting with someone else. For instance, when everyone at the office wants to discuss President Obama’s latest press statement, those who haven’t seen it will have less to contribute. Reading new books, visiting new art displays and seeing new films further shapes opinions. If students don’t want to engage with the surrounding world, how can they possibly want to engage with others who do?

    What do your students like to do? How do they share their passions in their conversations?

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    Photo By Juanedc from Zaragoza, España [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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  4. Conversation Tip #7: Appreciate silence

    November 1, 2014 by Eric
    Eric

    Jessica Lu, a first-year student at the University of Chicago, interned for Chimayo Press and the Compelling Conversations blog through the summer of 2014. Over the months, she has perused ESL textbooks, analyzed newspaper articles and tested out mobile apps, seeking out ways to inspire discussion. Each week the Compelling Conversations blog will publish one of her top 10 tips to create compelling conversations outside of the English classroom.

    Accept–and enjoy–the inevitability of silence!

    “Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.”

    -Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher

    Pauses in conversation occur frequently, and often naturally. When first meeting new people, students may feel inclined to always fill up the conversation. Americans, too, often feel the need to make small talk when uncomfortable, like in elevators or DMV lines. Though these attempts have good intentions, silence should not be feared! Silence is a natural part of conversation, letting the speakers take a break and reflect. No one expects the conversation to flow endlessly–nor would this necessarily be desired!

    When the conversation stops at a natural part, students can take the time to reflect on whether to add on to what has been said, transition into a new topic or let the other person decide the flow of conversation. If there seems to be nothing left to say, a question functions as a smooth transition–as long as it is somewhat relevant and within the boundaries of the relationship!

    How do your students feel about silence in conversation?

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  5. Conversation Tip #6: As always, consider context

    October 25, 2014 by Eric
    Eric

    Jessica Lu, a first-year student at the University of Chicago, interned for Chimayo Press and the Compelling Conversations blog through the summer of 2014. Over the months, she has perused ESL textbooks, analyzed newspaper articles and tested out mobile apps, seeking out ways to inspire discussion. Each week the Compelling Conversations blog will publish one of her top 10 tips to create compelling conversations outside of the English classroom.

    Context determines boundaries of conversation

    “Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners.”

    -Laurence Sterne (1713-1768) Anglo-Irish novelist

    How wonderful that there are so many possible relationships to cultivate through conversation! Students, too, must appreciate the variety of things to talk about with every person in their family, classroom and community. However, as always, context counts, and students must be mindful of it when having conversations.

    Students must understand the nature and depth of their relationship. Consider the topics they might bring up with friends, like sports, movies, and weekend plans. Compare and contrast these with what would be appropriate to discuss at length with a teacher. Secrets entrusted to long-time family friends might not be so safe in the hands of a new acquaintance! Bringing up religion might not mix so well with the grocery store cashier, even though it’s more than welcome Sunday morning at church. Boundaries must be recognized and not overstepped when making conversation.

    All students, whether international or not, should be wary of differing cultural boundaries. Some cultures are more open than others about certain topics, and sometimes even appropriate body language varies greatly. For instance, in some Mediterranean countries, a head nod means “no,” in some Asian communities eye contact reflects disrespect and many middle Easterners prefer soft handshakes, considering them less aggressive. The best approach remains picking up contextual clues.

    What types of relationships and conversations do your students have? How can they pick up context clues regarding cultural and other boundaries?

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  6. Conversation Tip #5: Search for common interests

    October 18, 2014 by Eric
    Eric

    Jessica Lu, a first-year student at the University of Chicago, interned for Chimayo Press and the Compelling Conversations blog through the summer of 2014. Over the months, she has perused ESL textbooks, analyzed newspaper articles and tested out mobile apps, seeking out ways to inspire discussion. Each week the Compelling Conversations blog will publish one of her top 10 tips to create compelling conversations outside of the English classroom.

    Finding commonalities sparks conversations

    conversation tip

    Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

    “Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”

    -Albert Camus (1913-1960), French novelist and Nobel Prize winner

    We can learn a great deal from our conversations, even about our own interests and hobbies! Finding a commonality generates fantastic interaction because both sides possess enthusiasm over the subject. Potential topics could stem from several categories, such as literature, sports, movies or pastimes.

    What’s a good way to find out what you have in common with someone else? Ask questions! Encourage your students to inquire about favorites, dislikes and other types of opinions with each other. You might be pleasantly surprised to find out what they share with others!

    What have your students shared about themselves? What do they share in common with each other?

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    Visit www.compellingconversations.com

    Photo Source: “Elliott Bay Books – author reading 01A” by Joe Mabel – Photo by Joe Mabel. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Elliott_Bay_Books_-_author_reading_01A.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Elliott_Bay_Books_-_author_reading_01A.jpg

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