Compelling Conversations logo

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

  1. 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?

    Ask More. Know More. Share More.
    Create Compelling Conversations.
    Visit www.compellingconversations.com

    Share

    Comments (1)


  2. 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?

    Ask More. Know More. Share More.
    Create Compelling Conversations.
    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

    Share

    Comments (3)


  3. Conversation Tip #4: Carry a respectful tone

    October 11, 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.

    Pair your words with a respectful tone

    conversation tip

    Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

    “Beautiful tone, beautiful heart.”
    -Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998) Japanese violinist, creator of the “Suzuki Method”

    Proper tone is essential for the effective conversationalist and communicator, after all, having a good conversation seems unattainable without clear, mutual respect. A student’s conversation partner may find them impolite or insincere if the tone isn’t appropriate!

    Different situations also demand different tones. A happy occasion calls for enthusiasm while a sad one calls for sympathy. Using the appropriate tone lets the other person know that you’re paying attention and that you care about the conversation at hand.

    Tone also acts as a clear indicator of meaning, more so than words. For instance, carrying a sarcastic tone alerts the listener the statement should not be taken literally. Native English speakers especially tend to use sarcastic more frequently than what English language learners expect!

    Ask More. Know More. Share More.
    Create Compelling Conversations.
    Visit www.compellingconversations.com

    Photo Source: “Tennis shake hands after match” by kance – http://www.flickr.com/photos/kentmercurio/59629166/. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tennis_shake_hands_after_match.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Tennis_shake_hands_after_match.jpg

    Share

    Comments (2)


  4. Search and Share exercises enhance learning resources

    October 10, 2014 by Eric
    Eric

    Explore with Search and Share worksheets

    search and share

    Photo Source: Photo taken by Nicola Sapiens De Mitri

    “In any field, find the strangest thing and then explore it.”

    -John Archibald Wheeler (1911-2008) American theoretical physicist

    We live in a world full of wonderful resources from books to television to the internet. These resources remain invaluable to encourage our students to immerse themselves in the English language. Think of the conversations that can arise as a result!

    Search and Share exercises, otherwise known as Webquests, present themselves as popular tools for many teachers. Compelling Conversations has developed some of their own, which can be found here. These worksheets allow students to record what resources they used and what aspects to look out for. The questions accompanying each activity allow the student to reflect on the “search” aspect, and also serve as perfect conversation starters when students “share” with one another.

    Note the variety in the approach of these wonderful exercises. For instance, students may be looking out for body language, comparing with a video in their native language, hidden meaning or parallels to their own lives. They no longer have to dread filling out tedious, repetitive worksheets.

    I like to use these worksheets for Tedtalks, New York Times articles and of course, to accompany the chapters of Compelling Conversations. Do you encourage your students to “search and share?”

    Ask More. Know More. Share More.
    Create Compelling Conversations.
    Visit www.compellingconversations.com

    Share

    Comments (0)


  5. Conversation Tip #3: React appropriately

    October 4, 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.

    Exude interest with body language and facial expressions

    conversation tip

    Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

    “The body never lies.”

    -Martha Graham (1894-1991) American modern dancer

    A conversation composed entirely of just words holds less meaning if there aren’t appropriate reactions and responses. Therefore, body language and facial expressions remain key, as both signal the way words are being absorbed.

    Facing toward the person is just the first step to giving the person full attention. Avoid crossing arms or swaying from side to side–as these movements create barriers that reflect indifference or boredom.

    Further, the face itself portrays our thoughts–remind your students to be aware that their expressions should be appropriate! For instance, an unchanging, unresponsive appearance creates an apathetic vibe even if their words reflect excitement.

    As always, consistent eye contact is crucial, even when walking and talking. Looking at the other person’s eyes conveys interest and therefore adds another layer of connection.

    How do your students react to one another during a conversation? What sort of body language and facial expressions do they use?

    Ask More. Know More. Share More.
    Create Compelling Conversations.
    Visit www.compellingconversations.com

    Photo Source: “VirgilGriffithFace” by Meng Weng Wong – Photo taken by Meng Weng Wong. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:VirgilGriffithFace.jpg#mediaviewer/File:VirgilGriffithFace.jpg

    Share

    Comments (2)


  6. Memrise: online learning tool fuses memory, fun and community

    October 1, 2014 by Eric
    Eric

    Through “mems,” students retain English vocabulary

    memrise

    Photo source: Memrise website

    “We’ve built Memrise to embody the very best knowledge about how your brain works, and so help you learn as quickly and effortlessly as possible. We’ve turned learning facts and language into a game where you grow a colourful garden of memory.”

    -Memrise About Us

    Learning online and through mobile apps transforms the way in which we learn languages. Free resources spring up around us, full of new technologies and innovations. Among these online learning tools, Memrise presents itself as a fantastic, scientifically-backed option for language learning students.

    HOW IT WORKS

    After choosing from hundreds of English courses across various languages, students begin to “plant” the seeds. Each lesson acts as a game, first presenting the vocabulary and later testing the student’s knowledge of the new words. The use of “mems,” or Memrise’s term for “morsels of interesting and relevant information” helps the student to recall learned information. Students can pick their from previous users’ mnemonics, pictures, videos and example sentences, or they can design their own “mem.”

    Following the gardening metaphor, Memrise reminds students every now and then to “water” their memories by reviewing each lesson. By retaining previous performance, Memrise calculates how often to send these reminders and and keeps track of how “planted” a certain item is. Unlike most other learning tools, Memrise claims to tackle both short and long term memory.

    ONLINE COMMUNITY

    The level of participation in Memrise’s active community remains the member’s choice. It may be desirable to join in to discuss courses, share mems and answer questions. However, students can also progress through the lessons without tapping into the forums.

    WEAKNESSES

    As with most online and mobile language learning platforms, a certain critical component remains neglected. Memrise can enrich reading, writing and even listening skills. As always, students must turn to real-life conversations to improve their speaking abilities.

    BOTTOM LINE

    However, as a memory-based, free and attractive online learning tool, Memrise remains a worthy website for English language learners. It seems particularly apt for those students who struggle with memorizing new vocabulary words, make use of mnemonics and learn visually, Memrise can help grow a beautiful garden of language.

    How do your students “mem”-orize new vocabulary?

    To read more about Memrise, visit their website here, or read their Wikipedia article.

    Ask More. Know More. Share More.
    Create Compelling Conversations.
    Visit www.compellingconversations.com

    Share

    Comments (2)