Get Them Talking

Kimberly Clifford, Assistant Professor Educator of American Sign Language
University of Cincinnati, Clermont College

Prompts. Conversation Starters. Tasks. Rubrics. Assignments. Goals. Activities.

We strive to think of the perfect informal assessment to include in a lesson to encourage students to converse and use the vocabulary and grammatical features we’ve been learning recently. 

But sometimes, it’s very beneficial to just give them time to converse – to talk, sign, write… about whatever.

Give students time to just have a free conversation. While it may seem intimidating and students may not feel that they know what to talk about, it opens up a door to an opportunity for real-life conversation to occur. Isn’t that what we want?

Even in the first couple weeks of class, students can be challenged to have a little conversation. A couple months in, they have so many more topics to choose from.

Set a timer for one minute, two minutes, five minutes or more, depending on the level and give them just one direction: Have a conversation.

This works well when you encourage them to pair up with someone new, not just the person who sits nearby.

Though my students have expressed some discomfort when I tell them to converse without English for a certain period of time, they find that they are able to do it and it increases their confidence overall. When they are in a place of not knowing for sure what to say and how to say it, they take risks. That’s when real learning occurs! It’s a beautiful thing to watch!

Take a couple minutes this week in your class to try it out.