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Teaching Small Talk: Not a Small Topic


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Here is my small talk presentation from TESOL 2010 in Boston

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Teaching Small Talk: Not a Small Topic

  1. 1. Teaching Small Talk: Not a small topic Bryan Woerner TESOL 2010 - Boston, MA March 25, 2010 – 11:00 AM Boston Convention Center, Room 157A
  2. 2. What is small talk? “Small talk is the biggest talk we do.” – Susan RoAne, What do I say next? • Breaks the ice • Establishes relationships • Leads to “big talk” conversations • Considered polite in American culture TESOL 2010 - Boston, MA
  3. 3. Small Talk Topics Appropriate (generally) • Weather, sports, events, TV, movies, fashion, work, children Inappropriate (generally) • Politics, war, disease, religion, coworkers TESOL 2010 - Boston, MA
  4. 4. Why is it important to English Language Learners? • Language cannot be learned separate from culture • Prevents misunderstanding • Creates a sense of inclusion • Can lead to “big talk” conversations TESOL 2010 - Boston, MA
  5. 5. Small Talk Lesson Design Function Lesson – function is small talk • Follows Hourglass model • Uses authentic language samples • Allows for self- discovery and scaffolded practice TESOL 2010 - Boston, MA
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  7. 7. Lesson Focus: Icebreakers • Sets up the topic of conversation • Draws people into the conversation • “Interest is the cornerstone of interesting.” – Susan RoAne TESOL 2010 - Boston, MA
  8. 8. Warm-up • Discussion about experiences of social discomfort around native speakers • How do you start conversations with people who aren’t your friends/family in your country? What do you talk about? TESOL 2010 - Boston, MA
  9. 9. Language Presentation • Listen to the conversations − How many people do you hear? − What is the situation? − What is the relationship? (Do the speakers know each other?) − Do you think small talk occurred? • Conversation 1 – 2 people, Riding the Metro, Don’t know each other, No Small Talk • Conversation 2 – 2 people, Waiting in line at the store, Know each other, Small Talk Occurred, Topic – The weather • Underline the icebreaker in each small talk conversation TESOL 2010 - Boston, MA
  10. 10. Highlighting – Analysis Grid Ice Breakers Conversation Ice Breaker Situation & Speakers’ Small talk Expression/ Speakers Relationship topic Phrase 1. No Small No Icebreaker Riding Metro Don’t know each other Talk 2. It gets like this every time it Waiting in line Know The threatens to at the store each other weather snow. TESOL 2010 - Boston, MA
  11. 11. Highlighting – Discover the Pattern • Have students analyze data to discover the pattern or rule by answering targeted questions Q: What is the relationship between the icebreaker and the topic? A: The icebreaker initiates the topic Q: What subjects seem to be appropriate topics for small talk when people know each other? A: Topics introduced in dialogues (e.g. movies) Q: What subjects are appropriate when people do not know each other? A: Topics introduced in dialogues (e.g. weather) Q: You can break the ice by asking a question or making a statement. What do you think determines which one to use? Why? A: Speaker’s preference TESOL 2010 - Boston, MA
  12. 12. Controlled Practice – Focus on Accuracy Read through the list of ice breakers and each short dialogue. Select the appropriate icebreaker for each dialogue. Give a reason why you chose the answers you did. There are more phrases than exercises. List of Phrases It is really really cold out there! I wish it would stop raining. 1. Two coworkers, Matt and Lynn are getting ready to leave the office to go home. It is snowing. Lynn: It’s really really cold out there! ____________________________________________________ Matt: “I know. I can’t wait for summer.” Lynn: “Me neither. I don’t like snow at all!” What is the situation? Going home at the end of the day What is the topic? The cold weather TESOL 2010 - Boston, MA
  13. 13. Semi-controlled Practice – Focus on Meaning Read each scenario and look at the accompanying picture. With a partner come up with some small talk topics and icebreakers to introduce those topics. Try and to come up with at least three. You have just helped some tourists from Boston. Since both of you are walking in the direction of the Smithsonian, you tell them to follow you. Next, you and your partner are in this situations. Assign one person to start to “break the ice” and start a small talk conversation. Use the icebreakers you and your partner came up with. Switch roles for more practice. TESOL 2010 - Boston, MA
  14. 14. Communicative Practice – Meaning Communicative Goal • Think about situations in your life where you could have made small talk. Where were they? Who was there? What could you have talked about? • Relates lesson to students lives TESOL 2010 - Boston, MA
  15. 15. Extension – Practice Outside of Class Keep a Small Talk Journal • Record the following information in a journal of small talk conversations you observe or participate in − Where did the conversation take place? − How many people were there? − What was the relationship (as best you can tell)? − What was the topic? − What was the icebreaker? − What else could have been discussed? Why do you think that? TESOL 2010 - Boston, MA
  16. 16. Application to Lower Level Learners • Focus on a Grammar Point – Lesson follows same Hourglass Approach − Beginning level – Expressing opinions using like & don’t Like A: It’s cold outside! B: I know! I don’t like the snow. − Intermediate level – Asking for opinions using do you think A: Do you think the American History Museum is interesting? B: Yes, they have new exhibits this year. TESOL 2010 - Boston, MA
  17. 17. Resources & Tools • American University TESOL − • What Do I Say Next? Talking Your Way to Business and Social Success – Susan RoAne, Warner Books • Developing Dialogue Frames from Authentic Conversations • Olympus Digital Voice Recorders − /cpg_vr_digitalrecorders.asp TESOL 2010 - Boston, MA
  18. 18. Teaching Small Talk: Not a small topic E-mail: TESOL 2010 - Boston, MA March 25, 2010 TESOL 2010 - Boston, MA