Fun Conversation Building

Niall Walsh, Nanzan Kokusai Junior and Senior High School

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Asking and answering questions, negotiating meaning, language consolidation
  • Learner English Level: All levels
  • Learner maturity: Junior high school to university
  • Preparation time: 30-45 minutes
  • Activity time: 45 minutes-1 hour
  • Materials: Game cards (one set per group of 4-5)

After teaching specific language in class, it can be difficult for a teacher to observe how successful a student is at producing it in a conversation. This activity aims to consolidate language learned through the development of a group-constructed conversation. In groups, students negotiate the meaning of previously learned question forms and appropriate responses to build a conversation. Upon completion, the students perform the conversation in front of the teacher. 


Make sets of between 80 to 100 game cards, one set per group of 4-5 students. Half of the cards should be question forms and the other half short responses and response prompts using English they have studied in class (see Appendices). 


Step 1: Divide the students into groups and distribute a set of game cards to each group. 

Step 2: Students lay all the cards face-up on the table so that all members can see them.

Step 3: The teacher tells students they have 30 minutes to collaborate in their group to develop a conversation with the cards they have been given. The pattern must be question-answer-question. Students must try to use as many cards as possible, and the conversation should flow naturally. Only the ‘free’ card allows students to answer freely.

Step 4: The teacher models an example:

Teacher’s example: (the cards used are in bold)

Student 1: When is your birthday?

Student 2: I’m sorry, I don’t know. Do you know? (gesturing to Student 3)

Student 3: Pardon?

Student 2: Do you know?

Student 3: No, I don’t. Why don’t you check your passport?

Student 2: (looking for passport) Oh, no. I can’t find it. Can you help me look for it? (gesturing to Student 4)

Student 4: Yes, I can. Where did you last have it?

Student 2: ...

Step 5: In groups, students use the cards to construct and write a dialogue.

Step 6: After the allocated time, students read their conversation in front of the teacher and other groups.

Step 7: As the students perform, the teacher listens to the conversations and counts how many cards the students have used correctly while simultaneously providing feedback. 

Step 8: The teacher announces the group who has used most of the cards correctly as the winning group. 


As a follow-up, students can play the game a second time. This time the cards are divided equally among the students in the group. Following the same pattern above, question-answer-question, students initiate a conversation and compete against each other with the aim being to play all of their cards. Turn taking is free, with any student being able to contribute if they have an appropriate card that continues the conversation naturally. The student who plays all their cards is the winner.


This activity worked well and created a fun collaborative environment. It allowed for peer-to-peer correction and for the stronger members in a group to become caretakers to the weaker ones. The peer support in the first conversation allowed the weaker students to gain confidence, especially when it came to the second conversation where students competed against each other. Most importantly, it encouraged the students to produce the language studied in class which allowed the teacher to confirm if they could use the language appropriately and if not, note areas for correction.