- Keywords: Speaking, active listening, conversation strategies
- Learner English level: Intermediate and above
- Learner maturity: High school and above
- Preparation time: 10 minutes
- Activity time: 10 minutes or more, depending on class size
- Materials: Conversation Starter cards and Conversation Strategies cards.
This activity is perfect for students to practice speaking and active listening using conversation strategies. It allows maximum participation, as students are required to engage in conversations for at least 10 minutes with different partners (or ‘sushis’ in this case), which makes it a good routine warmer for students to kick-off their learning by speaking to their peers one-on-one in a comfortable environment. It’s very easy to prepare, and the difficulty level depends on the type of conversation starters.
Step 1: In terms of classroom arrangement, place two rows of chairs facing each other. The chairs become the ‘Conveyor Belt’ and students are the ‘Sushis.’ Students in one row will be the Speaking Sushis (speakers) while their counterparts on the opposite side will be the Responding Sushis (interlocutors), who use various conversation strategies to demonstrate active listening and keep the conversation going. For a class of 20 students, 10 chairs can be placed on each side, with 10 pairs of students facing each. If the class has an odd number of students, the extra chair should be placed on the side of the Responding Sushis.
Step 2: In terms of materials, prepare 10 to 15 conversation starter cards and conversation strategies cards, depending on the class size. The starter cards provide prompts to get the conversation started. The strategies cards provide ideas for the Responding Sushis to answer the Speaking Sushis in order to keep the conversations going. Cards can be printed on both sides to provide options for students. (See appendices for ready-made Conversation Starter and Conversation Strategies cards.)
Step 1: Arrange the chairs as described in the preparation section.
Step 2: Place each Conversation Starter card on one side of the Conveyor Belt where the Speaking Sushis will be seated. Tell them, “This is a conveyor belt sushi restaurant and all of you are sushis.”
Step 3: Explain that each Speaking Sushi will use the Conversation Starter cards to talk for one minute. Responding Sushis will follow the directions on the Conversation Strategies cards to engage in conversations with Speaking Sushis.
Step 4: Ring a bell after each minute. Every student will then place the card on the chair and move to the next chair. Speaking Sushis should move clockwise, Responding Sushis move counter-clockwise, so they now face new partners. They pick up their new cards, and follow the instructions.
Step 5: Repeat the activity every minute until you are half way through the time you want to spend on this activity, then get students to switch sides so speakers become interlocutors. If time permits, a 20-piece-sushi conveyor belt can take just over 20 minutes for a complete cycle.
Let students decide on the topics they want to talk about by having them create their own conversation starter cards. Once students are used to the procedure, to break the monotony, Conversation Starter and Conversation Strategies cards can be placed at random as long as there are no two students facing each other with the same type of cards.
Conveyor Belt Sushi Conversation is a very good option for students to introduce themselves and get to know each other. The topics on the conversation starter cards resembles those in IELTS speaking test, part 1, hence, it allows teachers to get an immediate sense of a student’s language level and the areas they need to improve. In addition, students feel less intimidated in paired-conversation, hence, it can reduce inhibition and improve speaking performance.
The appendices are available below: