The value of mini-dialogues
Mini-dialogues, like short theatre or radio plays, can tell a story or describe an amusing situation. They can also be informative, revealing facts about people or the world. These narrative and informative aspects of dialogues give them intrinsic value. In the mini-dialogue below, for example, our pupils find out about New York City.
From Find Out! 5
A well-chosen or well-written dialogue can provide our pupils with models of useful language. The interview style of dialogue is especially useful for familiarising pupils with the interrogative, affirmative and/or negative forms of a target structure. The pupils can, in turn, use the language to interview each other or the teacher. Acting out mini-dialogues in class offers good reading practice in extended discourse. Moreover, the pronunciation practice afforded by acting out dialogues is infinitely superior to that of drilling isolated words and sentences.
Activities for exploiting mini-dialogues in class
The following activities for exploiting mini-dialogues are simple to manage, require no extra resources and are popular with pupils between the ages of 8 and 12.
Reading with the teacher
If there are two roles in a dialogue, take one of the roles and get the whole class to read the other in chorus. Then change roles and repeat. Pupils enjoy reading with their teacher in this way, and by doing so they get to hear the teacher model both sides of the dialogue before they move on to read it in pairs.
Acting in the manner of the word
To encourage pupils to read and/or act out a dialogue more than once, get them to do it in different ways. For example, Read the dialogue angrily. Act it sleepily. If you don’t want to use adverbs, use adjectives: Be angry. Be very happy.
TIP! Choose your words carefully. Some pupils can get loud and over excited when performing adverbs such as ‘angrily’ or ‘quickly’. Try the adverbs ‘quietly’ and ‘slowly’! One of my pupils’ favourite activities is to act out dialogues in slow motion. Not only is this very calming, it also allows them to slow down their pronunciation and really notice all the words.
Write a mini-dialogue on the board. Get the pupils to read it in pairs. As they get more confident, start rubbing out words and replacing them with chalk lines. Continue until the pupils are reciting the dialogue from memory.
TIP! It is essential to replace the rubbed-out words with chalk lines so that the pupils always know how many words they have to remember. It is also advisable to leave at least one keyword in each sentence.
When you have made a dialogue disappear, challenge the children to reconstruct it in their notebooks. Put them into small groups to do this task co-operatively. Remind them to count the number of chalk lines in order to know how many words they have to write in each sentence.
TIP! Although Disappearing dialogues works well with pupils aged 8-10 years, Dialogue reconstruction is best reserved for older pupils.
Ask pupils to change the words in a dialogue so that the meaning changes but remains logical. Where possible, this substitution should allow the pupils to personalise the dialogue so that it becomes relevant to them.
TIP! Get pupils to write their new version of a dialogue. They can then read it out to the rest of the class, who have to listen for the differences.
Just as pupils sometimes perform songs and plays for their parents or for the pupils of another class, mini-dialogues can also be given as a public performance. Pupils can read the dialogues in front of an audience or, if they prefer, they can try to perform them from memory. This performance stage gives the reading and acting out of dialogues a theatrical purpose and encourages our pupils to really polish their pronunciation.
Pupils’ response to mini-dialogues
My pupils have benefited tremendously from listening to, reading, writing and acting out dialogues in class. They clearly enjoy using dialogues as a resource. In fact, by the time the pupils are around 10 – 12 years of age, they are invariably more enthusiastic about acting out a dialogue than they are about singing a song!