How to teach a dialogue to beginners in primary school and at preschool

children in dialogue on phones
06 Sep Shelley Vernon No Comments

An ESL teacher asked me how to teach a dialogue to her primary school students. Since her students have very little vocabulary, and poor pronunciation, she does not know where to start.


Teaching a language is like building. Imagine you are building a house. To build it you need bricks. With the bricks and cement, you construct the walls. A dialogue is like a house. It is made up of individual words (like the bricks). Those words make sentences (like the walls). The finished house is the dialogue.


With this in mind start by teaching the vocabulary words in your dialogue. I use games for this, starting with listening games like Jump the Line, and moving to speaking games. You might think that you aren't getting anywhere, but these steps are necessary. Consider that you are building good foundations for your house!


Next introduce short phrases or sentences from the dialogue and drill them. Always start with listening games to drill these so students hear them repeatedly before you expect them to say them.


Release students to rehearse in pairs. Do some reading and writing tasks with the dialogues. If students are allowed to invent the last two lines of the dialogue, that could be interesting, but it would be too slow to implement with complete beginners unless you have very small groups. Reading puzzles are great, as is a game like Find a Friend where students each have a part of the dialogue. They have to find another student who has the previous sentence.

children miming dialogues in pairs

Game to rehearse the dialogue as a class: Now you have worked with the dialogue a fair bit, try this. Put students into teams. Some students stand and mime the dialogue, silently. They act it as best they can, making gestures but never speaking. When the teacher claps students stop miming. The other teams have to say the next line to be delivered. This sort of activity can seem intimidating for students to start with, but they will soon get used to it. Give a good demonstration with one of the better students so the class understands the task. This activity is interesting because all students are engaged at once. Students have to mentally follow the dialogue, which helps fluency, even though they aren't actually speaking.


If you try that, do let me know how it goes! I'd love to hear about it.


If you can make the dialogue somewhat interesting or dramatic, so much the better.   Try using my plays and skits, or extracts from them.  The dialogues are repetitive and use limited vocabulary, making them ideal for beginners.


If you don't have my games books, you'll find lots of games to help you teach vocabulary and sentences, so you can build towards dialogues. This primary school age games book is perfect, even if you have a large class.


I hope this helps - let me know!


Looking forward to hearing from you again soon.


Kind regards

Shelley Ann Vernon

Teaching English Games

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