Just like any endeavor, successful conversation clubs require some careful thought and planning to meet the needs of the adult learners seeking to improve their listening and speaking skills.
The design should grow from the needs of the participants and your motivation for forming the club:
- Is it a request from existing learners already active in your literacy program?
- Is it an idea coming from tutors who see a need for their learners to get more conversation practice?
- Do you need a way to keep learners on your waiting list connected to the program in a productive setting?
If you are meeting the needs of existing learners, be sure to ask them what they want to practice specifically. Are they focused on life skills English, current affairs or grammar in use? The content of your sessions should reflect their preferences. It will also be feasible to have sessions with a start date and end date that build on one another.
If it is to help your learners on the waiting list start their learning before they are matched with a tutor, you should consider an open-ended, open-enrollment, drop-in model for the club. This will require the facilitator to create stand-alone sessions with a different topic for every meeting. It will also require skill in facilitating multi-level sessions with learners of varying skill levels.
For any model, adult learners will appreciate having the chance to master and practice specific skills, whether it is life skill dialogues, grammar in use, or pronunciation. This can be achieved with learning activities in which there is two-way interaction, time within the session to allow learners to plan what they might say, and a task with a closed solution or end product.
Within the session, the facilitator can rely on a set procedure no matter what the topic:
- Announce the topic
- Present vocabulary and allow for practice
- Model the learning activity
- Create pairs/small groups to do the activity
- Walk through the room to offer help, monitor work flow and clarify the task
- Have learners report back to the whole group
Meeting the needs and expectations of your adult learners is the best way to ensure attendance and gains in skill levels.
If you would like to see the full “Conversation Clubs” webinar hosted January 22, please click here.