Watch the video to see 4 3rd-grade junior high school students speaking together, prompted only by ConFluency Card Set 3 cards. In the first part, I asked the students to talk about Christmas and New Years; in the second part, about food. Otherwise, the content is entirely theirs.
Want to teach your students to SPEAK ENGLISH, not just STUDY it? The ConFluency Card activity teaches and practices Conversational Fluency. The activity was chosen by peers for presentation at local and national teachers conferences.
There are 3 sets of ConFluency Cards. Each set has a different language focus (click to download the cards in English & Japanese):
- Set 1- Questions and Answers;
- Set 2- (Set 1 +) Sentences, Negatives & Commands;
- Set 3 (in English)- (Sets 1 & 2 +) Conversation Strategies (small words and phrases that make conversation smoother, easier and more natural, like ‘Uh-huh’, ‘Let me think...’, ‘By the way...’, ‘Really? Cool!’, etc.)
Introducing the cards;
Previewing the students’ conversations;
Testing students’ accuracy in card usage, and;
Practicing card skills, using support activities.
Introducing any card set takes about 15 minutes of class time (click here for a print of the rules, or see the webpage for all related info & downloads). It’s best to have the remaining time (30-35 minutes) for the students to Preview and play with the new card set; the practice time will help them to better remember how to use the new cards. The card skills in Set 2 are basically the same as those in Set 1, except the focus is on sentences, not Q & A. So, Set 1 takes the most time, and practice, for the students to learn. There are prepared rule sheets (Set 1, Set 2) in English and Japanese to give to the students when introducing a new card set.
Previewing the students’ conversation before the card game is very important and avoids time-wasting dead air in the conversations. Letting the students fill-in blanks on a Conversation Primer helps them to ‘own’ the conversation and talk about things of interest to themselves. Importantly, it also let’s the teacher focus the content of the students’ conversations. This activity can be done as homework (to save class time). Or, in the classroom, if the students fill-in blanks on the Conversation Primer, the activity takes 5-10 minutes.
The ConFluency Card Game encourages the fast-pace of natural conversation. It is strongly suggested that teachers choose content for the Conversation Primer that students have studied and practiced several times (ie., review material). This will best insure students’ success with the card game, accuracy in speaking, and progress toward conversational fluency.
To prepare a ‘Conversation Primer’ before class (click here for an example), write questions and sentences with blanks in a way that force students to use the grammar (or other focus) you want to target, but in a way that gives the students some freedom of content choice:
For Card Set 1-
- 2 or 3 Yes/No Questions, some or all with A + 1 Answers (Will you OOO tomorrow?-> Yes, I will. A+1 - I will OOO tomorrow.);
- 2 or 3 Wh- Questions, some or all with A + 1 Answers (What time do you usually OOO? -> I usually OOO at O:XX. A + 1 -But sometimes I OOO at X:OO. )
about 5-6 Sentences:
- 1 or 2 followed by a Yes/No Question (I like OO. -> Do you like OO?);
- 1 or 2 followed by a Wh- Question (I like OO. -> What XX do you like?);
- 1 or 2 followed by a Negative (I can OO. -> I can’t OO.) and/or a Command (I can play OO. -> Play OO!)
- Advanced students can do all-class Brainstorming on the blackboard. Click for more about Brainstorming.
Testing student accuracy in using the cards is also important. It is most easily done by playing CROSSFIRE before playing the card game. Playing CROSSFIRE for 10 minutes before using the ConFluency Cards is usually sufficient. See here for more information about how to play CROSSFIRE.
Practicing the ConFluency Card Game skills can be done most simply and often using a Q-Card, or Janken Conversation Rounds activity. Both of these activities are excellent on-going review activities, and can be done in about 5 minutes. There are other activities that teach and practice the same card skills, as well. For more information, see Conversation Skills, More Activities and Q-Cards.
A Typical ConFluency Class
Using the above activities, we have 3 different ConFluency class patterns: Introducing new cards, Regular play and Single card games. Below are class schedules for each pattern (assuming a 50 minute class):
Introducing new cards:
Introducing new cards: 15 minutes
Previewing (fill-in Primer): 5-10 min.
ConFluency Card Game: 25-30 min.
With this schedule, students should be able to play the card game two, or maybe three, times in a class. Rotate students to make new groups for each card game.
Previewing (fill-in Primer): 5-10 minutes
Accuracy testing (CROSSFIRE): 10 min.
ConFluency Card Game: 30-35 min.
With this schedule, students can usually play the card game 3 times in a class. Rotate students to make new groups for each card game.
Single Card Games:
Single card games can be played in 10-12 minutes. If students are able to prepare Conversation Primers before class, perhaps as homework, or use previously prepared Primers, and have them in their notebooks (students MUST have a Primer), a single card game, without accuracy checking, can be played in about 15 minutes, including starting and clean-up.
Class time needed to become skilled in using each Card Set:
Assuming a single card game finishes in 10-12 minutes, single card games can be played:
- 1-at-a-time in 15 min. blocks;
- 3X in 30 min. (with a prepared Primer); or
- 3-4 times in 50 min. (including class time to complete a Primer).
- Times given are a minimum; depending on student progress.
- 1 time in the full class (50 min.) for Introducing new cards.
- 2 times in 30-50 minute blocks for Accuracy checking. In a 30 minute block: 10 min. CROSSFIRE, 20 min. for 2 card games. Primers prepared before class. In a 50 minute class: See Regular play, above. Primers can be prepared in-class.
- For Card Set 1: 3-9 more card games (see above for times)
- For Card Sets 2 & 3 (each): 3-6 more card games (see above for times).
Regarding small groups playing separate from the whole class:
The original ConFluency Card Games were played (and developed) with 4 students at a time, for 25 minutes, in the school library with the foreign English teacher. Thus, 2 groups of 4 students were able to participate during each 50 minute class; several weeks were required to cycle all of the students into the activity.
This schedule allowed for very direct interaction between the foreign teacher and each student. A separate Accuracy checking activity wasn’t needed. For small classes, in an English Conversation school setting, for example, play in small groups is certainly possible.
As the ConFluency Card activity was developed and refined, it began to be played in the whole class in the patterns described above. As such, a way to check student accuracy, CROSSFIRE, was added to the regular ConFluency class.
May the ConFluency materials help you to feel as fulfilled as I have been, watching my students have fast-paced, fun and real English Conversations!