Teaching Tip #4: Tips on teaching students do turn-taking in conversations

Learning to listen and talk is an extremely important way to broaden knowledge, enhance understanding and build community, and teachers can help students learn this skill. Here are some tips:

  • Use an object, such as a talking stick as a signal for turn-taking. Teach your students that when they have the object, it is their turn to talk or pass while others are expected to listen.
  • Get your students to first speak, and then ask a partner to answer a question. When you ask someone a direct question, you’re forcing them to take their turn. One great strategy is to divide students into pairs to discuss a topic and instruct them to do the following: one student has to get the ball rolling with his/her opinion, then ask his/her partner a question.
  • Use conjunctions and connectors like however, on the contrary or as a result to help students learn to take longer turns. Try this strategy. Write down a list of conjunctions on the board or on a piece of paper. Each student has to say something and then add more information by using a conjunction: I went to the movies last weekend. In fact, I go to the movies every weekend. Cross out this conjunction, thus forcing the other students to use the rest.
  • Another great way to keep the conversation going is by agreeing/disagreeing with what another student has said. Some of the phrases you can teach include I agree/disagree with you, I’m afraid I can’t/don’t agree with you.
  • One of the things that can scare any student is to not know what to say. Long silences are awkward. So teach them useful phrases that act as fillers, thinking words they can turn to when they need time to come up with an appropriate response. Some of these fillers include: Let me see…, Let me think…, The thing is…, What I mean is…
  • Another important skill is being able to avoid being interrupted. If you start by saying, There are three things I would like to show you, then the others will have to wait to hear what those three things are before they can interrupt. Another strategy is to begin the sentence with a clause: Although I …/Even though I…Because they… This will make those who are listening wait until they hear both clauses.


Contributor: Sonali Bhattacharyya


© Oxford University Press