Dialogue Activities for ESL Classes

Improve Language Skills Through Conversation

Describing People
Describing People. Creative / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Practicing dialogues is a great way for English students to test their skills and develop a better grasp of the language. Dialogues are useful for a number of reasons:

  • Dialogues provide models on which students can base their own conversations.
  • Dialogues force students to focus on language production in a way that helps them practice correct usage.
  • Student-created dialogues can be used to encourage creativity.
  • Dialogues can be used as a basis for listening comprehension exercises.

Using dialogues to help students develop their conversation skills is a common practice in most English classes. There are a number of different ways to go about incorporating dialogues into classroom activities. The suggestions below encourage students to role-play and practice new tenses, structures, and language functions. Once students become familiar with these new language elements, they can then use the dialogues as models to practice writing and speaking on their own.

Vocabulary Exercises

Using dialogues can help students become familiar with standard formulas used to discuss different topics. This is especially helpful when practicing new idioms and expressions. While these expressions might be easy to understand on their own, introducing them through dialogues can help students immediately put the new vocabulary into practice.

Divide students into pairs and give each pair a topic to talk about. Challenge each student to incorporate a few given idioms or expressions into their dialogue before time runs out.

Gap Fill Exercises

Dialogues are perfect for gap fill exercises. For example, take a sample dialogue and delete keywords and phrases from the text.

Choose a pair of students to read the dialogue to the rest of class. Then ask the other students to fill in the missing words and phrases. You can also have students create their own sample dialogues and quiz each other to see how well they can fill in the blanks.

Dialogues for Roleplaying and Acting

Having students write dialogues for short scenes or soap operas helps them focus on correct expressions, analyze language, and develop their writing skills. Once students have completed their scripts, have them act out their scenes and skits for the rest of the class.

Dialogue Dictations

Have students write sample dialogues for popular TV shows such as The Simpsons or The Office. Alternatively, write a script together as a class, and have each student be responsible for a particular character. This exercise gives students time to pay attention to details as the plot moves forward.

Memorizing Dialogues

Have students memorize simple dialogues as a way to help them improve their vocabulary skills. While old-fashioned, this type of rote work can help students build good habits as their English skills improve.

Open-Ended Dialogues

Create sample dialogues that show the words of only one speaker. Then have students complete the dialogues using a list of responses you've provided.

Another variation is to provide only the beginning or end of a sentence for each speaker. Completing this type of open-ended dialogue can provide a bigger challenge for upper-level English learners.

Recreating Scenes

Have students re-create their favorite scenes from different movies. Ask a group of volunteers to act out a scene in front of the class, then compare their version to the original.