The Internet TESL Journal

An Activity for Teaching ESL/EFL Students to Make Quick Replies

Gerard Counihan
profesorSs [at]

A typically native utterance is the one that comes off the top of the head, without much thought given to it. This type of expression could well come under the heading of "small talk", and a common example is "Great weather, isn't it".

The idea of this activity is to get the students to reply as naturally as possible to a relatively empty comment or statement like above. Their reply will lack in formal correctness, because that is not the aim of the class. (Much native-native banter is said to be formally incorrect). Another very important factor to tell them is that their reply does not have to be a logical follow-up remark; they should say the first thing that comes into their heads. By saying the first thing that comes into their heads, they are actually behaving collaboratively with the initial speaker. To this end, the reply should also be quite short, although there are no hard and fast rules when people's personal interpretations are involved.

The Rejoinders & Replies Activity

Tell the students that they are with friends in, say, a cafeteria. It is a cloudy day outside and there is a lull in the conversation. Someone is reading a paper, another person could be day-dreaming, and another people-watching. Silence reigns, and then one of the group says something, which is not directed at anyone in particular, off the top of his head.

The teacher can utter the following remarks with the tone he sees fit. He can direct the utterance at the students one by one, or at the group of students, but all the students must then reply.


In summary, encourage:

The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. IV, No. 11, November 1998