The Internet TESL Journal

Activities for College Conversation Classes: The Generation Gap and Getting Along with Peers

Natalia F. Orlova
orlova [at]
Herzen State Pedagogical University (St. Petersburg, Russia)

About the Activities

These activities were designed to help students promote their speaking skills, as well as to develop their vocabulary.

The activities presented below not only encourage students to simply "practice" the language in class, but also help them learn something interesting, meaningful and important to them, something they would honestly like to reflect on and talk about.

The Vocabulary development is done with the emphasis not on a single word but on the collocations. This section also provides students with lexical culture embedded/bound items which are taken for granted by native speakers and which present a unique difficulty to EFL students.

The Conversation Practice is designed to stimulate students to speculate, explore and think in English, thus developing their personalities and conversation skills.

Vocabulary Activities

1. Match the words in column A with their definitions in column B.











Generation gap



Growing pains

Latchkey child

Sibling rivalry



To socialize (with s.b.)


Emotional adjustment encountered during stages of development;

A difference in attitude and behavior between older people and younger people, which often causes them to argue;

The desirable state of being away from other people;

Money given by parent to child weekly, often earned by doing chores;

Natural hostility and competition between siblings;

Young child of working parents who spends part of day at home unsupervised;

Independence, ability to control one's own life;

Time, set by parents, at which child must return home, especially in the evening;

Period of growing up, from puberty to maturity;

To spend time with others in a friendly way.

2. Every age is beautiful in its own way. At the same time there are problems typical only for a certain age. Below are some of them. Match them with a particular age period and try to continue the list.

3. Fill in the gaps in the text that follows with the words given in the list. Think up an answer to the question at the end.

Use these words: peers, taken up, commute, grades, glued, salaries, alienation, top, let their hair down

Do you think that parents and children spend less and less time with one another? Children's time is ______ with after-school activities, homework, dating and the rest. Parents are forced to throw themselves into their work in order to provide a family living, give time to ______ to and from work, keep up the house, entertain, and so on. And nearly everyone watches television or is literally ______ to it. As parents and children have fewer and fewer common interests, it makes it difficult for the family to reduce the ______ between each other and give individuals a place where they can ______ think out loud, and be themselves.

At the same time, parents are satisfied when they see their children succeed. They are pleased when their children walk at an early age, talk before their ______ , are better looking than other children on the block, earn good ______ , perform well in athletics, graduate at the ______ of their class, go to college and so on. Is this parental love, parental pride or maybe something else? Do you know?

4. Do you clearly remember your childhood? At least some of its moments? Were you a boisterous child or on the contrary a docile one. Describe either yourself or your smaller sibling using the helpful vocabulary. Self irony is welcome.

Helpful vocabulary: a diffident child, a forward child, an obnoxious child, a precocious child, a brat, a rebel, a tearaway, a tomboy.

5. Parents and children may not see eye to eye on a lot of things. Parents may scold you for the way you wear your hair or for coming home too late. Below are some examples of "misconduct" that may easily make some parents angry. Rank them in decreasing order and continue the list.

6. In American English there are many idiomatic expressions that manifest high respect of the Americans towards such values as independence and individualism. Look up the explanations of the phrases that follow in a dictionary such as the Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture and be ready to discuss them in class. Are there any similar expressions in your native language?

7. Parenting can be stressful. So too can be the role of the child. Below are jumbled pieces of advice for both parents and children. Read and categorize them into groups: "Handling the Parents" and "Calming Down"

Handling the Parents. Calming Down.

  1. Remember, you're no bargain to live with either!
  2. Take a deep breath. And another. Then remember you are the adult.
  3. Close your eyes and imagine you're hearing what your daughter/son is about to hear.
  4. Phone a friend.
  5. Remember, nobody gets everything in the world. There are other people in the world besides you.
  6. Show a little sympathy.
  7. Take a hot bath or splash cold water on your face.
  8. Ask their advice now and then on something big enough to make them feel important.
  9. Learn how to say "I am sorry."
  10. Go out somewhere with your spouse.
  11. Try to work on agreements which will eliminate some arguments in advance.
  12. Communicate with them! Please, just one sentence now and then.

Conversation Practice

1. Discuss the following cross-cultural questions in section A. Then continue with the questions for discussion in section B Work in groups of three and choose someone to report the overall opinion of the group.

Section A.

Section B.

2. Work in pairs. Match the sentences in column A with the ones in column B so as to produce snippets of conversation. Speculate who the participants might be and think of how to continue the conversation.

1. I don't know why I let you convince me to come here. I hate parties.

2. Sally sure likes to talk on the phone.

3. Any plans for the weekend? Maybe we can check a movie or play tennis?

4. Susan told me what you said about my pronunciation.

5. Do you like "Star Trek?"

6. You know I've been on a date with Sheila.

7. Could you help me on Saturday when I move out of the dorm to my new apartment?

8. What is an appropriate gift to take to a friend ÷ a girl for her birthday? I was thinking maybe some flowers?

9. Does your mother criticize you a lot?

10. I don't know how I happened to get a D in algebra. Things just don't come easy for me.

11. Is this movie rated PG (parental guidance)?

a) Don't tempt me. I have to cram for my exam. I take it on Friday.

b) Come on! This is going to be a blast! You'll love it.

c) Not really. I don't watch much TV, and when I do, I usually turn on MTV or The Discovery Channel.

d) I don't know what she told you, but I never talked behind your back.

e) Sure. When would you like me to be there?

f) Are you putting me on? You swore you'd never say a word to her!

g) If only she liked her classes as well.

h) That sounds good. Or you could get something for her hobby.

i) Yes, she always gets on my case, she hates the way I dress and make up.

j) I am not sure but we'd better not let Jack watch it.

k) Perhaps a little less time spent on television and a little more on books might prevent this kind of a thing in the future.

3. Adolescence may lead an individual through a lot of frustration. Failing to get along with peers or not being accepted by the group is a painful experience. Can you recall a situation from your past when you had to act against the majority? What caused it? How did you cope with the situation?

4. Do people see you in the same way as you see yourself? Work with a partner. Write a few lines about yourself and compare what you have written with your partner's description of yourself. Count how many words and phrases from the following list of useful vocabulary you have in common.

Useful vocabulary: to trust somebody; to be impulsive; to be a natural leader; to be quick at making decisions; to be venturesome; considerate, charming, amusing, sensible, sensitive, moody, cautious, shy, indecisive; to be sure of oneself; etc.

5. Read the following dialogues. Say who the participants are, how they are related, how old they might be and what problems they are discussing. What side are your sympathies with? Choose a dialogue to act out.

6. Work in a small group. Consider the following situation.

Mike is almost 20 years old. He knows that his parents take a great deal of pride in seeing him succeed. He has been angry with them for a long time for not accepting him for who he is, for not taking better care of him, and for downplaying any accomplishment that doesn't fit in with their own tastes. He flunks out of college, which embarrasses and worries them.

Think of possible dialogues that might take place between:

7. Interview one of your parents asking the following questions. Be sure to write down the responses.

8. Role-play.

Contradiction between what one wants and what one may afford is a reason for many conflicts. On the one hand, children want their parents to leave them alone and not to interfere with their things. On the other hand, parents feel they have a right to give advice to their children as they care for them and earn the living for the family.

Work in groups of three. Assume the roles of a parent, son/daughter and a consultant. The parent and a child will discuss the problem based on the contradiction mentioned above. The consultant will advise and reconcile the two parties.

The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. VIII, No. 3, March 2002