Conversations in Class


Authors : Stephen Richmond et al.

ISBN : 978-4-904147-01-6

Price : ¥2400 + taxes

Presentation of the textbook
Teacher’s kit :

teacher’s book
+ audio CD

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Conversations in Class

Conversations in Class is a conversation textbook designed for low-intermediate Japanese university students who have studied English for six years or more but have never had an actual real-time conversation.
These students have all learned patterns such as “Have you ever…?” or “How often do you…?”, but have rarely put them into practice in the context of meaningful conversations. Simply doing that will be a big step for them. They need to reactivate their knowledge and move quickly into speaking practice.

Overview of the textbook (5 min)


“ The material suits the level of my students, and the topics suit their interests. The basic grammar patterns suit the less skilled ones and the One Step Further allows the more experienced ones to get what they need. ”

- Kathleen Riley, Tamagawa City University

“ I have found Conversations in Class to be very effective in my university-level classes. Students are producing lively and engaging conversations, and succeeding with the course. ”

- David Latz, Shimonoseki City University

“ I chose to use Conversations in Class because it tackled those minor grammar mistakes that Japanese students continue to make after eight years of English study. I like that the book revises what they know already, and adds more complicated structures, gradually building on what they already know. It builds on the positive and brings out their self-confidence. ”

- Karen McAllister, Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts

“ The new Conversations in Class improves on an already useful and instructive textbook. The toolboxes are easier to use and the units are laid out more intuitively. By presenting students with basic building blocks of simple, natural conversations, and the strategies to expand these in meaningful and personal ways, I have found that the new CiC really gets my students talking! ”

- Martin Meadows, Nayoro City University
Frequently Asked Questions
1) How is this textbook different from others?
Conversations in Class differs from other oral communication texts primarily in the three following ways:

1. Each unit revolves around a topic of daily life. Students can quickly get to the stage of talking about their lives, and that is something they really enjoy.

2. Each lesson is centered on a basic structure, which is presented simply and graphically by way of the Toolbox. In addition, the Vocabulary Boxes and the “Vary the Way You Speak” sections allow students to then create many meaningful sentences. This combination of simplicity and flexibility is what brings about something rare in Japanese classrooms: students actually have interactive conversations!

3. Simple yet powerful pragmatic strategies are introduced and practiced. These have a profound effect on how students sound while speaking English. They help students avoid making the kinds of mistakes which typically hinder conversation, such as long silences, overly short answers, and over-reliance on a question-answer speaking pattern.

2) Isn’t the English too easy for the students?
Students have probably studied English for a long time, and some of the grammar and vocabulary in this book will already be familiar to them. However, many students have not been able to actually use what they have learned in real conversations, where they are called upon to speak almost automatically, without thinking. Achieving this level of automaticity requires a lot of practice, both with classmates and the teacher. So while the material in this book may appear simple, practicing it thoroughly will allow students to get from the stage of knowing English to the stage of being able to actually use it for real conversation.
3) What kinds of teaching contexts is this textbook appropriate for?
・Teaching genuine low-intermediate students
These students have all learned patterns such as “Have you ever…?” or “How often do you…?”, but have rarely put them into practice in the context of meaningful conversations. Simply doing that will be a big step for them. They need to reactivate their knowledge and move quickly into speaking practice.

・Mixed-level classes
In many Japanese university classes, levels of both ability and motivation vary widely. The “One Step Further” extension material allows more advanced students to remain on task until the end of class.

4) How do I introduce new content?
The textbook’s original Toolbox format is designed to make introducing new content fast and efficient, so that as much time as possible can be spent on pair practice. Introducing new content can be done in four simple steps:

1. The Toolbox: This box graphically shows the main grammar structure for each part of a unit.

For a fast class: Simply play the bilingual audio track to the class. Two minutes later, students will have grasped the basic grammatical structure, meaning, and pronunciation of the featured patterns. You are then free to spend class time as you choose.

For a thorough class: Use a warm-up activity from the Teacher’s Book before practicing the main grammar.

2. Vocabulary boxes: These provide more variation for questions and more detail for answers.

For a fast class: Play the audio track and have students practice pronunciation and learn the meaning of the words.

For a thorough class: Before playing the audio track, have students look over the words (either alone or in pairs) and guess at their meanings. They can then compare their answers with the audio track. Next, spend some time brainstorming more possibilities.

3. Vary the Way You Speak: This section encourages students to develop flexibility in their speech patterns by practicing open and closed question forms. For example, if “Where are you from?” is presented in the Toolbox (an open question), now is the time to practice the closed versions: “Are you from Tokyo?” or “Do you come from Kobe?”

For a fast class: Write the open and closed versions up on the board for students to take notes of, or dictate them to the class.

For a thorough class: Give time for students to write the open or closed forms in their books first, then check them all together. You can also make time to brainstorm various other possibilities. Another idea is to create short exchanges that feature the open and closed forms in a natural way. Students can then practice these while substituting in the words from the Vocabulary Boxes:
A: So, where are you from?
B: I’m from Melbourne, in Australia. How about you? Are you from Tokyo?
A: No, I’m from a city called Takayama. It’s in the center of Gifu Prefecture.
B: I see.

4. Listening: The Listening section provides students with a chance to hear the rhythm and intonation of natural conversational English, both of native speakers and Japanese learners. The dialogs themselves also provide students with additional variety of comprehensible input they can use when conducting their own conversations.

For a fast class: Play the audio track three times, giving students a chance to write in the missing words. Go over the answers together as a class.

For a thorough class: After listening and filling in the missing words, students can read the dialog in pairs a few times, then try their hand at answering the questions for themselves.

5) How do I adapt this textbook to my own teaching style and context?
Conversations in Class was designed to make it flexible to use in a number of different ways and to compliment your own particular teaching style. Understanding the book’s layout will help you adapt it to your needs.

Each unit consists of linguistic content divided into three lessons, Parts A, B, and C. Each lesson is designed to provide between 30 and 45 minutes worth of class-time material. If your classes are 90 minutes long, you could cover a unit in three lessons:
 ・Lesson 1: Parts A & B
 ・Lesson 2: Review A+B; Part C
 ・Lesson 3: Review A, B, & C; Assessment activity (speaking or writing test)

Alternatively, if you wanted to cover the material in more depth, you could spend one class on a single part and include your own choices of extra material, such as warm-up activities or review exercises.

Each unit also contains a page of review Exercises. These can either be given to the students to do on their own (such as when conversation tests are being given during class time), as homework, or done with the entire class as a review activity.

Finally, the One Step Further section in each unit contains optional material designed for more advanced students to access on their own. Students can use the new vocabulary and phrases to extend their pair-practice and improve their conversations.

In summary, how you go about using Conversations in Class will depend on the particulars of your teaching context. We hope you enjoy incorporating the book’s flexible scope and sequence into your teaching style.

6) What are the “Sounding Natural” units all about, and how do I teach them?
There are two four-page “Sounding Natural” lessons, found after Units 1 and 2 respectively. The primary aim of these sections is to cover three basic but essential pragmatic strategies (dubbed “the three golden rules”) that will help students gain a deeper understanding of how culture influences conversation style. With greater awareness of some key differences between Japanese and English speaking patterns, students can avoid situations that would otherwise inhibit successful communication. These lessons are designed to be informative and interactive, with space for students to:
– brainstorm (in pairs or groups)
– take dictation (of key points)
– write their own original conversations (to practice and demonstrate comprehension of the ideas and skills)

Depending on your students’ English ability (and your Japanese ability), the lessons can be taught in a number of ways:
– If your students are able to follow the class in English, you can teach it as is, providing extra explanation and examples as necessary.
– If your students would not be able to follow the class in English, and you are confident in your Japanese ability, you can give explanations in Japanese (see Japanese notes in the Teacher’s Book).
– If your students would not be able to follow the class in English, and you cannot speak enough Japanese to explain, simply play the Japanese audio tracks provided in the Teacher CD.

No matter how you teach these lessons, be sure to review them any chance you get. While the concepts are easy to pick up for most students, it takes time before they can be used automatically without thinking. Along these lines, you can use the Listening dialogs in each part to point out instances of each Golden Rule.

7) How do I assess my students?
Assessment is an important tool for helping students improve their speaking ability. In Japan, many university students appear demotivated because they do not see any point to learning English- why bother when there is such little need to actually use it? Testing provides a way for teachers to give students that reason and thus serves as a good extrinsic motivator. Students will practice English more readily if they know they will be tested on their ability to create smooth and natural conversation. So the question remains: how best to test? Here are some ideas:

Give a speaking test
One effective way is for the students to come before you, the teacher, either one on one, in pairs, or in groups of three or four. Set up a task for them to complete, such as talking for a few minutes about a particular topic while making sure to incorporate a required list of vocabulary. You can either interact with them or sit back and observe. Create a simple tally sheet to keep track of required content, then provide a score and feedback afterwards. Meanwhile, other students are either practicing or working on some related English assignment (such as the Exercises page from the textbook, another handout you’ve prepared, or reading a graded reader).

Give a writing test
If conducting speaking tests is impractical for whatever reason, consider giving an assessed writing task to pairs of students. In this approach, pairs of students collaborate on writing out a single conversation that includes a pre-established list of required elements, such as a greeting, closing, Q&A patterns from the unit, and examples of the Three Golden Rules. Student A writes their part, then passes the paper to Student B, who writes their response. The result is an effective assessment of ability that doubles as a productive learning experience, one that promotes collaborative, interactive learning. Once dialogs are written, students can practice reading them with proper rhythm and intonation. Once they are confident, they can read their creation to you. With a transcript in hand, it is then easy to provide specific feedback on particular points.

To summarize, assessing your students’ English conversation ability will help them improve more quickly and improve the quality of the way they practice. Each idea outlined above has its advantages and limitations. They can also be adapted to meet the specific needs of your teaching context. If you have further questions, feel free to contact us at

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