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12.3 Guided Practice

durenmgmail-com November 9, 2021

Guided practice comes directly from controlled practice and will usually be done either in pairs or small groups. Textbooks usually have numerous guided practice activities ready to use. The teacher can utilise objects, pictures, or miming to help the students understand the content and practice the words, such as telling the time, talking about colours, asking the way, etc. Guided practice typically gives the pupils some choice, but the choice of language is limited.

Dialogue and Roleplay work

Working with dialogues is a valuable way to link guided practice and activities with more independence. Controlled dialogue can quickly advance into work that gives students more freedom when they are ready for it.

Putting students into pairs for doing the exchange is a simple way of organising even large classes. Dialogues that require some action or movement are the ones that work best with students that are young children. Intonation is essential too, and children love to play around with this.

Here are a few examples of how to use dialogue in the classroom:

What’s the time?

For this activity, both pupils have clocks with hands that move. The situation could be that Student A’s clock has stopped, and he or she wants to ask Student B the time. This puts the language into context, and the guided practice can shift to a mini-dialogue. The language continues the same, but since Student A has to do something with the knowledge he or she gets, it makes the exercise more meaningful. Here is an example:

  • Student A: What’s the time, please?
  • Student B: It’s five past ten. (Looking at the clock in the book and putting his or her clock to five past ten)
  • Student A: Thank you. (Puts his or her clock to the same time and compares).

Using objects

Exchanges show how bodily movements or objects can make dialogue come alive for young children and give it an enjoyable, communicative purpose.

  1. The day before, the teacher will ask the children to have something special in their pockets for the next day.
  2. During quiet time, the teacher should ensure that each student knows what the word for his or her object is in English.

The children can decide which dialogue they want to follow and go through one or both with as many other pupils as they have time for.

  • A: What have you got in your pocket?
  • B: I’m not telling you.
  • A: Oh, please?
  • B: OK, It’s a frog.


Another way of presenting dialogues is through role-playing. In role-play, the pupils pose as someone like the educator, one of their parents, a shop clerk, etc.

Beginners of all ages can start roleplay dialogues by learning a simple one, off by heart, and then acting it out in pairs. With younger students, teachers can give them a guide first by performing the dialogue with a mascot and getting the students to recite the sentence after them. With older students, the teachers can act it out with one of the more advanced students.


  • A: Good morning. Can I help you?
  • B: Yes, please. I’d like an ice-cream.
  • A: Here, you are.
  • B: How much is that?
  • A: $2. Thank you.
  • B: Goodbye
  • A: Goodbye

The next step is to practice the above dialogue but ask for different things. The teacher can suggest other topics or items to ask for, such as a bottle of lemonade, a bar of chocolate, or a packet of crisps.

If the teacher is introducing ‘a bar, a bottle, or a bag of’ he/she might want to put the ideas on the board, but otherwise, it is not needed. The teacher should clarify that when they are working on their own in pairs, they can ask for things that have not been mentioned and add comments if they want to.

In a real role play, the language used comes from the students themselves, so students will have to be familiar with the language needed before the teacher can roleplay with them. This type of roleplaying is more suitable for more advanced-level learners. The learners’ roles can be given to them orally, but if the learners can read, then it is easier to provide them with written cue cards.

Again, those who want to can keep the information provided. Others might want to move into an exercise that has more freedom and have an entirely different conversation. Most students add a bit more to somewhat real situations. Example,

  • ‘We have had customers complaining about prices.’
  • ‘the shop assistant is trying to sell old crisps.’
  • ‘The lemonade is the wrong colour.’ etc.

Dialogue and role play are useful oral exercises because:

  • Students speak in the first and second person. Texts are often in the third person.
  • Students learn how to question as well as answer.
  • Students learn to use complete short bits of language and to respond suitably.
  • Students do not just use words, but also other parts of speaking a language – tone of voice, stress, intonation, facial expression, etc.
  • Students can inspire natural ‘chat’ in the classroom, making up exchanges about the little things that have happened and engage the children at that time.

At first, these communications will be a bit one-sided, possibly taking place among the teacher and the mascot at the very start. However, suppose the classroom environment is comfortable and nobody bothers too much about formal mistakes or using the mother tongue now and then. In that case, even beginners can have great fun working with the little language they know.