Small talk lesson plan aims at familiarising the students with the concept of small talk and some appropriate ways to overcome socially awkward situations in English. Students work in groups and try to make small talk on a number of topics. It might be used as a speaking activity or a game, where learners are timed and get points depending on how well they manage to engage their partners in small talk. It is a perfect fit for conversation classes.
Start by asking your students to answer three questions about small talk. Do they know what it is? When do they use it? Are they good at it? Then decide together which topics from the list are small talk appropriate (this is a pretty subjective issue and may vary between countries).
The next step involves identifying the Dos and Dont’s of small talk (Dos: a,b,c,g,h,i,k), and deciding whether cues in the table are appropriate conversation openers and why (there aren’t any obviously bad ones here, but encourage your students to look for open-ended questions which have enough potential to keep the conversation going for some time).
Finally, it’s game time. Divide your students into groups of 3; they can either roll the dice and move along the board, or you can cut up the squares and have your students draw topics from a stack. For smaller groups, you might want to blow up the image on the board/computer screen. Each person has got 30 seconds to come up with an opener on a given topic, and others should join in making small talk. Before you play, you might want to go through the list of Useful Expressions.
This has been one of my most successful speaking classes to date. A lot of my adult students admitted they had always dreaded making small talk and never knew how to do it, especially when meeting people from other countries in business context (this game proved especially useful for my in-company students). It was a great activity to work on fluency, appropriate register, asking questions (word order!) and reacting naturally in English.
the board: Small Talk Board Game
the handout: Small Talk
useful expressions list: Small Talk_Useful Expressions