#123 Tapering Dialogues – a pair writing activity

Published on November 25, 2007

=> Tapering Dialogues – a pair writing activity by Mario Rinvolucri
=> Following up Tapering Dialogues
=> In the Next Issues

Tapering Dialogues – a pair writing activity by Mario Rinvolucri

This activity was created by Mario Rinvolucri. (See “Unleashing Writing
Creativity in Students,” English Teaching Forum, Volume 43, Number 4, 2005). It works great! http://exchanges.state.gov/forum/vols/vol43/no4/p42.htm

Allow fifteen minutes, including directions and demonstration.

Students are in pairs. Each student has a piece of paper and writes a 7-word question at the top that he/she would like his partner to answer. E.g. “What’s your favorite musical group or singer?” What’s fun to do when it rains?”

Partners exchange papers. Now each person has a question to answer. This answer should be 6 words. The person will write the answer beneath the question.

Exchange papers again: on the return of his/her own paper, each student writes a five word response, and so on.

Here are two exchanges from a pair of students:

Yoko: The weather’s pretty cold today, isn’t it? (7 words)
Merdan: I don’t think it’s so cold. (6 words)
Yoko: Really? In Japan this’s cold (5 words)
Merdan: Why not wear a sweater? (4 words)
Yoko: Tomorrow I will. (3 words)
Merdan: You should. (2 words).
Yoko: Absolutely. (1 word)

For this to work well, it is wise to make demonstrations. For instance, the teacher can get an outgoing student and the two can do the first tapering dialogue on the border.

Contractions count as one word: “I’m.” “Can’t.” “Won’t,” etc.
Advanced students can really explore English short cuts, like “whaddaya,” “coulda” “wanna,” “gonna,” “d’ya,” etc.

Thank you Mario, for this great activity.

Going Further

Some suggestions for teachers…

Make this a three-way writing task instead of just two… Could it be done? What are the advantage/ disadvantages?
Do you need the 7 words to one-word tapering aspect? Try the activity a second time. This time allow student to make seven sentences of any word length. Ask your students which activity works better.

If you have a laptop with recording software, ask a pair of students to go outside and record their tapering dialog. When they come back in, play the audio file, and have the rest of the class write down the conversation. Then ask what variations could take place with each line. (Recording with your computer’s built-in mic is really easy. Try http://audacity.sourceforge.net/).

© 2007 Kevin McCaughey and I.M. Poosheesty

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