Pragmatics and turn-taking

Goals

  • Identify the place of turn-taking in spoken conversation.
  • Analyse some examples of turn-taking in real spoken conversation.

Lesson Plan

The Activity pages appear in the menu entitled 'This Unit' in the upper right corner of this page. Each Activity page includes a video interview. If you like, you can try this lesson with any other interview or dialogue you would like to use.

Prepare your students by distributing the handout, which can be downloaded from the bottom of this page and printed. The handout first asks the following preparatory questions. These questions can be discussed with the entire class. Alternatively, a 'think, pair, share' exercise may be useful, in which students think about each question individually and write down some notes, then share their ideas with their neighbours, and then present their ideas to the class.

  • Do we always take turns when we engage in conversation?
  • When are we more likely to take turns, and when are we less likely to take turns?
  • What happens when people don't take turns, and instead talk over each other, while engaging in conversation?
  • Are there friendly ways and unfriendly ways that people can speak over each other, at the same time?
  • What happens when people don't take turns, and instead say nothing, while engaging in conversation?

The handout then lists a series of questions that students should consider in relation to each video, including the following:

  • How equal is the turn-taking in the video dialogue?
  • How long are the turns for each participant?
  • How does A get B to respond? Have a look at the different techniques.
  • How often do the two speakers overlap or interrupt each other? Does this tell you anything about the relative power of the speakers?
  • When analysing what is going on in these dialogues, what do you make of the ways in which each speaker responds to the other?
  • How often do speakers go silent? What is communicated by their silences? 

After the students have read through the questions, play the videos. Once the videos have ended, and students have completed their notes, discuss each question in turn. Again, you might try either a 'think, pair, share' approach, or a full class discussion from the outset.

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