On Saturday, October 15, 2022, I joined hundreds of other keen language teachers at the tenth annual AJS (Asociace jazykových škol) Conference where we shared modern approaches to teaching and learning languages.

I was pleased to present my methodology to teachers at the conference, in my workshop titled “It’s Not Just Talking! – How to create impactful conversation lessons” (Click here to access a pdf of my presentation, and if you’re interested in winning one of five half-price spots at my next teacher training course, keep reading!)

The audience was fantastic, engaging with each other and with me as we tacked issues of:

  • student-autonomy and how the student ‘drives’ the lesson
  • creating and holding a safe space for student learning
  • foundational skills for teachers, such as error correction, CCQs (concept-checking questions), providing “just-in-time” grammar instruction

In presenting my method to the audience, I revealed the “secret sauce” of The Plant Method:

  • lots of revision, mostly using pictures (as pictures activate different parts of the brain)
  • assigning excellent and interesting homework (in cycles of create and consume)
  • having fantastic backup topics ready

We didn’t have time to do one of the activities I had prepared. At the beginning of the workshop, I had the teachers work in small groups to describe their personal experience (ideally in childhood or adolescence) with one of the following objects:

conker/ horse chestnut

In the activity I had to cut out due to time restraints, we were going to discuss in groups a grammar point that could be related to the conversation about these objects. For example, an English B2 level language learner could receive a “bite” of grammar about how to use ‘used to’ and ‘would’ to describe past habits and routines. What other grammar could you have reinforced?

Need a backup topic? Please, stop using favourite. Erase it from your brain! There are many other brilliant topics out there, even for beginners!

As an example, here are some of my more recent conversation topics with my learners:

  • Autumn colours and activities (such as mushrooming)
  • NASA’s next moon-shot and the Artemis project
  • Productivity and efficiency at work
  • Swear words in a foreign language, how to learn the limits
  • Fears and phobias – what makes your skin crawl?
  • What’s your dream car and why
  • The pros and cons of off-grid living
  • What makes a great team leader (and a bad one)
  • Talent, skill, or just hard work to learn anything?

What topics have you been using in your classes to generate conversation? Remember, free production (production of language not linked to formulas or worksheets) is a great way to catch errors and encourage self-confidence.

To wrap up this post, let me say how much I enjoyed preparing for this workshop, and I’m so pleased that the large audience interacted so well with me! I’m looking forward to your comments and ideas – let’s start a dialogue!

And for teachers interested in learning more, there are still ten discounted spots available in my teacher training course. Send me an email (jen.hill@theplantmethod.com) to share your interest with me and we can talk about the details.

And once again, here are the slides from Saturday’s presentation:


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