Title: 500 Grammar based conversation questions with explanations of grammar points
Authors: Larry Pitts
Publisher: ESL Conversation Questions Publishing
Year of publication: 2015
Companion resources: NA
Source: Print copy bought from Amazon India
What really attracted to this book was the caption “Conversation questions designed to elicit the thirty most common grammar points”. I increasingly find myself in situations where I need to answer the question “how can I elicit this target language?’
500 Grammar based conversation questions is a large book in terms of dimensions but it’s fairly slim both in terms of its page count and contents. It has lists of questions prefaced by a brief explanation of the target language. In principle, this could still be invaluable to new teachers. However, almost every single question includes the target language.
As … as : Are cats as fun as dogs?
Present perfect: What are some good restaurants you’ve eaten at?
Used to: Who did you use to play with in elementary school?
Will : What will happen to privacy in the future?
This is consistent throughout the book with the exception of the section on imperatives which has scenarios that would prompt the use of the target language:
Imperatives: What’s a card game from your country? How do I play it?
So I gather that the author’s interpretation of the word ‘elicit’ is different from how I see it. I think by elicit, he means targeted practice and he’s got some commentary at the back about using these questions in the classroom. He’s essentially describing a stage of the lesson where we provide practice with language that’s been taught as opposed to the language presentation stage which is what I had in mind.
From that perspective, this book isn’t all that useful. It contains suggested topics along with the target language in the form of a question. These sorts of conversation prompts are more effective when they are aligned to learner interests and the context of the lesson. In How to Teach Speaking, Thornbury describes criteria for effective speaking tasks and there are two that I reckon are really critical: productivity and purposefulness. I doubt whether prompts like “Where should I go to buy electronics?” will achieve either criterion in the context of advice.
On the other hand, I suppose for new teachers, the questions could be a helpful starting point but I don’t see them dipping into 500 Grammar based conversation questions for too long.