If I’m trying to keep a conversation going and you aren’t doing your part, I’ll stop.


Activities to Teach How to Show Interest in English

If you’re looking for a nice activity to jazz up your conversation class, you are in the right place. You will not waste your precious time on reading how important showing interest for keeping a conversation going is or why your learners should get some practice of how to do it before they step into the big world of real conversation. You will discuss that all with your students in Step 1.

Step 1.

Brainstorm with students how they usually show interest in a conversation. You may offer some particular situations like “a friend of yours is telling you a secret, how do you show you’re interested?”, “your mom is explaining to you why it is not a good idea to be glued to the computer screen all day long, how do you show your interest?”, “your granddad is trying to discuss political news with you, you’re not interested, but you wouldn’t like to be rude to him, how do you show you’re listening?”, etc. (Note: while discussing that, focus on non-verbal means as well, i.e. looking into someone’s eyes, nodding your head, smiling, etc.)

Step 2.

Tell students they are going to watch but not hear a conversation between Sheldon and Amy from the Big Bang Theory. As they watch they should decide whether Amy is interested in the conversation and what makes them think so.  Additionally, you may ask your learners to guess what the conversation is about.

Step 3.

Get feedback.

Step 4.

Now show the video extract again, but this time with the sound on. Ask students to jot down some particular phrases Amy uses to show her interest.

Step 5.

Get feedback. Discuss possible ways (verbal) of showing interest:



Echo words


Making a personal response

Give out a copy of the handout to each student and ask them to group given words/phrases under the strategies of showing interest.

Handout: Showing Interest

Step 6.

Pair students and ask them to pick any part of the following nursery rhyme. Ask the reader to pause after each line so that the listener could show interest using this or that way of showing interest. You might wish to practise the first three or four lines all together.  

This is the house that Jack built.

This is the malt (PAUSE) – e.g. oh, really? the malt?, etc.
That lay in the house that Jack built (PAUSE) – e.g. that Jack built? in the house? did it? aha; I see; etc.

This is the rat (PAUSE) – e.g. the rat? is it? yuck; oh my gosh; etc. This is the house that Jack built

Extra practice. Pair students and ask them to read a passage given (the more boring, the better) and to express interest. You may use texts given in the preface of the course book they are using or in the copyright and acknowledgement section – publishers usually provide information about their legal address and location of their offices in the copyright and acknowledgement section, so in addition to showing interest strategies, you may revise the pronunciation of geographical names with your students.

Step 7.

Party time! Tell your students they are going to attend a party. At the party, they should circulate and share stories about something that happened to them recently. Alternatively, you might also hand out different short newspaper articles describing recent events to your students to read and tell others. Check out my collection of fun articles for learners.

To make it a bit more competitive, put a pile of green and red cards on your desk (or hand out 3 green cards and 3 red cards to each student). After the conversation is over, the one who told a story will give a green card to the attentive listener, and a red card – to the listener who was not showing enough attention. The task is to collect 3 green cards…Make it or fake it!:)

Extra resources:

WOW Me (an activity to practise interjections)

Olya Sergeeva’s lesson plan

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